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Be Your Own Positive Influence.

Today I was vending at a craft show for 8 hours, where I sold more than I anticipated. Then came home, made a cheesecake, and got a batch of scones ready to pop in the oven when I wake in the AM. Overall, good day. But here’s the thing…

The first 5-ish hours of that craft show were slow as hell (yay Minnesota winter weather!). I could have just sat idly and waited the last few hours out, accepting my fate. Instead, I stayed positive, stayed engaged with the folks that did come through, as well as the other vendors. And sales did pick up late in the afternoon.

Would those afternoon folks have bought my stuff regardless of my attitude or willingness to engage? Maybe (it’s cool stuff, after all), but I think not nearly as many would have. But would I have been able to accomplish as much after the show if I let the slog of the first half of that show make me all pouty and sad (“Wah, I’m standing here and no one is buying my stuff” /FrumpyFace)? Nope.
There are A LOT of things you can’t control. Your attitude should not be one of those things. There’s no use in letting negativity creep in and ruin what could be a productive day. Is that easy? No. It takes some mental fortitude. You have to recognize when those external factors are pressing on you, trying to move you to Negaville (where negativity lives, that population is always on the rise, especially on the interwebs). But then what?
Do a jumping jack.
No, not really. While that may work for you (good for you, an easy fix!), I can’t just put a blanket statement here with how to overcome this. It’s gonna be different for everyone. Hell, it’s different for me on a day-to-day basis. Best I can do is tell you what I do, and hope you can find some little morsel of insight here to get you started.
It’s a question I ask myself… “Do I like where this is headed?”. Just stop for a minute, take a step back, and try to see what your current trajectory looks like. If you don’t like the endpoint, make a change. For me, this craft show is an example. The first few hours, I had taken in $10 in sales. That’s it. Not a great pace. I was bummed. But I took a moment, went to get some water, and just tried to visualize how my day would go if I just moped around.
I knew I had stuff to accomplish at home. That’s going to be hard to do if I’m in the middle of a pity party.
It’s the weekend after Thanksgiving and I needed to stop at the store before going home. Dealing with those crowds won’t be any easier if I’m a Grumpy Gus.
A full day of cold rain after we had snow means slushy roads and that won’t be fun to navigate whilst revisiting an emo-phase that I never really lived through to begin with.
So when I had my water and got back to my booth, I straightened up a few items that had gotten shifted around, went and chatted with my fellow makers/vendors, and decided that even if I sold nothing else today, at least I got to meet new people (a pretty great group of makers in a variety of mediums), I made ten bucks I wouldn’t have otherwise made, and, I’d have scones tomorrow morning and cheesecake tomorrow evening. And really, can you be grumpy when there are scones and cheesecake on the horizon?
This also took maintenance. I had to keep this in my mind, so as to not let myself slip back into “woe is me” mode. That’s where it really helps to get to know the other vendors at these events. Chatting with them can take your mind off whatever negativity is creepin’ up on you. When I got to the mad-house of a store on my way home, I just had to remember that everyone in there was also dealing with this circus, so just be patient and understanding when people almost crash their cart into yours because there’s stuff piled to the ceiling in walkways so no one can see anything. As for the drive home? That was easy, I just dusted off the Phineas and Ferb Christmas Album* (not literally, I was streaming it), because Thanksgiving is over now, so I’ve moved on to the superior holiday.
So that’s it. I want to reiterate that it isn’t easy. But I do think, at some point, you must be willing and able to tell pessimism to GTFO. Will it sneak back in on you? Sure. But prepare yourself for that. Be self-aware (unless you are an A.I. Then please do not do that). Keep an eye on your attitude, learn how it shifts, and let those shifts drive your positivity.
I hope this makes sense to you. I haven’t written a blog post in approximately 63.5 years, so this might all be nonsense. Also, I’ve been up since 7 AM, and it’s now going on 1 AM, so, again, potential nonsense. I’d love to hear how you cope with situations that can easily skew negative. Use the comments down below to share, and hopefully you can help someone turn their day around.

