Tag Archive for How-To

Name That Glass

Even before I treated myself to a digital cutter, I knew I wanted to try glass etching. I’d heard it was really easy and I knew what I wanted to try as my first attempt.

My husband and I belonged to a Bible study where each couple in the group took turns bringing either an entree, side dish, dessert, or soft drinks.

Every Wednesday, as we threw away paper plates and plastic cups, my stomach turned. I hated seeing all that trash week after week, so I proposed we buy reusable dinnerware. I offered to take up a collection and do the shopping myself.

I found a set of glasses for about $1 each. Problem is…in a group, you set down your Coca-Cola, walk away to get seconds, and then can’t remember whose glass is whose.

So, I used my SIL’s cutter (since I hadn’t purchased my beloved Silhouette Cameo yet) to make a personalized stencil for each glass, one per group member.

I finished off the edges with masking tape to prevent any leakage from the etching cream.

I pressed firmly to make sure there were no bubbles in the stencils.

Then I gooped over each one with a nice, thick layer of glass etching cream and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. That’s it!

Then, I rinsed off the cream, peeled off the stencils, and TA DA! Instant personalized glasses!

The group LOVED these and it made it so easy to keep track of our drinks!

Since then, I’ve done many more glass etching projects: mustache drinking glasses, a monogrammed 9×13 baking dish, picture frames, candy jars, flower vases, beer mugs, etc.

These may be simple projects, but their uniqueness makes a huge statement! Etched glass is perfect for weddings, showers, parties, and one-of-a-kind gifts.

How about you? Want anything etched? Tell me your vision and I can make it happen!

#106: Dessert Cups

In September 2009, I started a cupcake adventure. (At this rate, I may never finish! And, I’m not sure I even want to, so, ha!) If you haven’t read about it yet, you can do so here.

***

Need a simple way to make a dessert that doesn’t require many ingredients? You’ve come to the right post!

Ingredients:

  1. Candy Melts by Wilton or Make’n Mold wafers or other baking chocolate (regular chips in chocolate, white chocolate, mint, etc. work fine, too.)
  2. Cupcake papers (save your cute ones for another project…this is a good chance to use up those out-of-season or mismatched ones!)
  3. Fruit or other “filling.” I chose to use thawed, frozen strawberries from my grandparents’ farm. Yummy!

You start by melting the wafers in a microwave or double boiler.

You then use a pastry brush to get a dip of chocolate…

And “paint” a layer of chocolate all over a cupcake paper like so:

Here’s what a single layer looks like. You can tell by the transparency of the chocolate in the bottom that it’s important to do several coats! At least with candy melts. I’m not sure you’d have the same problem with chocolate chips or other baking chocolates.

I did a total of three coats and had some issues getting a smooth coating. The first coat was a little tricky to get on, and after that, subsequent coats of warm chocolate kept melting the previous coats.

So…they looked a little globby, but since they were going to be covered up, it wasn’t a problem! :) I refrigerated them for 15-20 minutes to make sure the chocolate was nice and set.

Once the chocolate had cooled and hardened, next came the really fun part! Peeling off the paper! The three coats made them nice and sturdy, but I still worked carefully to remove the wrappers.

Here they are peeled and ready to be filled!

I drained my strawberries and placed a scoop in each cup. I wish I had had more berries to go around and some whipped cream to top them off!

The original recipe suggested drizzling the fruit with raspberry sauce, but I just sprinkled each one with a pinch of sugar instead.

Darling!

Since making these, I’ve thought of so many fun ways they could be used! Mini ice cream bowls, “baskets” for Easter treats, pudding cups, yogurt parfaits.

You could even use them as mini serving bowls to hold nuts, mints, sprinkles, garnishes, and other small party foods.

And since Candy Melts come in so many colors, you could even make these bowls in pink or blue for a baby shower or in a bride’s wedding colors.

The best part? No dishes to wash…just serve and eat!

