Saturday, December 31, 2011

Project: Easy Calendar

I got this cute little calendar for Christmas from one of my students,
I couldn't resist putting it up on the blog because it was cute and simple.

It's a picture frame &
4x6 inch calendars that this cutie mom designed!

Just strap a bow around it and you are done!

So cute!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Project: Cinnamon Ornaments

One of my kids favorite decorations are the Cinnamon Ornaments.  They are super easy and they smell SOOO yummy!  Especially when the warm lights heat them up a bit......ahhhh.  I like to put them on some little trees right by my front door.  Its a great way to enter the house!
I first made them about 5 years ago, and they were starting to lose their smell a little.  They, themselves always smell good - but they don't radiate quite as much anymore.  So my girls and I decided it was time to make more!  They really are as easy as rolling out sugar cookies.  Probably easier, and they take less time.  So here's your how to:
1 cup ground cinnamon
1/4 cup applesauce
1/2 cup white glue

Mix cinnamon and applesauce together.  The mixture will be very crumbly.  Using a rubber spatula is easiest.  Slowly add glue and mix until consistent.  *My recipe says to let it sit one hour - if you do make sure it is covered.  It will dry out!*
This is a double batch

The ornaments shrink a bit as they dry, so I use my big cookie cutters.  Roll out the dough just like you would a sugar cookie, but without the mess.  It won't really stick to anything.  If it does you can sprinkle the surface with some extra cinnamon.  If the dough starts to get too dry you can spritz it with water.  I always make sure to knead each section really well with my hands before I roll it out, just to spread the moisture around.  Make sure you don't get the ornaments too thin.  Especially if kids are handling them - you don't want them to be too fragile!
 Once you've cut the shapes, use a straw to cut out the hole for the ribbon.

Air dry the ornaments on a wire rack lined with paper towels for 24-48 hours, turning them every few hours to keep them flat.  (As they dry they will start to curl upward around the edges).  You can also heat them in an oven at 200 degrees for 2 hours to dry them.  I think it takes a bit of the smell away - but you have less chance of curling ornaments.  Just flip them once halfway through.

At this point you can do all kinds of fun stuff.  I like to leave mine plain jane, but I've seen some really cute ones decorated with glitter and paint.  You can pretty much treat them like a wooden ornament in that way.  Then just string the ribbon through - tie a bow and you have your ornament!  These also make really cute embellishments for gifts and neighbor goodies.  And they are really inexpensive.  The biggest expense is the cinnamon.

Such a fun activity for the kids - and a nice welcome home for me.

And these cookies are the perfect treat for your activity!  I dislike ginger snaps.  But I love homemade ginger cookies!  And these gingerbread men are very close.  So yum!


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Project: How to Snickerdoodle

As I was baking some Snickerdoodles for my hubby this afternoon (they are one of his favorites!)  I started thinking of all the times I hear people complain about how their cookies never come out right.  Now "right" is definitely up for interpretation.  My father-in-law always said "Its called a "cook"ie - that means it should be COOKED!"  He liked crunchy cookies - I don't.  So if my cookies ever "didn't turn out"  I knew I could always send them his way.

The recipe may play some part in the softness of a cookie, but the trick, really, is when to pull them out.  I say trick because all ovens are different, and cookie sizes vary.  I've had ovens I had to set 25 degrees lower than the recipe said and everything still cooked too quickly!  The recipe may say 8 minutes - but it is ALWAYS an approximation.  I very rarely even time my cookies.  And if I do, I make sure the timer will go off early so that I'm there when the cookies are actually done.  If I want good cookies - I don't multi-task.  :0)

So, I'll use my Snickerdoodles as an example, partially because I love them, and partially because of all cookies they are one of the trickier ones.  And don't worry, the recipe is at the end.  Believe me its a good one!

 So there are a few things I learned from my mother.  One is how to get a "baker's dozen".  If you stagger the cookies (row of 3, row of 2, row of 3 etc) you get one extra cookie on the sheet.  It works.  The other is to rotate the cookie sheets to cut down cooking time.  Place both racks in the center and put in a sheet for half the time, then rotate another one in for the second half.  For example: if the recipe says bake for 10 minutes. Put the first sheet on the bottom rack for 5 minutes then move it to the top and put another on the bottom for the next 5 minutes and just keep it going till all of them have cooked 10 minutes each.  Instead of taking 30 minutes to bake 3 sheets it will take 20.  It works great if you are in a time crunch.  But if you need to leave the top one in because it isn't done, that cooks the bottom one for longer and you have to juggle times a lot more.  And you end up with more not perfectly done cookies.  If I have the time I bake the sheets one at a time.

