Wednesday, December 30, 2009

One sweet iPod

I'm finally back. I see that Penny did a nice job of filling you in while I was baking, wrapping, entertaining, cooking, laughing, enjoying and eating...way too much eating. And like she said, two days after we're Merry Christmasing, it's time for Happy Birthday. ahhhhh yes...the Christmastime Birthday syndrome...Ours is a cute 11 year old girl who happens to now own a green iPod.

So here's a peek at the cake I came up with to kick off her year. Simple...really. Just a cake baked in a rectangular 9" x 13" pan and frosted in iPod green with white and black for the details. The little wires are red licorice left over from the Rudolphs and the ear buds are mounds of white icing with a few details piped in black. Granted everything would look sleeker in fondant, but for taste we all prefer plain old buttercream icing.

Off the subject of cake, are iPods A*M*A*Z*I*N*G or what??! I remember my black/no color Walkman...kindoflike having a stereo attached to your waist. And those
headphones?!? (I'm betting very few birthday cakes were modeled on that technology.) More confirmation that Mom and Dad truly lived with the dinosaurs.

Monday, December 28, 2009

my first Christmas

errr...hi there.
I've been asked to drop in and let you know that all is well. This is my first December. They told me that things would be chaotic, but I had no idea. Makes me want to hide under a bed if I wasn't so curious. Paper and lights and people and shiny things and food...
Speaking of which, I used my big eyes and best manners to get a taste of that ham. delicious. Then somebody (one of the short ones) spilled a whole cup of chocolate milk that nobody but me noticed ;> )
And just when I thought things had mellowed out one of them had a birthday. More paper, more people, more noise, more food. Anyway, I'm here to pass on wishes for a warm, wonderful holiday season. She said she'll be back soon (hopefully...I'm not so fond of typing.)
I need to go now and find a quiet spot for a long, cozy nap.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A whimsical Christmas tree dishtowel

Using the same basic construction as outlined in my playful dishtowel tutorial, I sewed up another dishtowel especially for the season.

First, I gathered fabrics and trims. The Christmasy fabric in the bottom left hand corner was the inspiration for the other colors in my fabric palette.

After I settled on fabrics, I drew my basic design. The simple pattern shapes are meant to compliment fabrics that have a little more going on.

Laying the pattern pieces aside, both edges of the dish towel received a fancy border. I also added a red ribbon to conceal the edges of the ruffle trim. (BTW the red ribbon seen in the finished hand towel replaced the originally selected brown trim in the fabric collecting picture...and while it may have been easier to just take a new photo of what ended up being the final fabrics/trims, I thought proof of changes mid-project was comforting. Sewing is nothing to sweat about. And I can say that now that I've been sewing for almost a whole year. ; )

Now the fun part...the canvas of the piece. I used fusible web to attach the pattern pieces to the towel and then zigzag-stitched around the shapes.

And that's it. This is an easy project to add a touch of Christmas whimsy to the kitchen or to make as a last minute gift....but maybe not to use to clean up after reindeer cupcakes.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Your vision is fine: That IS a lot of Rudolphs

Have you had too much sugar yet? These guys went to preschool today along with me and the preschooler herself. The first time I made Rudolph cupcakes was about 6 years ago for my oldest after I spied them in Family Fun magazine (check out the link if you need a festive snack idea in the next week.) With this latest batch, all that's left is a crumb or two and me vowing to lay off the high calorie posts for at least a week. Yes, I will paint again...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

a really fast + easy = candy recipe

I won't lie to you. I do make a ridiculous amount of candy this time of year, some types more involved than others. The more complicated varieties come together when the elves are at school or in bed to avoid holidaycandymakingstress, a real condition. This however, is an easy recipe for delicious candy treats that even preschool elves can make by your side. Around here we call them reindeer noses. To make your own, you'll need:

ring-shaped pretzels (can be hard to find...Meijer's store brand has them or just use mini pretzels)
rolo candies

First, unwrap the rolos. Put the rolos on a baking sheet and throw them an inner tube/pretzel ringing each rolo. (If you are using a different shaped pretzel just place your rolo on top and call it a raft.) Place in a preheated 275 degrees oven for 4-5 minutes.