Until next time, Happy Scones.
-Justin

P.S. The scones are cranberry-orange, and the cheesecake is chocolate-covered orange. If you were curious…

*I challenge you to be anything but delighted while listening to this album. I would say their version of The Twelve Days of Christmas has to be top-3, for Doofenshmirtz alone (the other two would be John Denver & The Muppets, and the version from the Mickey Mouse Christmas album we had when I was a wee lad. I can’t order them best to worst, they’re all wonderful)

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Monday Inspiration #1 – June 24th, 2019

Welcome to Monday Inspiration, where I’ll look back at what I’ve seen recently that’s inspired me.  Maybe it’s something that’s sparked an idea for a new project.  Or it might just be a neat thing, or an awesome accomplishment by a fellow human.  It won’t always be related to making, but if it inspires me enough to take the time to write about it here, I hope it’ll help spark something for you as well.

Start with This episode 1 by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

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I heard this accidentally.  I was driving over to Vondriska Works for the Meet the Makers event hosted there this past Saturday, and was enjoying getting caught up on Welcome to Night Vale (which is an enjoyable podcast by the same fellas in its own right, but not the topic here).  In that playlist, they had snuck in the debut of Start with This, and I didn’t bother skipping it because I was driving and didn’t want to die in a horrible car accident, and I trust Fink and Cranor enough to give their new project a chance.

Hearing that episode is the reason I’m starting this Monday Inspiration. I’ve had the thought of doing a weekly wrap-up type post for a bit now, but couldn’t iron out all the details of it’s execution (also, instead of a wrap-up, it’s a jump-start to the week, because Monday needs all the help it can get).  But  I listened to their discussion and decided it best to just start doing, and let each week be a chance to refine and shape this into whatever it becomes over the weeks.

They explain it much better than I can, but my main two takeaways from their discussion are:

  • “Successful” creators didn’t hit success on the first attempt.  Every craft needs practice.  In the world of Making, if you look at someone like Jimmy Diresta, he’s had years of practice makin’ stuff.  The stuff he makes today is awesome, sure, but if you’re just getting started, you have to put in the practice, don’t expect your scissor-lift grill is gonna come out as great as his without the years of experience, and failure, that preceded it.
  • Don’t let your ideas intimidate you.  Say you have this idea, it’s a good idea, but you aren’t sure of all the details yet, and you don’t want to ruin it by working on it before you know those details.  So you let it rattle around in your noggin, keeping it tucked away, perpetually putting it off as your “someday” idea.  Someday isn’t guaranteed to come.  It’s better to “fail” with that idea, learn something from it, and try again, than just let the idea sit there, staring at you, never seeing the light of day.

I highly recommend checking it out for yourself.  The main focus for them is writing and podcasting, but I was surprised with how applicable this first episode was for any type of creator.

Dartboard Clock by Carl Jacobsen

I’ve never been disappointed by one of Carl Jacobsen’s projects.  Not only do his projects look beautiful, he’s sure to include tips to help you get great results on your own projects (like wood burning to prevent stain bleeding).  I’ve also thought in the past that it’d be fun to make a clock, and seeing him do it gave me the inspirational push I needed.  I’ve already picked up a clock movement kit to use, and have a few thoughts on the design of my timepiece.

That’s all for this week!  I’d love to hear about what’s inspired you lately.  Leave a comment down below, or reach out to me on social media and share.  Until next time, Happy Making!

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Inevitable Change.

I’ve neglected this website.  Maybe once a month I get around to putting up something new.  The past few updates have been treats I’ve concocted in the kitchen.  While I did want to include those in the catalog of things I make, they weren’t supposed to be the majority of the content up here.

You may think the inevitable change to which this post’s title refers, with the ominous tone of the preceding paragraph, is leading up to me saying “Welp, I can’t keep the site updated, so it’s going away.”  You’d be wrong, dear reader!

2019 is going to be a terrifyingly exciting year.  You may be thinking that’s an odd description.  Correct!  But I quit my day job.  I’ve worked for Verizon Wireless since November of 2010.  This past September, they announced a voluntary separation program for select employees, for which my wife and I were both eligible.  Essentially, we chose to be laid off, for a handsome severance pay out.  We had started talking earlier this year about, in a couple years, moving back to Minnesota, near our families again.  So when this came up in September, it really accelerated that timeline.

What does all this mean, really?  Well, we’ve got a busy couple months ahead of us as we pack up to head north.  And in that time, I’m also going to be researching and preparing to make an attempt at making things full time.  In 2018, I made my first things for commission, I opened an Etsy store (though it also suffers from lack of updates), and I made more things than I’ve made in any other year.  I enjoyed it immensely, and I want to use the opportunity presented here to take a chance on myself.  Thus the “terrifying” portion of the description above.

