Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday Night Treat: Cream Puffs

I don't know about you, but sometimes I feel like I am short on time - all the time. That's how I have been feeling this week. We bought a house (or I should say that we live in a house that we have a loan on) last week and moved in over the weekend. We have been cleaning, unpacking, and the new found home ownership responsibility - shoveling snow. And then, we got invited to two dinner parties within a week. Maybe I should have said "no", but instead I said, "What can I bring?" I needed something fast, delicious, and I am always looking for something inexpensive. So, I decided to make cream puffs.

Cream puffs were always my mom's go-to dessert when we had guests over. You can prepare them in advance, they are simple, they look super fancy, and they are cheap. Win-win-win-win. So, I would love to share this delicious recipe with you now!

Cream Puffs

1 C water
1/2 C butter or margarine
1 C all-purpose flour
4 eggs
Pudding or whipped cream (for filling)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

Bring water and butter to a rolling boil.

Stir in flour. Stir vigorously over low heat about 1 minute or until mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat.

Beat in eggs, all at one time; continue beating until smooth (you can use a hand mixer if you would like).

Drop dough by a scant 1/4 cup, 3 inches apart onto an ungreased baking sheet*.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until puffed and golden. Cool away from draft. Cut off tops (I like to use a bread knife for this). Pull out any filaments of soft dough.

Carefully fill puffs with pudding or whipped cream. Replace tops. Refrigerate until serving time**.

Yield: 12 cream puffs

*Sometimes my grandma will make a mini-cream puff size - closer to an 1/8 cup each.
**For the dinner party we were attending, I cut the cream puffs in half and brought them in a container unfilled. I then brought chocolate pudding and whipped cream on the side, so the guests could fill their cream puff any way they wanted to.

I love simple recipes! Now, back to the cleaning...and unpacking...
And, I hope you stop by next week because I have some fun Valentine crafts and snacks that I am sooo excited to share with you! See you then!

Have a great weekend!

Blogs I link to: CraftOManiac, Brassy Apple, Sumo’s Sweet Stuff, Tip Junkie, Shwin and Shwin, Home Stories A to Z, Creative Itch, Sugar Bee Crafts, Coastal Charm, Not Just a Housewife, Hope Studios, Chef in Training, Mommy By Day Crafter By Night, Southern Lovely, Passionately Artistic, Sew Woodsy, Savvy Southern Style, Ginger Snaps, Someday Crafts, Creations by Kara, Rae Gun Ramblings, Delightful Order, House of Hepworths, The CSI Project, Remodelaholic, Tatertots & Jello, Shabby Nest, Chic on a Shoestring, Simple Home Life, 30 Handmade Days, Family Ever After, Craftionary, I Heart Nap Time, Positively Splendid, Nifty Thrifty Things Pin It

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Year of Memories: Calendar Gift

I have awesome grandparents, and I am so blessed that they are still alive and kickin' (actually, all four of my grandparents are still alive). Two of my grandparents have lived across the country my whole life, so my interactions and relationship with them has been limited. My other two grandparents lived only an hour away (or less at times) while I was growing up. My two siblings and I are the only three grand kids on that side of the family, so my grandparents were almost like another set of parents to us. Every summer we would spend a week at their house, exploring the farm, swimming in an old cow tank, riding motorcycles, and attending VBS. My grandparents would attend almost all of our band concerts and sporting events. We would eat at least one meal with them each week (I am told now that it wasn't that often - but it sure felt like it! in a good way). My grandma is actually the one who taught me how to sew and bought me my first (and second) sewing machine.

There are a lot of things that make my grandparents so unique. I am blessed to have a close relationship with each of them that I know is not the norm. However, there is one thing that makes my grandparents the same as everyone else's - they are so hard to buy gifts for! They buy what they need, and they buy what they want - so the selection is pretty picked over.

So, this year for Christmas, I banded together my siblings, my mom and my uncle to give a gift all together. We made a calendar for my grandparents. We split up 366 days (it is leap year this year) between the 5 of us, giving us each about 73 days. Our responsibility was to write one memory or glue a picture on each of our 73 note cards that had to do with our grandparents. Some of the memories were funny, some were sweet, but they all were important to us. We wrote our memories out on 3"x5" note cards, wrote the dates at the top (just the month and the date so it can be reused from year to year), and organized the cards into a box with monthly tabs.

