Sunday, November 13, 2011

A little work-life balance

Ever since I proudly became a small business owner in my own right over at Etsy I have been neglecting my updates on the mess of the day around this little apartment of mine. My Halloween cake pops, bread stick fingers, and pumpkin carved to look like a bowl didn’t even get photographed for posterity. And the Calaveras for Dia de los Muertos made it to facebook as I ran out the door to work, but no father than that. So, to save time and energy for all of the crafts and projects I had hoped to get done today, here is a little photo montage of October and November in apartment B.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Toddler Swing Coat for Puppy Shots

Now that I am attempting to sell my stash of crafts on my Etsy shop Puppy Shots, I have a whole new motivation to sew and knit and make all kinds of messes, guilt free. It's wonderful. So, one of my first projects with this new found freedom was this adorable little swing coat called Moppet, a free pattern from Berroco. Half way through the project I realized that this sweater was a similar color and style to one my mom had started in 1985, but that's okay, I'm calling it "vintage." I used wool-ease washable wool blend yarn and some vintage buttons I had in the stash from my days at Betty's to glam up the little sweater for the most fashionable of toddlers.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Pina Colada Cake Pops

I am one of those girls who can't show up to a party empty handed, so when I was invited to friends birthday party this weekend, I instantly set to work on designing the perfect cake pop for the occasion. Inspired by this Pina Colada Cake Pop Tutorial, I made my own version. In my experience, cake pops can be too sweet for even the biggest candy addict, and adding a coating of Candy Melts never helps the problem. So, for this batch I covered the cake/frosting balls with tempered dark chocolate instead. Not only was it much easier to melt and dip, but who doesn't love dark chocolate?
Aside from the dark chocolate swap, I made a few other modifications to the tutorial. Instead of a candy melt wafer, I used a wedge of Trader Joe's Vacuum Fried Pineapple, and instead of white nonpareils I substituted white chocolate chips.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Back To School Cupcakes

I know I'm a little behind in my back-to-school crafting, but I promised my team at the research lab a back-to-school treat this week at our meeting and when my advisor said "You're going to put little apples on them aren't you?" I took it as a personal challenge.
So, thanks to a little inspiration from What's New, Cupcake (this time my godmother, not my mother is to blame!) I put together some festive apple cupcakes for the group.
First, using red cupcake liners, prepare 12 cupcakes (white or yellow cake will work best). When the come out of the oven congratulate yourself on how pretty they look, because they are about to get messy and ugly.
Cut mini-donuts in half (like slicing a bagel) to make one flat side and one round side. Then, cut each round in thirds. Use 4 of these 1/3 wedges to top each still warm, lightly frosted cupcake (I know that was a lot of math-- another option is just to buy full sized donuts and cut them in half like a bagel and put half on each cupcake-- much more donut, but much less work).
Prepare frosting by adding a slightly terrifying amount of red food coloring to a tub of store-bought or a batch of homemade frosting. Move frosting to a plastic ziplock bag to use for piping. Pipe the donut covered cupcakes with pink frosting using a spiral design to cover the sides and top, then smooth out the frosting over each one to create a uniform shape. While frosting is still wet sprinkle generously with red sugar sprinkles. To reduce waste, work on a wire rack over a clean cookie sheet so that sprinkles can be "recycled" over more than one cupcake.
Cut green sour gummy strips (or any flat, soft, green candy) into leaf shapes. Top each "apple" with a small piece of pretzel and a candy leaf.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Labor Day "Beer" Cake Pops

After the white trash fiasco (see below) when I decided that one dessert simply wouldn't be enough for a Labor Day party, I decided to learn a little bit more about this great holiday that marks the end of summer every year. As it turns out, Labor Day was established as a day for people in labor unions and industry to have parades and party with their families. Finally, a holiday that's whole purpose is to party! So, completely absolved of any guilt about my plans to hang out with friends and drink on Labor Day, I decided to make a cake pop to demonstrate my support of this great holiday.
I did a little research on beer mug cake pops and found a few sites with photos, but no tutorials. So, below, is my version of the (non-alcoholic) beer cake pop.