Others in the Maker Community have far more experience than I at building things and creating content for the internet, and even they don’t do this full time.  For most of us, it’s a fun hobby, that typically can be used to pay for itself, but not a source of actual income.  Chalk up another reason for this being terrifyingly exciting.

I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job getting across how scary this is for me.  I know very little about starting a business, or the best way to do so in my chosen field.  Do not think though, for one moment, that my excitement doesn’t overcome that.  If there’s one thing I know about me, I can learn something damn quick when I need to.  And if this ends up not working out, that’ll suck, but I will be able to say with certainty that it wasn’t for lack of trying on my part.  I have faith in myself, and I know the people I care about support me.  That’s all I need.

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Pecan Cheesecake

Earlier this summer I posted a cheesecake recipe.  I gave options to make it with orange, lime, or raspberry.  For Thanksgiving, I made it with pecan!  Take that!  For real, it’s right down this page, just take the recipe and enjoy deliciousness.

What you’ll need:

For the crust

  • 1 1/2 cups of pecans (I used pecan chunks, not whole pecans)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp butter (melted)


For the filling

  • 24 oz. cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup pecan whisky
  • 1 pkg unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup of whipped heavy cream


For the topping

  • 2 tbsp cinnamon whisky
  • 3/4 heavy cream
  • 1/4 powdered sugar (or more, depends on your taste)

How you’ll do it:

  1. Put the pecan pieces, cinnamon, and sugar in a food processor (or something else) to crush up the pecans until they’re finely ground.  It’ll be somewhat sticky from the oils in the pecans.  Mix that stuff with the melted butter until it is all an even consistency.  Press that into the bottom of an 9-inch spring form pan (you don’t need to grease or butter the pan for this crust).  Bake that at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, then remove it from the oven and let it cool.
  2. Find yourself a little saucepan, and put the pecan whisky in it.  Sprinkle the packet of gelatin into the orange juice, and let them get to know each other for five minutes.  Then cook it over low heat until the gelatin is all dissolved into the whisky.  Remove it from the heat and let it cool down for 10 minutes.
  3. While that’s coolin’ off, beat the cream cheese and sugar together until it’s nice and floofy.  Once you’ve got that well mixed, grab the whisky/gelatin combo (provided it’s cool now (temperature wise, not like, ‘hip’ or ‘with-it’)), and gradually add that into the sugary cream cheese.  Let that chill for about 3 minutes, this seems like it might not actually do anything, I mean, it’s only 3 minutes.  But it lets the gelatin start to set up and get things firmed up.
  4. Now, gently fold in the whipped cream.
  5. Transfer all that jazz into the pan with the crust we made earlier.  You’ll more than likely have to spoon it from one to the other, as it doesn’t pour very easily.
  6. A stand mixer is best for this next part.  Put all the topping ingredients in the bowl, and whip it forms nice, stiff peaks.  You can pipe it on all fancy like, or just spread it on.  (Or, after the next steps, even take the somewhat lazy route, and just serve it on the side so people can top their cheesecake with however much whip cream they desire.  Also, have some pecans there to sprinkle on top for a delightful crunch.)
  7. Stick it in the fridge!  I normally make this a day ahead so it can chill overnight, and the flavors get a chance to really get in there and mingle among the rest of the cheesecake mixture.
  8. Once you’re ready to cut it up, you’ll want to use a knife to loosen the cheesecake from the edge of the pan.
  9. Slice it up and eat it!
 
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Travel-size Jewelry Box

Boxes such as this, while simple in shape, provide ample opportunity for them to be different.  By changing the wood species used, or the designs on top, or even how the interior is arranged, you can create a box that has the look and functionality for any purpose or taste.  I’ve made four boxes like this, but really all they have in common is the number of sides, a top, and a bottom.  This particular box was for a friend, and her excitement as I shared progress photos drove me to be sure this was the finest I’ve built yet.

What she wanted:

  • Reddish wood for the main body of the box
  • A custom fleur-de-lis design on the lid (this worried me slightly)
  • Ring storage

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Once she asked for a reddish-hued wood, I knew Paduak would be a winner.  To be safe, I took a sample to her, so she could give final approval.  There are other red woods out there, but Paduak doesn’t break the bank, and my local Woodcraft normally has a good selection of it.  And it’s just pretty, the dark streaks really pop out once you get some finish on there.

