COOKIES

Cute for school!

Cute for school!

SUGAR COOKIES!  I love (and hate) to make them!  Let’s face it, iced sugar cookies are time consuming.  I don’t care if you are the best expert in the world.  These labors of love are well, laborious!  The baking part is simple enough, but the icing!!!  The icing is a ROYAL (get it) pain in the butt.  The key to icing these is to get the right consistency. I am lazy and just do what they call the “20 second icing” method.  I don’t usually outline with a stiffer icing and then flood with a thinner icing. I am too darn tired by the time I have all the icing colors ready to go.  I get all my inspiration from http://www.sweetsugarbelle.com, including her yummy recipes, so be sure to visit her blog.  She is amazing and has tutorials and such on icing the cookies, and lots of tips and tricks.  I would like to share some mistakes I have made when making these cookies, so here are some things to avoid!  Don’t be like me and frustrate yourself to no end!!

Spa Party Cookies

Things to avoid:

1. If you are new at this, I urge you: do not bake and try to ice the cookies the same day! You will be tired after baking and mixing the icing, and then you will just be “over it” and when the first few don’t turn out that great you get mad and throw in the towel.  You are just tired.  Best to bake one day, and make the icing and decorate them the next.  Trust!  Your feet will thank me.

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2. If you have never made these before, do not pick the hardest design you have ever seen.  Pick a simple design, one that you are confident you can tackle!  Everything looks easier on YouTube and Facebook…e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g!  I loved how these turned out.  I made red the year before, and decided to do them in pink the next time around.

A labor of love!

A labor of love!

3. Use tumbler cups to put your icing bags in, it keep your frosting bags upright. Put a very slightly damp paper towel in the bottom to prevent your tips from drying out and clogging up.

I was too tired to make different colored lego cookies.  Good thing yellow is my son's favorite color.

I was too tired to make different colored lego cookies. Good thing yellow is my son’s favorite color.

4. Be sure you have mixed the icing really well, or you will get these lovely clumps that will block your frosting tip.  Also, when you use the tip above about the paper towel…use a slightly damp (not too much or the icing gets wet and can do weird things) paper towel in the bottom of the cup you rest your frosting bags in.  It is very frustrating when you are rolling along, and all of a sudden you can’t squeeze anything out of your icing tip!  Do not squeeze the bag super hard, it will pop and frosting will ooze out everywhere…I have done this…it was not a good day.  The one thing that has worked for me is to place the tip under super hot water.  It melts the blockage and you will be able to continue.

Peeps!  Be sure to put the sugar on very soon after icing so it sticks but not too soon that it sinks.

Peeps! Be sure to put the sugar on very soon after icing so it sticks but not too soon that it sinks.

5. Be sure to mix enough of the color you need.  It is really really really really hard to match color if you run out.  Maybe it is just hard for me, but if you are a beginner, unless it’s white icing, be sure to mix enough of the color for your project.

Have fun with it!

Have fun with it!

6.  Not all baking sheets are created equal!  I have different types of cookie sheets, they all bake the cookies at a different rate, so watch your next batch if it is on a different sheet, guaranteed you will have some dark edges if you don’t adjust the baking time.

Just a few details with the white icing make these gingerbread men and women really cute.

Just a few details with the white icing make these gingerbread men and women really cute.

7. Circles are hard!  Yup, I said it.  I have been baking all sorts of different cookies for a long time, but for some reason, I can’t outline a circle very well!  It is easy to see the mistakes, so maybe don’t choose a circle shape the first go-round.  I was trying to teach someone how to do these for the first time with these here baseball cookies…it was a bit frustrating for her I think.  Even I did not have the patience that day…I baked and frosted the same day…shame on me!

Baseball cookies

Baseball cookies

8. Consistency is key!  I try for that “20 second icing” method, so I only need to mix one bag of icing color and not outline piping, and flooding icing.  Things can go really wrong if you add too much water.  Go very slowly.  Sugarbelle even suggests using a spray bottle to add just the right amount.  If you go too far, the icing will sag right off the cookie and take forever to dry.  You can sometimes remedy this by adding more powdered sugar, but then you have to take it out of the bag and start all over…I have done this too…no fun.  I made these here cookies for my sister’s 30th wedding anniversary, and the black “L” icing was way too stiff.  I was air brushing and icing, and my other sister was in town for the party, and again, I was tired.  See tip one, again…I do not listen to my own advice.  I will never learn!

Anniversary Cookies

9. Be sure you have lots of number #2 and #3 tips.  You will need many.  I use disposable icing bags because I don’t bake these all the time.  It saves me from having to wash them out each time I use the bags.  I would go crazy and never bake them again if I had to wash out icing bags.