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Easy Charms: A How-To

I needed a Christmas gift idea for my 9-year-old step-daughter. Even though she is easy to please, it can be hard to come up with original ideas for her (are tweens just generally hard to buy for, or what?!)

After rummaging through my scrapbook paper and crafting supplies, I decided to make her a set of one-of-a kind charms. They were SO easy and fast to make. I’ve included step-by-step instructions so you can make a set for someone special…or yourself {you ARE someone special, after all!}

I thought I would use basic acrylic tiles, but then I found these amazing charms by Tim Holtz. I bought mine at Hobby Lobby for $9.99 (less 40% thanks to their online coupon!). I already had the paisley paper and the two other necessary supplies…

…Mod Podge:

…and jewelry jump rings:

I chose which tiles I wanted to use for Jo’s gift and traced around them on the scrapbook paper, choosing various designs from within the pattern. I then used a scissors to cut out the swatches.

Each tile got a thin coat of Mod Podge.

And the corresponding paper swatch was attached to the back of the tile.

Repeat for all tiles.

Here’s how they look from the front. So cute, huh?!

Next, I used a bookmaking awl (a large needle would also work) to punch holes in the top of each of the charms.

I recommend punching from the back through to the front. This way, the ‘ragged’ edge around the resulting hole ends up inside the hole of the tile, giving each charm a clean look.

Next, grab a jump ring and place it over the jaws of a needle-nosed pliers. Gently open the jaws to stretch the ring open.

Thread the opened ring through the hole you punched in the last step and use the pliers to squeeze the jump-ring back shut.

Viola!

Now they are ready to go on a chain!

Here’s the set…different shapes, different sizes, all corresponding and ready to be mixed and matched.

A bought a set of ball chains and they were the perfect finishing touch for these tiles.

I had so much fun making these…good thing that package of charms has 48 pieces! Our girl may be getting another set for her birthday! :)

You could make these for any holiday or occasion. They could be jewelry or key chains or wine glass markers or tags for your kids’ stuffed puppies….the possibilities are endless!

Have some fun with these! I’d love to hear what you create!

–Abbi

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Mum’s the Word

If you want to make some impressive-looking cookies without slaving away in the kitchen all day, here’s an idea for you!

First, you’ll need the cookies themselves. Cut your cookie dough using either a circle-shaped or flower-shaped cutter and bake according to the directions.

Next, grab a bag of miniature marshmallows and some colored sugar. Place the sugar (I used orange, yellow, and hot pink) in shallow bowls. Grab a scissors and cut each mini marshmallow diagonally, allowing the cut side to land in the bowl of sugar.

The sticky side that is exposed from the cutting will get covered in sugar (though you may have to dab each one in the sugar a little bit to make sure they get as covered as possible.

Each marshmallow half becomes a ‘petal’ and how many you need will depend on the size of your cookies.

Next, frost your cookies one at a time. I used royal icing for these particular ones and did the outline/flooding method.

Once you have a cookie covered in icing, start sticking on the marshmallow petals. I like to begin around the outside edge and work my way towards the middle, but you might find a different method you like better. Feel free to experiment! This is supposed to be fun! :)

Repeat the process, one cookie at a time, until your batch is complete. Arrange on a pretty platter and prepare to awe your friends!

Another idea for decorating cookies, is to use nuts. I had some extra sugar cookies, but no more marshmallows, so I scoured my cupboards to see what I could find. The result: slivered almonds and candy-coated sunflower seeds (from a local bulk candy shop).

For these cookies, I covered the tops in a dark chocolate ganache instead of icing. I then placed the almond “petals” around the outer edge and filled in the center space with the seeds.

Decorating cookies couldn’t be easier! People will tell you how beautiful they are and you will know how simple they really are to put together! ;)

Practice = Perfect

Though I love to decorate cakes, I can admit that there are a few things I still need to practice. The following cake (made for Easter) reminded me that I still have plenty to learn. Well, not so much “learn” as just improve!

