Sunday, March 28, 2010

Cute Hairbows!

Growing up, my parents and grandmothers kept my hair well stocked with tons of hairbows, ribbons and scruntchies for every occasion. Now that my niece is getting more and more hair (she's only 8 months...) I decided to try making some hairbows for her!

I found this great website with tutorials on all sorts of things including cute little hair bows and a bigger pinwheel bow.

For the smaller bows, I pretty much followed the directions exactly, except that I used 3/8" ribbon for the entire bow. For the pinwheel bow, I also did as instructed but also lined the alligator clip as it shows for the little bows.

Here are my final products!

A Tisket, A Tasket...a Handmade Easter Basket

As Easter is coming up, I started to brainstorm Easter basket ideas for my niece and goddaughter Sonya (the inspiration for many of my projects). I found this amazing do-it-yourself Easter basket and had to make it!

The "Recipe" from Moda Bake Shop uses one of their "Jelly Rolls" of fabric, which is basically many strips of coordinating fabrics rolled up like a cinnamon roll. For this project, I used the "Swanky" Jelly Roll which has some great pinks, yellows and other very springy colors which I bought here.

As the "Recipe" recommends, I cut all of the stips in half before I used them so the colors are more spread out. The major change I made to the basket is that I made it much bigger. Moda's basket is about 6.5 inches in diameter, but I made mine with a diameter of about 12" and about 7" high. To do this I still followed the basic steps, but I bought 10 yards of a much thicker cotton cord to make both the basket bottom and handle (I believe it was 24/32...the 2nd largest size that Hobby Lobby sold by the yard). I also made the base 8 rings wide (as opposed to their 7) and then 8 rings tall. The size turned out great and I think is much more practical for an Easter basket to be used as Sonya grows up.

I will say that the bigger cotton cord did make sewing the rings together more challenging and I should have invested in a longer needle. As you stack the rings, I highly advise sewing each ring to the one below from the outside. Sew up and down and criss-cross in order to securely sew the two rings together. If you try hard enough, you can make most of the exposed stitches close to the bottom of the ring so they don't show as much. It's ok to have your stiches show on the top of the ring you're adding b/c the next ring added will cover them up. However, for the top ring, I did try and make the stitches small and less noticable.

For the handle, I only made it two ropes thick (instead of 3) since I used the thicker cord. Be sure and sew the handle on really well!

Other thought: I wrapped the fabric more "cleanly" than the Moda folks....looks less "scrappy" and I think will wear better. To do this I just always left the folded over edge exposed and covered up the cut edge.

I love how the basket turned out (and hopefully Sonya will too!). This project is pretty easy and I did it all without a sewing machine. The sewing machine would make sewing the scraps together faster and easier, of course, but the bulk of time is spent wrapping the fabric and then handsewing the basket together, so a sewing machine isn't as necessary. Overall the basket took about 35-40 hours to make.

I had tons of fun filling it with all sorts of goodies for Sonya. Some highlights: Homemade hair bows (see other post!), bunny ears (a must), Easter books, teething rings, Peeps (not sure if she can eat them...but I know her Daddy will!) and two cute outfits for the warmer weather. Happy Easter!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Tacky Christmas Sweater Party

I don't know about you, but I definitely have a small collection of oversized sweaters from my youth...complete with animals, bells and other sound effects. Naturally, I needed an occasion to bust out my all-time favorite and so my husband and I threw a Tacky Christmas Sweater Potluck. I decided to make the tacky theme not only apply to the apparel, but the decorations, table setting and everything else possible. I figured this would be extra festive and let's face it - it's a lot cheaper to decorate tacky than classy.

I found a picture of a tacky Christmas sweater and printed it out on cardstock. I printed the invitation wording on the other side of the paper. Then once printed, I cut out the sweater and had a cute little invitation. And I went with the tagline "The Tackier the Sweater, the Better the Party."

I really wanted to have Christmas lights everywhere and envisioned them hanging from the ceiling all over the table. So, I bought some of the vintage style big bulb strands and held them up with masking tape (no need for fancy brackets or methods of disguise...masking tape falls right into the tacky party theme!). Crazily enough these lights were extremely difficult to find and I ended up finally finding them at Walgreens of all places. For other decorations, I hit up the Dollar Store and bought plastic bell and ornament garlands and paper cut outs which I taped around the apartment.

Table Setting
First of all, I wanted to have a sit down dinner for 13 which was going to be impossible with our dining room table which seats 6. So, we rented two long tables from a local party equipment rental place - we got both tables for only $10! Definitely worth it. For the table decorations, once again the Dollar Store came through with paper, Christmas print table cloths, garland and these little trees in crazy sparkly colors. When you put it all together...awesome. Now, I did slack in the tacky by using our actual plates, silverware, glasses, chargers, napkins and these adorable ornament napkin rings from Crate & Barrel. And for dessert, I got to bust out my new Pottery Barn reindeer dessert plates. But...I really wanted to use them, so I did! I did actually assign seats, which may have been slightly elementary school, but I've read that with groups that big, it lessens anxiety and allows for "conversation flow," or something like that. Who knows. :P

Dinner was great - the sweaters/outfits were AMAZING. Mary Ellen won the "Tackiest" award and Justin and his self-made snuggie were also great. It was so much fun and I think we just might have to repeat next year...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

