Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday Food Craft: Blueberry Muffins

I LOVE fresh blueberries. They are a weakness of mine. So you can imagine my delight when I saw that in the dead of Winter, my grocery store had some good looking ones on super sale for my enjoyment! I may have bought several pounds... ok, I did. What better way to enjoy them than in some amazingly tasty muffins? You will note that I use cinnamon in both the streusel topping and the muffins themselves. I think that blueberries and cinnamon are a combination created by the gods themselves, if you disagree you can certainly omit it from the actual muffins, but it would make your topping fall a little flat.

To make these at home you will need:

For the Muffins:

1-½ cup All-purpose Flour
¾ cups Sugar
½ teaspoons Salt
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
⅓ cups Vegetable Oil
1 whole Egg
⅓ cups Milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1 cup Blueberries

For the Streusel Topping:

½ cups Sugar
⅓ cups Flour
¼ cups Butter
1-½ teaspoon Cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease muffin cups or line with muffin liners (I always go with the liners to ensure my muffins come out of the pan easily).

To make the muffins, combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Place vegetable oil into a 2 cup measuring cup; add the egg, milk and vanilla. Mix this together and add to the flour mixture. Fold in blueberries. *This makes a very thick batter that bakes up surprisingly light, you've been warned. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full, and sprinkle with streusel topping mixture.

To make streusel topping: Mix together sugar, cup flour, butter, and cinnamon. Mix with a fork to cut in the butter (a pastry cutter or food processor may also be used), and sprinkle over muffins before baking.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Paper Flower Roundup

As promised, here is a roundup from around the web of some gorgeous paper flowers! All of these would be great for weddings, home decor or a gift for your special someone this Valentine's Day!

Above you will see a rose that I made thanks to a great tutorial and template from Ellinee. I tried several roses, I will post more photos of mine at the bottom of this post, and I can say that regular copy paper (or paper of a similar weight) is easiest for these, though you can also make them with card stock and vellum without too much trouble. I really love these as I have seen several tutorials for roses around the web that are either too simple and so don't look very realistic or need you to cut out every single petal individually (and who has the time to do all that?).

The rose template even comes in several colors so you could print it out onto white copy paper and get a variety of colors! I chose to print out a template onto card stock and trace it onto some fancier paper I had lying around. I also left out the leaves and glued mine into stems so I could make a bouquet. To add a stem, just poke a little hole in the center of your petals and string them on, in the correct order, before gluing them in place.

Of course, no paper flower roundup is going to be complete without mention of my own tutorials! If you happened to miss them, I made a couple of cute tissue paper flower tutorials: Tissue paper pom pom flowers and tissue paper flowers with individual petals.

My favorite of my own tutorials was, of course, my paper calla lilies.

If crepe paper is more your style, there are a multitude of varieties available with tutorials from Martha Stewart Weddings. These even have tutorials for making several varieties of faux stamens to build your flowers around!

Are you into quilling? Then these double fringed flowers from Inna's Creations might be right up your alley. I haven't tried these out myself yet, but when I do I will be sure to let you all know how they turned out :)

Have some leftover party streamers? Check out these cute centerpieces. It's an easy version of a poppy and the crepe paper streamers used are readily available (I know I've seen some in my local dollar store!).

Have you seen any paper flower tutorials that shouldn't be missed? Let me know, I'd love to check them out!

Here are some more of my paper roses. Which is your favorite?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Embroidery How To: Satin Stitch

Welcome back for another embroidery tutorial! Today I am showing you the Satin Stitch. It has a few variations, but they are all used for pretty much the same thing: filling in an area of your embroidery with solid color. The satin stitch is basically a series of stitches made very close together, which leaves a solid block of color and a satin finish.

To start, I selected a little chevron pattern and transferred it to my fabric:

Next, select your embroidery floss, thread your needle and start your first stitch by pulling through your fabric from back to front, as shown below.

