Friday, January 30, 2009

i'm trying to make my blog look nicer and less like a straight up blogger blog. new headers with some of my pictures, better layout (right?), and more customized. i've added a list of my favorite things with links for you to get your own...or to at least see what i'm using.

am i missing anything? i know from my feed tracker thing that people outside my small circle of family and friends are looking at feel free to comment :)

i know i'm not a fancypants, tutorial heavy, links to such and such blog...but i've been doing this for a year and i don't want to toally suck, you know?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

snow globe soaps

snowflake snow globe soap!

i saw these adorable little snow globe soaps at secret agent josephine, where she blogged about how to make them on a family-friendly site called alpha+mom. i loved them right away, but had no idea when i'd make them or for whom. so i put them in my mental want-to-make folder and hoped i would remember them for next year before the holidays, maybe as gifts or favors. maybe for a winter shower. hahaha. get it?

well, along came tsquared, short a few classes at this mini workshop thing hosted at the university we work at. when he asked me what i could teach, i couldn't think of anything on the spot. i know that seems a little ridiculous, because while i don't have that many talents and interests, there had to be something i could teach. i mean, i do make stuff. so i pondered things i had made or done and things i knew. and then it came to me: i should totally teach those snow globe things!

note: i have never made soap. my only experience with soap + crafts comes from about 2nd grade when i carved into a bar of ivory a fresh water fish i called "LMNOP" el-oh-minnow...with a p at the end. yeah.


so i told tsquared i'd teach the soaps and another little craft (i'll show you soon!) and we decided to call the class "easy craft gifts". having not made them before, i figured i would do test run to be sure i could in fact teach other people to make them.

you can find the original instructions at the link above or you can use mine, which are basically exactly like hers, only written in my numbered manner.

snow globe soaps
ice cube tray(s)

heat-safe measuring cup
clear glcerin soap
soap scent (your choice!)
blue soap dye
soap glitter
white soap shavings (bar of ivory, grated is good)

small ornaments or toys

1. cut glycerin into cubes (i did about 8 cubes at a time in class)
2. add cubes to measuring cup and microwave for 40 seconds
3. stir and continue to microwave in 10 second intervals until melted to liquid
4. stir
in a few drops of soap dye and scent - start light and add more if needed
5. sprinkle in a bit of soap glitter and stir
6. fill ice cube tray 3/4 full of blue liquid glycerin
7. wait about 1 minute to allow glycerin to set slightly, then insert small object into each cube
(remember that the bottom of the ice cube tray is the top of the snow globe)
8. sprinkle white shavings on top of each cube - this makes the "snow"
9. melt a few more cubes of glycerin and pour over snow shavings to seal - fill to the top
10. place tray in freezer for 20 minutes
11. when set, remove from freezer and pop out as you would ice...tada!

you can clean them up a bit by snipping the ornament string (if it has one) and using a paring knife to cut away stray soap bits. in the photo above, i did neither which left a far more organic snow's really up to you.

i bought clear cello bags and ribbon for the class and put my little cube in one as a sample.

this was such a cute, fun project and with a bit more practice and patience (say, not making the test run at 11 pm) i think these would be great gifts. i ran into some trouble finding small objects because i missed the holiday sale racks, so i found random sea creatures and toys at a papermart. i bet you could find tons of things online and if planned ahead more than 2 days, this wouldn't be a problem.

and since i taught these at a class..let me give a brief run down of how that went. 5 students were signed up. at about 1 minute until the class was to begin, no one was there but three of my coworkers (tsqaured included). then, a guy walked in looking lost, so i asked him, "are you here for the easy craft gifts class?". "um," he said. ::eye shift:: "yeah, [insert annoyed, resigned tone] i got put into this class." ::stares at floor:: [insert awkward pause] i hda no idea what to say, so i suggested he come on in and see if he liked it enough to stay. off to a great start!