You will need:
1 box of yellow "cupcake mix" or 1/2 box of yellow cake mix
1/3 tub of white or vanilla frosting
24 pop sticks
1 bag of white candy coating
1 bag of yellow candy coating (or oil based candy dye)
1 bag of little pretzels
Styrofoam board at least 1.5" thick, or a couple of styrofoam Halloween tombstone decorations...

Make up the cake mix as instructed on the box and bake in a 9" round pan. Allow cake to cool. Crumble the cake into a medium bowl.
Line a cookie sheet or cutting board with waxed paper and clear a space large enough for it in the freezer and the refrigerator. This, my music loving friends, is also the time to turn on music if you want it on-- soon your hands will be covered in cake and you will be working in silence and wishing that you had thought to turn it on before you got messy.
Mix about 1/3 of the tub of frosting in with the crumbled cake and combine thoroughly, until the mixture is moist. Go ahead and start out with a spoon, but you're going to get your hands messy sooner or later, so I say why bother wash another spoon?
When the mixture has turned into a "dough" form your beer mugs. If you have a cookie cutter the right size by all means use it! I just did them by hand, aiming for a shape about like a skinny marshmallow or a fat C battery. Set your 24 cake cylinders on the cookie sheet and leave in the freezer to chill for about 15 minutes.
When chilled, break pretzels in half as shown above and insert one into the side of each "mug" as a handle. Place the tray in the refrigerator while you prepare your workspace and melt the yellow candy coating. I use a coffee mug to hold the candy so that it is deep enough to dip a whole pop into.
Remove cake cylinders one at a time from the refrigerator. Dip one popstick into the melted candy then insert into the center of the cake about half way. Invert the pop and dip into the candy coating. Clean off the "handle" with your fingers or an extra stick and smooth the candy coating if necessary. Place each pop into the styrofoam to dry.
When all the pops have been dipped, place the whole lot back in the fridge and prepare the white candy coating in a shallow bowl or dish. Dip each mug into the white to give the effect of foam on the top of each beer. Allow a little to drip off the side if it happens. Beer tends to spill!
Chill at least 30 minutes to assure the coating is dry before serving.

Want an update? Check out my second attempt. 

Not White Trash Labor Day Cupcakes

When my friend told me that she was thinking of having a "white trash" themed Labor Day party I didn't think anything of it. It wasn't until she mentioned that the party theme was being changed because it seemed just a little faux pas that I realized she was probably right. The problem: I was already pretty wedded to the idea of making classed up Hostess Cupcakes for dessert. So, lets not think of them as a white trash cupcake, let's think of them as a homage to the employees of Hostess, who do so much all year long.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Puppy Shots

After I finished that little corduroy dress it hit me that I have accumulated so many kids outfits as a result of my crafting that I could dress just about any sized child that showed up at my house. Unfortunately, when you live in a tiny apartment it doesn't make a lot of sense to have quite this many kids clothes kicking around. I may as well start trying to turn a profit off my fabric addiction, right?
This morning I ordered my first batch of clothing labels to start sewing into my creations to start selling them on Etsy under the name Puppy Shots Clothing inspired by my dad's misleading explanation that before I could start Kindergarten I had to go get my puppy shots. You should have seen the look on my preschool teacher's face when I told her proudly that my dad would pick me up early to go get my puppy shots. Anywho, check out my shop, I'm pretty proud of it!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Good News Banana Flax Mini-Muffins

For the second morning in a row, I woke up today to find good news in my inbox. This morning's good news: my lab meeting this afternoon got canceled. Naturally I wanted to celebrate by using my morning for crafting and blogging rather than preparing for a meeting after work. With the 100˚ days we've been having in Upland lately, my bananas have turned black on the counter, and no one likes a black banana, so I decided to make some banana bread.
I adapted a recipe I found at for these delicious and healthy little breakfast treats

Banana-Flax Mini Muffins
Makes 18

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flax seeds
2 over-ripe bananas, smashed
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Combine bananas, yogurt, egg, and vanilla and blend until moist.
Bake in a 350˚ oven for 13-15 minutes.

