Thursday, September 22, 2011

Autumn Wreath

Tomorrow is the first day of autumn, the official end of summer.  It's bittersweet  - saying goodbye to summer and all the running around we do - to saying hello to nature's beauty, cool, crisp mornings, and yummy crock pot meals.
I love this time of year and the decorating that goes with it.  What a perfect way to welcome fall than with a festive wreath to welcome your guests.

It's fairly easy to make your own wreath with some inexpensive supplies from your local craft store.  Or you can use what mother nature has but I chose silk supplies in order to keep the wreath long lasting from year to year.

For this project I started with grapevine wreath, silk fall leaves, silk wheat, some green leaves with berries and plastic gourds.  Don't forget your glue gun!

Start by separating the fall leaves into smaller bunches using wire snips if needed.  Then poke them into the grapevine wreath.  Some branches may need to be hot glued into place.  Space them evenly to give the wreath a nice form.
It should resemble something like this - minus the glass of wine:

Or else include the wine and let your creativity shine!
Keep adding in the various foliage evenly where you think it looks good.  Then grab the glue gun and start hot gluing the gourds onto the wreath being sure to secure them onto the grapevine wreath.

Ok - this was supposed to be my first tutorial and I just realized how lacking the pictures are.  But really, you just need to wing this one.  Making a wreath can be pretty effortless.

See - even I can do it!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Candy Corn "Mellow" Pops

Last year I was on a chocolate covered marshmallow kick and I can't wait to make these again this year!

The pictures should have been taken BEFORE they were wrapped but you get the idea.

To make them can't be easier.  All you need is a bag of marshmallows, white lollipop sticks (about 6 to 8 inches long), and any color of your choosing of candy melts (I used Wiltons).

I like to use a deep, narrow container to melt the candy in to allow the submersion of the marshmallow.  Add the candy melts and microwave on medium for 1 minute.  Stir and keep heating at 30 second intervals, stirring after each one.  The candy melts will still be quite thick and not very good for smooth dipping.
If you like it that way, that's ok, but I like to add some shortening to it after the first minute.  The shortening will thin out the candy enough to evenly coat the marshmallow.

To coat more than one color, let each marshmallow rest in between each color dipping for about 10 to 15 minutes, longer if needed. Then continue dipping as desired.

I dry them, I picked up a big slab of styrofoam at Michael's crafts and with a wooden dowel, poked evenly spaced holes in it.  The marshmallow pops (or Mellow Pops as my kids have dubbed them and it's now stuck) stand up on their own to dry.  Keep in mind if you thin your candy too much, the pops might get drippy.

Brimfield - A Local Treasure

Hello.  Hi there.  Remember me?  Well, I haven't forgotten you.  It's been a while and what a busy summer we had.  All the grand plans we had laid out like taking the kids to New Hampshire to Story Land didn't pan out.  They were able to go to the beach though - twice!

Some of my goals for the summer was to hone in on some baking to get ready for the upcoming fall and winter but my real life job made that a little difficult.  You see, I recently was promoted and that requires more attention and hours.  So any free time I do have I spend with the kids.  They will only be little for so long and I do enjoy them.

So anyway - I have A LOT of catching up to do. I squeezed in a little baking and will post pictures when I have time gradually as to not saturate you.

But getting to the real topic of this post now. One of my favorite past times is making the almost-one-hour trip over to the Brimfield Antiques Fair.  I try to go every September but didn't make it this year.  But I did make it last September and had a blast all by my lonesome self. But it wasn't lonesome you see.  I made friends... let me introduce you to them...

Ok. Yes. They. Are. Creepy.  The not-so-artsy side of me would never have thought to take orphaned doll heads and appendages and make coffee and oil can bodies for them.  Clever, but again, creepy.  I swore I thought I heard them call my name as I walked by.

Besides this though, I met a few nice people.  One of my favorite booths was Red Door Antiques.  You can visit their blog here too

I got some cool things to go with the Alphabet themed birthday party for the triplets last year and just remembered I picked up some little cardboard letter tiles to spell out B-O-O  as part of the Halloween decor this year.  Now I just need to find them....

I have had it in my head to make a custom Cupcake Display and found the perfect end table to do so.  It's all planned out except for the color.  Do I paint it bright white, cream, chocolate brown or black? I've even thought about using chalkboard paint but might nix that thought.   So this is one of the little projects I have planned for this winter. Pictures will be posted!

Have you seen those trays that have lots of little cubbies that used to store printing press stamps?  I picked one of those too and will end up using it as sort of a shadow box with all black and white pictures.  Each block is the same size, about 2 inches square, and should be perfect. Pictures too, will be posted on this project.

The reason I'm letting you in on my plans? To motivate me!  They have been sitting up in the garage loft since last year and I can't stop thinking about them! I've seen that Martha Stewart has a new line of craft paint out and I might just have to try it!

So I have a few posts to follow this just in time for the upcoming fall season.  We still have a few more days of summer and I think I might just miss it. Not sure I'm ready for it to leave yet.

Thanks for stopping in and remembering me! ;-)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Happy 4th of July!

