Thursday, December 22, 2011

Coated Marshmallows

We attended a bring-a-dessert Christmas party recently and I wanted to bring something fun and different for everyone to enjoy. It needed to feed a lot of people, so it had to be economical. After some internet scouring and this inspiring picture, I decided to make uniquely flavored coated marshmallows. 

The ingredients were cheap and quick with things I had on hand. Coconut, graham cracker crumbs, crushed peppermint (not shown), marshmallows, toothpicks, semi-sweet chocolate chips and Crisco. To make the coating, I microwaved the chocolate chips with a few spoonfuls of Crisco added in for 30-second intervals at 60% power until melted. Don't over-heat! You'll end up with a mess and not-so-tasty chocolate (if that's possible)!

Then I speared each marshmallow with a toothpick and dipped it halfway into the melted chocolate, then rolled it in the topping to create each flavor. I went with 3 crowd pleasers this time:

(chocolate and graham cracker crumbs)

(chocolate and flaked coconut)

Chocolate Peppermint
(chocolate and crushed candy canes)

They were a fun twist on the typical dessert offering and everyone had fun picking out their favorite flavor.

I do have to warn you though, it was way more popular with the gals than the guys. The boys went for the oatmeal cookies. :)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Crafty Christmas: Framed Photo/Message Board

A few months ago, my aunt passed down some old frames to me and I've been itching to re-purpose them. Plus, my husband has lovingly dubbed a corner of our bedroom the "frame graveyard" so I figured it was time to get working and send them on their way.

My first project was a hit and I loved putting this one together for our Christmas-at-Thanksgiving tradition. It was hard to let this one go! 

Here's what I started with: an old wooden frame with lots of knicks and rough edges. After much sanding and then cleaning, I gave it multiple coats of spray paint. The white part of the frame is a cloth insert. I didn't know how well it would hold paint, but it did beautifully. 

I cut a few strands of twine and tied a knot at each end around flat pushpins. It's not a super strong hold, but  it also won't have much weight to bear.

And the finished product! I found some fabulous teeny tiny wooden clothespins that will look adorable holding photos, paint swatches, quotes and other mementos. And since this one went to my super cute and stylish teenage cousin, I had to make this one in her favorite colors. The paint color is Rustoleum's Lagoon (it's more of a teal than this picture shows) and the lavender flower is actually a Christmas ornament from Michael's that I hot glued directly onto the wood.

The Christmas crafting has begun around here! Have you been crafting lately? What presents are you DIY-ing this year?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

We try not to attack dinner guests

Aren't these resin squares fantastic? I bought these lovelies at a garage sale ages ago, but even though they were beautiful, I hadn't the slightest idea where I should hang them. When I showed them to my friend Laura, she audibly gasped because she knew exactly where they should go the instant she saw them. It's good to have friends like that.

But hanging them on the attached hook wouldn't work because I have to make everything more difficult they looked better on the diagonal. My first attempt was a Command Velcro adhesive. This worked great until we had a house full of people, of course. Some of our dinner guests sat on the couch beneath where they were hanging and immediately two of them fell down, knocking the shelf beneath it off of the wall and onto our guests. It seriously looked like a planned attack. It could have been really embarrassing if a grown man hadn't screamed like a girl when it all came crashing down. 

I knew I needed a hook of some sort, but drilling into irreplaceable resin made me a little nervous. So I decided to give the coke tab trick a whirl. I've seen others try this with hot glue, but after our dinner guest attack, I decided to go with the more permanent super glue. 

And I'm happy to report that no more dinner guests have been harmed since we made the switch.

A muti-level vignette is something I have wanted for our massive, gigantic, blank living room wall since the day we moved in, but it took some coaching from a talented friend to make it happen. You can read more about my learning curve with vignettes and the tips I learned from a decor-minded friend for creating eye-catching vignettes here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Quick Fix: Hemming Dilemma

I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but I have to say, Pinterest has brought me the most incredible ideas. This week it gave me the inspiration necessary to fix a pair of beautiful, comfy pants I've loved but haven't been able to wear.

These pants are super cute on, and the perfect color and fit. Except for one thing: they're made for Amazon women. 

You can see in the picture below on my right leg how drastically long they are. A few years ago my husband and I ran across this matching set (it comes with a zip up jacket) at a decor store (of all places!) for $12. Now I know why they were so one is tall enough to wear these pants!

But armed with a tutorial from Pinterest (find it here), I took them on. I added an extra seam to my version so they looked more like a cuff. Admittedly, it wasn't on purpose, but I like the end result just the same.

Once I got started on these, I was on a sewing roll and fixed everything in my mending pile. I even performed stuffed animal surgery on a toy my son adores. It's such a relief to add those clothes (minus their tears, rips and too-long hems) back into our daily rotation.

What's holding you back from attacking your to-do pile today?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Vignettes 101

Remember when I took you on a tour of the home of Laura, my friend and decor mentor? I showed you just a few of the vignettes she has created in her home. Here's a picture of one of my faves...

As we began a complete overhaul of basically every decoration and color scheme in our house, I knew I had to call in my expert. Somehow, miraculously, Laura and I both found a kid-free afternoon and went on a 2 hour speedy shopping spree to find just the right accessories to create a wall vignette for the gigantic blank wall in my living room.

I came back with a minivan full of decor goodness, and a chest-full of fear knowing I would have no idea what to do with it all. The next few days, every time nap time for our little ones rolled around, I would set out different arrangements of all the accessories we accumulated and send Laura pictures through text message of my concoctions. You can see my feeble attempts below: 

Take 1: Mirror image look. Too bland.

