Thursday, August 29, 2013

Edible Glitter

With lots of holidays coming up, I decided maybe I would try out making some edible glitter. This would work well for decorating cupcakes or cookies, rimming cocktail glasses, or even use some as face or body glitter on Halloween (it will sure wash off easier than regular glitter!).

To make your own edible glitter at home you will need:

1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon fluid food coloring of your choice
baking sheet
parchment paper(optional but recommended)

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees and measuring out your sugar and adding in your food coloring. You can use more or less food coloring than this recipe calls for depending on how vibrant and deep you want your colors to be. I chose yellow food coloring, but added enough that my final product really looks more golden orange. I highly recommend liquid food coloring for this as it mixes in much easier and gives a nice even coating without too much stirring and mess. It also doesn't have all the additives that many gel or powdered coloring do. Mix your sugar and coloring together well.

Once you have mixed your sugar and food coloring together, dump it onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. The parchment paper helps keep your sugar from sticking to the baking sheet and will be really helpful when it comes time to put the final glitter into a container (just lift, fold and pour!).

Spread out the sugar as evenly as you can before baking. As you can see in the photo above, it is pretty clumpy and not that easy to spread out, just do the best you can.

I put my sugar in the oven for about 1 minute, then opened it up to give the sugar a little stir. If you don't mix this often you will get lots of huge clumps, or some of the sugar can melt together into a puddle of deliciousness (though not glitter, so keep an eye on this). I turned my oven off after about 3 minutes, as there is plenty of residual heat to finish drying out your glitter. My total "bake time" was about 10 minutes, I stirred the sugar around about every minute or so.

Allow your sugar to cool completely before putting it into a container (I used a small mason jar). While my sugar was cooling, I used the back of a spoon to crush it back up into smaller pieces against the baking tray (a poor man's mortar and pestle if you will). This definitely looks a lot more like glitter in smaller crystals, it's so shiny!

Use a small spoon to sprinkle this over cupcakes or frosted cookies for a little extra shimmer. I also recommend using honey or agave nectar around the rim of a glass and dipping to make festive cocktail rims for a party. If you want to use this as glitter face paint, use a clean paintbrush to apply a design to your cheek, etc. with light corn syrup and then sprinkle the edible glitter on top! Technically, this is more like the brightly colored sugar sprinkles you can get at the store. If metallic glitters are more your style try this recipe I found on Pinterest.

Are you looking forward to Fall and Holiday party season or are you still clinging to the last days of Summer?

This post is featured on the Made From Pinterest Saturday Link Party.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Sew an Easy Mitered Edge

If you have been trying out any of my embroidery tutorials lately, you might be ready to try stitching onto some tea towels or napkins. You can find some of these in the embroidery department of your craft store, but it is so easy to make them yourself (it can also be cheaper and you get more colorful napkins!). A mitered corner helps your handmade napkins and tea towels to look more professionally done, less bulky and it's really easy to do!

I usually use fat quarters for napkins (18"x22" pre-cut rectangles of fabric). If you prefer square napkins you can trim them. Start by folding your fabric in 1" on each side (fold so "wrong sides" of the fabric are touching) and ironing so a crisp line is visible in the fabric. Then, open these folds and iron around each side at 1/4". The 1/4" measurement will end up being your napkin hem, the inch measurement will be the true edge of your napkin.

Once you have ironed all of your edges, you will fold your corners together (make sure to match up corners on your ironed shapes. I used photoshop on the image above to mark 2 lines, the blue line is the line you will be sewing (it matches up with your 1" measurement on the interior of your napkin). The red line is where you will trim your corner before sewing, I generally do that in the center of my 1" square (corner to corner) and then trim it down after sewing.

Above you can see that the fabric was cut along the red line and pinned for sewing.

Above you can see the sewn corner. Note that you will stop at your 1/4" mark (you will need to be able to fold it over neatly for your hem - marked by the red dot. The blue dot indicates the innermost corner of your ironed 1" square, where your stitching should start (it is located on the fold).

I generally use a pencil to help turn my corners out. Once done, you can fold your edges back in on your original 1/4" measurement and iron before pinning and sewing around the edge of your entire napkin to finish it.

There you have it! An easy napkin with a mitered edge. It takes a little bit of practice, but after awhile you can really make a lot of these in just a couple hours. The best part is that you can use any fabric you want and make a whole set of matching or mismatched napkins (different thread colors, etc.).

Once you make a few of these, you may notice that you essentially cut a triangle (identical size for each corner) off of each corner of your fabric, sew from the fold to the 1/4" marking, turn, press and sew around the entire napkin. Sometimes I "cheat" and only iron my 1/4" hem, cut off the corners, match up my sides and sew away (this is easiest with prefect square napkins). Everyone has their own little tricks, but I've given you a great jumping off point to create heaps of colorful napkins and towels (Hello there, quick Holiday gifts!).

Have fun sewing!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Embroidery How To: Cross Stitch

This installment of the embroidery tutorial series is Cross Stitch. I really like cross stitching because you don't need to transfer your design directly to the fabric, you can follow a printed or on screen pattern that is blocked out in the different colors you are using (basically like looking at a pixelated image or 8-bit video game graphic). This tutorial shows how to make a single Cross Stitch, as well as how to do several same-colored stitches in a row.

First, cross stitch is generally done on a specific cross stitch fabric , as show above. The weave of these fabrics makes it easy to see perfect squares, and the corners of these squares, where your stitches will start and end.

Start your stitch by pulling the needle through your fabric at one of the little corner holes, back to front (as shown above). It doesn't matter of you start at the top or bottom, as long as you keep your stitches uniform (if you start in the top corner, start all of your stitches in the top corner). This helps keep the back neat and avoid extra knotting while you stitch.

Next, complete the first part of your stitch by passing your needle through the hole located diagonal from your starting corner.

This will give you the fist part of your cross stitch (a diagonal line) as shown above.

To complete your single cross stitch, you will make another diagonal stitch that crosses over the first. As most cross stitch patterns don't have a lot of floating single stitches, you will generally work in lines of stitches instead. This process is shown below.

As you can see in the photo above, when making a row of stitches, you make the first diagonal stitch of your cross all the way down the line before making the second crossed stitch. This helps for a couple of reasons: it keeps the back of your work looking neater, and it help you to be able to quickly and easily count your stitches in your pattern.

I work my stitch lines from left to right initially, so when I make the "cross" stitch going back I work right to left. This makes it so you start and end in about the same place. You can then either tie a know and cut your ends, or weave the ends into your back stitches neatly.

Above you can see the back side of my row of stitches, a nice neat row of parallel stitches with my edges ready to be tied or weaved.

Cross stitch is a great stitch for making items like this, and you can easily use patterns from Perler beads to create sewn items instead. Cross stitch is also great to use with plastic canvas to make ornaments.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Rejuvenating Foot Soak

I'm on my feet a lot, both at work and at home. Sometimes I need a little foot soak to help relax those overworked feet (I can't always talk my way into a foot rub from the hus). That is where this easy foot soak comes in handy. The tea tree oil leaves my feet all tingly even after I'm done soaking!

To make some Rejuvenating foot soak at home you will need:

1.5 cups Epsom Salts
1 Tablespoon baking soda (natural moisturizer)
1/2 teaspoon Tea Tree Essential Oil.

Mix these ingredients together and add to about 1-1.5 gallons hot water. I generally use the hottest tap water I can stand, and I will sometimes start with a gallon and then add fresh hot water as my water cools to keep it hot for a longer time. I soak for 10-20 minutes then rinse my feet and dry them. This is great when you just feel like giving yourself a little treat and it is pretty inexpensive to make (you could even do a large batch to give as gifts).

What is your favorite way to treat yourself?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Soy Ginger Pulled Pork

This recipe is a favorite at our house, my husband likes to play around with flavors when making pulled pork (we're not really into barbecue sauce). We usually serve it over rice, but it is great in lettuce wraps (cold or warm), sandwiches or just on its own as well.

To make this Soy Ginger Pulled Pork at home you will need:

a small pork roast or pork shoulder (about 3 pounds)
1 large onion
1/2 cup fresh ginger, sliced
1/4 cup Soy Sauce (I use low sodium)
heaping 1/4 cup of brown sugar (packed)
1 Tablespoon molasses
2-3 cups water
salt and pepper to taste (we generally use about 1 teaspoon of each)

cast iron dutch oven
corn starch to thicken sauce (optional)

Start by cutting your pork shoulder into 4 or 5 pieces (try to keep them all about the same size). You can trim off a bit of the fat if you want, but it is not necessary as the slow cooking will break most of it down. Place the meat in the bottom of your dutch oven. Add water to your dutch oven so it comes about halfway up the sides of your pork (about 2-3 cups).

Next, slice up your onion. I start by cutting my onion in half, then I remove the outer skin. Slice your onions fairly thin, they will end up cooking down to a point you barely notice them (they just give really good flavor to the meat). I'm not really a huge onion fan, and the first time my husband made this I didn't even realize it had onions in it! If you love onions, feel free to slice them thicker or add some halfway through the cooking process so they don't break down as much.

Then, assemble your additional flavorings. As you can see in the photo above, we slice up our ginger in fairly large slices, and leave the skin on. We take the ginger out before shredding the pork to serve. To make this easier you can tie up your ginger in some cheesecloth before tossing it in to cook. It really adds a fabulous flavor to the pork. If you prefer, you could get away with using less ginger overall by peeling a smaller piece and grating it with a microplane into your pork, the smaller you grate it the more intense the flavor so you can cut back on volume by quite a bit. If fresh ginger isn't something you have on hand, you can substitute about a teaspoon of dried ground ginger in a pinch (but really, try the fresh stuff at least once--it's awesome!).

Toss all remaining ingredients into the pot and turn it on to medium high heat. Once it starts to bubble, reduce the heat to low and give everything a little stir. Cover and cook for about 2.5 hours. You will want to check every 30 minutes or so to give the pot a stir and make sure there is still some liquid in the pan, if not you can add more water to keep the meat braising. The meat will be fully cooked after only about the first 30 minutes, but it needs the extra time for the fats to break down and the flavors to develop. This is seriously tender tasty pork! Once done, if you think there is too much water left in your pan, you can add some corn starch (a little bit at a time--maybe 1/4 teaspoon or so) and stir until the sauce thickens up. Shred the pork with a fork and serve over rice, noodles or as a sandwich! Enjoy!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Straight Stitched Placemat

Here is a little project you can try using the Straight Stitch tutorial from Friday. If placemats aren't your thing, you can easily adapt the same concept to a pillowcase, tote bag, tea towels, etc.

To start you will need:

A piece of fabric sized to your project.
A needle
Thread or Embroidery Floss in as many colors as you like

Decide how much of a straight stitch "pattern" you want on your fabric. I decided I Would like a placemat that had stitched stripes down just one side, but you can do what you think works best. I chose 3 colors of six strand embroidery floss and alternated them to create my pattern. I left about 4-5 inches of thread at the start and end of my stitched rows to tie off at the end instead of knotting each strand before sewing. Play around a little and see what works for you, if you are just starting out it may be easiest to tie knots at the end of your thread before you begin sewing.

After my stitches were all done, I tied 2 threads together as shown above so my stitches won't come out of my final project. I find this leave me with fewer and smaller knots that don't affect the appearance of my projects as much, but again different people like different things.

As you can see, my stitches vary in length and the rows aren't perfectly spaced, I happen to like this more organic look and think it's charming in a hand made detail. The more rows of stitches you add, the more textural your project will be. It's always great to have things around that are not only pretty to look at, but that you also want to touch and use.

At the last minute I decided I want to try to find an orange patterned fabric for the backing of this, so it is sadly sitting unfinished on my table, but to finish this you would stitch your 2 pieces (same size) together with right sides touching (pretty sides together) with a sewing machine on 3 sides, then turn it right side out before stitching the 4th side shut. I generally top stitch the outside edge of my placemats as well to help them keep their shape and lay flat.

Enjoy your stitching practice!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Embroidery How To: Straight Stitch

Straight Stitch is probably one of the most basic stitches, and is perfect for anyone just starting out with embroidery. I also find that this stitch can be great for simple embellishments on tea towels, placemats, etc to make something plain a little bit special.

An embroidery hoop is definitely not necessary for doing this stitch, I just found it helped me take neater looking photos, feel free to practice this on your own without the hoop. The split stitch, or running stitch, is made by sewing a straight line, with stitches of even length. You also want to make sure the negative space between your stitches is about the same length throughout. I often weave my needle through the fabric for several stitches before actually pulling the thread through, so this stitch can make you feel like you are getting a lot done very quickly!

After weaving the needle through your fabric, pull it through and voila! A neat little row of straight stitches appears! If you have a little beginner that wants to try out some stitching themselves, this is a great starting stitch. I'll be posting some cute projects that use straight stitch this weekend to give you ideas on what this basic little stitch can do!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Embroidery How To: Split Stitch

It has been awhile since my last embroidery tutorial, but here is a new stitch for you to try out- the Split Stitch!

Split stitch is another great stitch to use for embroidering lines or outlining shapes in your embroidery work. Start by pulling your thread through your fabric from back to front.

Next, you will close your stitch by sewing back through your fabric from front to back. It is important to choose the length of your stitches carefully, you want to make sure to keep individual stitches as uniform as possible (I generally like a shorter stitch, but each project varies).

Then, make your second stitch by pushing your needle up through the center of your first stitch, splitting the first stitch with your second. You want to split the stitch both lengthwise and widthwise (6 strand embroidery floss is necessary as you can easily keep 3 strands on each side of your needle while stitching, and you must be able to pull your stitches through your floss). Continue along your pattern (or just freehand straight lines for practice) and continue making equal length stitches for a uniform look.

Your stitch will end up looking like a small braid (it resembles a mini chain stitch--coming soon). This is a great option for people who find something like backstitch to look too plain in their work.

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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Cheater S'Mores

Happy National S'Mores day!

My dad's side of the family gets together every Summer for a family reunion of sorts. It's always camping someplace in Wisconsin, and sadly I have not been able to go for several years (going to WI makes for a really expensive camping trip when you hang your hat in Portland, OR). My family is off camping this weekend, but I still have to celebrate National S'Mores day, because you know, then it feels like I get a little bit of the family camping in too.

This is my favorite "cheater S"mores" snack. It's cheating because I don't use a campfire, and I don't go to the trouble of using chocolate bars and graham crackers (because, really who can be bothered to break all those things apart?).

To make my cheater S'mores you need:

Grasshopper cookies (you can get fancy and make my Thin Mints Knockoffs instead!)
microwave oven or fondue flame of some type to roast your marshmallows

I use my microwave to heat my marshmallows (it only takes about 10 seconds on high). No, it's not as good as roasting them over a fire, but it gets you that ooey gooey delicious S"mores filling when you are sadly at home instead of the great outdoors. Slap that melty goodness between two cookies and voila! Instant S'Mores! I have done this with Fudge Stripes as well, yummy!

Get out there and celebrate National S'Mores day!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Brown Sugar Molded Chocolate Sharks

I recently saw this post over on the Rise & Shine blog on how to make chocolate molds using brown sugar. I thought it would be fun to try out some chocolate sharks for Shark Week! This is a great way to try out molding your own chocolates because it's really inexpensive (you don't need to buy any molds, only brown sugar!).

To try this at home you will need:

Brown sugar (I used light brown sugar)
a container to hold your sugar
3-D objects to make your mold with (I used plastic sharks)
chocolate (if you want something more colorful, you could test out some colored candy melts)
a microwave safe container to melt your chocolate in

Start by packing your brown sugar evenly into a clean container. Then firmly press your 3-D objects into the sugar, about half way up the object, to create your mold.

Next, chop up your chocolate and put it in your microwave safe dish. Microwave the chocolate at 20 second intervals, stirring between each interval, until the chocolate is melted and smooth (for me this took about 1 minute for a 1/2 cup of chopped chocolate). Once your chocolate is melted, carefully pour it into your mold. I tapped mine on the counter to get rid of air bubbles and make sure the chocolate got down into the "fin" areas of my mold. If you have little helpers, you may want to get small squeeze bottles they can use to get the chocolate into the molds without too much mess.

I was unfortunate in the weather, as it was quite hot the day I did my chocolate molds (room temp was about 90 degrees, ick). As a result, I put my poured chocolates into the freezer to set up and this caused extra brown sugar to stick to the chocolate when I took them out of the mold. If you do this in cooler weather, the chocolate should harden back up on the counter just fine and remove much more cleanly. Either way, this is definitely a fun little craft, I'm thinking about using those alphabet shaped magnets to make some letters for a birthday cake sometime!