First Day of Pre-School Outfit

In Claremont this morning thousands of students marched off to their first day of classes and I, for the first time in 21 years, did not have a “first day of school.” Maybe it’s just a product of my raising (yes Mom, I’m pointing at you) but nothing says “first day of school” to me like corduroy. It seems that I’m not the only person who thinks so, because Joann’s pulls out all the printed corduroy and puts it on sale every fall because they know I can’t resist.
I found a cheap pattern B5631 off the “see&sew” rack, to justify my expensive printed corduroy and made this adorable little size 3 sundress/jumper with about a yard of fabric. Then, while sifting through the drawer of kids clothes I am beginning to accumulate I found the turquoise girls shrug I made in the spring that just happens to be a great match. 

Although I am pretty much in love with the way that it turned out, I don’t know what I’m going to do with all these kids’ clothes.

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Cupcake Timeline

This weekend I headed north to my parents home to celebrate the engagement of my brother Tom and his bride to be Angie. They asked me to bring a dessert for the party and I enthusiastically started brainstorming the perfect engagement cake. After watching one too many episodes of the cake decorating competitions on the Food Network I decided that I wanted to try to put together something unique to tell the love story of Tom and Angie.
Rather than try to make a tiered cake or fight with fondant, I made a slightly less ambitious "cupcake timeline" using carrot cupcakes and cream cheese frosting (Angie's favorite) to tell Tom and Angie's story.

When they were babies, their parents shared a little yellow duplex.

In high school, after not seeing each other for quite a few years, they went to the homecoming dance together. In May they went to the prom together, and Angie wore a bright red dress.

They stayed together through college at Chico State, seamlessly blending their groups of friends and families. (This, by the way, is supposed to be the mascot, not Satan...)

After graduation, they moved back to San Francisco together, and finally, after almost 9 years together, they got engaged.

Congratulations Tom and Angie! We love you!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Kitching up the Kitchen

Maybe it's due to my many years as a nomadic student, but every year about this time I start to get the urge to move. As soon as the back-to-school ads arrive in my mailbox I suddenly get antsy for a change. Because moving is expensive and exhausting, it's usually easier to settle for the next best thing-- redecorating. This year the bad habit has already reared its head and it's not even Labor Day! After finishing up the pillows and jewelry board in the bedroom I got to thinking about the dingy towels in my kitchen and the dollar store potholders that just don't match my decor. Rather than bleaching the towels and buying some new potholders, I got crafty, as usual.
I made 4 hand towels (18x22) out of pants weight cotton twill, and used the scraps from my shade and some adorable kitchen fabric I just couldn't pass up at JoAnns to give them some personality.

The potholders are made from the same fabric with a layer of Insul-Bright between them and quilted on the diagonal. I was thrilled with my new additions until I tried to take a loaf of banana bread out of the oven and burnt by fingers. I would advise TWO layers of insul-bright to anyone who wants to try their hand at potholders!

People who live in glass houses... better not walk around naked?