so the four of us (coworkers and me) and the one who didn't want to be there set out on making our soaps. i handled the heating and my group stirred, poured, and adorned. in addition to making snow globes, i bought heart shaped ice cube molds and pink dye and people made some valentine's day themed soaps as well. another student joined us halfway through and a third joined us near the i guess it was still a success. though we had so many sea turtle, squid and heart soaps in the end that the few students couldn't even take them all. anyone need a spare snow globe soap?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

stacked gingerbread cookies

i love gingerbread and especially love when it's spicy and gingery. i knew i wanted these cookies to be decorated at the brunch, so i searched blogs and such for a recipe that seemed to have enough spices to fit the bill. i found it here, taken from the joy of baking, she says.

husband and i actually tackled this together. and i know husband has had kitchen sucesses, so i set him up with the dry ingredients thinking things couldn't go wrong. five minutes and and an "um..." later, i noticed a large amount of nutmeg in the bowl. there was nutmeg in the recipe...but not that much. apparently he forgot which spice was which and what amount of each he needed to measure. so i scraped the spices and top layer of flour off and he started over, more attentive. then, at the party, he made guests ask me why the cookies tasted so much like nutmeg. they didn't and he set me up, but i got all flustered anyway.

i cut them into gingerbread boys and girls, peace doves, and stars. i think i did 1.5 times the original recipe and ended up getting between 50 and 60 cookies. i also took them out quite early so they'd be soft and chewy and not like ginger snaps.

people liked icing the cookie themselves and they were a hit. once everyone left i spent about 25 minutes, hopped up on mimosas (seriously), and decorated the rest of them. then i laid on the couch and drank 3 more mimosas.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

winter makeover

photo credit: husband

it was time for a makeover. not a resolution or anything. i've been wanting to switch to a white background for a while and even though i'm not totally set with the layout, i like the wintery theme for right now.

when my hands regain their ability to move and thus type, i will blog about some more things i made over the last few weeks. feel free to send mittens, an electric blanket, and gummy candy for my survival.

Monday, January 12, 2009

holiday brunch

post feast brunch 2008

as we do every year, husband and i hosted a small gathering before the holidays. normally we try to go all out with a theme and have a nice evening shindig. this year, however, december was almost half over before we decided we'd have people no time to plan and party till dawn. as an easier option, i planned a brunch for 20 people with limited offerings of food and drink.

here's the menu for holiday brunch 2008
pioneer woman's sleepin' in omelet x2
smitten kitchen's boozy baked french toast x2
alauna's crustless quiche (veggie and meat options x3)
simple fruit salad x2
friend helen's chocolate toffee scones
friend mike's cayenne chocolate scones
frost-your-own gingerbread cookies
spiked egg nog

omelet, pioneer style ;)

i chose these recipes because that have similar ingredients that are cheap (eggs! milks! bread!) and can be made in advance. that is key when planning brunch for 20 at 10:45 am. unless you like getting up at 5 am. and even if you won't be able to make these anyway. (they have to sit overnight)

check out the recipe for the sleepin' in omelet linked in the menu above. if you cut the butter in half (or more) you can feel a little better about it...and it's still tasty! so good, i made it again while back home in wisconsin. bread, cheese, butter....more cheese.


this boozy baked french toast is also a make ahead dish. its about as simple as it gets and tastes delicious. but, if you go to northern wi and try to find challah, good luck. i made two batches for the brunch that were great. i got home and with all of the jewish camps closed (this is true), i couldn't find more than a plastic loaf of challah behind the bakery counter. christmas morning was a bust with soggy bread and burned tops*...but we improvised and made regular french toast spiked with booze. and then we had champagne and got over it.

