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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Snowmen!







Aren't these little guys adorable?  Today, I'm going to show you how to make them--just in time for the cold weather and a New Year's Party!!!!


We had a fairly warm Christmas.  It finally cooled off yesterday, and today we started out in the 30's.  Welcome to Florida.  I made these little darlings for our 3rd Annual Ladies' Gathering that we had at my house the weekend before Christmas.  The party focused on growing closer together and building one another up.  My next post will be about that day.  But now, to make these snowmen while the weather is appropriate:

 Supplies:  Jet-Puffed Marshmallows, Rollos (with wrappers removed), Chocolate Candy Melts (or Milk Chocolate chips), toothpicks, and round chocolate cookies.


*If you have a piping bag, or a bag for decorating candy, those work best.  If you do not, a plastic sandwich bag will work, too.  Just don't squeeze it too hard.  
*I use the chocolate Oreo cookies, but any round chocolate cookie would work.  I think the Grasshopper cookies would be great for this, but not everyone in my family appreciates the combination of mint and chocolate...
*For the toothpicks, You will want to cut your toothpicks in thirds (I used kitchen shears for this) and use the two end pieces.  I threw the middles away.  Last year, I only had natural wood color toothpicks, and I dyed them orange with food coloring.  It worked quite well.  This year, however, my husband went to buy me some toothpicks, and the only ones the store had were already colored.  Just use what you have!


1.  Cover your workspace with wax paper, and pick out your marshmallows.  Something I learned the hard way--try to pick out the marshmallows that are not as smushed from being in the bag.  they need to be as flat and level as possible so they will stand up.  I had about 30 Oreos, so I needed 30 marshmallows and 30 Rollos (unwrapped).  


2.  Melt your chocolate.  Put some in a decorating bag or sandwich bag and heat them in the microwave.  There are directions for this on the bag of candy melts.  If you use chocolate chips instead, make sure you heat on 40% power.  Heat for 1 minute, and knead the bag.  If the chocolate isn't fully melted, keep heating and kneading at 30 second intervals.  Clip off the tip of the decorating bag (or corner of the sandwich bag) to allow a small amount of chocolate to come out.  The hole should be about 1/8 inch in diameter.


3.  Assemble your hats.  Squeeze a mound of chocolate onto the middle of an Oreo, and then stick a Rollo in the chocolate. Voila!  Your very own chocolate top hat!


*Make sure you are generous with your melted chocolate.  It is the glue that holds everything together.  Also, make sure that you allow for time for the chocolate to harden before you handle the pieces.  By the time I had assembled 30 hats, the first ones I had done were ready for the next step.


4.  Use an even more generous amount of chocolate on top of each marshmallow, and place a hat on top of each.


*If the chocolate doesn't squeeze out as well as you would like, try reheating it for 30 seconds (at 40% power) and see if that helps.
My assembly line.  

5.  After allowing time for the chocolate "glue" to harden, hold each snowman by the cookie (not the Rollo, it will melt on your hands) and pipe 2 eyes and little dots for the mouths.  


*Making sure that the chocolate is warm helps to make the eyes and mouths go better.  
*Holding the piping bag to the side and making the dots with a sideways motion seemed to work better than up-and-down.
*Keeping the tip of the bag clean makes for a better finished product.  If it starts to get chocolate stuck to the outside of it, just  wipe the tip with a napkin or paper towel.






6.  Add the noses.  

Enjoy!!!!!

These snowmen are so easy to make.  As long as an adult did the piping, you could easily allow children to help assemble these little guys.  You could make them a day or two ahead if you needed to, although the Oreos get soft.  These have been a hit with everyone that has seen them.  I serve them at our Christmas party, but then I have leftovers, so I usually wrap them individually and deliver them to co-workers and others, and they love them.  

I hope you'll try these!  They're really easy and have a big impact on your dessert table.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Fonts for Everyone AND For Beginning Scrapbookers-The Importance of Matting

Are you getting ready for Christmas?  Our tree is up, and we got our outside lights up.  This Saturday, I am having the ladies from church over for our 3rd Annual Ladies' Gathering.  Two years ago, we had an ornament exchange, and last year we all contributed recipes for a cookbook.  This year, we are going to focus on growing together and building one another up.  I think it's going to be great.  You'll get to read all about it soon.  Also, I am going to make my marshmallow snowmen again this year, and that will be next week's post.
In June, my husband and I started our own business, Redding Creative Arts.  We offer photography and scrapbooking services to our customers.  I have gotten a couple of very large scrapbooking orders lately, and while I can't give away all of my trade secrets, I wanted to take a moment to share some things that are very simple that have a huge impact.  

