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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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Curb Collected Vintage Patio Bistro Set

Oh I love me some curb collecting…. and they leave out the best stuff in my hood. They know the curb fairies soon will come by and magically remove it from the curb. It’s a little embarrassing…. oh hell, no, it’s not. I’ve curb collected some really great stuff. This adorable vintage patio bistro set for example! And no, it didn’t look like this to begin with…. (Sorry, no before picture). Its paint was chipped and worn, and the table top was missing the glass.
I’ve always wanted a little vintage set like this and it’s the perfect size for my little yard. I had it sandblasted and powder coated a new clean white. The seats were recovered with a trendy black and white outdoor fabric in a coral print.
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Here are the steps involved- pretty standard chair covering techniques.

Step 1
Remove the old fabric – always an adventure, you never know what you’ll find. This time the boards were a little musty and had to be replaced. I got some outdoor resistant plywood and traced the old boards onto them. Then I cut them out and sanded them down. You’ll thank me later when you place the boards back on the chair and mark where the screw holes go. I used a small bit and I pre-drilled the holes to make mounting the screws easier. It’s a good idea to mark where the back or the front goes.
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Step 2
Use the new boards to trace the pattern on new foam for the seat cushions. This is where investing (and by investing I mean dig through the kitchen stuff at your favorite thrift store) in an electric knife is going to make this job a cinch. (Your mom might have one in her drawer that she doesn’t use anymore….) Cut out the foam with your handy dandy new electric knife (this is fun).

Step 3
Layer the board, the foam, a thin sheet of quilting batting and lastly your fabric. Staple the fabric to the board in standard upholstery method. Pick one side, staple, then immediately staple across at the other side, pulling the fabric taunt. (Think North, then South) Be sure to keep the holes that you pre-drilled clear or you’ll be cussing later. Next staple East then West, again pulling the fabric taunt. Start filling in between, again stapling across from one another. Fold gathers into the fabric to make it look neat.
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Step 4
Trim away the fabric from your staple job. You can add a circle of fabric to cover up your staple job (glue it on if you must) but I live under the assumptions that people aren’t picking up my chairs and looking underneath them. That being said, the chair backs were viewable from the back, so I traced the chair back board directly onto a piece of the same fabric. Then I trimmed it about 1/2 smaller and glued it on the back to cover the board.

Step 5
Screw the pieces back onto your chair frames, brew yourself a fabulous latte and enjoy al fresco Dining at its best!

Mermaid Costume

Every year I make Thing 2’s Halloween costume… except the one year she wanted to buy a princess costume but when someone else showed up in the same outfit, we went back to making our own. She has been a dead cheerleader, a rock n roller, a pirate and a zombie girl. This year… she wanted to be a mermaid… (technically it’s her fourth time as a mermaid) The first mermaid costume was worn until it was literally in shreds. So since we’ve done this a few times, I printed off some images of mermaid costumes to use as inspiration to see what direction she wanted to go.  Now someone else has already done a bang up job explaining how they did it (Ms. Mod Mischief) so the full credit and instructions are here. I did mine differently but you use what you got and that’s what I did.  The concept and basic construction is the same.
Here’s Things 2 costume – which was completed down to the wire.  She was involved in making all the various parts and it turned out (if I don’t say so myself) pretty darn good. I think she’s the cutest mermaid caught by a Pirate/Fisherman I ever did see!
We attended the PALLOWEEN Halloween event at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica. Dr. Malibu said it was evident she was going to win.  Thing 2 was stopped every few steps by people gushing over her costume.  And she did win– 1st prize for her age division, but she won my heart a long time ago!
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Peacock Feather Earrings Tutorial

Peacock Feathers are a popular trend right now in fashion and design.  When Craig Olsen decorated my swanky new living room and dining room they added fabulous accessories embellished with peacock feathers… and seeded my love for these pretty little feathers.  I found a peacock feather mask at a garage sale – and for only one dollar – it’s a great value on future craft supplies.  Flash forward a few weeks later when I was introduced to guitar goddess Ariel.  While admiring her gorgeous feather earrings,  I immediately knew what my next craft project would be!   Peacock Feather Earrings!  The perfect fashion forward accessory for the girl who loves a little funk in her fashion.

I found a ton of tutorials for making Peacock or feather earrings, and I combined a few techniques to settle on a method that was easy and suited my vision.

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First trim your feathers.  Just pull off a few of extra feathers from the left and right sides.  You need to expose the shaft of the feather in order to get a good surface to work with.  You might have to trim the shaft of the feather depending on its thickness.   Both the feather shaft and the jeweler wire need to be able to feed through your bead together.   Trim the feather shaft on the back carefully with a pair of scissors.

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Trim the length of the feather shaft so that it doesn’t protrude through the top of the bead once you feed it through. You also need to test that both the shaft and wire will fit through your bead. Once you have applied the glue, there’s no going back. Apply the glue to the trimmed feather shaft and insert it into your bead – following quickly with your beading wire. The beading wire needs to extend about a 1/2″ to allow room to wrap the wire.
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Bend up the wire as shown, then tightly wrap it around the feather shaft. The wire and the glue will ensure that your feathers will withstand any headbanging you might engage in.  Now thread your crystal bead.

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Using a pair of small needle nose jewelry pliers – grab the wire at the top of the bead – bend over to one side – wind the wire around the closed jewelry pliers to create a loop.  Use the jewelry pliers to grab the loop you just created and tightly wind the wire around the space between the loop and the crystal bead.  Trim the wire and use the pliers to round out any part that is sticking out.
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You are now ready to add your jump ring and earring hook and wear these pretties to your next rock n roll concert!