When you are baking sugar cookies (which is essentially what a snickerdoodle is) you can kind of think about it like flipping pancakes.  These pictures don't illustrate as well as I'd like, but if you'll notice in the top picture the cookies are shiny and uncracked.  In the bottom one they are cracking and turning dull.  (not all cookies crack - but snickerdoodles do)  A shiny cookie is a 'not done' cookie.  Just like a shiny pancake is not ready to flip (if you have it at the right temp anyway).  Here is where it gets tricky.  You want it un-shiny for just long enough that it is done, but isn't browning.  If the cookie starts to brown on the bottom it is over-cooked and, unless eaten right out of the oven, will be crunchy.

The top cookie is *perfect* - the bottom cookie was all crunch within the hour.  See that fine line of golden brown on the bottom?  Sugar cookies - and snickerdoodles - and golden brown don't mix.

From the top you barely notice a difference.  But flip them over.....duh duh duh.  A crunchy cookie!

Keep in mind also that the cookies continue to cook after you pull them out of the oven.  If you leave them on the cookie sheet to cool they will cook more than they will if you transfer them to a cooling rack.....and they'll get stuck to the sheet.  I usually leave them on the cookie sheet for about a minute.  They cool just enough not to fall apart when you transfer them to the cooling rack.  Sometimes if you open up your cookie right then the middle will seem slightly dough-y.  Wait a couple of minutes.  If you pulled it out at the right time that dough-y will turn to absolute perfection!

And don't forget to store them in an airtight container!

Again - if you are like my father-in-law - throw everything I just said out the window.  But if you like a good soft those cook times!


1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. shortening
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
2 3/4 c. flour
2 t. cream of tartar (its important!)
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt

2 T. sugar
2 t. cinnamon

Cream together butter, shortening, and sugar.  Add eggs, mix well.  Add flour, tartar, soda, and salt.  In a separate bowl, mix cinnamon and sugar.  Shape dough into balls and roll in sugar and cinnamon mixture.  Place on greased cookie sheet (I never grease mine - but don't let the cookies cool on the sheet - thats when they stick).  Bake at 400 degrees for 6-8 minutes.

*I always wondered why this recipe called for cream of tartar.  The ONLY other thing I had ever used it in was merengue.  Well, that should have given me my clue.  I made them without it once.....there is one thing merengue and these snickerdoodles have in common.  They are light and airy :0)  And I think the tartar is what makes them crack.

Enjoy your soft cinnamon-y goodness!


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Project: Party supplies from the Dollar Store

My daughter just turned 4 today, and told me she would love an Ariel themed birthday party...not in those exact words...but I got it. :0) After googling a few birthday cake sights for ideas, this is my cake I came up with. My daughter had the flounder and Ariel doll, and I found the shells at the dollar store! I also split one frosting container in half, mixed one half turquoise and one half peach. Then I crushed some Graham Crackers for a 'sandy look'. 
The Ariel themed birthday is stuck here and there, but really it turned into a Princess party. :0) I found the foam crowns, ribbon and foam glitter stickers at the dollar store as well! 
Matching Princess decor? Another Dollar Store find. :0) 
Pin the Crown on the Princess game= ONE dolla. 
Had the glitter craft string on hand, but the beads were another find...score!
The velvet coloring Ariel's were found at the--what?...yes...the Dollar Store.
The grab bags I made from some scrap fabric, and they were filled with some of my daughters most favorite things. :0)
Nail polish, chapstick, play doh and Junior Mints. :0) ...and candy canes...not really her favorite, but I had them already...
Everything altogether cost a whopping 25 bucks. Not bad in trade of some fabulous memories. :0)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Project: Festive Fridge Magnets

I was scrambling to find something to give to the ladies I visit teach. Then I thought I would make them a craft. :0) This project was fast and easy...just my style!
I cut some triangles out of an old cereal box. 
Then I went digging through my scrapbook paper and found these lovely shades of green and ivory. Perfect for a Christmas tree...I cut the first strip, then eye balled a couple centimeters bigger for every piece. 
Then I grabbed a pencil and started rolling, I then hot glued the end and let it sit while I made all the other rolls. 
After I placed and glued down the rolled strips of paper. I cut off the excess cardboard. I could have done more rolls, but I was in a hurry! 
I then cut some more pieces of cardboard for the trunk and top, and covered and glued some cute paper on those. Then I added a button. It would look super cute with more buttons all down the tree...but I didn't have any. :0) 
These honestly weren't going to be fridge magnets when I first started out. I thought these would be super cute framed, but I didn't have any extra (cute) frames either. So, magnets they would be!  
Tree #1 
...and Tree #2
I can't decide which tree top I like better. Have fun with this one! Take it and ROLL with it. hahaha. I would love to see your spin on this project.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Project: Accent Pillows

 So I told you I'm working on my bed.  I finished it today!!  And I'm in love with my headboard now :0)
For the small pillows I just made a quick envelope case.  SUPER easy and removable.  With 4 kids I like that!  You can find a tutorial here.
 For the big pillows I made just a regular pillow case.  I used a different material on the front and back so they are reversible!  Mostly it was because I was piecing together fabric, but shhhhh....don't tell :)  I was going to tie the ends together with ribbon - which I still think would be super cute - but I decided it wasn't necessary.  I love them the way they are!