The first thing I want to tell you about is a really great website with down-loadable fonts for scrapbooking, card-making, and whatever other things you might want to type:)  KevinandAmanda.com is a blog that has links to free scrapbooking fonts, and Fonts for Peas!  The free handwriting fonts section is where I got the font for the Happy Birthday title later in the post, as well as the labels for my pictures.  These are adorable, and I am so excited to tell you about them!  You can click on the buttons below to go and take a look around.


I get the cutest handwriting fonts at Fonts for Peas! kevinandamanda.com/fonts
I get the cutest scrapbooking fonts at Free Scrapbook Fonts! kevinandamanda.com/fonts











When I first started scrapbooking, I was awed by the number of products available, and overwhelmed by the expense of some of them.  I have learned to buy paper when it's on sale, but for awhile, the thought of using extra paper made me worry about how much money I was spending.  After reading many magazines, and seeing the results myself, I have decided it is worth the the expense to use the extra paper (and if you buy it on sale, it's okay,... right?)

Sometimes, it seems like pictures get lost on the paper when you scrapbook them.  Matting helps to keep this from happening.  It gives your picture emphasis with a little "frame." The frame helps to guide your eye to the item you want to emphasize, and kind of forces the background paper to stay in the background.  


Even with all of the scrapbooking I have done, I still have to remind myself that matting is important.  If I don't use a mat, it seems like something is missing, and I usually end up adding one.

Another example with solid colors:
 Sometimes, if you have an extra-busy background, it seems like a picture still gets lost, even with a mat.
How about a double mat?  Quick, easy--and great results.  Just use contrasting colors!

 I love using mats.  They are probably the easiest thing you can do for impact on your pages.  If you are using a solid color background page, you could use a patterned paper for the mat.  Also, if you are double-matting your photos on a patterned background, you can use a different patterned paper in matching colors for your top mat. (I don't have a specific picture of that, but you can see it on the edges of the first example photos, where I matted with striped paper on yellow to put with the flowered background.)

******To put mats on your photos, adhere your photo to your matting paper (I use photo mounting squares) and then trim your mat to fit the picture.  I find that it is easier to cut the mat if I can see where the picture is.  (Occasionally, I do get the picture slightly off center.  When that happens, I CAREFULLY lift the picture and put it back on.  If you buy the photo mounting squares labeled "initially repositionable," this is easier to do.)  If you want to double mat your photo, simply adhere the single-matted photo to another piece of paper and trim again.******

If you are thinking of trying to start a scrapbook, I hope this helps you.  I love your comments!  Do you have a favorite scrapbooking technique, or something you want to learn how to do?

Stop by next week for marshmallow snowmen!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Baby Gift


A family at church is about to be blessed with their first child--a little girl.  We are so excited for them.   For her shower, I thought I would try out one of the ideas I saw on Pinterest.  {If you haven't heard of Pinterest, it is a site for finding/sharing great ideas.  I have a few invitations left on my account, if you want one, please email me :)}
I used buttons to embellish some onesies that I picked up at Wal-mart, and then I made some cute little skirts to go with them.  I originally saw THIS cute design on Pinterest.  You can see my version on the left.  I used pastel buttons for two reasons--this was for a girl, and Wal-mart was out of packages of primary colored buttons.  I did use a dark blue button for the head.

To make this, I arranged the buttons the way I wanted them, and then held one of them in place and put the others back on the table.  I used embroidery thread (DMC floss) to sew the buttons on.
You can use any type of thread.  I used the embroidery floss (this is the same thread that people use to make friendship bracelets) because it has six strands of thread together, and so it is much thicker.  You get very noticeable stitching without having to sew as much.
Just thread your needle, tie a good knot to start, and sew on your first button.  I like to make the X shape with my thread, but you could make yours parallel = if you wanted to.
Once I sewed the button on, I laid the other buttons back on the shirt to make sure that I was keeping the design I wanted.  Then I held the next one in place, picked up the other buttons and sewed on the second.  I just kept doing that until I got to the end.
After sewing on so many buttons, I found that it is easier to just keep sewing on the buttons with the same thread, rather than tying a knot after each button.
I used a backstitch with dark embroidery thread to make the little antennae.  Link for backstitch video (in case you need it--I promise, it's really easy.  If you can sew on a button, you can do this.)