Remove from oven. Immediately press a m&m into the center of each melty rolo. Leave the candies on the baking sheet until they are cool and hardened.

That's it...*really.* Place on a festive dish and enjoy!

*Linking some good advice here about embracing holiday baking shortcuts (and I'm totally with Jen on the 80% off gingerbread in the attic ; )

Monday, December 7, 2009

Tornados and gingerbread

Yesterday, with all the fixings, my three sugarplums spent the afternoon assembling and decorating the gingerbread houses left for them by St. Nick.

This has become a fun tradition that we do every year. I crank up the Christmas music and think about how (I'm sure) this will be a fond memory of their childhood.

This house had serious structural damage/crackage from the start. Perhaps St.Nick should think twice before being tempted to buy these a year in advance (you know when gingerbread house kits are 75% off and "he" reasons that no one eats the things anyway so why not save a little cash and keep them around until next year? eh hem.)

I found it quite humorous that the kits included the following note in the directions: "Do Not become DISTRESSED if your house cracks. Just repair with icing." Same thing for roof slidage. Luckily no one became "DISTRESSED" and a very cheerful afternoon was had by all...even if this year our gingerbread village looks like it suffered some sort of unfortunate weather related event.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Secrets Revealed

The ultimate "who-done-it" was held two weeks ago and all was revealed. Cincinnati's Secret Artworks auction (blogged back here) is a fundraising event featuring the exhibition and sale of original 5" x 7" works of art from local, national and international artists. The 'secret' behind each piece is the identity of the artist which is revealed after purchase. I contributed three secrets to the cause. So without any further chitchatting, here they are unwrapped...

My three wise, wise, wise owls.

One is just a little smarter than the one before (or at least that's what they think.)

All flew off the boards and into the hands of some very appreciated buyers (thank you if you happen to be one of them!) Nothing worse than a 'wise owl' hanging around too long at the party.

And is it really December already???!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

I have many things to be thankful for this year including the, friends, faith, health and home. Of course that's not forgetting the little pleasures like making art with zippers and lace : )

Thank you for stopping by throughout the year and for your comments and e-mails. I treasure the inspiration and friendship that those words bring. Have a happy and safe holiday!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A playful dishtowel tutorial

I'm a huge fan of this store's artsy dishtowels. I figured it was about time I made a few myself. After all, when you break it down it's just a fabric rectangle with trim and applique, right? The Totally Tutorials supplies/tutorial exchange with Ruby Jane's Retro fabric was another spark that led to this project idea. If you were here yesterday, you read about that and my final piece of inspiration...a newly acquired, 1944 children's dictionary.

These fabric ink jet sheets have been waiting ever so patiently on my shelf for some time. Finally, they had their day. I loved the entries from my new (old) book and how they "played" off the fabric swatch from Ruby Jane. Here was the perfect opportunity to combine her fabric, a bit of the dictionary and experiment with the fabric sheets.

First, I scanned in the definition of play from that charming dictionary. I followed the fabric sheet directions by loading a single sheet into the printer and printing. I then did the colorfast treatment according to the package. The entire process went smoothly with no ink bleedage or distortion. I really can't believe I haven't tried this until now.

other supplies needed include:
fabric swatches (click here for Ruby Jane's shop)
fusible web
21" x 29" piece of heavier fabric (main body of dishtowel)
sewing machine
coordinating thread

First, iron the edges up and under approx 1/4 inch in on all sides of the dishtowel fabric. Then pin and sew close to the inner edge.

Iron fusible web to the back of all fabric swatches. Peel off paper backing. Arrange and pin fabric pieces on the dishtowel. Iron fabric swatches to the towel.

With contrasting thread, zigzag-stitch around the various fabric pieces.

Here's a peek at what my machine was set at for this part.

After the applique pieces are stitched, pin ruffle trim to the bottom and top edges of the dish towel. Next, sew the trim to the front edges of the dishtowel.

Finally, attach red trim on top...reminiscent of the fancy borders from the original children's dictionary (note the right edge of the "play" definition fabric snippet.)

