Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Decorating Christmas Cookies

I gave my first try this year at decorating Christmas cookies. For a lot of major holidays growing up, we would cut out sugar cookies. My mom would make a ton of dough, and using food coloring, she would dye the dough different colors. On one counter there would be purple, another would have green, another would have red, and another would have yellow (or whatever the colors were for that holiday). The kitchen table was covered in cookie cutters that matched the theme. There was always a little pile of flour next to each cutting station where we would dip our cookie cutters before we cut anything out. My mom taught us to always cut our cookies as close to the edges as we could. We would run back and forth to the table, putting cookie cutters back and choosing a new one while my mom walked around with a spatula. She would place all of the cookies on baking sheets and be responsible for taking them in and out of the oven. My favorite was having the same kind of cookie cutter in multiple sizes (such as hearts or circles). We would then cut out a big read heart and then cut out a small heart out of the middle and replace it with a white or a pink small heart. It was our way to decorate cookies without ever using frosting.

This year, after being inspired by all of the beautiful sugar cookies out there, I decided to take some time and really decorate some good-looking cookies. I made sugar cookie dough and then followed a royal icing recipe. I outlined each color individually with a thicker version of the royal icing and then thinned it out with water to fill in on the inside. I chose to just do basic Christmas colors so I could decorate a lot of different types of cookies and still have them look connected. Along with the royal icing, I used some different colors of sugar, sprinkles, and mini- M&Ms. I am really happy with how they turned out.

I especially enjoyed decorating the snowflakes and mittens.

A funny side story about the cupcake cookie cutters -
When we were visiting my sister this last spring I ran across the cupcake cookie cutters. I decided that those were going to be my souvenir for the trip (I have quite the collection of cookie cutters). On the same day on the other side of the world, my mom bought me a set of cupcake cookie cutters while she was on vacation. She so gets me.

We enjoyed eating this tasty treats at our families' homes this Christmas - although they did taste a little bit bland (one of those things that are prettier than they are tasty), although they held there shape in the oven and were still nice and soft to eat.
Next year, I am going to try to find a better tasting sugar cookie recipe.

I hope that you enjoyed a good treat this Christmas!

Linking up to: Tatertots & JelloTip Junkie
Pin It

Monday, December 26, 2011

Fun Gift: Ice Cream Toppings

I know we are after Christmas - but I had to share what I made for my brother and his wife for Christmas. My sister-in-law is a huge fan of nighttime snacks, ice cream being the favorite. I decided I was going to spend some of the budgeted money for their gift in order to buy some fun toppings. I spent $20 total.

I bought three types of sauces - a caramel sauce, a raspberry sauce, and A&W's root beer float topping (I had never seen that one before - and my brother loves a good pop float!).

The first topping I made was a chocolate-peanut butter flavor.

First, I chopped up some peanut butter M&Ms.

Then, I chopped up some peanut butter cups.

And mixed them altogether. mmmmm...

I then made two other bags of toppings - 
a chocolate-caramel pretzel bark found here
and a chocolate-Oreo bark found here.
I broke up the bark into smaller pieces than suggested so that way they were all ready to go on top of the ice cream!

I packaged them up in cellophane bags and boxed them up with the three jars of sauces. 
One of my goals next Christmas is to really work on packaging things beautifully - I think that this gift could look really nice. I am glad I used the cellophane bags; I just couldn't capture a good picture of them.

I had fun putting it together - and I hope that my brother and his new wife have been enjoying the fun toppings!

Linking up to: Tatertots & Jello

Pin It

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Branch Decor

I have a fast, cheap way that you can still decorate for Christmas (this is especially for all you procrastinators our there!). All you need are two pine tree branches, pine cones, a little ribbon and a vase to put them in.  And voila...

You have Christmas branch decor!

Using tape on the ends, I attached two pieces of ribbon around the vase.
The best thing is that most of these items were free. I got the branches at a local Christmas tree farm (they sold 3/$1), pine cones from a tree on my apartment grounds, I already had the ribbon, and I already had the vase ($2 at a garage sale last summer!). That equals cheap - yet simple and beautiful!
What are you putting in a vase this Christmas?

Linking up to: Beneath My Heart Pin It

Monday, December 19, 2011

Fabric Ornament

V. & Co. recently had a fun post about sewing together a honeycomb-style Christmas ornament. I thought I would give it a try. I think it turned out great!

I haven't done a lot with my hot glue gun lately - so it was fun to mix that and fabric. It was also a great project for the day I was having - you know the kind where you only get about 5 minutes at a time to work on something. This project was perfect for that!

I won a free fat quarter of fabric last time I was at my local quilt store - and this put it to perfect use. I actually like the fabric better as an ornament than I did as a fabric square!

It's fun having one more piece of Christmas decor around here! 
I am considering making a couple more - maybe trying to make some smaller ones for fun.

Merry Christmas!

Linking up to: Tip Junkie
Pin It

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Tree Cake Pops

I decided this year to make fewer Christmas goodies than usual (usually I make 15-20 different items, spending about a solid week of baking). So, in other words my baking is usually on the edge of out of control - our biggest grocery bill of the year!