Take 2: Adding sconces didn't help. Nice try.

 Take 3: Symmetry? A little better but still...swing and a miss.

Take 4: When I sent this to Laura she said, "Too lined up. It would be so much easier if I were there."

She tried sending me pictures of sketches she drew through text of what would work better, but it was pretty useless. Either you have an eye for this stuff, or you don't. And, apparently, I don't. But we were convinced we could make this work.

Since we live pretty far from each other, we decided that I would load up any and all decorations that might be useful and we would meet halfway, on the side of the road, and figure this out. Now we're sounding desperate, aren't we?! Between Laura's love of decorating, and my perfectionism, we were ready to solve this problem.

So one afternoon we met in a parking lot just off the interstate, spread out a sheet as our "wall" and began laying out our options. Within minutes the perfect layout became obvious. I took a million pictures from every possible angle, measured distances between shelving, accessories and art, and packed it all back up.

And the results... 

So much better! As my husband was hanging it all on the wall for me, he couldn't believe that I needed him to measure everything perfectly before hanging. He said, "You can't just eyeball it?" Hahaha. Days of trying to figure this out have proven to me that, no, I can't.

While I don't have the natural gift of "eyeballing" art placement, Laura did teach me a few essentials for creating beautiful vignettes:

1. Everything needs to be a little "off". Don't line up every shelf. Don't make every candle stick the same height. You can see in my after photo above that no shelf, frame, candle or piece of art lines up perfectly with anything else. Keeping things out of order magically makes the eye travel smoothly across the arrangement, instead of stopping at every obvious line.

2. Spread out your pops of color. My color scheme, if looked at in percentages, would probably read: 60% gray/white/black (neutrals), 30% blue, 10% pink. I didn't want pink on every shelf because it's my "pop" (and a man does have to live here), but I did want to make sure that each shelf carried out the blue scheme in some form.

3. Create a unifying theme. As we shopped for accessories, we realized that everything I picked up had a fleur-de-lis or scroll pattern to it. Before I even realized it, I gravitated towards a clear theme for our living room. You probably already do this without realizing it as well. Do you love chevron, paisley or stripes? Are you always attracted to yellow dresses? Or maybe you stock your kitchen with only red appliances. Your theme is probably already in your house. As you design vignettes, keep this theme in mind and carry it out evenly across your wall.

Creating eye-catching vignettes takes time and (a lot) of patience. One of the keys that my vignette is missing is layering. You can see in the first photo how Laura layered accessories, plants and frames on her shelves to create a much more cohesive and homey look. But the truth is, layering takes time - time to gather decorations and keepsakes to display. So while my vignette isn't quite finished (what project is??), I'm still very glad I took a leap and decorated that big, bad, blank wall that has been staring me down since the day we moved in.

Do you have any vignettes you want to show off? Did these tips help?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Whoopie Pies, Three Yummy Flavors

Whoopie pies are everywhere! I even saw a box mix for them at the store last week. I wondered how long it would take Betty Crocker to catch on to this phenomenon that's been swirling around the DIY, crafty blog world.

Remember the rainbow of whoopie pies we baked as part of my son's Rainbow Balloon Birthday party?

My cousin, Becca, helped me put these together and after we had them all laid out, she stopped and said, "It looks like a stoplight!" Haha.

Each color represented a different yummy flavor: Red Velvet, Lemon Cream & Key Lime, but all were delicious! Everyone had a different favorite by the end of the day. It was a tough decision!

We tried to keep things as simple as possible on the baking front, so for the Red Velvet pies, we used a basic red velvet cake mix, and for the lemon ones, a lemon boxed cake mix. The Key Lime flavor was a little trickier, but came to the rescue with this easily adaptable key lime cake recipe.

To make the signature shape, we filled cupcake tins about 1/4 full and baked for 8-10 min each. I highly suggest keeping an eye on your first batch because these can burn quickly and your oven may be a little different. Cool on a wire rack completely before frosting.

To create the eye-catching color, we used Wilton and Americana gel dyes. And, in the interest of keeping things simple, we relied on a few tubs of store-bought cream cheese frosting for the filling. Boxed cake mixes, store-bought frosting - and it couldn't have been yummier.

These are a simple treat that add a lot of color and whimsy to your buffet table. I have seen an incredible array of whoopie pie recipes floating around the blogosphere these days. What's your favorite take?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Pinterest Made Me Do It

You know I love me some Pinterest. I've had way too much fun gathering some great ideas, tips and a whole lot of why-didn't-I-think-of-that's. I've heard a lot of people say that it's just a dumping ground for great ideas they'll never take the time to use, but I can honestly say I am taking full advantage of that beautiful website. I've made probably 1/2 of the recipes I've logged away in my Recipes folder (but somehow my list keeps getting longer!). Here are a few of my favorites...

Roasted Mushrooms, Green Beans & Potatoes. 

Find the recipe link here. I added potato wedges and doubled the dressing amount. So. Stinkin'. Good.

And in keeping with the theme of WHY didn't I think of this sooner?! that Pinterest seems to offer me daily, that recipe taught me to trim green beans, instead of snapping off the ends one by one. So much easier. Sometimes habit keeps us from an obvious solution to everyday tasks.

And then there's this amazing Dr. Pepper Cake.

I'm going to write this thing a sonnet. It's full of butter and sugar (full disclosure). Not for the faint of heart, but oh-so-good.

What have you made from Pinterest lately?