Friday, July 27, 2012

LD Friday Freebie: Vintage Easter Egg Wraps (expired)


In case you missed this on Facebook, here is Friday's LD freebie. To grab it, just click HERE or the image below, add the item to your cart and checkout. You pay $0!


This freebie will expire on Sunday, at midnight MST. 

If you have not downloaded the free Popcorn Box Cut Its (SVG), click HERE to get yours before it expires on Saturday.



Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

How to make the Perfect Caramel Popcorn


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This post is dedicated to Michelle Song. *wink*
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I found an incredible recipe for Caramel Popcorn the other day. It is easy to follow and the end result was so fantastic that I thought it was too good to keep it to myself. Consider today your lucky day because I am going to tell you where to find the recipe that I used for the caramel popcorn pictured in my last post. Besides, having showed you all that popcorn yesterday I couldn't just leave you hanging with an empty box. ;-)


I'll confess that when I first came across "How to Make Perfect Caramel Popcorn", I was rather skeptical. I have tried so many supposedly "perfect" recipes and more often than not, end up with some sad and unsuccessful results. This time, however, was different. The caramel popcorn was perfectly dry and crunchy. The caramel was just sweet enough to make every bite feels like a gentle caress without overwhelming the senses. This caramel popcorn was indeed Perfect.

It would be bad blogging etiquette to cut-and-paste the entire recipe here, so I am going to ask that you click HERE to see it. It is very detailed and easy to follow but I did change one thing about it. The recipe had called for microwaved popcorn but I made mine from scratch. For the benefit of those who have never made stovetop popcorn, here is an easy step-by-step:

Add 1 tbsp of cooking oil and...


... a 1/2 cup of uncooked popcorn kernels...


....into a deep skillet and turn on medium heat.


Keep the pan covered until you hear the first "POP!". When the rest of the kernels start to pop quickly, move the lid slightly ajar to allow steam to escape.


Turn the stove off and move the pan away from the heat when the popping slows down.


At this point, to avoid burning the popcorn, you can remove the lid and dump the popcorn into a bowl to cool down and start working on the caramel sauce. (Note: Sometimes I just move the pan away from the heat with the lid on and leave the popcorn to finish popping in the pan. You know, just in case there are any stray kernels that are slow to pop. Wouldn't want any popcorn shooting out of my pan and definitely don't want any un-popped kernels in my caramel. Not fun to bite into a caramel-coated kernel. Ouch! So far, my popcorn have not burned from being kept in the pan.)

Once again, please click HERE for the full recipe for the caramel popcorn. For those of you who prefer a visual, here are a few photos that I took of the process:

I followed the recipe and combined the first three ingredients by stirring them in a saucepan over medium heat.


When it starts to boil, I used the water test mentioned in the recipe to test for the "hard ball" stage as I do not have a candy thermometer.


When the sauce reached the "hard ball" stage, I added in vanilla and baking soda. By the way, if you should accidentally add baking POWDER instead of baking SODA, don't panic. Just add the baking soda to the whole thing anyway. It will turn out okay, and maybe even add some extra crunch. Don't ask how I know. :P

I followed the recipe and spread the caramel over the popcorn on a prepared baking sheet (I lined mine with parchment paper) before putting it into a 250 degree (F) oven. This is how the popcorn looked like before "baking":


I had to spread the caramel every 10 mins to let it coat the popcorn more evenly but all that effort is worth it because 30 minutes later.....

TA DA!!


Can you smell the caramel? Oh yeah, oh yeah.....


Waiting for it to cool down was the hardest part. It took a lot of self-restraint but I did wait for it to cool down enough to break the caramel popcorn apart. I even put them into the LD Popcorn Box to take this picture for you.


So what do you think? Are you drooling yet? Now that you know where I found the recipe, go make your own. This one's mine. *nom nom nom*




Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Video Tutorial: How to Print-and-Cut the LD Popcorn Box SVG with Silhouette Studio


One of the reasons why I love to use Lettering Delights SVGs is because each design comes with colors so that I can use them for paper-piecing or for print-and-cut (PNC). I love the look of a paper-pieced project but I don't always have the time for it. Besides, sometimes it is just more practical to PNC a design out rather than to piece it together from layers of cut outs.



