Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Life's a Beach Cupcakes

We're planning a little end of the year BBQ at the lab today and since I've earned myself a reputation, I volunteered to bring dessert. I wanted to do something fun to celebrate the last meeting of the school year and the official kick off of summer. So, with a little inspiration from Google Images I put together these cute day at the beach cupcakes.

I couldn't decide if I should make them in the water, or on the shore, so I made a batch of each with a single box of dark chocolate cake mix. The "beach" cupcakes are decorated white cream cheese frosting covered in crunched up teddy bear cookies (I realize just how creepy and morbid it is that the bears are resting on the crumbs of the their own brethren, but I'm hoping that you're willing to let it slide). I made the mistake of buying genetic brand Teddy Cookies, not realizing that they would come in pairs, so lets just pretend all of the sun bathing teddies are in committed relationships.

The "ocean" cupcakes have the same cream cheese frosting mixed with blue food coloring and are decorated with Life Savers Gummies (which I loved as a child and realized this morning taste like medicine) and I broke the cookies in half to put them in their "inner tubes." I am sure that I will get at least one joke from Dr. Mike about how it is inhumane to celebrate by drowning bears, but I think everyone else will get the idea.

Baby Shrug it off and move on

As of yesterday afternoon I am officially done with my graduate coursework, and have realized that I now have an unlimited amount of free time to craft my little heart out.
Since I am still trying, some futlily, to use up some of the fabric and yarn from my stash I pulled out a pattern I had already used once for a baby shrug that I made for my cousin's daughter. Here is the pattern, free to download from Debbie Bliss, and the baby in the photo is so cute that it's worth downloading just to see it. As always, the shrug turned out way too big, and I had to go buy another skein of yarn to finish it-- this is why I will NEVER use up my stash, by the way. But regardless, I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out, and it's bound to fit a baby at some point

Friday, May 6, 2011

"Suede" baby jacket

While on my mission to use up my stash this year I discovered, under a pile of minkee and batting, 6 skeins of Lion Suede that I picked up in a clearance bin at some point. I got my heart set on making these knitted baby Ugg boots out of the two skeins of green. But, with a bulky weight yarn I just couldn’t make it work. After 6 failed attempts at the boots, one of which I think would have fit me, I started brainstorming other things made of suede.
Using the same concept as the boots I settled on a baby-sized “suede” jacket. After some google scouring, though, I gave up on trying to find a jacket pattern I liked using bulky weight yarn and decided to bite the bullet and adapt my favorite kids sweater pattern for thicker yarns.

Right Sleeve
With CC CO 18 sts
Knit 1 row
Change to MC and work 20 rows in Stockinette Stitch (SS)
Row 23: Increase 1 stitch at each side of row (20sts)
Row 24: Purl
Row 25: Knit
Row 26: Purl
Row 27: Increase 1 stitch at each side of row (22sts)
Repeat last 4 rows 3(2) times more (28sts; 26sts)
Purl across

Back and Right Front
CO 24 (20) sts for front side, K across
CO 24 (20) sts for back side (76sts; 68sts)
Work even for 3 inches ending with a knit row
P 38 (36) sts, turn work, K to end of row
Continue working these 38 (36) 4 inches more ending with a WS row. Place on stitch holder.

Right Front
With RS facing join yarn to remaining 38 (36) sts.
BO 4 sts at beginning of the first row, K across (34 sts; 30 sts )
Continue to work in SS for 3 inches.
BO 34 (30) sts.

Left Front
CO 34 sts with MC
Row 1: K across
Row 2: P across
Row 3 (buttonhole row):  K2, yo, K2tog, K4, yo, K2tog, K4, yo, K2tog, K4, yo, K2tog, K4, yo, K2tog, K4, yo, K2tog. (43 sts)
Work even in SS until 3.5 inches from cast on, ending with a RS row.
At the end of final RS row CO 4 sts and join to stitches on holder. K across back stitches (76 sts).
Work even in SS for 3 inches.