For the lid, she had asked that I replicate an image she found online.  She’s fond of New Orleans, hence the fleur-de-lis, and after she’s wed there very soon, ‘W’ will represent her last name.  I agreed to create this design on the lid, though at the time, I had no idea how I would actually do so.

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I had used Purpleheart for the inside liner of the box, as well as the top and bottom panels.  So I thought having a contrasting wood that revealed the fleur-de-lis of Purpleheart would be a nice touch.  Luckily, I already had some curly Maple veneer on hand.  I just drew right on the veneer, then used an exacto knife to cut out the shapes.  For the ‘W’, I used another piece of veneer I had lying about, I’m uncertain what species of wood this was, though it looked to be from a burl. Same process for this, I drew it out, then used an exacto knife to free the shape.

With the veneers stacked as they were, it would have been possible for something to get underneath them, and pry them up from where they sat.  To prevent that (and to prevent me from having to try to inlay the ‘W’ into the fleur-de-lis), I superglued them in place, and filled the rest of the lid with clear resin.

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Inside the box, there needed to be a place to keep rings in place.  I used Fusion360 to design a 3D model that I could print out on my Lulzbot Mini.  This took some trial and error to get right, but that’s the nice thing about 3D printing, it’s quite easy to tweak a 3D model, and print a new version.  If I had tried to use wooden dowels (which I considered), once I drilled the holes to hold them, I would have needed to get a new piece of wood if they weren’t exactly right.  But as it was, once the spacing for the ring slots was correct, I only needed to glue craft foam to the printed part, which helps to hold the rings in place, then slide it into the box, and that about wrapped it up.

 

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Quack! [GIVEAWAY] {UPDATE: GIVEAWAY CLOSED}

I made a ducky pull toy.  Watch the video above for how I did it.  I’m also giving away this duck, as a celebration for surpassing 100 subscribers on my YouTube channel.  If you’d like a chance to win it, head over to the video’s page on YouTube, and leave a comment there by 11:59 PM June 30th, 2018.

If you want to make your own duck, I have a template available on Etsy, which also comes with the files to 3D print your own wheel assemblies.

Just a short post today, if you want more details on the duck, check out the video!  Thanks again for visiting!

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It’s been a while! (Double feature)

Hello, there!  If you have come here recently hoping to see something new, I apologize for disappointing you.  But hey!  There’s something new now, in fact, you’re reading it!

Let’s flash back to about a month ago.  My parents were coming to town on Memorial Day, and Tiffany was planning to cook up some ribs, so I wanted to have an equally tasty dessert to follow that up.  A cheesecake was in order.  Not a cheesecake with one of those hard, crumbly graham cracker crusts, though.  No, this one wanted a softer place to rest, perhaps a bed made of brownies?

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Yes, delightful.  The brownies are pretty-straightforward, home-made, no box recipe here.  The cheesecake is no-bake, very creamy, and jazzed up with some orange.  And, if you do like I did, and forget to cut back on the brownie recipe, you have a bonus pan of brownies to snack on as well!  I’ve got recipes for both the brownies and the cheesecake below.  They’re separate, so you can make these individually, or combine them into one glorious dessert masterpiece.  A note if you are combining them, don’t worry about the foil for the brownies, just butter up the spring form pan really well, and bake the brownies right in there.  Once they’ve baked, I use a skewer to perforate the top of the brownies, which lets the cheesecake adhere better to the brownie base (I don’t know how much this helps, but it seemed to improve it this past time).

Keep scrolling to get to the recipes.  Thanks again for coming back after we’ve been gone so long!