The LD Popcorn Box SVG is a case in point. It is very cute and a great idea but making this box by paper-piecing takes three times as long compared to a PNC version. That does not even include the time it takes to weed out all the negative pieces. The thin accent cuts within each letter in the design is also very small, and if your cutter is not good with intricate cuts, you may have a hard time cutting this out.


On the other hand, PNC-ing this and putting it together takes mere minutes. Seriously, the LD Popcorn Box SVG is the PERFECT print-and-cut project. To make each box, just print the template, cut, glue the tabs together and you are done. Seriously! In fact, this is so easy to make, I even made a video tutorial for you.

If you are reading this post via the email newsletter, please click on the following link to view the video tutorial: http://youtu.be/IIWP-6Ho5Yg


As shown in the video, it only takes about 4 mins to prepare the design for PNC. Once that initial step is done, it should only take seconds for the design to be printed out by your printer and another minute or so to cut and assemble it. I made so many of these boxes in under 20 minutes I had time to make 2 types of popcorn to fill the boxes up!



By reducing the size of the template by 18% to fit on a letter-size cardstock, I ended up with a box that is about 3.5" tall. It is the perfect size for a snack or a party favor. Did I mention that it is also incredibly CUTE? Well, it is!


If you have not tried to PNC with your Silhouette Studio (Designer Edition) program, this may be the best beginner project. Just get the Popcorn Box SVG from the LD site (click HERE) and follow the video tutorial above to print and cut it out. This box is fun, practical, and very easy to make!


To get your LD Popcorn Box SVG, just click HERE.

Popcorn not included.




LD FREEbie: Popcorn Box Cut It Project (reg. $3)

Oh, Happy Day! Look what I just found on the LD site today:




It's a free LD Popcorn Box!

To grab it, just click HERE or the image below. Add the item to your cart and checkout. You pay $0!



Look out for my next post where I will show you how to use this file with your Silhouette Cameo.

Stay tuned!
 


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A note to my readers regarding the Cutter Review Page


Hey Everyone, 

To those of you who saw my FB posts this morning, thank you for all your support. I started the Cutter Review Page during a time when many of us had chosen to support a 3rd party software over a popular electronic cutter brand. At that time, there was a severe lack of information about the different kinds of electronic cutting machines that are available on the market. My intention was to offer my blog as the venue for people to post their honest reviews of their cutters. I thought that this would help my fellow crafting friends in their research as they try to find an alternative machine that they can use with their 3rd party software.

It has been over a year since that page was started but that focus has not changed. Even though many of us have found a replacement cutter, there are many others who are still looking and doing their research. I am keeping these review pages on the blog as I believe that it is a valuable resource for them.

I have turned down all requests to remove the negative reviews in an effort to give you a place where you can read about both the pros and the cons of a cutter, as experienced by an actual user. In my experience, there is no such thing as an ideal machine that can satisfy every crafting needs of every crafter. There are both positive and negative sides to all cutters. You have to figure out which one best suits you and which flaw or limitation you can live with. For example, I love my Cameo because it can make great cuts and precise print-and-cuts with cardstock BUT it cannot cut heavy chipboard. I am okay with that because I don't use chipboard.

I believe that it is important for my audience to learn about both the good and the bad of the cutters so that they can make their own fair assessments, and decide for themselves which one will best suit their crafting needs and their budgets. If you are in the market for a cutting machine, I hope that you are taking advantage of all that information that has been posted by our crafting friends. You can read their reviews by clicking HERE.

If you own an electronic cutter and would like to share your experience with us, please know that I welcome all reviews, regardless of whether they are positive reviews or negative ones. I only ask that you post on the correct cutter review page and try to refrain from being rude. Any reviews that are rude or posted on the wrong cutter page will be moved or deleted.

Thanks again, everyone. Your support means a lot to me and it is comforting to know that my efforts are not in vain.

Thank you so much! 

 ~ Jin
 




$2 Tuesday: Crafty Bird Cut Its or Crafty Bird Collection (reg. $6-11)

I'm sorry for the lack of projects recently. The kids are still on their Summer Break and we are trying to catch as much of that elusive Seattle sunshine as possible. I hope that everyone is having a good Summer and for those of you who have missed today's LD offer, I'm reposting it here for you:

screenshot from LD's Facebook page.