Finish the first stitch by going back into your fabric at the top of your end line. I am working this satin stitch in an up and down motion. You can work in any direction you like, but it is very important that all of your stitches be in the same direction and are made evenly. If you are just starting out, I recommend working either straight up and down, or straight side to side. Diagonals can be very hard to space evenly without practice.

Once you have made your first stitch, continue along in exactly the same way, following your pattern lines and spacing your stitches as closely and evenly as possible.

Once you are finished you will end up with a nice solid patch of color like this:

When starting out, you may find your outline is a little less than perfect, so you can always go back and outline it with a backstitch or some other stitch you like.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Embroidery How To: French Knot

For my second embroidery tutorial, I decided to go for the gusto and tackle the French Knot. Once you get in some practice, this is actually really easy. However, a lot of people tend to recognize this not as the french knot, but as the dreaded french knot. The key for me has always been keeping your thread tight while making one.

French knots are mainly used for things like eyes, polka dots and the like on your patterns. If you are just practicing you won't need to draw yourself a bunch of dots as a pattern isn't necessary.

Start by pulling your thread through your fabric from back to front. Pull your thread tight, then wrap your thread around your needle as shown below (notice you are wrapping the end of the thread that is coming out of your fabric around your needle, not wrapping the end that is right by the needle). I typically wrap my thread around twice, but if you want a larger knot you can wrap three times.

The picture could be a little better, the pointy end of my needle is on the left of the frame in case you were wondering. Make sure to keep your thread tight around your needle as you go back through your fabric. You will want to get the needle close to the original point it came through, but not in the same hole.

Then, pull your needle all the way through and make sure you keep your thread tight while you pull it through to finish your knot. As I mentioned, keeping it tight is key, otherwise you get a sloppy knot.

Then, sit back and admire your knot. Isn't it cute? Here is a picture of two knots I made, the one on the Left was made by wrapping the thread around my needle three times.

If you missed it, go check out my tutorial on the back stitch here.

Friday Food Craft: Tomato Salad

The Winter weather finally arriving has made me long for tastes of Summer. I found these cherry heirloom tomatoes at the store, and knowing they won't taste half as good as the ones I get in the Summer, I made myself some tomato salad. Oh August Farmers Market, how I do miss you...

To make your own yummy tomato salad you will need:

1 pint of cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup of mozzarella cheese, cut into bit sized pieces
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 an avocado, cut into bite sized pieces
salt and pepper to taste

Cut your cherry tomatoes into halves or quarters, depending on the size you want. Toss them into a bowl, seeds and all. I generally use a bowl with a lid that seals tight, as I shake my salad up with the oil and vinegar dressing all in the same bowl. Plus, easy storage for leftovers :)

Add in your cheese, avocado (or any other yummy veggies you have sitting around, cucumbers and zucchini are also pretty tasty) oil and vinegar. Cover tightly and shake to evenly distribute the dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste.

I typically take my cheese out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature before making this, and I never refrigerate my tomatoes (it kills any flavor they may have). Serve salad room temperature. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Embroidery How To: Backstitch

I had a request on my Vintage Embroidery Pattern post to show you all how to tackle some of those great vintage patterns. Since embroidery isn't something you magically learn all at once overnight, here is part one in a series of tutorials that will help you to learn how to bring these pattern to life, and how to eventually create some patterns of your very own.

If you are just starting out you will need:

An embroidery hoop (or several of varying sizes)
Fabric you want to embroider on (if you are just practicing I recommend getting some cheap Muslin in either white or beige)
Embroidery Floss in your favorite colors
hand sewing needles
Embroidery transfer pen, or other method of pattern transfer (check out the embroidery area of your favorite craft store for the possibilities)
Needle threader*

*While not necessary, a needle threader sure comes in handy. If you don't know what a needle threader is here is a nice little visual for you, I found the image on Wikipedia:

Now, to get to learning some simple embroidery. I decided to start out with the backstitch as it is very versatile and you can do many embroidery patterns from start to finish with nothing but this stitch if you so choose. It can be used on both straight and curved lines and can look quite different on each individual line you stitch based upon the length of your stitches and thickness of your thread.