Super Awesome Brownies (consumable)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped up
  • 1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter (12 tablespoons)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Recipe:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. I suggest moving a rack nearer to the top of the oven, the brownies seem to bake more evenly that way.  Depending on your oven, you could get away with doing this later, so your oven isn’t on for longer than it needs to be.
  2. Acquire a piece of aluminum foil that will be large enough to line a 9×13 cake pan. Butter the aluminum foil. I find it works best to lay the sheet of foil on the counter, and just rub a stick of butter on it. Not the whole stick! Just rub the butter until there’s a nice coat of butter all over the foil, then place the foil into the pan, buttered side up.
  3. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside for a bit.
  4. Grab a medium-sized bowl, glass works best, and put the cubed butter and the chopped chocolate in there. Now rest that over a pot of boiling water, be sure the bowl isn’t actually touching the water, as that could scorch the chocolate. Let the steam heat the bowl, thereby melting the chocolate and butter together, and stir it up so it’s all smooth. Then remove the bowl from the heat and set it aside to cool. Be sure to use pot holders or something when moving the hot bowl.
  5. A stand mixer works best for this next part. But a hand mixer will do just as well, or, if you’re feeling especially funky, you can just grab a whisk and do it yourself. The eggs, sugar, and vanilla need to get whisked together. Whisk them until the mixture is a pale yellow-ish color, and it’s a thick consistency.
  6. Now grab that chocolate/butter mixture from before, and pour it into the egg mixture. Be sure the chocolate is cool, as you don’t want the chocolate to start cooking the eggs. Unless you’d rather have sweetened chocolate scrambled eggs, rather than brownies, then, you know, do whatever. But that sounds gross. Once everything is completely mixed together, you’re good to stop whisking.
  7. Find the dry ingredients you mixed together way back when. Pour that into the eggy-chocolate mixture, and whisk that up until it’s all incorporated together. Transfer the batter into the foiled pan from earlier.
  8. Bake the brownies in the pre-heated oven for about 30 minutes. You’ll know they’re done when a toothpick or skewer inserted into the middle comes back out clean. Be careful, it’s easy to over-bake them, and then they aren’t nearly as gooey as they should be.
  9. Now eat all the brownies. Don’t share them. Tell others to make their own brownies.  Making your own food is a valuable skill,  so they should be thankful you’re giving them this opportunity.(Or, be nice to your friends and family and share the brownies).
  10. NOTE! If you don’t want plain chocolate brownies, grab some of the fancy chocolate bars that have fruit added (I’ve used orange, blueberry, cranberry almond, and a few others) for a fancier treat with no extra work on your part. You could even use fruit juice in place of the vanilla to kick it up that extra notch.

 

Equally as Awesome Orange Cheesecake

Ingredients:

  • 1 package chocolate graham crackers (crushed up into crumbs)
  • 3 tablespoons butter (melted)
  • 1/2 cup of orange juice
  • 1 package unflavored gelatin
  • 24 ounces of cream cheese (softened, just leave it sit out for about an hour)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream (whipped up to have stiff peaks)
  • The zest of one orange
  • Chocolate shavings (use a vegetable peeler to shave chocolate off a chocolate bar) or mini chocolate chips

Recipe:

  1. Mix the graham cracker crumbs with the melted butter until it is all an even consistency.  Press that into the bottom of an 9-inch spring form pan (you don’t need to grease or butter the pan for this crust).  Bake that at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, then remove it from the oven and let it cool.
  2. Find yourself a little saucepan, and put the orange juice in it.  Sprinkle the packet of gelatin into the orange juice, and let them get to know each other for five minutes.  Then cook it over low heat until the gelatin is all dissolved into the orange juice.  Remove it from the heat and let it cool down for 10 minutes.
  3. While that’s coolin’ off, beat the cream cheese and sugar together until it’s nice and floofy.  Once you’ve got that well mixed, grab the orange juice/gelatin combo (provided it’s cool now (temperature wise, not like, ‘hip’ or ‘with-it’)), and gradually add that into the sugary cream cheese.  Let that chill for about 3 minutes, this seems like it might not actually do anything, I mean, it’s only 3 minutes.  But it lets the gelatin start to set up and get things firmed up.
  4. Now, gently fold in the whipped cream and orange zest.
  5. Transfer all that jazz into the pan with the crust we made earlier.  You’ll more than likely have to spoon it from one to the other, as it doesn’t pour very easily.
  6. Top it with the chocolate shavings or chocolate chips.
  7. Stick it in the fridge!  I normally make this a day ahead so it can chill overnight, and it gives the orange flavor from the zest a chance to really get in there and mingle among the rest of the cheesecake mixture.
  8. Once you’re ready to cut it up, you’ll want to use a knife to loosen the cheesecake from the edge of the pan.
  9. Slice it up and eat it!
  10. NOTE!  Don’t want orange, that’s fine, well a little weird, but workable.  I’ve made this with lime in place of the orange, you’ll just want 2 or 3 limes for zest, and if you top it with coconut, it is quite delicious.  Raspberry is also a good choice, use raspberry puree in place of the orange juice, and you don’t really have to worry about replacing the zest.
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Mother’s Day Bowl

Just a quick post today about the bowl I turned for my mom’s Mother’s Day gift.  I hadn’t turned a bowl this large before.  It was a fun one!