Storm Troopers

10. Have fun and don’t be too critical.  We can be our worst critics.  They are only cookies, yummy ones, and they will be eaten quickly. Once they are all on the plate they look really nice, so don’t let the OCD in you win out.  Everyone will love them, and you will then be asked to make thousands of them for people who do not want to pay you for them.  Beware!  :) And watch out for carpal tunnel symptoms!

Father's Day Ties

Father’s Day Tie

The trick is to give them away fast, so you don’t eat too many!  I actually prefer them without the icing.  The Sugarbelle recipe calls for almond extract and powdered sugar, and it is really delicious!  I hope you try them if you have been really wanting to.  I would love to see your creations!

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“My Favorite Things” Party

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” chalkboard sign

Have you ever been to one of those parties?  Everyone brings 5 of the same thing of a product that they love, or something that you handmade that you love.  Each person pulls five names, and everyone goes home with 5 different things (hopefully).  Sometimes you have to do some trading at the end if there are people left at the end that didn’t have their name called enough, and end up with some of the same thing.  But that is fun too, because most people are willing to trade to get the things that really interested them.  It’s kind of fun, and us moms really like it because when do we ever really get five little gifts chosen by our friends?  If you haven’t been to one, you should throw one yourself. Your friends will love it.  I co-hosted for my second year with my friend.  Our friends requested we do it again this year.  We had our party closer to Christmas last time, but this year my friend had the brilliant idea to do it before Thanksgiving, since the holidays get so crazy.  Last year was at my house, and this year was at hers, so that was nice to take turns.  We had a theme for the food and decor, mostly some gold accents, and miniature finger food.  She did the appetizers and I did the desserts.  I went to Pinterest to find inspiration.  Here are the links to the desserts I made:

Salted Caramel-Cashew Cookie tarts:

http://www.pillsbury.com/recipes/salted-caramel-cashew-cookie-tarts/707B6E37-5C91-403B-8DD0-3739BA25D3BF?crlt.pid=camp.t9j5A8CZd396#?nicam4=SocialMedia&nichn4=Pinterest&niseg4=Pillsbury&nicreatID4=Post

These were good, but very rich and heavy.  Maybe that is a good thing, because it keeps the portion control in check.  The mixture of the caramel with the cashew butter is so yummy.  I had some left over and saved it for the kids to put over vanilla ice cream.  I could not find Kraft caramel nibs at my local grocery store, so just use kraft caramels and chop them up a bit to speed up melting them in the microwave.  I used a wooden dowel from Pampered Chef to get the cookie dough to mould perfectly in the mini muffin pan.  Worked like a charm, not so much with the next recipe.

Shortbread Tarts with Cream Filling:

http://www.joyofbaking.com/ShortbreadTartsWithCreamFilling.html

Ok, so these I had a bit of a problem with.  The filling is great!  It makes a lot and has a great lemon flavor.  However, I had difficulty with the shortbread.  I just could not get them out of the mini muffin pan in one piece. I followed the directions and sprayed my pan accordingly.  I gave up and used mini phyllo cups as a substitute.  You can find them in the freezer by the pies.  They worked just fine, and had a nice crisp crunch.  These were gone at the end of the night.  Hands down favorite.  None left at all.  I topped mine with a raspberry and two blueberries.

Pumpkin Pie Bites

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Pumpkin Pie Bites

http://www.bakerella.com/pumpkin-pie-bites/

These were good, tasted like a decent pumpkin pie recipe.  I didn’t do pumpkin faces, instead I topped with some whipped cream that I added some sugar and cinnamon to.  I just used a biscuit cutter and cut out circles from two ready made pie crusts for the crust.  I used the extra dough to cut leaves, and sprinkle them with cinnamon-sugar.  Those will get a little soggy from the whipped cream, but they make a cute presentation. Not the best picture in the world, but I was losing light.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas Chalkboard Sign

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So I brought those signs to the party as my $5 favorite thing.  My friend had originally cut those to use for something else but she didn’t like the stain she used so she gave them to me (yes!!!). You can get the wood at Home Depot for $5.95 if you do not have a crafty friend like me.  It comes 24×48.  Choose smooth wood, like the kind in the bottom of a drawer.  You do need a miter saw to cut the angles, and the hole at home. After using my chalkboard paint on one, I ended up switching to the chalkboard spray paint.  It covered better, and was faster overall.

After the paint was dry, I went to my Silhouette and made a design close to one I had seen online.  I really like the “Bergamot Ornaments” font on http://www.dafont.com.  It is great for a chalkboard design.  It provided the cute lines and swirls.  Just make what you like.  There were a ton of sayings, and cute fonts online, and designing is the most time consuming for me, just deciding takes so much time!  So go with something that appeals to you, and you will be thrilled.  Cut it out in vinyl on your Silhouette machine.  Make sure there is a box around the saying because you want the negative image.  Season your chalkboard with regular chalk, all over and wipe off.  Weed out the letters.  Apply the stencil to your board with transfer tape, and use a chalk pen to stencil in your design.  The chalk pen is cleaner, and easier to work with.  It will come off with water, but I have always found I can still see it a bit when it has been wiped off.  If you want to do a different design on the back, that is a great idea too!  Finish it off with a ribbon you like.  It was a very inexpensive gift, and I think my friends really liked it.  It did take some time, but homemade isn’t always fast.  We don’t do it because it’s fast, right?  Thanks for checking out my blog!