July 4th has always been one of my favorite holidays.  I saw the cookies on the July issue of Martha Stewart Living and immediately knew I had to make them.  This technique is one of the easiest to do and the end result looks as if you spent hours on them. Many people ask "how did you do this?" Jokingly I reply "with magic."

Here in Massachusetts we've had a bit of a rainy spring and introduction into summer.  It's been seasonably warm - actually perfect - but when I made these cookies this week we had a little humidity.  Historically I don't bake in the summer but with central air conditioning, I thought I'd give it a try.  Overall it wasn't that bad but the icing took FOREVER to even slightly dry.  The cookies still have a soft coating of icing so stacking them is out of the question.   My three layer cupcake holder has flat inserts for cookies so it was super handy when I brought 3 dozen into work on Friday. Happily, by noon they were gone.

So a few more dozen are ready to go to my parent's house tomorrow for some fun July 4th festivities with friends and family.  We are hoping the kids will be able to make it to see their first fireworks!

Wishing you all a safe, happy and patriotic Fourth of July!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Raspberry Lemon Cupcakes

For a neighborhood Memorial Day barbecue I made a batch of Lemon Cupcakes which turned out pretty good. It was a lemon cake topped with lemon frosting.  They were yummy but I think they were a tad too lemony.  I used fresh squeezed lemon juice for the frosting but may opt for a lemon extract next time.

I've been dying to try this new recipe - Raspberry Lemon Cupcakes. It used fresh raspberries and now that they are in season in our local supermarket, I could buy them without breaking the bank.  The recipe made 24 cupcakes and that's exactly what I got.  No taste test cupcake for Michael this time!

These cupcakes were incredible!!!  I brought them all to work and they received rave reviews. Many people said these were the best ones yet.

The recipe called for cake flour which I thought would make the cake dry but it was a perfect texture with a light, lemon taste.  But it was the frosting that did it.  Who would have thought that just a mere half cup of raspberries, pureed and seeds removed, would make such a delectable topping.

I picked up three more containers of raspberries tonight and to freeze some more puree so I'll be ready for a new batch.  Next time the cake will be injected with some lemon curd for an extra zing.

My dad's birthday is coming up in July and I think this will be just the thing - a dark chocolate cake with  raspberry frosting. Yum!

Random Cookies - a Test Batch

Just when I thought I'd have some spare time to get my baking on, life throws you a curve ball. The kids need more of your attention, work gets busier and plans get made.

Before Easter I made 4 batches of sugar cookies.  About half of them were turned into the Easter cookies in the previous post and the remaining half were developed into squares, rectangles and scalloped circles.  They were baked and packed away carefully in the freezer. About 4 weeks later they emerged and the test was to see if they would be as fresh coming out as they were going in.  They were!  They tasted fresh baked and were moist and flavorful.

I sometimes struggle with how to decorate a naked cookie and most of the time draw a blank.  I draw inspiration from a lot of other magnificent bakers and hope to aspire to their talents one day. Practice makes (almost) perfect so with this recent batch, I just wanted to get the icing flowing and see what happened.

Below are many of the cookies that came from this test batch.  Some I'm thrilled with and will move forward with some of the designs/techniques.  Others were just so-so.

Michael got to take a big batch of flowers to work and some of our neighbors received plate-fulls of cookies. As much as we'd like to, we just shouldn't eat them all.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Easter Cookies!!!

Recently I made four batches of sugar cookie dough in preparation for Easter (each batch makes 8 dozen inch cookies -that's A LOT of cookies!). An assortment of bunnies, eggs, chicks and carrots were baked and filled the kitchen. A few butterflies and other shapes were baked but wrapped and tucked away in the freezer for later.

Hours were spent in the kitchen last weekend decorating the majority of the cookies for family and willing taster testers at work. I think a record was set with how fast they disappeared!

We celebrated Easter a week early with my in-law's and brought a cookie assortment for all. 

The pictures did not come out all that great. I dropped my camera last year and broke my Canon 50mm lens. I've been able to jimmy-rig it so it's still usable but it's pretty much quit on me. I think it just plain-old needs to be replaced.  Crummy part is I dropped it during the warranty period but it never dawned on my to send it in. Duh.

These were really fun to decorate. The food color markers came out and brought a little life and whimsy to the bunny faces.  

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


I've been straining at the reigns to post these pictures but had to wait until after the surprise baby shower that these were made for.  My coworker Stacy is expecting her second child, a little boy, and the idea for the sheep theme was suggested by my other coworker, Kim, author of these two really cool blogs Cute Fan Girl Goes Local and Road to Nowhere

This first picture is of my prototype cookies. I was pleased with my first attempt but thought they needed to be jazzed up a bit with more color.
These were a chocolate rolled cookie and the recipe adapted from Glorious Treats.  They were ok but I think I need to adjust the recipe somewhat or try a different icing. The icing used on these cookies was a royal icing, It dries rock hard and it not flavored, can be a bit bland.

 I wanted to go with a blue and brown theme to coordinate with the colors Stacy picked for the baby's room. The cookies were flooded with blue icing and I wanted to decorate the edges with brown dots but after adding the sheep, realized there wasn't enough room. 