For today's $2 Tuesday deal, LD is offering the Crafty Bird Collection and the Cut Its for only $2 each.
 

To get your deal, just click HERE or the image above to go to the LD site. 

Today is also the last day that the Baby Z Thank You Box is available for free. Click HERE to get it if you have not already done so.


Monday, July 23, 2012

SNEAK PEEKS! New Simple Shapes for 2012 plus Manic Monday offer


OH MY GOSH!! LD gave me a peek of the new Simple Shapes that are coming soon and I am giddy with excitement! In the works are a fantastic variety of new shapes and some of them include a special layer that is to be drawn in with a pen or even embossed. (See sample in my post HERE). You can choose not to use that layer if you like but I love that LD is giving us that option. 

Some of the Simple Shapes do not come with that additional layer and if you loved last year's bundle, you will love these new shapes too.

I don't know yet when the new 2012 Simple Shapes will be released but I understand that they are coming VERY soon. If you are not familiar with the LD Simple Shapes, click HERE to read my post about them when LD released their first Simple Shapes last year.


By the way, I have posted two other Sneak Peeks to my Facebook wall. If interested, you can take a look by clicking HERE.

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Now for today's Manic Monday offer from Lettering Delights:


From now until tomorrow, you can get the Family Tree Bundle for only $3.50 (reg. $14). This offer will expire at midnight MST on Tuesday. Click HERE to get your bundle.



Sunday, July 22, 2012

LD Freebie: Baby Z Paper Pack (expired)

LD continues their celebration of Baby Z's arrival with another freebie for us. Today they are giving away the Baby Z Paper Pack:


Click HERE or the image above to go to the LD site. Add the item to your cart and check out. You pay $0!

If you haven't already downloaded the other Baby Z freebies, here's a recap:
 

Baby Z Shower Graphic Set. (expires TODAY, July 22)

Baby Z Cupcake Wraps (expires Monday, July 23)
Baby Z Thank You Favor Box (expires Tuesday, July 24)
 
Also, the LD Halloween sale ends tomorrow. Get LD Halloween graphics, fonts, and papers for only $1 a set and LD Halloween SVGs and Cut Its for only $2. Click HERE to shop the sale.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

LD Freebie: Baby Z Thank You Favor Box



And the celebration for the arrival of Baby Zander continues! LD's Rani had her baby this Tuesday and LD is celebrating all weekend long with freebies for all of us. 

Congratulations, Rani!

Some of you may be wondering, "Who is Rani?". Rani is one of the nicest people that I know. She is super sweet and I honestly don't know anyone who is as patient as her. She has answered many of my questions and is always ready to help. In fact, many of you have "spoken" to Rani without realizing it. You see, Rani is the voice behind LD's Facebook page and she is the person who answers all your questions on LD's wall. She is also the designer of many popular LD sets, like the Mad Scientist, Love Bites, and the Forget Me Nots. Baby Zander went home yesterday and I am so happy for Rani.

Yesterday, LD gave away the Baby Z Cupcake Wraps and the Baby Z Shower Graphic Set. Today, they are giving us the Baby Z Thank You Favor Box!


Click HERE or the image above to go to the LD site, add the item to your cart and check out. You pay $0!

Thank you, LD!

p.s. If you want to send your congratulatory message to Rani, just click HERE and post on LD's Facebook wall.

Friday, July 20, 2012

New Pages added to the Cutter Reviews: Silhouette Cameo, and the KNK-Zing


Hey Everyone, I've just added two new pages to the cutter reviews page. If you use the Silhouette Cameo or the KNK-Zing, could you take a couple of minutes to add your review?  The reviews of electronic cutters on this blog has been read by many and it has helped them in their purchase decision. Please help me to continue helping our fellow crafters, with real and honest reviews from actual users of these electronic cutters.

Please click HERE to add your review to the Silhouette Cameo, and

Please click HERE to add your review to the KNK-Zing.

If you do not use a Cameo or a Zing, please consider adding your review to any of the other MTC-Compatible Cutters listed on this blog. Click on any of the following links to go to the corresponding cutter page:



Thank you!