Early Tuesday morning, clad in a nightgown and washing out my coffee pot at the kitchen sink, I found myself face to face with our (luckily not creepy) gardener working outside the window. Suddenly I realized that my curtains, made of thin white fabric and tied back with ribbons, didn't offer quite as much privacy as I would like.
Full of morning enthusiasm (I'm one of those people who thinks, at 8am, that I can do ANYTHING!) I decided that what I really needed was a roman shade. On a trip to JoAnn's before work I found some fabric that matches my dishes and the sort of 1972 vibe of my kitchen, and piled up my basket with $20 worth of black-out fabric and roman shade tape.
When I got home that evening I carefully read the wikihow on making a roman shade, and expressly ignored the directions convinced that I know much better than they do. I've walked enough people through the process from the other side of the cutting counter-- how hard could it be. I'm just going to throw it out there for anyone considering making a roman shade. It's hard. But, after about three failed attempts I finally have a shade I can be proud of, and now I know exactly how to go about the process if I ever want to try it again.
I would try to give directions, but I have a feeling it would do more harm than good. However, I do owe a special shout out to the nice people at Holt Lumber in Upland for trimming the dowels to length for me when I realized that my shade was going to be a mess without them.
Throughout this process I tried to hang the shade about three times. Each time having to wait until the yard was empty, then climbing into the sink in a most unladylike way to attach the shade to the window frame with a staple gun. I sincerely hope that the neighbors didn't see me--- if only I'd had a curtain.
In the end, though,  I am very pleased with the way my shade turned out. It probably cost more than buying one would have, and I did bleed a little it on the back of it, but really, who else has kitchen towels that match their custom roman shade?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Jewelry hanger, upgraded

Although the picture frame covered in thumb tacks that has held my jewelry since college has served me well, these last few years my necklace collection has outgrown the Dollar Tree picture frame, and I finally got sick of picking up three necklaces off the ground every morning.
So, taking a note from my sister Hilary who made one of these back in 2005, I made my own no-sew jewelry hanging board to match the throw pillow I made last week. The best part is that the whole thing only took about as long to make as a load of laundry in the washing machine!

All you need to make this very functional wall decor is:
1 sheet of foam core
white glue
1/2 yard of high loft polyester batting
1 fat quarter cotton fabric (for non-quilters that means a piece that's 18x22 inches)
staple gun
about 15 finishing nails
picture/art hanging kit

Start by cutting the foam core in half "hamburger style" so you have two identical pieces about 15"x18".
Stack the pieces together, sandwiching a generous coat of white glue between the layers.
Double the high loft batting over, so that the whole board is covered in two layers and trim to size, leaving about one inch of overhang off of each edge.
Place the fat quarter over the top right side up and flip the board over so that the fabric is facing the ground and the blank part of the foam core is facing up. Staple the fabric tightly to the foam core, The smaller your allowance on each edge, the more staples you are likely to need. Be generous!
Decide if you want to hang the board tall ways or long ways and attach the art hanger to the back of the board. The nails should slip right into the foam core, you wont need a hammer.
Now flip the board over again and place the finishing nails into the foam core wherever you want to hang a necklace. Reserve a few nails to place into the board once you start hanging your jewelry and notice the blank spots.

Wait to hang your necklaces until after the board is on the wall, or else you'll be cleaning up a big mess like I did! If you only use one hanging kit in the center back, you'll also have to be mindful of counterbalancing heavier pieces on each side of the board to keep it level. To avoid this, just put two hangers on the back, one on each side and affix it to the wall on two different hangers.

Monday, August 1, 2011

DIY Quilt Patterns

As a 24 year old visiting the fabric store I have gotten pretty used to being greeted by the ladies at the cutting counter like Matilda is greeted by the librarian on her first day at the library, “Would you like me help you find a nice book with lots of pictures in it?” And while I’ve never had the courage to respond with “No thank you, I’m sure I can manage,” some days I feel like it. 
When I made my way to the cutting counter with a pile of fabric for my latest quilt (don’t worry, it was all designed around a piece from the stash, I promise!) the helpful woman cutting my fabric offered to help me find a nice simple pattern for a baby quilt—or maybe I would just like to buy a yard of fleece and knot it. When I told her that I didn’t use patterns she looked at me like I was a babe in the woods. 

Well, I am here to say quilting patterns aren’t for me! My favorite part of the whole project is sitting down with a sheet of graph paper, a calculator, and some colored pencils and watching the design take form. Typically, by the time I get it all pieced I have made at least one major renovation to the design, and that’s okay, because it’s my pattern.
So, my mess of the day today is again more nerdy that crafty, but check out the patterns I’ve putting together for my next couple of baby quilts!