Jan 30, 2013

Pillowcase Dress and Matching Hair Clip

I have 5 nephews.  And only 1 niece.  My nephews are super adorable, and I do definitely love them all so incredibly much.  But so far, I haven't had the inclination to make them clothing.  My niece, on the other hand, is another story.

But I'm not a very good seamstress.  And by "not very good" I mean, I "royally suck" at sewing.  I've only sewn a grand total of maybe five things in my life...and those were basic sewing.

So, instead of going all crazy by sewing an amazingly intricate dress for my sweet niece's Christmas present, I decided to go with a fairly simple pattern that started with an already hemmed garment.  Perfect for a domestic loser like me.  (speaking of which...why on earth didn't they ever have home-ec when I was in school????)

Pillowcase Dress

I started with a standard pillowcase that I thought was really cute.  Then I cut the top portion of it off (the sewn together part), so that it was just a big tube.
After that I folded the pillowcase in half - lengthwise - and cut out about a two inch backwards  'J' section for arm holes.  Then I hemmed the arm holes so they wouldn't fray.  (by FAR the hardest part of this project).
Then I made three purple flowers for decorating.  The top left one was made with a deep eggplant purple felt, a medium purple accent felt, and a  light lilac purple flower shaped button.  The top right one was made with a dark satiny purple ribbon, and medium purple floral patterned ribbon, and a smaller floral button.  The bottom was made by crocheting two flowers and weaving one on top of the other.
I sewed an inch hem around the top (where I cut before).  Weave the thick purple satiny ribbon strands through the top hem (one strand through each side of the pillowcase tube).  The two strands will tie into a bow on top of the shoulders, and are therefore adjustable based on the height of your little girl.
Completed pillowcase dress!

Matching Hair Clip
 I made a rose by twisting ribbon around, and hot gluing it together every so often. 
 I then hot glued a strip of ribbon to a plain hair clip, and then hot glued the ribbon rose on top.

I hope you like your Christmas present, my sweet niece!!

Jan 25, 2013

Owl Ornaments

When I was little, my Aunt Debbie would send me a new mouse ornament every year.  She hand-painted them, and wrote my name and the year on them.  I absolutely loved them!  To this day, those mice are some of my all-time favourite ornaments that I own.  They are just so special to me.

So I've decided to try to make ornaments for each of my nephews and niece every year.  Last year, keeping with the theme my Aunt started, I made little felt mice candy cane holders.  

This year I went rogue and decided on owl ornaments.  I know; I'm a rebel.   

These cute little owls were made with recycled toilet paper rolls, paint, scrap card stock, and red ribbon.
 First, bend the in the two edges of top side of the toilet paper roll.  This will become the ears and top of the owl's head.  Then paint the roll with whatever colour you like best.  Once the paint is dry, hot glue the ribbon into the ears.  This will be the "hook" from which you will hang on the Christmas tree.  Next, I cut out the face and wing shapes on my Cricut.  It was just basic shapes (scalloped circles, circles, and a diamond for the nose).  Then I glued them all onto the painted roll.  And voila!  Cutest little owl ornaments.

Stupid Camera

My camera is on the fritz.  I took a couple of photography classes earlier this month, and even the teacher couldn't figure out why my camera wasn't focusing properly and taking such grainy photos.  *sigh*

So I just bought a new camera.  Thank goodness for Christmas money!  :)  However, all of my Christmas photos were taken with my old, poorly functioning, camera.  Boo!!  So, please overlook the photo quality for the next several Christmas craft posts, and simply look at the super cute crafts that I made.  hehe

Jan 23, 2013

Scrumptious Biscotti

If you haven't noticed, I love to bake.  But, my baked goods love to stick around too long...on my thighs. And my stomach. And my booty.  *sigh*

So, I've decided to join Weight Watchers.  I'm telling everyone (which is really hard for me to do because it's embarrassing!) because a) I need to get over my fear and just do it, b) I need the accountability, and c) you all need to know that there will probably be less recipes...or at the very least, healthier recipes.  I will also try to calculate and post the WW points for the recipes, in case any of you want to join me in this journey.  *here's hoping!*

On that note, here's a biscotti recipe.  haha!  But I experimented trying to make it healthier than most biscotti by adding flax seed and 1/2 whole wheat flour.  I've also included the WW points, as promised.  :)

 Scrumptious Biscotti
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
2 tablespoons organic golden flax seed
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts

First, combine all the dry ingredients (minus the chocolate and walnuts) together.  
Then add all the wet ingredients.  
Next, fold in the chocolate chips and chopped walnuts.
Combine all the ingredients.  This is a little tricky because it's a dry dough and there are a lot of add-ins.  I found it helpful to use my hands to mush it all together.  Once combined, form two equal logs on a cookie sheet that has been lined with wax paper.
Flatten out the logs.
Bake at 300 degrees F for approximately 55 minutes.
Next, remove the cookie sheet and place on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. 
Decrease the oven temp to 245 degree.
Once the logs are cooled, cut the logs into even slices.  I cut each log into 18 slices.
Arrange the slices back on the wax paper, but this time lay them on their sides.
Bake again (in the lower temperature oven) for another 15 min.  (This baking time can vary depending on how soft/hard you want them.  I personally don’t want to break my tooth biting into it, so I like my biscotti a little on the moister side.  If you, however, like really hard biscotti, then bake them a little longer on this stage.)
Enjoy, preferably alongside a tasty mug of hot coffee or tea. :)

*Weight Watchers Points* -  Cut the logs into a total of 36 pieces (that’s 18 pieces per log).  Serving size is two pieces.  There are 5 WW points per serving.