The KNK-Zing Review Page

(If you use this machine with Make-the-Cut, please add your opinions about this machine under the COMMENTS section of this post. Please only comment if you use the KNK Zing. Also, do mention if you are using the machine with MTC or another cutting program. If I see any comments relating to any other cutters on this page, I will move or delete it. Thank you.)

picture from knkusa.com
MSRP: $399.00

Official website:  Klic-N-Kut


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Update: Oct 16, 2012

The following retailer review was contributed by Sandy McCauley. Sandy supports the Klic-N-Kut Zing through her website http://www.iloveknk.com/. Thank you, Sandy, for taking the time to share information on the KNK Zing with us.

--------------------------------------------start of writeup by Sandy---------------------------------------
Price:
KNK Zing (USA): $399 plus $19 shipping to 48 US states
KNK Zing (Canada): $450 plus $20 shipping
For other countries, contact KNK USA for quotes or referrals to nearest KNK distributors

Website: http://knkusa.com/

Accugraphic Sales offers a range of cutting machines. This review writeup covers the KNK Zing which was first introduced in November 2011.  It is a 750g cutter with 20 speed settings ranging from extremely slow to extremely fast (800 mm/sec), thus permitting precise cutting of dense materials or quick drawing and engraving.  The maximum cutting width is 14” with no limit on length. It is equipped with a laser light for 3 point precise print and cut applications. Every Zing comes with Make The Cut (MTC) software, as well as a 12” x 12” gridded cutting mat, a blade holder, one standard materials blade, one thick materials blade, test pen with two inserts, power cord and USB cable.  The Zing User manual, which contains links to on-line videos and is regularly updated, is located here:

http://www.iloveknk.com/support/zing/

To see a comparison chart of how the KNK Zing compares to other KNK models, please go to this link:
http://www.iloveknk.com/knk-comparisons/

To see demo videos of the KNK Zing, please go to this link:
http://www.iloveknk.com/knk-info/free-video-tutorials/zing-videos/

The Zings are equipped with a fully adjustable blade holder seat which allows users to insert other brands of bladeholders, engraving and embossing tools, and even pens.


Question: What do you like about the machine?

 
·        The portability is top on my list! I finally have a fast, high force, wide-format cutter that I can easily carry under one arm!  I did purchase the Zing Travel Bag to use when taking my cutter to crops. It has separate pockets to hold the USB cable, power cord, blade holders, accessory tools, and some of my other small crafting tools.  The shoulder strap makes it easy to carry the Zing, a laptop bag and my crafting tote, all at one time.

·        Just as with the other KNK’s the range of force allows cutting a wide range of materials: paper, cardstock, poster board, chipboard, vellum, vinyl, fabric, craft foam, felt, balsa, magnet materials, iron-on materials, different kinds of plastics and rubbers, rhinestone template materials, Duralar, Lutradur,Yupo, leather, icing sheets, fondant, and more! Even with having less cutting force than the Maxx models, the slower speeds have allowed me to cut some of the same dense materials on the Zing with accuracy.

·        The Zing is much quieter than other prior models and other cutters!  The decibels fall into the same range as conversation from about 3 – 5 feet.

·        I have really enjoyed the convenience of having the other Zing blade holders (sold separately) so that I could keep my three blade types (thin material, thick material, and fabric) in individual blade holders which match the cap colors of the blades. I never again have to try to remember which blade type I last used in a holder!


Question: Does it cut vinyl and chipboard?

Yes, to both. The Zing’s 14” wide cutting makes it ideal for cutting 15” rolled materials.

Now with chipboard, there are many types and thicknesses.  Most cereal weight chipboard will cut in a single pass on the Zing. At the other extreme, I was able to cut 0.057” (1.4 mm) Grafix chipboard in four passes on a slow speed. 



Question: What can you tell us about the pros and cons of the machine?

Just like with the other KNK models, the pros are definitely the power, speed, and flexibility.  Additionally:

·        The price of just $399 makes it an affordable high-force cutter in the hobby market.