Cheers!

Rhonda

Burlap & Fabric Paint

Summer has taken a toll on my craft time. Trying to keep the kiddos happy is a busy business. I did manage to fit in one craft that I think you will like. I was perusing through Michael’s and found a three pack of burlap canvas http://www.michaels.com/search?q=burlap%20canvas that was reasonably priced, especially when using that coupon they give you from your last trip (to get you in there again the following week, very smart Michael’s). I had seen a very cute burlap canvas of a mason jar with a cute saying on it on Joss & Main http://www.pinterest.com/pin/568438784189714971/ but it was way too expensive. Isn’t that always the way it goes. You really like something, but you just can’t pay that much for it? So, being the resourceful person I am, I decided to take matters into my own hands and create one I liked myself.

Here is my version:

When Life Gives You Lemons

When Life Gives You Lemons

Close enough for me! I was kind of down-in-the-dumps over something that happened and I needed a cheerful sign to cheer me up. This was just the one, but no way was I paying a lot of money for it. Silhouette machine to the rescue! I purchased the mason jar, and the lemon on Silhouette, and adapted the design to my liking. I just used fonts I had on hand to complete the saying. The two shapes were .99 cents each (but even cheaper really, because I have a subscription). The burlap was on sale, and with my coupon it equalled something like $7.99 for three panels. I used some regular vinyl for my stencil. Carefully weed out what you want to be on the canvas. Is that the negative image? I just made sure it was really well adhered to the canvas to prevent as much bleeding as I could. Then I used a little bit of black fabric paint (go over it and let it dry about three times). Then carefully remove the vinyl, and you are done. I used a frame that I had on hand that I rotate sayings in all year long. The canvas is a bit thick, so be sure to find a frame that can manage it. I took the glass out in order to fit mine. Hope you like it. If you have a Silhouette, you really need to try a stencil and some fabric paint on canvas, it is really kind of fun! If I was an artist I would just free-hand it, but no go there. I hope you try it soon.

I just love the burlap and black ink.

I just love the burlap and black ink.

Creative people need to know about this website!

I recently found out about the website http://www.creativelive.com. Maybe I have been in a cave somewhere, but wow, this website is amazing. They offer video classes on all sorts of creative subjects. It covers anything from cake decorating, to photography, to how to start your handmade business, Photoshop, scrapbooking, and on and on. You can tune in to the live broadcast for free, which is not always convenient, but you can also buy the class and watch it whenever you want. If you do catch a live broadcast, you can chat with others in the chat room during the live presentation. You can now make a wish list of classes that you may have missed, and it keeps the list for you to come back to when you are ready to purchase. Many classes come with a workbook that you can download, and even the free class broadcast may offer some free information you can download. Anyway, it can be a really valuable tool for you to learn something new, or improve your business, or photography, or whatever. If you have ever taken a class at CreativeLive, I would love to hear about your experience. Recently, I tuned into Kari Chapin’s “Start a Handmade Business” class when it was live, so it was free. It was three days of packed information. I missed a bunch of it, but what I caught was a really wonderful class, full of tips and information. She has a book on this entire subject as well. Check it out, you may find a class you are interested in.

Tote bag and Zipper Pouch

ReversibleTote
Have you seen the website http://www.crafsy.com? It is awesome. It has a lot of tutorial videos on how to sew and makes stuff. It gives you step-by-step instructions on how to make several things, and some tutorials are free. I stumbled upon a tote and zipper pouch free video, and wanted to try it out. I really need practice with zippers especially!

If zippers confuse you do the zipper pouch so you can practice. She uses a glue stick technique to keep the zipper aligned without dealing with pins that I found so helpful.
Zipper pouch
She also gave a tip when making a boxed bottom and how to put the pin through the seam so you know it is all lined up. It made sense when I saw the video. Now in the video she wasn’t using a one-way pattern like myself, and I guess I should have turned my Russian dolls the other way, but oh well, ya live and ya learn. I really did learn a lot about basic sewing during this tutorial. I have sewed before, but not often and never consistently, so this was a good project to start with again.

Lots of fun stuff on there, as well as paid classes. I think I will work my way up to doing the free quilt block class out of old t-shirts. That class looks like a fun way to preserve those shirts that you love, or that your kids wore, and it keeps the memory of them around. We shall see, but I do know I need a lot more practice at my sewing.