When my grandparents opened the gift at Christmas, we explained that each card had something written on it - a memory with them. Each morning at breakfast this year (or whenever they choose), they can feel a little bit of the love we have for them. It really was the perfect gift.

Surprisingly, it didn't take anyone very long to think of their 73 memories. I worked on mine over a couple of days. There were things that I didn't get to share because there wasn't space, and I didn't include as many pictures as I would have liked.

I know that Christmas is a long way off, but I wanted to let you know this meaningful idea in case you wanted to use it, because it takes a long time to organize a group of people :). It was worth it though. The whole thing cost less than $10, but it proves how cost and value are not always equal.

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Tutorial: Baby Log Cabin Tag Quilt

Do you ever need to get a gift together for a baby, and you don't have a lot of time? This baby blanket is made for that. Either you are an experienced sewist and everyone knows it so you can't show up with a store-bought gift...or you are new at sewing and you need something to give that is simple, but sure to wow. Either way - this baby quilt is perfect for that!

I originally came up with this pattern a couple of years ago, and since then I have made many versions of this blanket in all different colors. Here are three examples that I have photos of:

People love it when there baby has the little 'tags' (or in this case, ribbons) to grab and chew. However, most of the tag blankets that I have seen are little 12" squares. This size can be very useful, however I wanted to make a larger version of a tag blanket with a quilt look that can be a gift all by itself. Hence, the Baby Log Cabin Tag Quilt was born (hehe). Two layers of cute flannel + a layer of lightweight batting + many little ribbons to grab all pieced together in a baby-sized quilt = cuteness. The finished size of this quilt is about 26" x 36".

You will need 3 different flannel prints. You can buy 1/2 yard of each and barely have enough to piece together the front and the back, but you may end up hating yourself by the end of the quilt (especially when the back takes about 3 times as long to put together as the front and you literally end up with scraps of fabric that are too small to put in your scrap bin - not that I have done that or anything...). So, I would recommend maybe getting 2/3 of a yard, or maybe even 3/4 of a yard of 3 different fabrics. You may still have to piece together the back a little bit, but it won't be too bad. Or make it easy on yourself, buy enough of one of the fabrics that you can finish the whole back in it. You will also need one piece of lightweight batting that is large enough to cover 26" x 36". And, you will need about 24 pieces of ribbon, each cut to 3" long (I used 25 pieces on this quilt). Here is the breakdown:

I am using 3 flannel fabrics.

From the star fabric, cut:
one - 12-1/2" square
one - 4-1/2" x 17-1/2"
one - 4-1/2" x 21-1/2"

From the blue fabric cut:
one - 2-1/2" x 12-1/2"
one - 2-1/2" x 14-1/2"
one - 5-1/2" x 21-1/2"
one - 5-1/2" x 26-1/2"

From the chocolate fabric, cut:
one - 3-1/2" x 14-1/2"
one - 3-1/2" x 17-1/2"
two - 5-1/2" x 26-1/2"

Here is a diagram of how all of the fabric pieces go together:

This diagram shows the order that each piece is added (in ABC order) as well as where each size/color of fabric is located. It may be helpful to lay all of your pieces out in this diagram before you begin to sew.

Pieces are added along one edge of the main piece. Place the pieces right-sides together. Press the seam open before adding the next piece. Pieces are added in a spiral rotation around the center block (on top, the right, the bottom, the left, repeat). The same color fabric should only meet in an 'L' shape (the long sides of the rectangle should not be sewn to a fabric of the same color). All seam allowances are 1/4" unless otherwise noted.

1. Start with your 12-1/2" square from the star fabric. Add your 2-1/2" x 12-1/2" blue fabric on top of the square.
2. Press open.
3. Add your 2-1/2" x 14-1/2" on the rightside of the main piece.
4. Press open.

5. Add your 3-1/2" x 14-1/2" chocolate fabric on the bottom of the main piece.
6. Add your 3-1/2" x 17-1/2" chocolate fabric on the left side of the main piece.
7. Add your 4-1/2" x 17-1/2" star fabric on the top side of the main piece.
8. Add your 4-1/2" x 21-1/2" star fabric on the right side of the main piece.