The next onesie I made had a rainbow on it.  Yes, it's a rainbow.  The mother-to-be recognized it, but not everyone else has.  Take it for what it's worth.  I found this greeting card on Pinterest that had a button rainbow, and I figured if you could put it on a card, it would go on a shirt.  (That's what I keep telling you--take an idea and make it your own!)  I added pom-poms for clouds, which seems to help people identify the rainbow.  The sewing technique is the same for the buttons.  The hardest part of this one was sewing the pom-poms on.  You have to get your needle through the center of the ball so that the thread won't pull out.  It's not really that difficult, but it is harder than sewing on a button.

My third design was a candy cane.  The baby is due this month, and what baby doesn't need something cute for Christmas?


There you have it--three personalized onesies (or t-shirts) for someone special.  A nice gift without having to spend a fortune {and since I am looking for a job, I don't have a fortune:)}
I also made some little skirts to match.  This was my favorite part.  I wanted to keep them.  Really.  They are very simple, although you would probably want to use a sewing machine. 
I liked this skirt best.  Don't you want to make one now?














As this post is already rather long, I decided to try something new (for me).  I did make a tutorial for the skirts that I made, but I posted it HERE.  Please keep in mind that I write this blog with the idea that anyone can do the things that I post, even if they've never tried similar projects.  I wrote my tutorial in hopes that someone who has never sewn anything before could still follow it (although I don't know if I succeeded).

If you need a cute gift for a baby, these are great.  I hope you try them!

I love to hear from my readers, so let me know what you think!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving AND How to Make a Bow


Wouldn't you like a wreath like this one?                                            You can make one.  Yes, you.  I have two columns in my living/dining room, and I got enough supplies to make a wreath for each of them.  I bought the supplies several years ago, and never got around to making them.  I finally made them on Saturday, to hang at my mother-in-law's house for Thanksgiving.  Next year, they will already be made, and I can put them up in October.

I used a medium-sized grapevine wreath, a little scarecrow, 4.5 feet of wire ribbon, and some silk flowers in fall colors. I bought long stems of fall leaves, and then I took the short stems of leaves off of the long ones.  






First, I arranged the leaf stems where I thought I wanted them.  







I tried to think about a "cascade" type of arrangement.  I put the larger stems of leaves in the back, and the shorter ones toward the bottom of the circle, in the front.  I also put the lighter color leaves in the front, so that they were more noticeable. 





On the opposite side of the circle, I arranged two small bouquets of fall flowers, and put one slightly lower than the other.  I also positioned my scarecrow in front of the flowers.

At this point, look at your wreath.  Do you like the placement of your components?  If not, this is the time to shift them around.  If you do like the way your wreath looks, then it's time to secure your leaves and  flowers.


I like the idea of being able to redo these wreaths if I get tired of them, and sometimes a glue gun can be messy.  To secure the stems and scarecrow to the wreath, I used craft/beading wire.  I cut a long piece and wrapped one end around the leaf stems and a grapevine stem, and when it was tight, I cut the long tail off.  I used craft wire through the loops of the scarecrow's overall straps (in the back) and wired him on, too.
 Next, I added the bow.  My aunt showed me how to make a beautiful small bow, and I modified that technique for a large bow.  I made a video for you, showing you how to make the bow.  Watch below!
video

This is the bow that I made on the video.  If it doesn't look as perfect as you want it to, just keep rounding out the loops and straightening the tails.  These bows are quick and easy, and they look great.


I put craft wire through the back of the bow and then used the wire to secure the bow to the wreath where I wanted to place it.  
I used craft wire to make a hoop on the back of the wreath to hang it.

Here it is:




I hope you all have a great holiday and enjoy time with your families and loved ones!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Anyone Can Make Faux Fudge!

Are you getting ready for all of that holiday baking?  Today, I am going to show you a recipe that I have been using for years.  It is quick, easy, and versatile.   No candy thermometer necessary! 

I was reading a Family Circle magazine and came across this reader tip:
So easy, right?

I thought I could do it, but I also thought I could do better.  This is how I make my "Faux Fudge."