Writing is one. It’s difficult to figure out how much space you’ll need to pen your message on a cake. Sometimes the icing consistency throws you for a loop. Sometimes you just work too fast and things get sloppy. I’ve run into all of these obstacles. Another big area where I’d like to continue to improve? “Fonts”…meaning: I can print on a cake and I can do your run-of-the-mill cursive, but that’s about it. I’d like to spend more time perfecting some other typestyles.

Looking at this photo now (two years after I made this cake), I wish I’d spent more time smoothing the icing. It’s not bad, but there’s still room for improvement.

I’d also seen this cool diagonal design in a magazine and wanted to try it. However, in my excitement, I didn’t plan it out as well as I could have, and the bottom row of diamonds ended up getting a little wonky. If I had done my due diligence, I would’ve used toothpicks to space out the markings evenly.

But as they say, “live and learn.” I think it’s important for all artists to document their work and reassess their growth from time to time. We can learn so much by looking back.

Surely all of us at least have a photo that makes us wonder WHAT we were thinking in choosing a particular hairstyle. :)

How about you? Do you have old photos that teach you lessons about life?

Day 21 AEDM: Sew Organized

Today I went over to my MIL’s house to cut some fabric. She has a rotary cutter and I don’t…sometimes scissors just won’t do. However, as we headed upstairs to her sewing room, she gave me the disclaimer: “You really shouldn’t even see what a mess this room is.” That set off a bell inside of me!

For those of you that don’t know me, I LOVE LOVE LOVE to organize. I’ve always enjoyed it. Even as a kid, I would help my friends clean their rooms so they wouldn’t get grounded!

There’s something really satisfying about organizing someone else’s space. Perhaps it’s because once it’s done I don’t have to be the one that keeps it that way. :)

In all fairness, my MIL has help when it comes to creating this chaos…7 kids and 8 (soon to be 9) grandkids create, play, and run around up here during family get-togethers.

So, my AEDM project for today is the “after” photos of my MILs sewing/craft room. I didn’t take any “before” photos, but even if I had, she may not have wanted me to put them on the internet for all to see. HA!

photo1

Luckily, she had clear plastic boxes with lids. I boxed up like items (ribbons, sewing notions, etc) and pushed the chairs under the table where they belong.

photo2

There was a plastic box only about 1/3 full of empty photo frames and a box of fabric that was overflowing. So I swapped the contents of the two.

photo3

All the fabric scraps that had been tossed near the sewing table got folded, sorted by how much remained, and boxed up accordingly.

It was really fun to be able to do this for my MIL. I know once she gets some time to sew again, she’ll have plenty of organized space to do it in.

Love you, Mama Meadows!

Day 20 AEDM: Pomegranate 101

About 7 years ago, I was in Atlanta visiting one of my college besties. While we were making a quick pit-stop at Publix, I saw some POM juice. I like to try new things, so my buddy and I each got a bottle. Since then I have L-O-V-E-D pomegranate anything.

1pom

It’s funny how a fruit that’s existed for centuries (it’s mentioned dozens of times in the Old Testament of the Bible) is suddenly the “newest” rage.

Surprisingly though, I had never ventured far enough into the fad to mess with a fresh one. I’d even read recipes that sounded amazing but avoided making them because they called for fresh pomegranate seeds and I just assumed it would be too much hassle.

You know what happens when you assume, right?

Although some days my AEDM “creativity” has been something incredibly simple that hasn’t seemed to amount to much, the challenge has given me a new perspective.

WHY on EARTH am I waiting for some magical moment where all the stars will align and the timing will suddenly be perfect for trying new things?!

SEIZE THE DAY!

12pods

So, I went to the store and bought a fresh pomegranate. I didn’t know if I would get to it the same day I bought it, but I was SURE I was going to do it for one day of AEDM.

Today was that day. And, I have to say: it was the most fun I’ve had in the kitchen in a long time.

I felt as if I were seeing with fresh eyes. With a childlike perspective. As if I were glimpsing a teeny bit of the great Creator’s awesome imagination. Seriously, my first pomegranate experience was completely transcendent.