9. Add your 5-1/2" x 21-1/2" blue fabric on the bottom of the main piece.
10. Add your 5-1/2" x 26-1/2" blue fabric on the left side of the main piece.
11. Add one 5-1/2" x 26-1/2" chocolate piece on the top of the main piece and one 5-1/2" x 26-1/2" chocolate piece on the bottom of the main piece.

Now you have the top of your Baby Log Cabin Tag Quilt completed.

Let's attach the ribbon. I have 25 pieces of ribbon, each 3" long, in assorted colors and textures that coordinate with my fabrics.

Choose the location of each ribbon along the outer edge of the quilt, matching up raw edges. Fold the ribbon over, so both raw edges of the ribbon are now lined up with the quilt edge.
Pin in place.

Repeat for all of the ribbons around the whole quilt.

Sew each ribbon onto to the top of the quilt with a small seam allowance (I used 1/8").
Forward and backstitch over each ribbon so that they are very secure.

Layer your batting, quilt backing, and quilt top together (in that order). The quilt backing and the quilt top should be facing right-sides together. All the ribbon loops should be between these layers (not sticking out). Pin around the edge of the quilt. Sew around the edge of the quilt leaving a few inches open on one side (it is best to leave the opening between ribbons).

Clip the four corners of the quilt. Turn right-side out.

Press the quilt, and pin the opening closed.
Sew the opening closed with a small seam allowance.

Top stitch around the entire quilt using a 1/4" seam allowance.

Quilt on top of the quilt. I used my stitch regulator (dropping the feed dogs) and did a combination of loops and little stars for my design.
You could also do straight or diagonal lines if you don't have a stitch regulator.

And, you have your finished Baby Log Cabin Quilt!

Happy Sewing!
Another project for baby:
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Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday Night Treat: Frosting!

Everyone needs a good frosting recipe - and although this recipe doesn't take butter (to make it a true buttercream), it is a great frosting! I also don't have to worry about refrigerating the cake/cupcakes because of not having butter in it (does anyone else worry about that too?). The recipe is at the end of this post.

Want to see some things I've made with this frosting? I will be showing you a few of these techniques over the next couple of weeks (and I'll show you more if I have requests!).

Basic swirl on a cupcake

Large flower design on a cupcake

A combo of basic swirls and large flowers for a baby shower
(weird background - yeah, it was in our school library :) )

Ladybug cupcakes

Microphone cupcakes

Rocket ship birthday cake
(for my husband's 25th - yeah we're cool like that)

One of the first cakes I ever made
(for full disclosure)

An anniversary cake for my in-laws
(I used stiff consistency frosting to make the white roses)

Monster cupcakes - one of my all-time favorites!
I hope our little one wants a monster birthday party some day!

Are you getting some ideas of what you can make with some good frosting?
I hope so! So, here goes...

Cream together your shortening, flavoring, and water/milk.

It will look like this when it is all creamed together.

Add your powdered sugar and meringue powder. I recommend putting a towel over top of the mixer while this is happening (careful not to get it in the bowl!), so that way the powdered sugar doesn't go EVERYWHERE!

  • This will make a stiff consistency of frosting - which is best for making flowers (such as roses - like on the anniversary cake).
  • Add 1 teaspoon of water per cup of stiff consistency frosting (or 1 Tablespoon for the full recipe) to make it medium consistency - which is best for stars and borders.
  • Add 1 teaspoon of water per cup of medium consistency frosting (or 1 Tablespoon for the full recipe) to make it a thin consistency - which is best for writing and icing a cake.
Usually, I work somewhere between the thin and medium consistency. If you make it too thin, stick it in the fridge for a little while. If it is too stiff, just add a little more water until you get it to the consistency that you want. Does that make sense?

Then, you can leave it white or tint it to the color that you want. Not too bad, huh? Here's the recipe...
Buttercream Icing
(adapted from the Wilton Method of Cake Decorating)

  • 1 cup of solid white vegetable shortening
  • 1 teaspoon of flavoring (vanilla, almond, or butter)
    • My note: I usually use 1/2 t vanilla, 1/2 t almond, and 1/4 t butter flavoring (if I double the recipe I don't double the flavoring).
  • 2 T milk or water
    • My note: I use water (purified to keep the frosting as white as possible) because I don't want to worry about refrigeration.
  • 1 lb. pure cane confectioners' sugar (about 4 C)
  • 1 T meringue powder
    • My note: You can find this in in the Wilton aisle at Wal-Mart
  • a pinch of salt
  • Cream shortening, flavoring and water.
  • Add dry ingredients and mix on medium speed until all ingredients have been thoroughly mixed together.
  • Blend an additional minute or so, until creamy.
My note: I usually make a double batch whenever I make this frosting because powdered sugar comes in a 2 pound bag. I either use it all or refrigerate or freeze the leftovers for a future use!