Left Sleeve
Row 1: BO 24 sts at start of RS row, K across.
Row 2: BO 24 sts at start of WS row, P across
Row 3: K across (28sts)
Row 4: P across
Row 5: Dec 1 sts at each end of row, K across (26sts)
Work 3 even rows in SS.
Dec 1 sts at each end of every 4th row 4 times more (18 sts)
Work even in SS for 20 rows.
On RS row, change to CC and K 2 rows. BO all sts loosely. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Trying my hand at cake pops

If you're my grandmother, or have any need to keep a shred of respect for me, you should probably stop reading now, because this next craft isn't exactly one that I should be posting about on the internet. Just as important as embarrassing the bride with a tiara and sash, is entertaining bachelorette party guests with just about any phallic thing you can think of. And luckily 24 years of making messes left me well prepared for this particular task. 
Motivated by the yet unused cakepops cookbook on my bookshelf and the prospect of making people eat something rather offensive, I baked up a red velvet cake (I HAD to go there) and crumbled it up. After mixing the cake crumbs with about half a tub of frosting I swallowed my pride and took to hand sculpting my cakepops into crude shapes. The first one was funny, then I started to feel a little bit like a pervert. 
I used pink Wilton candy melts to make for a flesh-colored coating, and added a few purple chips in once all the pops had been dipped once to give each pop a (probably unnecessarily) life-like appearance. If you want more photos ask, but I couldn't bring myself to post them here for all the world to see.

For the blushing bride....

Because no girl should be allowed to make it through her bachelorette party with even a shred of dignity, before the party I put together veiled tiara (although I'm not sure whip-stitching tulle onto a plastic tiara should could as a craft!) and a "bride to be" sash for the bachelorette.

Personalized Wine Charms

If you haven't already noticed, my life lately has been one party after another. A few weeks before the birthday party for dad I was back home in the wine country throwing a bachelorette party for my sister. Since we were lucky enough to grow up around vineyards, it wasn't hard to decide that wine tasting was the perfect activity for this group of girls.
I wanted to make a fun party favor for everyone to take home and came up with these simple wine charms for each girl so that we could keep track of our glasses after a wine-filled day!
The wire circles are earring hoops from the findings section at Michaels that I bent the tip of into a hook (after putting the beads on!) The letters were actually from the scrapbook section, and are intended to be affixed to a scrapbook page with a mini-brad. Tracking down the supplies was the hard part, and once I had everything I needed I was only two episodes of The Office away from done with all 15 of the charms.

60 years old and still swinging for the fences

My dad's 60th birthday happened to coincide with opening day of the Giants home season, so when I was recruited to make a birthday cake for the Giant's themed bash, I couldn't help but get a little fancy. I started with two 9 by 13 layers of carrot cake (from a recipe that the teacher gave me when I took my first cake decorating class) then sliced it up and pasted it back together into the shape of jersey with lots of cream cheese frosting.

Diagram of how to cut the cake (I did one layer at a time) to make the jersey

Amazing Stolen Carrot Cake Recipe
(makes two 9 by 13 or three 9 inch rounds)

1 1/2 c oil
2 1/2 c sugar
4 egg yolks
5 tbs hot water
2 1/2 c flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloved
2 1/2 c carrots, grated
4 egg whites, whipped

Cream oil, sugar, egg yolks and water. Beat Well. Add dry ingredients. Incorporate carrots, and fold in egg whites. Bake in 375˚ oven for 30 to 45 minutes (or until a toothpick comes out clean).

Basic Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe
1 stick margerine
1 8oz package of cream cheese
1 16oz box of powdered sugar

Loads and Loads of Tulle

My sister had her heart set on dressing up her flower girls in tutu’s for her June wedding. When my mom put the kibosh real tutus (we can’t have messy little girl, bellies hanging over their waistbands in church!) they compromised with these adorable little ballerina dresses from Target, which at $20 a piece are pretty hard to beat. Unfortunately, they only make these dresses up to a size 5T, which won’t fit on the 6 year-old ring leaders of the gaggle of flower girls.
So thrilled to see the battle of the tutus come to and end, I volunteered to replicate the dresses in a size 6 for the older girls. Before cutting into the 5 yards of while polyester shantung stacked in the corner of my bedroom I bought some inexpensive poly/cotton seersucker to test out all the adaptations I am going to have to make on the pattern to make it look just like the Target dresses. Using Butterick 5458 as a building block I added a layer of tulle (just you wait for the real ones, they’ll have 3 layers!) and added buttons down the back. The tulle on the dress I’m replicating was a full circle the length of the dress, which was probably the most challenging part of the project. I pulled out my geometry skills (thanks Mr. Wellman!) and made a compass from a thumb tack, a string, and a Sharpie to draw full circles big enough to make 27 inch long skirt. After a whole lot of gathering and a pretty steep learning curve, this is the little dress I ended up with on one of our flower girls in training.