Personalized Burlap Wine Bags


It was the last day of school on Friday, and I wanted to give one of my new friends something to thank her for several kindnesses. Since we are both a little weary about starting the summer, trying to keep our kids busy, and not go crazy in the process, I thought I would embellish it with a funny saying. You can put any saying you like. You can stencil the bag sideways also, with “Vino” in a fancy font, or a last name, “Thank You”, and so on… The possibilities are endless. It is a fun, and fast project and it really dresses up the wine gift. Wine bottles do vary in size so be sure to measure your bottle for height and width and add a 1/4 seam allowance. Go around the top of the bag with a straight stitch to prevent the burlap from fraying beyond the stitch. I used fabric paint, and a stencil I made with Silhouette stencil material. So keep calm, and stencil on!

Dressed up Burp Cloths

Dressed up burp cloths make a great gift.

Dressed up burp cloths make a great gift.

I am still on the baby kick, so I thought I would add to my little onesie gift and make some embellished burp cloths to go with them.

There are a ton of blogs that have a tutorial on this. I like this one: http://goodbadcraftyblog.blogspot.com/2012/02/custom-burp-clothes.html

Just be sure to measure your diaper so you cut your fabric right (the size can vary a little bit), and wash the diapers and the fabric first before you begin. Sometimes I think that is the hardest part about sewing anything. I just want to dive in, but there is always washing, and cutting involved. I do know that I would have loved to have these when I had my kids. Just adds some cuteness to it, and it becomes a little more special, because someone customized it for you. You could make the fabric portion wider or thinner too, up to you. There is no right or wrong. I just kept it with the seams in the diaper.

Try them out, very simple. I did use a zigzag stitch, but you do not have to. You can just use a straight stitch. Be sure to stitch close to the edge, and use white bobbin thread (the back is white), and what ever color thread to match your fabric, so your mistakes show less (if you make mistakes). I know I always make plenty of sewing mistakes, and I rarely sew in a straight line, so matching the fabric is a must for me. I am getting better, but I don’t sew all that often. This is a great project for a beginning sewer. Have fun, and choose fabrics that you love!

Memorial Day Pallet Project

Pallet Flag

Pallet Flag

I have been bugging a friend of mine to make a pallet project with me forever. She was able to snag some free pallets, so we decided to do a pallet flag. They are very popular on Pinterest, and I was all for it. They were sitting on the side of her house for so long, we had to get going, so the flag was the easiest thing we could decide on that would be quick. We had to use the extra pallet to fill in the spaces. We decided agains gaps after looking at some of the projects online. We wanted 16 stripes and 50 stars too, so that meant that gaps were not gonna work. My pallet was uneven too, so my stripes are not totally straight, but I love how it turned out anyway.

First we painted the whole pallet white, then we used painters tape and masked off the stripes and stars area. I was thinking maybe a laser level would work well here, but we never did find it to try it out. The hardest part was doing the math to be sure the lines were close to even and that we could fit the entire 16 stripes on the pallet. We cut out vinyl stars to prevent us from having to stencil them on later, and adhered them after the white paint dried. This way once the blue was painted, we would already have the white stars underneath, ready to be revealed when the blue paint dried. We painted the red stripes, and then the blue portion of the flag. Once it dried, we took off all the painter’s tape and vinyl stars to let the white come through. Some of the tape picked up some of the white paint, but I like the rustic look that it gave it. A nice craft to display for Memorial Day. Will be great to have for Flag Day, and July 4th as well. We had all the paint on hand already, and the pallets were free, so not bad!

Custom Onesies

Great for a quick gift for an expectant mother.

Great for a quick gift for an expectant mother.

I wanted a quick, but personal, and not so expensive gift I could give to a mom in my son’s class. She just had a little girl. I washed the onesies first. I used the Silhouette stencil material and cut out stencils of the shapes I wanted, but you can always buy pre made stencils at Target or Walmart, or where ever you come across them. I will say I had to cut the stencil material on 4 instead of the suggested 3 setting. It wasn’t the easiest to separate on the 3 setting, and I don’t recommend it, unless you have a brand new, really sharp blade. But if your stencil is detailed you may just want to use the 4 setting to be sure it cuts through. Make sure you put a piece of cardboard inside the onesie so the paint doesn’t go through the back. You want to use fabric paint. I am really loving the metallic gold paint.

Loving the gold metallic fabric paint!

Loving the gold metallic fabric paint!


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I think it will be cute for summer. Make sure the stencil is really adhered well to prevent paint from bleeding underneath. Once you go over it, I would let it dry, and then go over it again. I was not very patient, so mine are not completely coated evenly. The bottle says to let dry for 3 days before washing, but after a few hours mine were dry to the touch. These will make a great little gift. I personalized one with her name on it, so I think that is a nice touch. If you have never used fabric paint and a stencil, go for it. This was only the second time I did this, and I am happy with the results.