If you’re ready to try it for yourself, here are some simple steps. If you’re like me, sometimes just having some fool-proof directions gives you the kick in the duff you need to get over the fear of the unexpected.

Step 1: Cut off the flowery top of the fruit:

2cuttop

Step 2: Section the fruit into a few pieces.

3cutsections

Step 3: Submerge each section in a bowl full of water:

4submerge

Step 4: Gently use your fingers to separate the pith from the juicy seeds:

5breakup

((I liked this step a LOT…reminded me of the childhood summers I spent shucking corn on my grandparents’ farm in Nebraska)) :)

As you can see in the photo, the pith is light enough to float to the top of the water, while the dense seeds sink to the bottom of the bowl! Awesome.

6pith

Look at those yummy rubies! Mmm. I can taste their tartness now!

7rubies

Step 5: Use a strainer to skim the pith off the top of the water.

8skim

All the seeds will be at the bottom of the bowl at this point.

10seeds

Step 6: Use the strainer to drain the seeds. Rinse, if desired.

11drain

Step 7: Throw a pinch of those sassy seeds in your mouth and enjoy the flavor rush! :)

13eat

Afterward, my kitchen looked like a scene from the board game “Clue”: Artist Abbi. In the kitchen. With a pomegranate.

9pomjuice

This was fun. It was simple. It was outside my “normal” definition of art, yet it felt intensely creative.

And as soon as the pears in my kitchen ripen, I’m making one of those recipes that called for pomegranate seeds!

Three Against the Wilderness

spine2

Back when I was in college, I bought this book at a thrift store in Savannah, GA:

3atw

At first, I was drawn to the retro illustrations and the analogous color scheme.

backcover

insides

Equally as amazing as the dust cover illustrations were the illustrations that had been stamped (or done on a letterpress, perhaps) into the hard cover.

spine

And though I have no idea who Walter B. Stillwell, Jr. is, it still felt like this book was a hand-me-down from him to me.

walter

I bought this book thinking I would make a ‘safe’ out of it. Do you know what I am talking about? In movies, they always show someone removing a special book from the shelf and when they open the cover, it’s not a book at all, but instead has a hole cut out from the middle that houses super-secret stuff like keys and money and jewels. :)

Needless to say, I bought the book 7 years ago and have never made it into a safe. But in the past year, I’ve seen several old books-turned-journals, and for me, “creatively making something from nothing” is one of my threads, as my good friend Mandy calls them.

So why not rip apart this old book and try making it into something new? It certainly doesn’t have much purpose currently, seeing as how it’s just been sitting in a box, waiting to be given new life! Best-case scenario: I’d have a cool new journal. Worst-case scenario: my experiment wouldn’t work and I’d ruin a book I had totally forgotten I’d even owned. So…let the experimenting begin!

First, I began by gently stripping the book block from the cover and removing as much of the liner paper as possible.

breakspine

covertorn

Then, I cut the printer paper that would become the new book block. As you can see from my scrap pile, there were LOTS of pages! 18 sections of 5 sheets apiece, to be exact! Each page folded and cut by hand (whew!)

cuts

Once the pages were folded and cut, I pierced the sewing stations.

holes

Next came the sewing.

sewn2

This is probably the thickest book block I have ever made, with the exception of my flocked Buttonhole Book! But that one had smaller pages (4.25 x 5.5), so it didn’t seem as BIG.

sewn

Once the sewing was complete, I chose paste papers that would complement the cover well and glued them to the book block using acid-free PVA glue (the same glue I use for all my projects–it’s the best!)

pastes

Remember this?

cover2

Next, I glued the loose sides of the paste papers to the existing book cover. Ta da!

glued

All done! Here’s the top view of the spine. I just love this photo!

bound

topview

Complete with dust cover:

dustcover

Without dust cover:

sideview

Ready for journaling!

done

I’m really excited about how easily this project went together. Sure, it took some time to cut and sew all those sections, but that was the only ‘hard’ part.

