Thursday, October 25, 2012

A vase with sticks glued to it

Sometimes I go to the gym. No, not as often as I should, but sometimes. And usually when I go, it's mid-morning when I know I can be there alone with just the trophy wives, weight-lifting enthusiasts, and the unemployed. I allow myself the guilty pleasure while I'm there of watching the trashy daytime talk-shows that I otherwise forgo.

There is a very good reason I don't watch these shows intended for housewives and stay-at-home moms. It is the same reason I probably never should have signed up for pinterest. I, for some reason, lack the filter that most people come equipped with that says, "Nope. That's not a good idea, that's a mess." I see a new recipe, or a new project, or something at Anthropology and think, "I should totally make that!" And, about one time in twenty, I actually do.

So, there I was on the treadmill watching Clinton Kelly do a segment on $1 DIY fall table-scape ideas and thinking: Oooo! Now, I should have known when I saw that his other ideas involved sponge painting on burlap, that this wasn't going to be cute. I should have known, if you hot-glue twigs to a vase, you're going to have a vase with twigs glued to it. But, no! I was excited about my fall craft idea right from ABC's "The Chew" to my kitchen.

Equipped with a $1 tall glass cylinder vase, sticks cut with kitchen shears off of the tree in my backyard, and a hot glue gun, I set to work. In the natural light at 2pm that day I was very underwhelmed with the result. I couldn't believe that any part of me, running or not, thought this was a good idea. But, I wrapped a little ribbon around it, stuck a scented candle in it, and tucked it in with my fall decorations anyway.

It really did photograph a lot better than I expected. I can see why it seemed like such a terrific idea when presented on TV. In artificial light, with the right camera angle, you can't see the little bits of hot glue holding on the sticks that looked so terribly tacky to me earlier.

But, I ran in to trouble when I decided to light the candle. For one reason or another it didn't occur to me that when hot glue is placed near a warm candle, it turns back into hot glue. So, I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised when I barely touched it and the whole thing fell apart. I ended up with a handful of sticks.

Rather frustrated, but now quite devoted to this stupid project, I went into The Chew website to get their official directions. It turns out that they didn't want hot glue, they wanted craft glue. Of course! I've got that.

The thing about craft glue that Clinton forgot to mention, is that it's slow drying. You can put a stick on glass with hot glue and it sticks in about 2 seconds. White glue doesn't work that way. White glue takes about an hour to dry completely.

So, I laid the vase on its side, propping it up on either side with crumpled paper towels so it couldn't roll away, and glued on a stick. One stick. At the only spot on the vase where it could balance. Then, I responded to few dozen emails. When it was dry I rolled the vase about an inch and attached one more stick. Then, I washed some dishes and swept the kitchen, took out the trash, and made a phone call. When it was finally dry, I rolled the vase about half an inch and attached another stick.

You can probably see where this is headed; It took 6 days. On weekdays I would attach one before work in the morning, then another when I got home, then one more before bed. In the end I would say it was 100% not worth it.

I don't know what made me think that this would turn out looking like anything other than a vase with sticks glued to it. No, scratch that. I know exactly what made me think that. Clinton Kelly told me so. I officially don't trust that gut anymore. But, I've got a vase with sticks glued to it with a candle in it! It's decorative.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Beer Cake Pops II

You may remember that last labor day I attempted beer cake pops for a party. It was a fun idea, but they turned out mediocre at best. Yet, when my mom told me that we needed a dessert for an Oktoberfest I knew what I had to do: It was time to avenge the failed beer cake pops of 2011. With unlimited resources at my disposal (Mom bars no cost when it comes to crafting), a hand made cake pop holder (thanks, Dad!) and 2 extra hands (thanks, Mom!) I would say these cake pops turned out just about perfect.

Mom's improvements upon the original design:
1. Incorporate cocoa powder into the candy coating to make the color more like real beer.
2. Affix pretzel handles after the pops have been coated. They look cleaner and the contrast is sehr schon.
3. Dipping the white coating in little white candy sprinkles give a realistic impression of foam.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Custom Dress for Goldilocks

This week Puppy Shots had its first repeat customer on esty. The dress that I made for her back in January was going to pull double duty as a "Goldilocks" costume this Halloween, but has been outgrown. So, Mama Bear contacted me and asked if I could make the dress over again in a new print and sized up.
This is exactly the kind of project I love. Could you make a dress a second time using a pattern you're already really comfortable with? And, would it be possible to go to the fabric store and find something adorable to make it out of?

I developed a few ideas then got feedback from Goldilocks herself before going ahead with this fun custom dress that should work for Halloween, and hopefully many more fun days to come!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Falling Up

It's October again. The weather has finally turned so I no longer have to hide from the heat in the air conditioned lab. The Giants are on their way to the Championship Series, so there's baseball to watch. I love the fall! Today, I even pulled out my little ceramic pumpkins and cinnamon scented candles to decorate for the season. In a moment of weakness on a trip to the fabric store for supplies for an entirely different project (you'll see tomorrow) I bought some kitschy orange taffeta to make shams for the throw pillows on my couch. It was such a quick and cheap fix, I might just start changing them for every season.

(yep, I made 3 pillows and the cat didn't even move).

Friday, October 5, 2012

California Cupcakes

What now seems like ages ago, back when I thought that my oral exams were impending, I had 3 weddings to attend on the horizon, and I was fighting off a terrible crush, I somehow found time to do a little baking (if you've been paying attention, you probably know that a crush will do that to me).

In celebration of a friend moving to California I started researching the perfect, "Welcome to California" cupcake. Of course, I felt that in order to truly capture what Southern California has to offer in a cupcake I had to include 3 things: Beer, Citrus, and the Ocean. Something about melding the pungent citrus note of a dry-hopped IPA with the tart kick of lemon seemed like a winning combination. So, I began to look around the web for a recipie that might guide me in the right direction. That's when I found Sweet and Stout a blog devoted entirely to beer cupcakes.

Inspired and fearless as ever, I started with a yellow cake mix, but replaced the water with IPA and half the oil with 3 fresh squeezed lemons.

To tie in the ocean (because I worried that trying to add sea salt to the mix would be going overboard), I made my typical cream cheese frosting, but added a frightening amount of blue food coloring. Crushed up animal crackers made the "sand" and a candy mold I still had kicking around from my feeble attempt at wedding cakes allowed me to make some sea shells from Wilton's candy coating.

The flavor didn't pack the punch I had hoped. In future batches I think I'd use more lemon and an even more potent IPA, but the presentation was a hit.