For these cookies I went with sugar cookies but rather than royal icing, I tried a new recipe from The Decorated Cookie, called Royal Icing (sort of).  The taste was really good and complemented the cookie.  While the icing was wet, it resembled a royal icing in it's consistency for piping and even flooding.  The recipe does state that it will not dry rock hard like royal icing but firm enough for packing/stacking. 

I decorated the cookies and let them sit overnight to dry. The following day (about 12 hours later) I stacked the cookies in 3 layers in a container to protect them with parchment paper in between each layer. Several hours later I checked on them since I wanted to be sure they were ok,. Well, unlike royal icing, this one takes a lot longer to set up.  All of the sheeps's faces on the bottom later were smooshed! I was so deflated and didn't have enough time to make a new batch! A couple cookies in the middle layer smooshed too but many and the top layer were fine. They all went back onto cookie sheets to sit out for full drying time.

On the plus side, I've been told that my cookies are too pretty to eat. Now I won't have that problem! :-)
I put the smooshed cookies on the bottom of the tray with the good ones on top.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Today at work we had a St. Patrick's Day food fest. I usually bring something sweet since dessert is my specialty (and favorite meal of the day!).  I made some test batches of sugar cookies and chocolate rolled cookies with variations of flavors.

My favorite was the coconut sugar cookie with orange flavored royal icing. As part of the testing/experimenting of new recipes, the green icing was flavored orange and the pink flavored strawberry. Both got good reviews from the family. My husband, mom and I just polished off a bowl of "reject" cookies.

My decorating skills still need a lot of work to make it to the standards I have set for myself. I am my own worst critic by I am setting the bar high. 

Practice makes perfect and I'm in no shortage of test subjects!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Alphabet Birthday Party

Update:  It's been a while since I've been able to blog but I love following along various sites. So when I saw The CSI Project was requesting links for The Birthday Party Challenge - I had to jump at the change to enter in this Alphabet party!


In November 2010, my three children turned two years old, That's right I said three - they are triplets. Two girls (identical) and a boy. With so many creative themes out there in the blog world, how was I to decide which one would be right for my trio?  The party theme needed to be gender neutral and I wanted something that I haven't seen too many up. So after weeks of deliberation and months of planning, the Alphabet Party came to life. Some might think that at two years old, they might be a bit young to an Alphabet Party.  The children LOVE to read books and will look at them for hours so I thought it was a good fit.

It was my first real attempt at throwing a party with a lot of details and as a perfectionist, there will always be room for improvement.  Yes, there would be many things I would have done differently and now chalk it up to a learning experience.

I found my inspiration from a pad of scrapbook paper at Michael's Crafts. The colors were great and chose 8 colors to coordinate with everything.  Looking back it was A LOT of colors but it made it fun.

I'm a last-minute-Lucy - always have been - always will. Thus the price I pay for this is wrinkled tablecloths.  Every time I look at those pictures I cringe. Lesson learned for next time!

For the party favors, I made about 16 sets of alphabet magnets I saw the idea from Nice Girl Notes (you really need to check her site - so funny!). In total I had ordered 500 of the wooden discs and primed half in white and the other half in gray. Next time I would skip the gray and just use white - even for the darker colors. Then spray painted about 60 discs in each of the 8 colors.  I wanted to put my own spin on the magnets and made the first set with chipboard letters. Since I wanted them to hold up and be fairly kid-safe, I wasn't thrilled with them since the letters could be pulled off. So the rub-on transfer letters won hands down.

Another item in the goodie bag was a set of homemade Alphabet Crayons. In total there were about 296 of them made. Time consuming but way cool!

Guests were treated to little bags of Alphabet Hershey Kisses. I recruited my niece Danielle (thank you!) to help adhere the alphabet stickers to 600 kisses. 

The goodie bags were arranged on the dining room hutch and to dress it up, I lined the inside of the glass doors with colored construction paper.  On my last trip the Brimfield Antiques show in September, I snatched up an old Milton Bradley Anagrams game that had the coolest plastic letter tiles. I tacked them up on the glass using reusable poster gum.

To keep in the theme we served up Scrabble Cheez-it's, Alphabet Tater-tots and Alphabet Spaghettios. 

The dessert table!
Since the party was at the end of November and here in New England we are not typically blessed with warm weather this time of year, I wanted a big pop of color in the house.  I used chair sashes (60 of them) and looped them over the curtain rods (curtains removed). I went with 7 colors and put them in the dining room, living room and the kitchen.  I found them and the table cloths from Tableclothsfactory and they have unbelievable pricing and selection! (But make sure you iron them before using!) 

Marshmallow Pops

My first attempt with using fondant. Much easier then expected but I despised using the miniature alphabet fondant cutters. There must be an easier way!

Billy's Vanilla Vanilla Cupcakes with vanilla buttercream. Yum!  I made the cupcake toppers using scrapbook  letter circles adhered to scallop-punched card stock and glued to craft sticks.

I think I'm ready to start thinking about their next birthday theme. :-)