* smitten kitchen's recipe is not to blame!

prepped for overnight

the morning of the brunch, i had almost nothing to do! i put everything else together, set out some drinks and waited for friends. the biggest bonus? not decorating cookies! i'll share soon the gingerbread is so spicy and delicious. i baked them in advance, then set them out with piping bags of white royal icing and let people make their own sweet treats. easy for me, fun for them!

baked brunch goodies

now, don't trust the picture of the baked french toast...i got to mingling and sipping mimosas and forgot the second pan was in the oven. it was still good and people didn't mind!

i love our holiday parties and i'm so glad we've got such a good group of friends to have over. and apparently, people don't mind stopping by...i inivted people the tuesday before a sunday brunch (which just happened to not far from christmas, so i figured for conlficts) and all but a few people responded within hours. feed them and they will come.

Monday, January 5, 2009

snowflake gocco

i had grand plans for my holiday cards this past december. i wanted to gocco. i wanted silver and aqua. i wanted sparkly rhinestones. unfortunately, things did not go as planned and i got those things and then some...and then not some.

i started by ordering stardream cards and envelopes from i like this store because they have good prices and quick turnaround. i used them for most of the supplies for my wedding invites and i was pleased once again with my silvery stock. i ordered heat back rhinestones from i made some snowflakes at make-a-flake (if this site ever goes down I'll be so sad) and printed the original.

then it was time to gocco. and let's all pause here, taking a moment to remember a time when i wasn't scrambling to find screens and bulbs and paying out the you-know-what to get as many as i could before they ran out. i am now the proud owner of 15 or so packs of bulbs and i guess I can do a few more before my world just stops turning and life as i know it is over. and gocco people...if you are reading, MAKE MORE. seriously.

i flashed the master, it turned out good and onward i went with the inking. i used the prettiest pearly aqua and was so excited to see the shiny flakes on the silver cards. i did about 20 before i realized that once dry, the fun aqua was more a dull, barely visible ghost of a snowflake. sure if you turned it just so...and then squinted under bright light you could sort of make out the "happy holidays" part. fail. so i got creative real quick and mixed in navy blue (husband's choice - i was firmly against dark blue). the first few were tie-dyed looking, but as i went on, things evened out.

but once dry, i still wasn't satisfied. the ink soaked into the stardream and was flat and dull. plus i had printed over the first inking, but not perfectly, so many had a bit of a "shadow". gah! i tore out an even number of dark hairs from my head (i have issues...and i really do pull out dark hairs from the pretty blonde ones. then one day tsquared said to, you do know you pay to get low lites, right?) and threatened to just go buy some cards. but then i looked at my work and figured out a way to put all of the pieces together to make something decent: glitter!

i made little glitter snowflake dots to bridge the gap between extreme shiny (tiny crystal rhinestones) and extreme not (stupid navy blue ink). it worked! i liked it so much i glued back in the low lites i had so recently ripped out from my head.

so once again, shiny saves the day. i hand wrote all of the cards and envelopes (no lining on those, though). i lined them up and husband stamped, licked and had them in the mail the next day. and i was sort of sad to not have totally loved a gocco project because i feel my time with that machine is so limited.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


tulips - a gift i received at our holiday brunch

welcome to 2009! i had a busy yet restful december and have so much to blog about. i've uploaded pictures galore from weeks (and, um, months...) past and january will be chock full of posts. then guess what? i'll celebrate my 1 year bloggiversary. a whole year since i decided four and a half people might care about what i make...

2008 christmas tree

so we'll get into january by reminiscing about this year's christmas...only days ago and i already miss it. i only had one tree this year (yes, i normally have two) so i went big and traditional. normally i shy away from anything red or green but for some reason i thought it fitting to pair my gold tree with a mix of red, green and gold gifts.

so the day i shopped, i got home an wrapped everything until 2 am. i found these papers all over but my most favrotie thing was the thick, wired ribbon with dots and snowflakes that i found at costco. and i'm glad i like it because i've got 2 50 yd rolls of it still...and i paid only $3.50 a roll. i about died when i saw that...and i made husband take giant box after box of bulk ribbon to find just the right styles. after ransacking the aisle (we left it a complete mess due to poor box construction. sorry costco.) i practically raced home to tie up pretty gift boxes.

christmas, i love you. see you next year! (and blog, i'll see you as many days in january as i can. promise.)