To start out, you may want to draw yourself several lines on your fabric, and trace some circles as well to practice making curved lines too. I like using the embroidery transfer pens, as they wash out easily from finished work.

Once you have your line transferred onto your fabric, thread your needle with your embroidery floss of choice. I am in love with this dark orange right now, and lucky for me it shows up great for tutorials :) Tie a knot at one end, and then start your stitch by pulling your needle through your fabric from back to front, about 1/4 inch from the end of your line, as shown below:

Since the backstitch is named because, well, you stitch back, I always start 1/4" from the end of my pattern line and then stitch back to the end of the line. If you want to do shorter stitches, just start in that far from the end of your line. Then, stitch to the end, like so:

To do the next stitch, push your needle through about 1/4" from where your first stitch ends, and stitch back so they meet:

Continue on with this until you finish your line:

Once you are done, tie a knot on the back. The back of your stitches will look something like this:

Once you have practiced a bit your stitches should be fairly uniform and you can start trying out more difficult patterns, or things you have drawn yourself!

Next: French Knots!!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Paper Calla Lilies

Hey everyone! I'm super excited about this tutorial, as I have been toying with these flowers for over a week now trying to get them just right. I was actually unable to find any other tutorials online for making paper calla lilies, though I did see several lovely varieties on image searches. Hopefully I managed to do these beautiful flowers some justice :)

To start out you will need:

Paper in the color of your choosing (I used Lokta Fiber paper from Paper Source)
floral wire
pencil (for lightly tracing template onto your paper)
lily template (I suggest printing it out onto card stock for easier tracing)
Sculpey clay in a color of your choosing (or some other stamen, if you come up with a better idea please share it!)
floral tape

You will want to print out the following template in your desired size. The great thing about making paper flowers is you can make flowers any size you want, large or small no matter what size they come in naturally.

Once I have decided on the size of flowers I am making, I start my whole flower making process on these by first making a bunch of stamens for my lilies. To do this I twist a length of floral wire to give myself a small stem, then I use Sculpey clay (available in most art and craft stores) to shape my stamens around one end of my wire. Calla lilies have really easy stamens, as they are just a long cylinder you roll out on a flat surface once you have inserted your wire. I generally make a short, fat cylinder, then insert my wire, then roll to desired length. From one package of Sculpey clay I can get about 8 stamens that are about 4 inches long and 1/4- 1/2" wide. Follow the baking instructions on your clay package to bake and set your clay.

Once you have your stamens made, it is time for the flower petals. Trace your template onto the paper of your choice. A thinner paper works quite nicely for these, as there is a lot of bending and these look a bit better without hard folds and creases. A crepe paper would work nicely, if you can find it in sheets as opposed to streamers. Cut out your petal, being careful to try and cut slightly inside your lines to avoid any pencil on your final flower.

Now, you will get to start shaping your petals. I use my fingers to start gently bending the paper into my desired shape, like so:

If you have a stiffer paper, you might want to use the back of a spoon and rub it over the surface of your paper to soften it a bit. I have a burnishing tool from a college printmaking class that I use for this, but you can also just rub with your fingers to make your paper fiber soften up and become a bit more mobile. Once you get your basic shape, you will want to shape the bottom of your flower into a cone and glue it in place.

I tend to make a perfect point at one end, as shown above. The insert the stamen, I will snip just a tiny bit off to make a hole that the wire can pass through.
Once your glue dries, you end up with this shape, a petal ready for some final shaping and a stamen:

To shape my petal, I again use my fingers to gently bend and fold the petal to my desired final shape:

Now, I insert the stamen, glue it into place and wrap my floral wire with floral tape. You can also add a longer stem and some leaves if you want to :)

I'd love to hear what you all think of how these turned out, I'm really excited about them!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday Food Craft: Pizza Monkey Bread

I got a little creative with things in the fridge the other day and this is the result: pepperoni pizza monkey bread. It was pretty tasty, and I'm sure I will try it again. Once again, it gave me reason to own a bundt pan, but if you don't, you could also make these in individual serving sizes in muffin tins (baking time will be much lower).

To make this monkey bread at home you will need:

One can of your favorite refrigerated biscuit dough (making 8 biscuits), or mix up a batch of your favorite biscuit dough from scratch

1 small package of pepperoni (we had some leftover from a large package from pizza night)

About 5 Tablespoons pizza sauce (you can use more or less depending on your taste)

1/2 cup shredded mozzerella cheese

1/2 stick butter, melted (add some garlic if you like!- I Do!)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and lightly grease your bundt pan. Set aside.

Open your biscuit dough and cut each biscuit into four pieces (you may cut smaller pieces if you wish, mine were just a bit more than "bite size"). Set these on a plate, and prepare your other ingredients.

Once you have everything ready, dip your biscuit pieces into your butter (or garlic butter) and start to layer your monkey bread into your greased pan. Since the bottom will become the top, I generally start by layering in some pepperoni so it will look kinda nice when I turn the pan out. I'll be honest, I wasn't very particular in making this, just layer in each ingredient the way you see fit: some pepperoni, some biscuit pieces, some sauce and some cheese. Layer until you are out of stuff. If you want extra toppings in your bread, you can always flatten out your biscuit pieces, place some toppings in the center and fold them up before layering the biscuits in the pan!

Put into the oven and bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes, until your cheese and biscuits have reached your desired level of golden brown and delicious. If you use more sauce it might take a little longer (so you don't have soggy biscuits).

Turn out onto a plate and serve warm.

This is a great way to use up leftovers from a pizza or pasta night, as I did. You could also add peppers, olives, etc to change it up a bit. Enjoy :)

*Also note, if you prefer you can leave the sauce out of the actual monkey bread and serve it on the side for dipping.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

DIY Magazine Envelopes

As promised, here is a tutorial on making your own envelopes for stationery sets. While this template makes a rectangular envelope, you could certainly modify it to make squares as well, and as usual this image is scalable (the actual jpg is quite small, I printed it at 250% to make the cute envelopes shown in the tutorial--I just like cutesy small stuff, my original envelopes were much larger).

To make these envelopes you will need:

Paper or magazine pages of your choosing.
scissors or an X-Acto knife
a ruler
Envelope template (below)
glue (elmer's or glue sticks work just fine--if you do not have glue, you can go without and use stickers to close your envelope as well)

Start by printing the following template to your desired size:

Cut out your template and trace it onto your paper of choice. You could use scrap booking paper, thicker card stock, magazines, maps, old book pages, etc. For this tutorial I decided to use a jewelry advertisement from a magazine. The rose and jewelry are very Valentine's Day appropriate, don't you think? You could also use home and decor magazines to make envelopes for a housewarming party, or wedding magazine's for wedding invites and thank you's!

Once your image is cut out, as show above, you will want to take a ruler or other straight edge to aid you in folding your envelope flaps in evenly. I generally use the ruler as a guide and push my paper up against it to give me a general line of where my fold will go. If using thicker paper, you can gently score your paper to give a more defined guide, just be careful not to cut all the way through.

Now, you will want to fold all the flaps in with a harder crease. Turn your envelope over to the "pretty side" to decide which end you want to be the top and bottom. I generally like to fold over a straight edge on my "bottom" flap, but you can always leave all the points if you like that look.

Now, you will use your glue (very little is needed, so I generally use a brush to make a thin layer, or use glue stick) to glue down the bottom flap to the two side flaps. Here is your finished envelope!

If mailing these, I use white address labels to make it easy to read. You could also use white or silver paint pens on dark envelopes like this, just make sure to print clearly so the postal service can get it where it needs to go.