The wood wasn’t as dry as I thought it would be, so it might develop a few cracks over the early part of its lifetime, but that’ll just add to the charm, right?  And I’m still figuring out the best techniques to use on the lathe, so I’m sure there’s some other stuff I did wrong.  but at the end it was bowl shaped, so I’m gonna call it a win.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

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Do you knead a box?

No, you shouldn’t knead a box.  Sorry, kinda forced that pun out there.  A friend of mine wanted a box for her bread, though.  I hadn’t made one of these before, and I learned a lot in the process.  This is also the first project I’ve made for profit (though that part didn’t work out as I thought it would, more on that later).  Let’s get on with it!

About all I knew going into this project is the rough size Steph wanted, and that she preferred it to be a darker color.  I knew about any wood I got we could stain to be dark, so I wasn’t too concerned with that.  I did give the option of using pine to save on cost, but she opted to go with a hard wood instead (a great choice!).  Walnut would have saved a step, as it wouldn’t have needed to be stained, but I don’t really have a means right now to break down rough cut walnut, and I don’t know a place that I could easily get milled walnut relatively inexpensively.  So I was thinking I’d go with oak, but while at Home Depot, I found an 8-foot mahogany board that was just about perfect, so I went with that instead.

As far as  the design, I considered doing a hinged door, just to keep it simple.  But I really felt like if I went that route, I wouldn’t really be doing anything new with this project.  Sure, the final product would be something new, but the path there would have been very familiar.  Also, there would have been a severe lack of llamas in the finished bread box.

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I was just going to get a somewhat plain canvas fabric for the door backing.  But then there were llamas.  And I’m fairly certain Tiffany would have thrown a fit if I didn’t use the llamas.  (Side note:  I kept the llamas a secret from Steph, so it’d be a nice surprise when she opened the breadbox for the first time.  And I was a little worried she’d have a fear of llamas that I hadn’t known of, luckily she does not.)

The build process was mostly straightforward.  And rather than typing out the entire process here, I’ll let the video do most of the work in showing it.  I know some of it happens pretty fast, so feel free to ask questions using the comments below.

I do want to address a few things I goofed up on, though.  So if you feel like taking on a project like this, learn from my mistakes:

  1. Rounding the edges on both sides of the door slats.  I didn’t mean to round the back over, that was me just being dumb.  It made it much easier for glue to get into the cracks between the slats when assembling the door, which required me having to actually knock a couple of them apart.  And where there was glue, the stain didn’t penetrate.  Luckily it’s in a place that shouldn’t be seen.Door glue up
  2. One of my sides got slightly out of square during the assembly of the box’s outside.  That made the door slightly too wide, so I had to cut the bottom of the box off just past the groove, then use chisels to remove enough material from the groove so I could slide the door out.  Then I was able to trim up the door just fine, reassemble, and all was well.Too snug.png
  3. I didn’t want to use screws for fasteners on this project, for no real reason other than to challenge myself to do things differently.  Dowels worked well for reinforcing the butt joints on the corners of the box, but I should have gone with a smaller size.  I used 3/8 inch oak dowels, and you can see where the drill caused some tear-out on the edge of the board.  Easily patch-able using saw dust and wood glue, but the stain there looks different as that patch doesn’t soak it up and become as dark as the surrounding end grain. Bad dowel hole.png

Overall, I’m still very happy, and proud of how this one came out.  Steph finally received it (was originally going to post this 3 days ago, but USPS took forever in delivering it), and she is happy with it as well!  So what am I going to do with the profits from my first commissioned project?  Nothing, because there were none.

Turns out I made a very common rookie mistake.  I poorly estimated how much this project would take, both in time and money.  I was making this for a friend, so I wasn’t overly concerned about getting paid for my time.  But I really only made back the money on shipping and the mahogany board.  I’m not upset about it, I’m not going to beg to get paid more for it.  I consider this a very important lesson for me.  Eventually I would like to be able to regularly make things for people and get paid for doing that.  I’m sure this is the first lesson among many more to come how to realize that goal.