From the Kitchen....Yummy Homemade Candy

Growing up, my family would make Christmas candy every year that mainly consisted of millionaires (aka turtles), potato chip candy and my all-time favorite, fudge. :) So, this year I decided to make candy myself...branching out into several different family recipes. I (with the awesome help of my friends and husband) made TONS and packaged it up to give out to friends, family and coworkers. Everyone seemed to eat it, so I consider it a success. And I know I ate my fair I think the recipes are worth trying. :)

What you need:
Double boiler (I bought a cheap one (aka $20) at Bed, Bath & Beyond that worked fine
1 package Kraft Caramels 6 Plain Hershey bars
2 Tbsp. evaporated milk 2 cups whole pecans
1/3 bar paraffin wax (yes, wax....and yes, they do sell it at the grocery store)

What you do:
1.Spread out a large piece of heavy duty Aluminum foil on a countertop or table. Butter the foil.
2. Melt the caramels and evaporated milk in the top of the double boiler.
3. When melted, add pecans and quickly drop by spoonfuls onto the buttered aluminum foil (heavy duty).

4. Let the caramels pieces completely cool. I suggest letting them sit for 24 hours.
5. Melt choclate bars and parafiin in the double boiler.
6. Spear caramel/pecans (from the day before) with a toothpick or better yet, the metal things you use to truss a turkey.
7. Dip the caramel/pecan piece into the chocolate and place back on the foil in a clean spot to cool.
Makes about 30 millionaires.

Potato Chip Candy (huge crowd pleaser and super easy)
What you need:
4 cups crushed waffle chips (Ruffles or the equivalent)
1 package almond bark (the white one...I have used the chocolate brown one and I think the white chocolate is better)

What you do:
1.Spread out a large piece of heavy duty Aluminum foil on a countertop or table. Butter the foil.
2. Melt the bark in a microwave (follow the melting directions on the bark package).
3. Stir in the crushed chips.
4. Spread the mixture out on the Al foil so that it is about 1/2 inch thick.
5. Let cool and then break it out into bite size pieces.

Haystacks (another popular one)
What you need:
1 (6oz) package of Butterscotch flavored morsels (chips)
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
2 cups Chow Mein noodles
1 cup dry roasted peanuts

What you do:
1.Spread out a large piece of heavy duty Aluminum foil on a countertop or table. Butter the foil.
2. In a saucepan, melt the butterscotch chips and peanut butter over low heat. When completely melted, remove from heat.

3. Stir in noodles and peanuts until all pieces are coated.
4. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper.
5. Let sit until hardened.

Makes about 30 haystacks.

Chocolate Fudge - I use the recipe on the Kraft Marshmallow Creme jar - delicious
What you need:
3 cups sugar
3/4 cups (1.5 sticks) butter
1 small can (5oz) evaporated milk (about 2/3 cups)
1.5 packages (12 squares) Baker's Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate
1 jar (7oz) Marshmallow Creme
1 cup chopped nuts (I use pecans...the recipe says walnuts)
1 tsp vanilla

What you do:
1. Line 9 inch square pan with foil (extending to the sides of the pan)
2. Place sugar, butter and evaporated milk in large heavy saucepan
3. Bring to a full roiling boil on medium heat, stirring constantly (very important - you don't want it to burn)
4. Boil 4 minutes or until candy thermometer reaches 234 degrees F stirring constantly to prevent scorching (seriously)
5. Remove from heat and add chocolate and marshmallow creme stirring until completely melted.
6. Add nuts and vanilla. Mix well.
7. Immediately pour into the foil lined pan, spread to form an even layer (about 1" thick).
8. Let it cool at room temp at least 4 hours.

Makes a lot...I cut my squares pretty small (about .75"x.75") and get over 50 pieces.

Apricot-Coconut Balls
What you need:
2 (6oz) packages dried apricots, ground
2 cups shredded coconut
2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
Powdered sugar

What you do:
1. Combine apricots and coconut; stir to mix.
2. Add condensed milk and mix well.
3. Shape into 1" balls and coat with powdered sugar.

Makes about 50.
Peppermint Bark
What you need:
1 pound white chocolate (use the white almond bark like in the Potato Chip Candy)
1/2 cup finely crushed peppermint candy (I took a hammer to some candy canes)
4 to 7 drops of red food coloring

What you do:
1.Spread out a large piece of heavy duty Aluminum foil on a countertop or table. Butter the foil.
2. Melt the bark in a microwave (follow the melting directions on the bark package).
3. Stir in the crushed peppermint and food coloring.
4. Spread the mixture out on the Al foil so that it is about 1/2 inch thick.
5. Let cool and then break it out into bite size pieces.

To package the candy, I went to the dollar store and bought tons of cute Christmas tins guessed it, $1. After cleaning them out, I lined them with green seran wrap. I recommend putting in enough seran wrap to come up the sides of the tin and hang over the edge a bit - this provides a great seal for the lid. For some of the tins, I tied ribbons around them and slid a Christmas card in, which looked extra cute. They were a big hit (I hope!) and a nice gift if you want to give to a lot of people (I ended up making around 60 tins). By far the biggest expense is the pecans in the fudge and millionaires. If possible, I recommend buying in bulk from a local farm as they can be quite pricey in the grocery store.