I’ve already got another book in the queue for re-purposing. My friend Alison found a book called “The Adventure of Being a Wife” at an estate sale, and I think that will make for a brilliant journal cover! :)

If you have any hard-cover books you’d like me to turn into journals, email me and we can talk specifics.

Pretty Princess: A How-To

I love making cakes for kids’ parties and my fiancé Andrew’s nieces and nephews especially love my creations. Niece Lily recently turned 4, and she requested that I make a pink princess cake for her party.

Here are the step-by-step directions for making a princess cake. I realize you may read some of the steps and think, “Well, duh. Thanks for insulting my intelligence”, but I always try to give VERY SIMPLE directions for those who may be totally in the dark in terms of making cakes. That also explains the length of this post!

STEP ONE
Choose a oven-safe metal or glass bowl to use as your cake ‘pan’ (bowls make the perfect “ball gown” shape). Prepare the bowl by coating it with a thin layer of shortening and then dusting it with flour. Or, use Wilton’s special stuff called “Cake Release”, which is what I use to cut down on prep time and hassle. Place your bowl on a cookie sheet.

STEP TWO
Mix up your cake batter! Yummy!

STEP THREE
Pour batter into prepared bowl and place into the oven, making sure that it is nearly centered in your oven. This helps ensure even baking.

For baking time, begin with the recipe directions, adding time as needed until a toothpick (or in this case, I used a long kabob skewer) inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. I found that my cake required nearly double the time the recipe called for, but you want to keep your eye on it so it doesn’t burn!

STEP FOUR
While your cake is in the oven, wash your mixer and whip up a batch of buttercream icing. Because I would be piping details, I started with a batch of “medium” consistency icing, divided out what I would need to tint, and then used the remainder to make “thin” consistency icing for covering the cake.

STEP FIVE
Add color to your divided icings. Wilton brand pigments are great because the colors are very accurate and easy to blend.

Use a toothpick to extract pigment out of the tub (ALWAYS use a NEW toothpick or you will contaminate your pigment tubs!) Start with a small amount and drag the toothpick through your icing.

Mix in the color using a spatula, adding more pigment (with a NEW toothpick), if necessary. Ta da! Pink icing!

STEP SIX
Once the cake has been removed from the oven, let it cool slightly. It will likely have a bump or a crown from where the batter expanded while it cooked.

This will need to be shaved off so the cake will sit evenly. You may need to remove the cake from the pan to be able to trim it. Gently dump the cake out by placing a plate over the opening of the bowl and turning over. After you have shaved off the bump, set the cake on a cooling rack and let cool completely.

STEP SEVEN
Once cake has cooled, center it on a prepared cake board.

Now you are ready to decorate!

STEP EIGHT
I like to sketch out how I want my cake to look. That helps me know which piping tips I will need, as well as which color icing to use.

STEP NINE
Coat your cake with the ‘base coat’ layer of icing and prepare your piping bags with the correct tips and icing colors you will need.

STEP TEN
Begin bringing your sketch to life by piping the correct colors in the correct places.

STEP ELEVEN
Wilton makes a “teen doll pick” for cakes, but you can also use a regular Barbie with its legs removed. Whatever you choose, insert the doll into the cake.

(Hey, this is a family-friendly site, after all!)

STEP TWELVE
Pipe the “bodice” of the doll’s dress.

STEP THIRTEEN
Finish off the dress by piping a “hem” around the bottom of the cake. This give everything a nice, finished look.

STEP FOURTEEN
Now your cake is complete and you are ready to show it off!

Time to celebrate!

Note: As I carried the cake into the party, nephew Will asked, “Is that Lily’s princess cake?” When I said that it was, he responded (with a sly twinkle in his eye), “I’m gonna eat her head off!” What a boy thing to say, huh? :) So…we let him have a bite to prove that Princess’s head was plastic, not cake.

So, there you have it. The steps to turn a plain ol’ mixing bowl into a whimsical Princess cake! (This same technique can be used for other occasions requiring a dome shaped cake…an “Over the Hill” party, for instance.) Enjoy!