I knew the dimensions of my pillow so I just added 1 inch to the height (short measurement) and about 3 to the width (long side) and cut a rectangle.  I hemmed the two sides that would be open - just a regular 5/8" hem.  Then put I right sides together and sewed the other three sides!  I didn't want a cuff or anything as I was going to do the ribbon thing - but like I said....I never got that far.
 Sorry about the horrible lighting.  My room has no overhead lighting and we are facing some pretty gloomy days of late.  The white one is furry fleece (left over polar bear costume)  The black one has fabric flowers all over it (an old pair of dress pants) and the zebra one has a little sequin embellishing.....okay so I bought that....

Wanna see?!


Yay!  I am very pleased with it.  I ran onto the comforter set on clearance at Meijer.  I weighed my options and decided that it cost about $250 less than my dream (one day I will have a down comforter and duvet!!) and only about $10 more than my frugal idea.  So I went with the less sewing option and it turned out great.
 And I've decided to leave the headboard the way it is :0)
So, I'm not a spokesperson for Ikea by any means, but really.  I can't imagine my craft room without these Expedit shelves!  If you look you'll see that I have them on either side of my bed.....every inch of them is full of fabric, paper, embellishments, tools, etc.  They are the PERFECT size for 12x12 paper and books.  And the bins are great for folded fabric and silk flowers and all that jazz.

Notice I didn't show you the other side of the room.....I promise its coming....


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Project: Master Bedroom Makeover....Part 1

We have moved into this great rental town home that we just love.  One thing I kinda love and kinda hate is that there isn't a single white wall in it!!  

Well the master bedroom is blue.  Luckily its a pretty blue.

I am the kind of person that needs my bedroom to be a relaxing place.  For me that means organized and clean.  My bedroom is NOT the catch all place like so many parents I know.....thats my office!  Haha.  I like to walk in and feel like "ahhhh....I can breathe.....relax.....sleep" 

So I'm giving it a makeover!  Because nothing I have matches with blue.

Step 1:  Headboard

My bed doesn't have a frame.  Which I actually love!  Nothing gets lost under it....its not so high that my kids need help climbing on kids aren't afraid to sleep on the floor next to it (I like my sleep) .....but the wall above it is very plain :0)  I decided to make a headboard.  My goal here was to spend $0.  Which I did.....but only because I have loads of extra things lying around.  Even if I didn't though - this is a very budget friendly project.  And you don't have to sew!
You will need some picture frames.  These 3 are 16x20 inch frames.  They fit PERFECTLY above a queen sized bed.  My first step was to paint them black.....I didn't take a picture of that though!
 You could just use the back of the frame to wrap your material around, but because of the way mine fit into the front I couldn't do that.  So I cut some scrap cardboard to fit.
 I cut a piece of batting the same size as the cardboard, and a piece of material an inch or two bigger than the cardboard on each side.  I cut up some old white drapes and covered them with some white chiffon to make it look a little nicer.  Place the batting on the cardboard and cover with your fabric.
 Wrap the edges of the fabric around the cardboard (or frame back) and tape it.  I used packing tape.  Put the frames back together and hang them on the wall!
 I attached the bottom of the frames to the wall with mounting tape.  I can sit up against them or knock them in my sleep and they aren't going anywhere!  

The possibilities really are endless.  There are any number of black and white prints I would have loved to put in there.  Pick a fabric you love that matches the decor and you have a beautiful headboard!
Ignore the messy bed.  I haven't gotten to the bedding makeover part yet.  The yellow plaid quilt from grandma wouldn't have done justice - I figured the plain white sheets were better :0)   I still might add something to the headboard to make a'm not sure.  It depends on whether I love it once the bedding is all finally put together.

On a side note, my room ended up with the 'leftover' lamps....its amazing what a new shade will do.  We went from wicker and bronze to white and damask.  So much better!!  And you'd be amazed how cheaply you can find shades if you look hard/long enough.  Thats really the key to frugal makeovers, I think....patience!

Next Step:  Craft Cabinet and Table
(yes, my bedroom is also my craft day!......)