What are you going to frost?
What do you want to learn how to do?

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My Red Wool Purse

Last March, I finished making this purse (I know that is a long time ago...). However, I didn't have a blog at the time to show you how it turned out. I still love it, and I have seen some conversations in the blog world lately about using wool. So, I thought I would share.

It is my 'winter' purse this year - so it has gotten a lot of use (hence, it is a little bit dirty and it is starting to pill). This is the Streetcar Bag by Indygo Junction, and you can find the pattern here.

I love the big buttons on the front flap. The bottom two corners are box corners. The strap is the perfect size to put over your shoulder or carry. I also like the shape of the bag; the narrow top is easy for me to get things in and out of but still keeps things in.

The flap is held on by a magnetic snap.
Under the flap is my favorite feature of the purse - pleats.
I just love how the fabric comes together there.

Inside is a zippered pocket (the first time I tried this style of pocket).
I believe it was optional piece in the pattern - but I always think taking the time to add a pocket is worth it. I always have something little I want to keep track of!

I am so happy with this purse! Overall, the wool was nice and easy to sew.
It was fun for me to explore a new type of fabric!

Has anyone else tried sewing with wool?
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Monday, January 16, 2012

Tutorial: Anthro-Inspired Headband with Bow

I saw this cute headband last spring at Anthropologie (I's taken me awhile to reproduce it...)
I thought the bow was cute - but it cost $18! 
So, I knew right then I was going to try to make one. I think that I hit it spot-on!

First, let's get our supplies ready.
You will need: a headband (mine was plastic and came in a 4-pack for about $2), a hot glue gun, fray check, two strips of fabric, and double-sided fusible interfacing.

For your fabric you will need two pieces - 
1. the main fabric that wraps around the headband (I am using light blue)- cut 1/2" x 44" (you will use more or less based on how close you wrap it)
2. the fabric for the bow (I am using a small flower print) - 5/8" x 15"

Get these two fabric pieces ready by squirting a little bit of fray check all the way down each of the long sides. 
This is the best time to also trim any loose threads that are along any of the edges.

*Trim two - 1" pieces from your main fabric. 
*Put a dot of glue on the front and back side of each end of the headband, and wrap the little piece around. This makes sure each of the ends are thoroughly covered.

*Starting at one end, place a dot of glue on the inside of the headband. 
*Wrap the fabric around the end one time, making sure to get your starter fabric tucked in.
*Now, start to wrap the fabric around the headband. I usually put a dot of glue on the inside of the headband and wrapped the fabric around two times (making sure to always overlap the fabric, leaving no gaps). Then, I would put another dot of glue and wrap the fabric two more times. I tried to wrap the main fabric slightly angled. I continued this until I got all the way around the headband.
*I finished by wrapping the fabric around the other end, put a dot of glue on the inside, and then trimmed the excess fabric.

If your fabric isn't long enough to make it all the way to the end of the headband...
*Then, glue the end of the fabric on the inside of the headband.
*With another piece of fabric, glue it on the inside of the headband and continue in the same way all the way to the end.

Now, let's get the bow ready.
*With your 5/8" x 15" piece of bow fabric, place a piece of two-sided fusible interfacing covering only half of the bow (lengthwise). 
*After ironing, remove the paper and iron the bow in half, lengthwise.
*Using a VERY small seam allowance, sew next to the raw edges of the bow fabric (3 of the 4 edges are raw).

Our last step is to attach the bow to the headband.
*First, fold the bow in thirds (like you would a brochure). Use your fingers to press the two folds.
*Then, put a dot of glue on the center of the bottom of the bow, and wrap your leftover main fabric around one time.
*Put a dot of glue on top of the headband where you would the bow to be, and place the bow on top.
*Wrap the fabric around the headband and the bow one time. On the inside of the headband, put a dot of glue and trim off the excess fabric.

There you go. Super cute!

Enjoy sewing (and gluing)!

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