The base recipe has a bag of chocolate chips, a can of frosting, 1-2 cups of marshmallows, and 1 tablespoon of butter.  Of course, the nuts are optional.  (I didn't use the whole bag.)
To start, use a non-stick pan and a spatula.  I love the silicon ones, because they don't melt.  I have a whole collection, and I use them for everything.  
 On medium heat, melt the butter in the bottom of your pan.  I use the butter to help with melting the marshmallows, so you don't need a lot.
Once the butter is melted, stir in your marshmallows.  If you don't think there are enough in the pan, you can always add more.  I used about 2 cups.  One of the best things about this recipe is its versatility and forgiving nature, so if you add more of something, it just makes it better.
Once the marshmallows have melted, you have to be more careful with your stirring and melting.  Stir in a can of cake icing.  It will melt and mix with the marshmallows very easily and quickly. 
Next, you will add the chips.  The chips do not melt as easily as the icing does, and you will have to stir a lot more.  Once you start adding the chocolate, if you don't stir enough, the mixture can get too hot and it will burn.  (After many times of doing this, I can tell you, you can smell it burning before the fudge will taste burnt.  IF it starts to smell burned, take the pan off the heat for a minute and stir, stir, stir--then put it back on the burner and keep stirring and melting.  Everything will be fine.)
The fudge will change consistency from stiff and lumpy to smooth very quickly.  When the mixture is melted and smooth, remove it from the heat and pour it into a greased baking dish.  You don't have to grease the pan, but it works much better.  Also, I have tried lining the dish with wax paper beforehand.  I don't recommend that, as the fudge just sticks to the paper. 
If you want to top the fudge with nuts, do it right after you pour it in the baking dish.  If you wait five minutes, the nuts will not stick as well.  I made this fudge to take on a picnic, and I wasn't sure if everyone liked nuts, so I only covered half of the fudge.
Put the fudge in the refrigerator for at least two hours.  I usually leave mine in overnight.  

For cutting:  I have found that it is a lot easier to cut if you take the fudge out of the refrigerator a few hours before you serve it.  If it is room temperature, you can cut it with a butter knife.  If it is cold, you will have to work much harder.

Now, let's talk about ways that I have changed this recipe.  The original suggested peanut butter chips.  I love peanut butter and chocolate, and I tried it.  I liked it.  Chips are expensive.  Eventually, I just started stirring about 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup of peanut butter in with the can of icing.  It works the same way, and is  cheaper.  

When Tommy and I first started dating, I wanted to make him something special for Valentine's Day.  He loves coffee, so I experimented with espresso flavored fudge.  I don't like coffee, but I like this.  I had  to make several attempts, but I finally got it right.  I went to Starbucks and bought a shot of espresso.  Stir the prepared espresso into the fudge after the chips begin to melt.  This one is a little bit more tricky than the rest.  If you add more than one shot, the fudge won't harden.  Also, the coffee will burn more easily than the chocolate, so you definitely want to stir it in last.  

Other things I have added are almond, peppermint, or orange extract.  Just use teaspoon or so, and stir it in just before you remove it from the heat.  Any extract/flavoring would work.  I have also tried mixing butterscotch chips in with the chocolate.  While I have not tried this one, I think that Andes Mints would be a great addition here!

Thanks to Lynette for helping me embark on this fudgy adventure!  

I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Display Your Greeting Cards

Wow.  It has been too long.  I didn't forget about you!

I was excited to have a huge order for my business, Redding Creative Arts!  It was a really unusual assignment.  A man passed away at 38.  On the website from the funeral home, friends could leave messages to the family.  This particular man had over hundred messages of tribute left.  A friend of his mother decided to make a scrapbook for the family with all of the messages--and she asked me to make it.   I ended up making 46 pages!  It was a big job, but I am so thankful for the opportunity.  I had beautiful paper to work with, from The Paper Studio.  I picked their Affinity patterns, and they are beautiful.  I used chalks and glaze pens to enhance them.  I also learned about quilling.  That took up about three weeks.  I hope my business continues to pull in customers.

Last Sunday was my husband's birthday, and I was going to make him a quilt for our bed as his gift (he wanted one).  I learned that fabric is very expensive, and I didn't give myself enough time to finish the project by his birthday.  So instead, he got a quilt top for his birthday, and I am going to give him the back for Christmas.  I did take some pictures for you, and soon, I am going to have a post showing what I did to make the pattern.

For today's post, I have a quick idea and a tip!

I hate to discard cards that people send me.  My husband likes to put all of the cards he gets (mostly from me) up on the wall by his dresser.  I was using tape to stick them to the wall, and they kept falling off.  I started using sticky-tac to put them on the wall.  That was not the best idea.  One day, my husband and I decided to switch bedrooms.  It was a huge job, but we did it.  When I took the cards with the sticky-tac down, it ripped the top layer of the wall-board off.  It was really important to my husband to have the cards up in our new room, so I did this:
By the way, the ribbon goes behind the Gator picture.  It is not holding the picture up.

My friend Jennifer used this idea in her condo when she was in college:
She just used twine and clothespins.  I copied the idea when I first moved in here, but I wanted to update the idea for Tommy.

All I did was take some blue ribbon and cut four very long pieces.  They go from the ceiling to just past the top of his dresser.  Then, I used blue thumbtacks to stick them to the wall near the ceiling.  I didn't even secure the bottoms.
Then, I used mini-clothespins to stick the cards to the ribbons.
I have more clothespins somewhere, but I "put them away" during our move, and now I can't find them.  In the meantime, I used some of those clips for papers in an office, and I don't like them as well, but they are getting the job done.  Unfortunately, they kind of make the ribbon move to the side instead of hanging straight down.  The clothespins don't seem to do that.

Now, sticky-tac is not destroying my walls, and I have a nice way to display all of Tommy's cards!  This is so easy--you can make one, too.

My other tip--I am not a huge fan of stain-removers for clothes.  I have not had good results.  As in, the stains are still there.  Most of the time, my spots are grease from food.  (Yes, I am messy.)  Since my clothes were ruined anyway, I figured I had nothing to lose, so I tried something known to remove grease.  Dish soap.  Straight from the bottle onto the spot, and then washed with everything else.  Is it a total cure all?  Maybe not.  But I have rescued several shirts this way.

Do you have any laundry tips?

Soon I'll start posting my Christmas ideas I have been saving up for you!

Leave a comment and let me know what you want to see next!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Invitations

 The weather cooled off last week, with nice breezes and all, and so it seems that everyone is looking for fall.  Fall decorations, fall food, and who wouldn't be excited about a party?

My husband's parents host Thanksgiving at their house every year.  As families grow, it seems that people get more spread out and disconnected.  In an effort to increase attendance this year, I suggested written invitations instead of phone calls.


I wanted to make sure that I allowed enough time to get these made and mailed, but I didn't realize I had started quite so early.  The good news, though, is that you will have plenty of time to make some, too.  Mine are for Thanksgiving, but these could easily work for Halloween, and if you got a different stencil and themed stamps, you could use them for any occasion.


You will need a leaf to make a pattern for your invitation shape.  I also used: leaf and pumpkin stamps, a fall colored stamp pad, and white and colored paper.  I used rubber cement to stick the layers together.



A word about rubber cement:  it's great, because it doesn't wrinkle the paper.  It's not great, because it doesn't hold up in heat.  If you're making these in the summer, or mailing them to the tropics, you may want to use a glue stick.



Start by scanning your leaf.  I then pasted mine into a word processing program so that I could control the size.  Size is important here, because if you make the invitations too big, they won't fit in your envelopes.  My envelopes are about a half of a sheet of paper, but my leaf was bigger, so I shrank it on the computer.  Print a copy of your leaf template. I also used the word processor to type up the text for the invitations.


Now, for the stamping.  I did this once, and it was too dark to read the text over the stamping, so here is my "new and improved" version.

Ink your stamp and then press it once onto another sheet of paper.  I used a tissue.  Then stamp on the copy paper you are trying to decorate.  I was able to get 2-4 images each time I inked the stamp.

This picture is actually the darker version of my stamped background.  You will want yours to be a bit lighter, so that your text will show up.






After you stamp your background page, print your invitation text onto the paper.  Make sure you know how the paper feeds into your printer!  I had to put my paper in upside down to get the writing on top of the stamps.









Now, cut out the leaf template you made, and lay it over the text of your invite.  My leaf was actually a bit too small, so I free-handed part of the outline to include all the words.  Once you cut it out, no one will ever know.


After you cut out your shape, place your leaf on a solid color piece of paper.  Cardstock would work quite nicely here, but I only had regular paper, so there you go.  I attached my leaf cut out with rubber cement, but a glue stick or photo splits would do quite nicely.  




 After you attach the cut-out to your solid color paper, free-hand cut about 1/4 in. around the patterned paper so that you just have a solid outline.







I then chose to use a cute little pumpkin stamp in orange.  I stamped three of them, and cut them out of the white paper.  Then, I used rubber cement to attach them to a piece of green background paper, and I cut that out wih a 1/4 in. border.  I used more rubber cement to stick the pumpkins to the leaf.

And here you are!

Bonus:  I pictured the recipients of these putting them on their refrigerators, and I remembered a "save the date" magnet that we received from someone once.  I used a promotional magnet we got in the mail and made the invitation into a magnet.  I just cut the magnet into little rectangles and used photo splits to attach.  


I will use the little pumpkin to decorate the envelopes, too.  What shape or theme will you use for invites?  Leave a comment and tell us about them.