This year I decided to do something different - I chose 4 items that I wanted to bake that were all a little tedious. One of these items was Christmas Tree Cake Pops! Bakerella is the queen of cake pops - so don't compare me to her too closely - but I honestly had a blast making these.

I made 2 dozen pops. I followed all of Bakerella's instructions in her book Cake Pops. I made a chocolate cake (from a box), crumbled 1/2 of it, and mixed it with 1/3 container of store bought chocolate frosting. I rolled these into 24 cake balls and refrigerated them. After they cooled for a few hours, I formed all of the cake balls into cone shapes and put them back into the fridge for a little bit.

While they were cooling again, I got my work station ready. I got all of my sprinkles out into separate bowls, got my lollipop sticks accessible, set out a glass for the cake pops to dry in, and began to melt my chocolate. Instead of using chocolate wafers (like what Wilton sells), I decided to just use almond bark (it worked great!). I dyed 1/2 of a pack green and left the other 1/2 white. I put the melted almond bark in glass drinking glasses, and the glass never got too hot to hold - and when I needed to heat up the chocolate a little more, it could go straight into the microwave!

Ok, ok...enough rambling (did you notice I am really good at that?). Here is what I made (lots of unique pops!):

Smooth Style
The first kind of Christmas tree I tried, was just dipping the cake into the chocolate, letting it drip off, and adding sprinkles (leaving the chocolate looking smooth). I tried using green sugar on both white chocolate and green chocolate, I sprinkled white sprinkles, larger colored dots, and larger granulated sugar over top to make each tree unique. I used a yellow Mini M&M on the top of some of the trees to look like a star.

Branch Style
For this type, I used a toothpick. After I dipped the cake pop into the chocolate and let the excess drip off, I drug a toothpick through the chocolate quickly - pulling away from the pop at the end of each stroke. This was the trickiest technique because the chocolate hardens so quickly (I had to work at super speed to drag the toothpick through all of the chocolate before it cooled!). I added sprinkles and sugar to some and left one plain (how is that for an obvious sentence!). Oh - I didn't make any white trees like this (I tried), because I used chocolate cake and it showed through the gaps in chocolate way too much for my liking.

Garland Style
This was by-far my favorite type of Christmas Tree Pop. Using a toothpick I spun the cake pop to make a garland going around the outside. I found it was much more manageable than trying to cover the whole tree with branches. I love how the white sprinkles and the large sugar granules look on these trees.

I know I didn't show any pictures of actually dipping the cake into the chocolate coating, but you really should grab the book Cake Pops for that - Bakerella has the best pictures! If you aren't sure if you want to invest the $$ in it, check it out from your library (that's what I did!). This book is definitely on my list of books to get - along with a lot more sprinkles!

So, which tree is your favorite??

Merry Christmas!

Pin It

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Raccoon Mini-Wall Hanging

It is so exciting to me that a pile of fabric...
can turn into little odd-shaped pieces...
that can turn into a raccoon climbing a tree!

My uncle always wanted a pet raccoon when he was a kid, so when I saw the paper-pieced pattern to make this cute raccoon - I knew I had to make it for him! Only the raccoon portion is in this issue, with the rest of the animals in the next. That's ok though, I really wanted to just make the raccoon anyway.
Thanks, Grandma, for subscribing me to Quiltmaker!

 This is how it all turned out! I am so happy with the results! I had fun with the stitching. The brown-ish fabric is plain; I added the dark brown stitches on top to look like tree bark. I also did a stipple stitch on the white to make it look like snow/wind.

I also made little pom-poms for the nose and hat using fabric circles and a little bit of stuffing. The eyes were hand-stitched with white embroidery floss.

Here is the back.
I made three loops of fabric across the back, and sewed it on when I machine-stitched the binding on the front. I then added a thin dowel to be hung by. If I could change one thing, I would have used white thread in my bobbin, so that way the tree bark stitching wouldn't be so dark on the back (I used dark brown thread).

Another fun thing about this project - the total cost was $2.67 in order to buy two shades of gray and the dowel. Everything else I had in my fabric stash (or in my mom's stash). 

You want to know something? This is the second time I have made a paper-piecing project. I am really proud of the results. I taught myself by reading a book I checked out from the library. Here is my first project:
I just made one block from the book using scrap fabrics. It is suppose to be a rose. From rose to raccoon - not bad!

Happy Sewing!
Linking up to: I Heart Naptime, Tip Junkie
Pin It

Monday, December 12, 2011

Tutorial: Christmas Stocking

I love making gifts for Christmas! That is, when I plan ahead and make sure I have the time to get them all done. I like using the budget we have for each family member in order to buy craft supplies and patterns. My favorite: when there is a little bit leftover that I get to save for a future use! ...and of course the look on their face...and the joy of giving...

The last couple of Christmas's, I have made Christmas stockings for my sister-in-law and her family. I chose five fabrics, and bought 1/2 yard of each. I wanted to make sure that with any new family additions there would be enough fabric for the stockings to match (totally optional, but sometimes I really like things to match).