Jan 20, 2013

Valentine's Day Wreath

I'm so thankful for a supportive husband.  He has been absolutely great recently, supporting and encouraging me in all that I do.  And lately, I've had a lot of new stuff going on.  So it's been a pretty big deal.  I snagged myself an exceptional man.  

Sorry to all the single ladies that he's no longer on the market.  But I have to say I'm pretty psyched that I got so lucky in one area of my life. :)

Ok, I'll stop being all schmoltsy and ooey gooey now.  Instead, I will just show you this awesome new Valentine's Day wreath that I made.  

First, I wrapped a straw wreath with pink yarn.
Then I cut out hearts in pink and purple felt, and hot glued them onto the wreath in alternating patterns.  Then I wrapped yellow yarn in an 'x' pattern over all of them.
 Next, I cut and hot glued a dowel so that it looked like an arrow going through the wreath.  I glued a heart to the end of the dowel for the arrow head.
 Then glued a sharp edged half moon shape to the other end of the dowel for the arrow end.
 And glued LOVE pendants onto the center dowel.
Placed it on the door, and am now thoroughly enjoying the expression of LOVE.  :)

Jan 9, 2013

Purple Polka Dot Nails

I've been wanting to try some shades of Essie nail polish for quite some time.  I've never used it, but everyone says it's a really good brand.  Now that I'm been doing my nails more often, I'm wanting better products and more colours. 

My husband is simply amazing.  He's been listening to me talk about how I want to try Essie, but thought they were awfully pricey....and he surprised me with not one, but TWO bottles of pretty Essie nail polish in my stocking this year!  Way to score brownie points, hubby!

Today I thought I'd play around a little and do something a little more unusual, at least for me.  I decided to go Polka Dots.
Colour - Essie Sexy Divide.  I LOVE purple these days, so this is probably my new favourite polish colour!!
Dot colour - I honestly have no idea what brand/colour it is.  All the bottle says is "Nail Polish".  It's helpful, I tell you.  :/

Jan 4, 2013

Buttermilk Chocolate Chip Walnut Banana Bread

Bananas go bad way too quickly.  I'm not sure why God made them that way.  Am I the only one who buys fresh bananas that are still slightly green, and then, what seems like the very next day, they are brown.  Why can't I seem to use/eat them faster?  

Oh that's right....so I can make banana bread!  There's nothing better than taking a perfectly healthy food and mixing it with chocolate, butter and flour!  :)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs, separated
1/3 cup buttermilk
3 very ripe bananas
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped

1.  Put the oven rack in the middle position and preheat to 350 degrees F. 
2.  Butter and sugar a 9″ loaf pan.
3.  Whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, chocolate chips and walnuts together in large bowl.
4.  In a medium bowl, melt the butter and allow it to cool a little. 
5.  Measure out the buttermilk and vanilla into a small bowl. 
6.  Add the egg yolks to the melted butter.
7.  Add the egg whites to the buttermilk. (The reason for separating the eggs is because the yolk is a natural emulsifier - allows oils and water to mix.- By combining the yolk with  the butter and then adding the mixture to the buttermilk, it allows you to distribute the butter more evenly rather than having it all clump up and separate.)
8.  Whisk each separately until smooth and creamy. Add the buttermilk mixture to the butter mixture and whisk to combine.
9,  Mash the bananas with the back of a fork with the juice of half a lemon. Add this to the liquids and stir to combine.
10.  Dump the liquids into the dry ingredients then gently fold it all together until most of the big lumps of flour are gone. You don’t want to over-mix it and it’s okay if there are some small bits of flour left. 
11.  Put it in your loaf pan and gently even off the top.
12.  Put it in the oven until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 50 minutes to 1 hour. Allow it to cool on a rack in the pan.
 13.  Enjoy!

Source:  No Recipes

Jan 3, 2013

Butternut Squash Soup

Cold weather is all around me.  Tonight's low is supposed to be 7 degrees.  Fahrenheit.  COLD.  Which means my life is currently encased in electric blankets, portable heaters, coats and warm meals.  