Bridal Shower Beero

For my big sister’s bridal shower my Aunt Tina had the great idea to make a bingo game around one of her favorite things, beer. Since beer happens to be one of my favorite things as well, she recruited me to make up bingo cards using beers instead of numbers. After a couple hours scouring google images for beer logos (which I don’t own, by the way) and countless hours randomizing labels into 30 bingo cards in InDesign, this is just a sample of the outcome from the party. 

Please have babies so that I can plan another shower!

One of my professors is expecting her first baby next month, so some of the girls from the lab and I put on an impromptu baby shower at our last lab meeting of the year. Although I had a term paper due at 9 am the next morning, I spent the entire day before the shower turning my apartment into a pink and white sugar-coated oven. 

Birds and Bugs Dress
Using the same pattern Butterick 3782 and (I probably shouldn't admit) the same fabric I used to make a little dress when my cousin had her first little girl I stitched up this jersey dress for the baby on her way. Though, I am a firm believer that zippers on children’s clothes are just plain mean to parents and babies alike, so I incorporated two snaps up the back of the dress so it will fit over baby’s head. I knit a little sweater/shrug to go over it, but of course forgot to photograph it before I wrapped it up for the shower.

Rattle Cake Pops
If I ever get all caught up on all of the crafts you’ll be privy to my past adventures in cake-pops inspired by receiving the Cake Pops book from my Aunt Kathleen for Christmas. After hearing that I made them for a bachelorette party for my sister, my friends at school were pretty jealous, so I used this as an opportunity to bring them to my stressed out friends.I’m the first to admit that cake pops are bit of a mess, but it’s a pretty straightforward process and the results are SO cute. 
I used one box of Funfetti cake mix for both the dozen cupcakes and the 15 cake pops, and it was the perfect use for the other half the cake mix that I never know what to do with after making cupcakes.
Prepare cake mix as instructed by box, bake in one 8 or 9 inch round pan. Cool on wire rack. Crumble cooled cake into a medium bowl and mix with 1/3 tub vanilla frosting. I use my clean ring-free hands to mix into “cake goop.” Once cake is mixed wash hands (you’ll curse yourself if you don’t!) and lay out a cookie sheet or cutting board with parchment paper. Roll cake mixture into golf ball sized balls and cool in the refrigerator for 5 to 6 hours or the freezer for about 15 minutes.
Melt candy coating in the microwave according to the package, dip the end of a lollypop stick into the coating, then insert in the ball (about 2/3 of the way through). Dip the ball in the coating and allow excess to drip off. Using a styrofoam block (or an empty egg carton), insert the pop sticks into the styrofoam to so that the pops can dry right side up and separated from one another. When coating is dry decorate as desired. I wanted to make festive baby-shower cake pops to look like rattles, so I coated the pops with white candy coating and decorated with “candy buttons” and ribbon bows.

Flower Power Cupcakes

With the other half of my cake mix and the other 2/3 of my frosting tub I put together these colorful cupcakes. I have always wondered what I could do with the frighteningly inexpensive “Candy Buttons” from the dollar store, and after making the cake pops I decided that they would work even better for cupcake decorations than for making rattles. The feedback I got was that they give a “nice crunch” and I sure think they make colorful additions these early-summer treats.

Getting Back on the Blog Wagon

Although I’ve been all kinds of crafty over the last semester, I have been without my camera so I haven’t been diligent about keeping everyone posted on my messes-- and believe me, there have been some messes! Rather than trying to start from the back and get myself all caught up. Finals week of your last semester of graduate coursework is NOT the ideal time to take stock of how far behind you are in other parts of your life. Just to prove how hard I’ve been working, here is a photo of my apartment 2 weeks ago, somewhere between beer bingo and a mock-up of the flower girl dress (to be).

So, rather than try to play catch up, during this time of extreme crafting (just you wait and see what the next 2 weeks have in store!) I’m going to start at the present ant try to work backward to catch you up on all the messes I have made over the Spring semester.