And there you have it...a playful, retro dishtowel whipped up in under two hours to add a bit of whimsy to your kitchen or to gift. I can hardly wait to make more dishtowels integrating initials, recipes, photos...all kinds of personal touches turned to fabric as easy as clicking "print." And make sure you visit Ruby Jane's shop for Anthro-like retro fabrics. You know what they say about all work and no play... ; )

Monday, November 23, 2009

Piecing together inspiration

A few weeks or more (that's heavily leaning on the "more" side), the sweet Ruby Jane from Ruby Jane's Retro Fabric selected me and others to create tutorials with her fabric. This is part of the exchange program over at Totally Tutorials which connects supply sellers to creative types with free supplies for tutorials.

I was completely charmed by that little piece of nostalgic fabric when it arrived. I turned ideas over in my head. I wanted a project that would go together in an hour or less (for this crazy time of the year), but that involved my learning at least one new technique and/or experimenting with one new material.

In an unrelated yet related venture, I happened upon this charming 1944 children's dictionary at a rummage sale. It was a no-brainer purchase. And it reminded me of the exchange fabric and how I needed to get a tutorial out into the world. After all a deal's a deal.

Paging through this dictionary was delightful. I scanned a few snippets of my favorite smile-inducing definitions from the book.

I love the colorful, scalloped edges on the sides of the pages and all of the fancy trims used throughout the book. As I was reading this dictionary page-by-page, something clicked. I had an idea for my tutorial. The final product wouldn't be wheel invention, but it would combine nostalgia with practical and provide an opportunity for me to experiment with an unopened material that's been on my shelf for some time. And I realize I'm being all secretive-like, but I had to explain the inspiration before the project. And honestly the project is not quite done yet, but I promise the easy step-by-step tutorial is coming up next. Perfect *I think* for holiday gifts.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hanging Acorn Frame tutorial

My girls and I went for a fall walk the other day. Crunching under our feet were hundreds of little acorn hats. We stopped to inspect them closer, loving their tiny absolutely gorgeous crafting material. We collected as many as our pockets could hold and brought them back to the studio for some acorn brainstorming. While my daughters dreamed up a family of acorn people, I worked to create an acorn frame with a hanger.

materials needed:
acorn tops of various sizes
flat wooden frame with at least an 1 inch border
hot glue gun
brown craft paint
20 inch piece of 1/2 inch wide brown ribbon
a photo or piece of art to frame

step one.
Remove the glass and back of the frame for crafting purposes. Paint the frame with brown craft paint.

step two.
Attach the ribbon middle to a large acorn top by hot gluing the ribbon into the acorn.

step three.
Hot glue the ends of the ribbon to the top of the front frame corners like so.

step four.
Hot glue acorn tops to the front of the frame. You will cover where the ribbon was previously attached.

step five.
Insert the frame glass along with a photo or a piece of original art and hang your finished creation on a wall or a doorknob.

Giving thanks for the little things including time to paint, craft and look for acorns. : )

Sunday, November 15, 2009

When Autumn gives you apples...

Homemade apple pie is something I crave every fall...errrr actually I crave throughout the year, but even more so when the leaves are changing and the air is crisp. I've found the best apple pie is made with a combination of different apples for a variety of tastes in each slice. My favorite mix is Granny Smiths and Jonathans. I also prefer a crumb topping rather than a top crust. Without further chitchat, here's my favorite recipe for a delicious apple pie.

apple filling:
6 cups thinly sliced, peeled apples
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. salt

The bottom crust can be your favorite single crust pie recipe or a refrigerated Pillsbury crust...promise, I won't tell ; ). Line the pie plate with the bottom crust and add a fancy cookie cutter edge, if you desire. Then fill with the apple mixture from above.

To make the crumb topping, stir together:
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
Use a pastry blender to cut in 1/2 cup butter or margarine till the topping mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Sprinkle the crumb topping over the apple mixture. To prevent over browning, cover the edge of pie with foil. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 25-30 minutes more until the pie top is golden.

Remove from oven and cool. Send hubby to store for forgotten vanilla ice cream and enjoy.

I'll be back soon. Many projects were wrapped up last week so now I'm enjoying time for things like pie, crafts and our nearly complete renovated bathroom! Hurray for Fall!

Also perfect for the season...a recipe for Gratitude rolls over here.