One of those meals that warm the body and soothes the soul is yummy soup. I had some butternut squash in my fridge just waiting to be used somehow, so I decided to make it into soup!  Here's the recipe I came up with....and let me just say right now, it's super tasty.  Blair was raving every time he had some.  In his words, "Dude, this soup is so good that it goes with everything!"  

Butternut Squash Soup
1/2 onion
3-4 celery stalks
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 lbs butternut squash
2 apples (I used Fuji)
2 red bell peppers
4 cups chicken broth
sweet curry powder (I used Penzeys.  LOVE their spices)
handful of kale (I used Red Russian Kale)
applewood smoked cheddar cheese *optional garnish*

1.  Heat the olive oil in a large pot, on medium high heat.  
2.  Saute the onion and celery until tender.
3.  Add the butternut squash, apples, bell peppers, and chicken broth.  Stir to combine.
4.  Add salt, pepper, thyme, and sweet curry powder to taste.  I didn't measure this step.  Instead I just kept tasting until it was right.  My guess is that I probably used about 1-2 teaspoons of salt and pepper.  And 2-3 teaspoons of thyme and sweet curry powder.  But again, that's a guess.  Taste test it as you go, always starting a little on the less side.  You can always add more!
5.  Stir to combine, and boil for about 30 minutes.
6.  Add the handful of kale, stirring to combine.
7.  Blend thoroughly with an immersion blender.*
8.  Serve.  (optional addition - grate applewood smoked cheddar cheese over the top for garnish. SO good)
Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!!

*Just fyi - (IF you don't have an immersion blender, they are so handy!  Lots of different brands out there. Here are some good brand names.  I haven't tried any except the Rival I have pictured above.  I can't vouch, but I just thought I'd provide some links to get you started.*

Homemade Halloween

I know I'm REALLY late to post this.  But, I love the way they turned out so I can't possibly just skip them. Maybe I will inspire you for this coming up Halloween.  And hey, at least you will have plenty of time to get everything created! :)

First up, our awesome costumes.  I made Popeye and Olive Oil outfits!  

Popeye was more work, by far.  I had a lot of extra felt from a few other projects I had been working on, so pretty much everything was made with felt.

The sailor hat was made out of a cut up strip from a cereal box and then covered in white felt.  I bought a cheap black shirt from Hobby Lobby (with a 40% off coupon!), and sewed blue felt strips to the sleeves.  For the buttons, I covered and hot glued craft glass rocks with yellow felt.  The belt was simply one of my husband's old belts that was falling apart, and I hot glued yellow felt to that.  The pipe was made by gluing a short dowel and a wooden taper candle holder together. For the collar, I used a flap of red felt, with a whole cut in the center for my husband's head to go through.  And then I glued strips of black felt along each of the edges.  The spinach can was simply a large can of baked beans.  I printed off a spinach can label and taped it onto the can.  For the muscled forearms, I made two large tubes of beige felt, and sewed elastic into both ends.  Then I cut anchor shapes out of black felt and glued them onto the beige felt.  When we were ready to go to the party, we got all dressed up, Blair slipped on "his forearms" and we stuffed them with pillow batting.  I LOVE the way it turned out.   Such a cute Popeye I have.  :) 

Mine was a lot easier.  I already owned the red sweater, red shoes and black skirt.  For the skirt, I loosely stitched (so I could easily remove later) a thin strip of yellow felt around it about 4 inches up from the bottom of the skirt.  For the top, I cut one scallop stencil out of one side of a kleenex box.  Then I used that stencil to create a connecting pattern on a long strip of white felt.  Once I cut it out, I loosely stitched it to the neckline of my red sweater.  For my hair, I bought a cheap long black wig, parted it and pulled it into a little pokey bun, and snipped off the extra length.  

Voila.  Popeye and Olive Oil.  :)  We even won the "Best Costume of the Night" award at our party.  Sweet!

For our tasty Halloween treat, I made Eyeball "Cake" Pops!  I went the simply way, and bought a bunch of Dunkin Donuts Munchkins.  Then I filled them with raspberry jam, using a small plastic bag and a cake decorating tip.
 The red jam inserted into the donut holes was meant to look like oozy blood when you bit into it.  :)
After the donut holes were filled, I prepared my next work station:  a small bowl of semi-sweet chocolate chips, plastic forks, and melted white chocolate almond bark in a tall glass.
Next, stab a filled donut hole with a fork, making sure that the open hole is on the side so that it doesn't leak while you dip it.
Then dip the donut hole into the melted chocolate.  It works best if you tilt the mug a little and do one side at a time, and then lift it out while it is still tilted.  If you try to lift it out when it is straight up and down, it tends to try to slide off the fork.  Not cool.  But, since I only have two hands and one of them had to be on the camera, the picture does not show it tilted.
Tap of the excess white chocolate.
Insert a chocolate chip into the side, while the white chocolate is still warm.
Lay flat to dry and the chocolate to solidify.
Once it's dry, use some red frosting with a small piping tip to create bloodshot lines.  And arrange on a platter.  "I'M WATCHING YOU!"