These are the stockings that I have already made for the family:

A stocking for Mom, Dad, and my niece.
So, with a new niece born in September - I knew I had to add one more to their collection. This is what I am going to be showing you how to make today.

To get the basic shape for the stocking, I used this:

I re-sized the stocking until I got it to a size I liked (about 10-1/2" from top edge to the notch on the heel). The dimensions for my fabric strips are based on that, but you can definitely adjust it to meet the size that you want.

Next, I cut my fabric. I am using 5 different fabrics. 
Let's just cut from 4 of the fabrics first. This is what I cut from each fabric.

Red1 (snowflakes): 
2-3/4" x 7-1/2"
1" x 7-1/2"
1-1/2" x 9"

2-1/2" x 9"
1-1/2" x 7-1/2"
1" x 9"

Green1 (swirl):
2-1/2" x 9"
1-1/2" x 7-1/2"

2-1/2" x 7-1/2"
1" x 9"
1-1/2" x 9"

You'll notice that some strips are cut to a length of 7-1/2" and some are cut to a length of 9". That's because my grandma grew up in the depression and she taught me how to sew (seriously - she does not waste anything, including fabric)

Now we need to do some things with those strips of fabric so that some are ready to be sewn diagonally. With your Red1 (snowflakes) fabric, you are going to adjust the 2-3/4" x 7-1/2" piece just a little bit. Mark 1" down from the short side on the right, and draw a diagonal line connecting that to the opposite corner. Cut on that line.

Keep all of the other Red1 (snowflakes) fabric as they are.

Now, let's take a look at the Red2 fabric. We will need to modify the 2-1/2" x 9" in the same way (marking down 1" from the right side, drawing a diagonal line, and cutting on that line, keeping the top portion and throwing the other portion away sorry grandma, there is a little bit of waste).

Complete the same process with the Green1 (swirl) fabric piece that is 2-1/2" x 9", and the Green2 fabric piece that is 2-1/2" x 7-1/2".

Now, let's cut from our mix fabric.

3-1/2" x 7-1/2"
3-1/2" x 9-1/2"

You can see in the picture that I cut each rectangle into 2 pieces. I measured 1" up from the left and 1" down from the right side, connected those two points with a diagonal line, and cut.
(Now...I don't want to be confusing by making this comment, but the first stocking I made I only cut rectangles like this using only a couple of colors...I then just made a pattern with the colors...totally less complicated and still looks good).

Whew...we have all of our pieces cut. Great job!

Now, let's piece them together. This is the order that I sewed my pieces in.

Next, lay all your pieces of fabric out. The pieces of fabric that are 7-1/2" long are for the top part of the stocking. The pieces that are 9" long are for the bottom part of the stocking (because the foot is longer).

Using 1/4" seam allowance, I pieced together all of the diagonal pieces with their neighbor first, and then after pressing those, I connected them to the rectangles of fabric.

When sewing your diagonal pieces together (laying them right sides together), you want to make sure that you shift the top piece just about a 1/4" to the left. When you press the seam open, then the straight edges on the right and left will line up.

Now, we are ready to get the backing and the lining all ready to go. 

In order to give my stocking a little more stiffness (so it can hold its shape), I used two pieces of fusible fleece, cut out to the shape of the stocking. I cut one so the fusible side (the bumpy side) can iron on to the wrong side of the front of the stocking (what we pieced together), and one so the fusible side can be ironed on to the wrong side of the back of the stocking. In other words, trace the stocking pattern on your fusible fleece one way, flip the stocking pattern over and trace the second stocking. Cut around the two stockings.

Following the directions on the fusible fleece, iron (with the fusible side touching the wrong side of the stocking front and back). Trim excess fabric around the front and the back of the stocking. You should now have two pieces that look like this:
the fusible fleece is ironed on the back of each piece
Sew the front and back piece of the stocking together with right sides together,
leaving the top open.

Next, let's get our lining ready. Cut 2 stocking patterns from the lining (remember to trace and cut the stocking pattern one way, then flip the stocking pattern over to cut the other piece.

 With right sides together, sew 1/4" from the edge starting at one side of the stocking all the way around to the other side. Leave the top open, as well as an inch or two at the top of the foot in order to turn the stocking (I make the turning hole here so that way no one can ever see it).

Our last little piece to sew before we finish the stocking is the small loop to hang the stocking.

1 - Cut a rectangle of Red2 fabric 4-1/2" x 2-1/2". 
2 - Fold it in half lengthwise and sew along the long edge.
3 - Flip it inside out.
4 - Fold it in half again, sewing along the long edge.

Now, let's put all of the pieces together. 

With right sides together, put the stocking liner inside of the stocking. Put the folded tab on the side you would like to hang the stocking from, between the layers. 

Pin around the top of the stocking.

Sew around the top of the stocking (do not sew it closed).

Turn the stocking right-side out, using the hole we left in the top of the foot.

Pin, and sew the top of the foot closed with a small seam allowance.

Pin around the top of the stocking. Topstitch 1/4" from the top edge of the stocking, all the way around (don't sew it closed!).

And now, you have your finished stocking! Great work!

Now, go make a set for your family (or a family that you love)!
And have a Merry Christmas!
Pin It