·        I also have had great success with the separately-sold Zing embossing, engraving, and punch tools.  The embosser has large and small spherical shaped ends.  I’ve been able to score cardstock for fold up projects and emboss images into cardstock and balsa with great success.

·        The engraver can be used on vellum, acrylic, and metal. I’ve also used it to create score lines in PETG craft plastic for fold-up projects.

·        The punch tool is great for those who want to do paper embroidery. Using the rhinestone outline function in MTC, a pattern of tiny circles can be created and then punched out using this tool.

·        The fabric blade is exceptional.  Not only does it cut the typical fabrics used for quilting, but a wide range of other fabrics as well. The results are outstanding – sharp points on stars, for example!  Plus, with some of the easier fabrics, it’s not always necessary to stabilize before cutting. I’ve been able to cut cotton and summer twill by directly pressing the fabric onto a very sticky mat.

·        MTC will work with in either Windows or Mac modes and cut to the Zing.  Another program called Artistic Suite (distributed by Janome America) will also cut to a Zing.

·        The laser light offers the ability to do perfect print and cuts.  It’s not even necessary to print from the software, as MTC’s plug-in for the Zing allows users to add a rectangle around printed, stamped, or hand-drawn images, scan them in, and then use the rectangle as the printed reg marks.  Refer to this video: https://vimeo.com/42691635

·        The support network for the KNK Zing is extraordinary!  All KNK dealers sign contracts agreeing to be the first line of contact for any hardware or software issues with the Zing. KNK USA provides an on-line user forum for freely asking Zing questions, as do Make The Cut and Paper Threads. There are also Yahoo groups dedicated to the Zing where many of the KNK dealers readily help anyone posting questions.  KNK USA also freely responds to tech support calls and emails for the life of the cutter.


For other pros, please refer back above to my response to “what I like about the machine.”

The only con that seems to impact usage by some owners, is that the two pinch wheels are permanently fixed on the pinch roller bar and are not adjustable to other locations.  If cutting rolled materials narrower than about 13”, then the material either needs to be cut to fit onto a cutting mat or taped to a wider material, such as contact paper, so that it can be gripped by both rollers during cutting.


Question: Is it too slow?
No.  In fact, the slower speeds are essential when accurately cutting some of the dense materials, such as thick chipboard and styrene.

Question: Is it too fast?
It’s insanely fast when on the fastest speed!  But there are perfect speeds to use for cutting and faster speeds to use when engraving or drawing.

Question: What don't you like about it?
Nothing!  I love the KNK Zing!


Question: Would you recommend it?

For business applications, such as vinyl cutting, prospective buyers should look at the other KNK models which will cut from KNK Studio. This is due to the need for such features as controlling cut order, automatic weeding, and cut-by-color, which are not available yet in Make The Cut.


Question: How expensive are the mats and blades?


A two pack of the 14” x 15” mats (12” x 12” ruled) is $15.99. The larger Zing mat (ruled at 14” x 24”) costs $14.99 each. The blades, including the fabric blade, are $8.99 each.

Question: Are they hard to find?
You must order them from KNK USA or from one our KNK dealers.  However, as mentioned earlier, other brands of blade holders and mats can be used in the KNK Zing.


Sandy McCauley
www.iloveknk.com

------------------------------------------------end of writeup -------------------------------------


Here are some photos of work done with the Zing: (photos submitted by Sandy McCauley):















The Silhouette Cameo Review Page

(If you use this machine with Make-the-Cut, please add your opinions about this machine under the COMMENTS section of this post. Please only comment if you use the Silhouette Cameo. Also, do mention if you are using the machine with MTC or Silhouette Studio. If I see any comments relating to any other cutters on this page, I will move or delete it. Thank you.)



MSRP: $299.99 (currently $269.99 on Amazon.com)

Official website:  Silhouette America

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I currently own and use this cutter. Please click HERE to read my personal reviews.


New Itsy Bitsy Spider + Baby Z Freebies!


Have you seen the latest LD release? Itsy Bitsy Spider is too cute! Even better, both the graphics and the Cut Its (SVG) sets are included in the Halloween Sale! Click HERE to get the graphics set for only $1 or the Cut Its (SVG) for only $2!


While you're at the LD site, don't forget to pick up these freebies: