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Candy Corn Cupcakes

Thing 2 came home with a birthday party invitation for one of her friends this weekend.  Since my parents are coming down to visit this weekend Thing 2 wouldn’t be able to attend and I felt bad for her little friend who is such a sweet girl.

“Let’s make her some cupcakes” I suggested out of guilt.  Keep in mind – we all just arrived home and it’s already 8:00 PM and we haven’t had dinner yet.  Just a glimpse of the glamour filled life I live.

While dinner was cooking – I looked up on Pinterest some Halloween themed ideas for cupcakes and found this cute idea for candy corn cupcakes.  These cupcakes capitalized on the trend of differently colored layered batter.

The three color combo was an easy feat to pull off last minute.  I had a yellow cake mix and 1 can of vanilla frosting.   I also had just bought candy corn to decorate my entryway (because its colorful and yucky so I won’t eat it)

Candy Corn Cupcakes were going to happen!

First I added yellow food coloring to the already yellow cake mix – making it more vivid and bright yellow.  I spooned the batter into the bottom of the cupcake liners.
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Then I mixed the remaining batter with red food coloring, changing it to a deep pumpkin orange.  This is where I switched to a pastry bag.  I started cake decorating with I was just 10 years old – learning this great skill from my girl scouts leaders.  I still have my original frosting bags – the kind you had to clean and wash after use.  The invention of the disposable cake decorating bag is up there on my Top 10 favorite craft items.  You can use it for soooo many different things beyond the intended use.  It allowed me to carefully piped the orange batter into the liner without disturbing the yellow layer.
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Then they were popped in my sad excuse of an oven to bake.  Thing 2 frosted them in the morning and added a topping of candy corn.
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Not bad for a last minute idea!

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Wine Box Ribbon Dispenser

Somewhere in early history of Martha Stewart I saw Ribbon Management ideas.  Martha demonstrated how to turn an ordinary shoe box into a ribbon holder, the tips of the ribbon perkily poking out from grommets or slits on the side of the box and the ribbon reels neatly contained inside, hidden from sight.  Martha later went on to sell this product through her sorely missed Martha Stewart Living Catalog but happily now sells new versions at Michaels.

Browse through any home/living magazine or surf the internet and you’ll find lots of other ideas to contain the unruly, tangly mess of ribbon.  One popular idea (another Good Thing by Martha) has been to store ribbon on a dowel, mounted in a closet or the back of a cabinet wall.  This was the method I adopted, installing a long dowel in front of a shelf in a large closet.

But if you’re a true crafter, you’ll know that this isn’t the best solution.  Spools of ribbon defy Newton’s first law of motion which states “An object at rest stays at rest”.  Anyone who has ever stored ribbon this way knows that ribbon has a mind of its own and that the 2nd part of Newton’s law “an object in motion stays in motion” takes over.  That damn ribbon will start spinning itself off the reel.  Then you have the fun and time consuming job of winding it back up and figuring out some way to secure it.  I’ve also seen chicken feeders or rain gutters used to store the ribbon but those storage method depend on the box always being stored vertically.

Tired of fighting the ongoing ribbon rebellion, it was time to upgrade to the newest method of ribbon management.  Basically – a simple box with a dowel across the front to prevent the ribbons from rolling out.

You can easily build a simple wooden box but thanks to Dr. Malibu and his passion for Pinot I already had something fabulous that I could use.   Very awesome wine comes in wine boxes – the better the wine, the better the box.  Dr. Malibu gave me a particularly nice wine box and it had just been sitting around as a junk box for various craft items.   It never really worked well for that application and I always felt it had a higher calling.  Transforming the wine box into a ribbon holder seemed the perfect solution.  And it easily only took 10 minutes to do.

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Wine Cork Christmas Tree with Beaded Twisted Wire Garland Tutorial

Christmas is a big holiday for my friends over at the Barker Ranch.  Every holiday is celebrated and the house is decorated from floor to ceiling – especially Christmas.   (Or Christmas Hell depending on who you’re talking too)  Every nook and cranny is stuffed with festive décor and it’s a wonder to behold.   I’m not exactly sure how it happens – it’s seems almost magical, even though I’ve been at the start of “Christmas Hell” .

Another well known fact about the Barker Ranch is that they’ve collected quite a few wine corks over the holidays.  Yes, the Barker Ranch heartily supports the California Wine Industry.  It was inevitable that the Wine Cork Christmas Tree was made.

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Wine Cork Tree Tutorial:

You will need:

  • You need cardboard paper cone form – easily found at your local craft store.  Don’t buy the foam kind – foam and hot glue are natural enemies.
  • Glue Gun
  • 15 – 20 hot glue sticks (depending on your glue gun and your glue gun skills)
  • Friends who drink wine… a lot of wine… (Caution: this project requires approximately 90 – 100 corks I do not recommend drinking all the wine in one sitting.)
  • Fine gauge wire (approx. 15 – 20 feet)
  • Decorative Beads that fit the width of the wire.


Start at the bottom of your cone form, gluing each cork and pressing it to the form.  The trick is to butt one cork right up against the other – you don’t want to see any gaps.

When you get to the end of the row – you might find yourself with a gap.  Skip it for now (we’ll come back, I promise) and start the next row – over lapping where two corks meet below.  (If you’re anxious over the missing cork portion – I recommend you open another bottle of wine)

Rinse and Repeat, continuing to the top.

When you’re ready to fill in the gaps – take a cork and eyeball where you will need to cut it.  It needs to fit the size of the gap.  Corks are really easy to cut with a sharp knife.  Place the cork on a cutting board and position your knife.  Press the knife and roll the cork, (with your knife) cutting as you go.  This will make an even cut.  Now you can go back and and glue the smaller pieces to fill in the gaps.  I use the blank corks (with out writing) to fill in the gaps.

At the top of the wine tree, you have a choice.  You can either glue wine corks all the way to the top, but if you also drink Champagne, you can easily drill out the bottom of a Champagne cork to fit over the last bit of cone.

Make the Beaded Twisted Wire Garland.

Even a wine cork tree needs a little holiday bling. (Especially if it graces the Barker Ranch).  I saw a lovely beaded garland at my girlfriends charming shop – Mulberry Row – during her holiday open house.  It was so gorgeous I had to buy it.  It seemed perfect for the wine cork tree I made for the Barker Ranch.  But after being commissioned to make 3 more wine cork tree’s, I realized I had to make my own beaded garland.

Luckily, it’s a snap to make!

Measure a length of the wire by loosely wrapping it around and around your wine cork tree.  Bend the wire to mark your spot. Double the length and cut your wire.

Thread all your beads onto the wire.  Move one bead to the middle position.

Twist the wire around the bottom of the bead to secure it.

Move another bead about an 1 inch or 1 1/2 inches from the first bead.  Twist in the opposite direction that you twisted the first bead.  If you twist in the same direction, the first bead will untwist.  I found it easier to grip the bead and twist it around the wire.

Repeat until you have the wire completed beaded.

I left a long tail which I used to attach to the top of the cone form.  Then I hot glued the corks over it, to secure the wire in place.  After wrapping the beaded garland around the cork tree, I secured the other end by using a staple, pushing it into one of the corks on the end.

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Flourless Tutorial for rolling out Cookie Dough

Every year my girlfriend KP hosts THE best cookie exchange party!  It’s a wonderful event where a group of friends can catch up (sometimes from last year’s exchange party) and have a little bit of mommy/adult time (no kids allowed).  It really puts everyone in the Holiday spirit.  And of course, you come away with a variety of yummy cookies.  I think they were exceptionally great this year.  The past few years (with the exception of last) I’ve made gingerbread snowflake cookies.  Giant snowflakes decorated with white on white frosting and silver dragees and a dusting of sparkling sugar.  They are gorgeous and almost too pretty to eat.   The gingerbread dough recipe is a famous Martha Stewart recipe and it makes THE BEST gingerbread cookies!

This year, I felt it was time to change it up.  I broke out my prized copper reindeer and sleigh cookie cutters.  These over sized cutters make large cookies that make a bigger statement and are more fun to decorate.

But they are tricky to use since they have a solid back.  If the dough sticks to the cutter, you can’t use your finger to nudge the dough out.

I’m going to share with you my method of rolling out dough without dusting the surfaces with flour.  I’ve never seen anyone do it quite the way I’m going to describe (but I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m not the only one).

The first key tip is your dough should always be chilled before you cut it and before you bake it.  Otherwise it gets sticky and tricky to cut out.  And it gets puffy in the oven and doesn’t hold the shape.  No one likes a fat reindeer – they can’t fly and they certainly can’t pull Santa’s sleigh.

When I first make the dough, I separate the batch into halves or thirds.  This makes the whole process more manageable.  Each portion of dough is placed on a sheet of plastic wrap.  Flatten it out a little with your hands – then top with another piece of plastic wrap.  Now roll out the dough with your rolling pin – no flour needed!    You will need to frequently lift off the wrap and reposition.  Roll the dough out to a thickness of around ¼”.  I place the dough on one of those flexible plastic cutting boards and place it in a stead spot in your refrigerator.  This way the dough chills flat.  Chill for about 15 – 20 minutes.

Once the dough has chilled – peel off the top layer of wrap and save it for later.  Place a silpat liner upside down onto the dough (or the right side to the dough for you sewers) and flip.  Now your flexible cutting board is on top, remove that and remove the top layer of plastic.  You may need to give one last roll to smooth any wrinkles or imperfections in your dough.

Cut out your shapes, peeling away the negative space dough.  I pile that excess dough back onto the removed sheet of plastic wrap.  If you’ve done this quickly enough, your cookies can go straight into the oven, but if you’re like me and take your time or get distracted by other things, you may need to chill your dough again.

Take the remaining dough and gently knead it back together and repeat the steps above.   This method yields perfectly shaped cookies and is far less messy!

And guess what!  Martha Stewart agreed!  She asked her viewers to submit their cookies this year and out of hundreds, thousands of people – she chose to show mine on her Friday episode last Dec. 16!  Hearing her describe to her audience the “fine work by Nicki Simpson” made me feel like I won the lottery!  Thank you Martha!!

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