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Jalapeno Bizness

Ahhh, work potlucks.   You can take the easy way out, buy a couple bags of chips, grab some pre-packaged cupcakes from the grocery store’s bakery.  Or, you could spend most of your evening the night prior to the event making something to share.  This time we aren’t having a full-on potluck, just a nacho bar.  You typically don’t get sweets with nachos, though.  So I decided to bring an on-theme sweet snack for the day.

Enter:  Chocolate-covered, sweetened-cream cheese-filled jalapeno slices.  In two varieties, some flavored with honey, and some with pineapple.

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This is the type of thing I should have started the night before I wanted to make them.  Once you get the cream cheese into the jalapenos, you want to freeze it, so it’s easier to slice.  So if you can make get them in the freezer a day early, you’re a step ahead, and not waiting up late into the night for them to be ready to slice and dip.  Overall, it’s a pretty straight-forward recipe.

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Grab some jalapenos, some cream cheese (softened for a bit at room temperature works best), powdered sugar, and  dipping chocolate.  If you want to add flavor to the filling, you’ll need whatever you want for that.  In my case, I used about 3 oz of pineapple juice, and about 1/2 tbsp of honey.  My worry with the pineapple, juice, however, was that it would make the filling too runny, which causes problems when the dipping process begins.

Ingredients:

  • 6 Jalapenos
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1/2 to 1 cup powdered sugar, depending on desired sweetness
  • Optional: Extra flavor for the filing
  • Chocolate for dipping

Makes about 4 dozen.

Instructions:

  1. Cut the tops off the peppers, and core them.  I just slice down the insides of the pepper to free the middle part with all the seeds, and that seems to do the trick well enough.  IMG_5566
  2. Mix up your filings.  I use about equal parts cream cheese and powdered sugar.  Ultimately, it goes by taste, if you want it sweeter, add more powdered sugar.  If you like the cream cheeese flavor, then use less, or none.  Personally, for this, I want it to be sweet.  This is when you’d add whatever additional flavor you’d want as well.  IMG_5574
  3. Fill ’em up!  Since my pineapple filling was on the runny side, I transferred it to a measuring cup with a pour spout on it, and just poured it into the peppers.  The honey filling, since it was thicker, I used a baggy, cut the corner off, and piped it in.  Once they’re full, pop ’em in the freezer until they’re frozen.
  4. Once frozen, remove the peppers, and slice them.  You’ll want to be sure you have a nice, sharp knife for this, as the peppers are pretty solid when frozen.  I slice them into about 1/4 inch thick slices, and lay them onto a cookie sheet lined with wax paper, and put them back in the freezer while I prepare the chocolate.  (Note:  This is where I noticed that, yes, the pineapple juice did cause some issues.  Even after being in the freezer for about 3.5 hours, the filling was still on the runny side.  Luckily, it had thickened up enough that I could make it work, it was just a bit of a sloppy mess.  Had they been in the freezer overnight, I think the juice actually would have improved things, as it would have turned more into a solid.  Maybe.  I don’t know.  Moving on!)IMG_5600
  5. Melt the chocolate according to the instructions for whatever chocolate you have.  I like to use the Ghiradelli dipping chocolate, it’s simple and tastes great.
  6. This is the part of the recipe I’m still working out.  Dipping/coating these things.  Dipping doesn’t work well, as the filling doesn’t adhere to the pepper well, so it has a tendency to fall out and just get mixed into the chocolate.  So far, what’s worked best for me, is to use the back of a spoon to ‘paint’ a layer of chocolate over the top of the slices.  Then refreeze that for a few minutes.  Once that’s done, I dip each slice halfway into the chocolate, let that set, then go back and dip the other half.  They don’t come out as the prettiest things on the planet, but it works.  If you have a better idea, I’m all ears, leave a comment down below!
  7. Once that’s done, I keep them frozen or refrigerated until they are ready to be consumed.

There’s a lot of bugs still to be worked out in this recipe, but this is only the second time I’ve made these, and the first was two years ago.  If you have ideas about what could improve any of this, let us know in the comments.

I know this isn’t a snack for everyone.  Quite a few people wouldn’t even consider eating jalapenos and chocolate at the same time.  But that’s fine, it leaves more for the rest of us!

Thanks for reading!