Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Sweet Homemade Cupcake Toppers

After baking cupcakes the other day, I was looking for something fun to use as a cupcake topper. I didn't have anything ready-made, so I grabbed some twist ties (the kind you'd get in the bulk or produce section at a supermarket), yarn, and a pair of pliers and got to work making my own. Here's how I did it:
First, gather your supplies and use your scissors to cut the excess paper of the twist tie. Like you see in the photos above, you should be left with just a wire coated in paper. Next, use your pliers twist it into a shape you like. With Valentines Day coming up, I created one that spelled 'love,' and another that was in the shape of a heart, as you can see below.

Then, simply wrap it with yarn (using glue if necessary to secure the ends), bend a second twist tie around it to use as the stake, and insert it into your favorite cupcakes!

These are so quick and easy to make - mine only took about 5 minutes each to create. They're a fun and simple way to dress up a dessert for someone you love - or could be sweet surprise tucked in a stack of pancakes for a child's Valentine Day breakfast! 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Lemon Poppyseed Muffins

I woke up the other day with the biggest craving for these lemon poppyseed muffins. It was cold and grey out, and all I wanted was to sit down with a hot cup of coffee and a warm, sugary treat - and the scent of lemons always just brighten up the morning for me, especially in the winter.

These muffins are sweet and simple, and come together quickly - great for last minute cravings.

Lemon Poppyseed Muffins
For the batter:
*2/3 cup sugar
*1 lemon (zest and juice)
*2 cups all purpose flour
*1/2 tsp baking soda
*11/2 tsp baking powder
*1/2 tsp salt
*3/4 cup sour cream
*2 eggs
*1 tsp vanilla
*1/2 cup unsalted butter
*2 1/2 TB poppy seeds

For the glaze:
*juice of 1 lemon
*1 cup confectioners sugar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a muffin tin with 12 paper liners. Melt the butter and let it cool.

Combine the sugar and lemon zest in a medium bowl. Rub the zest into the sugar with your fingers or the back of a spoon until the sugar is damp. Then add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and whisk until combined. In another bowl, whisk together the sour cream, eggs, vanilla, lemon juice, and melted, cooled butter. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and mix until just barely combined. Add the poppy seeds, and stir briefly (it's okay if there are still a few lumps in the batter - they'll bake out. But if you overstir, your muffins could turn out tougher than you'd like).

Divide the batter evenly into the 12 muffin cups. Bake for about 20 minutes, until golden brown. While the muffins are baking, whisk together the lemon juice and confectioners sugar for the glaze. Add up to a tablespoon of water into the mix, if needed, to make sure the glaze is thick but easily able to be poured. When the muffins come out of the oven and are still warm, use a pastry brush to brush the glaze over each muffin. 

Enjoy, and let me know in the comments if you try this recipe out!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Beat the Winter Blues Treasury

Now that the holidays are all officially over and everything has settled back down to normal, we're left with just... winter. Its definitely been a colder-than-usual winter out here in California, and I have been on the lookout for ways to beat the winter blues!

I always find that it's little things that do the best job of cheering me up. Here a few of my ideas - all around $20 or less, so they won't make a huge impact on your wallet. Hopefully, though, they'll help you shake those blues!

Tiffany Blue Chevron Infinity Scarf

Robins Egg Blue-Teal-Turquoise Mug

Aqua Tissue Paper Pom Pom

Graphic Art Print 

Snow Day Body Cream 

WINTER SALE Wild Blueberry Tea

Arrested Development Eye Chart

1 handmade cotton linen pillowcase

As you can tell, I am in love with making these etsy treasuries... I'm not affiliated with etsy or with any of these sellers,  but I do love curating these lists! To see more treasuries or make your own, go here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Embroidered Constellations

I have always loved learning how to identify constellations and finding out the stories behind them. I had a minor in Ancient Studies in college, and all the old myths have always just really resonated with me... especially when I can look up and see the same groups of stars that the stories were centered around. There's always been something magical about it to me.

My husband also shares this love of constellations, to the extent that when we were getting married, we designed our own constellation wedding rings and had them produced by a seller on etsy.com (Christine Bossler, who was wonderful - I'd highly recommend her). The rings are difficult to photograph because the silver is so reflective, but my ring has Ursa Minor drilled into it, and my husband Russ' ring has Ursa Major.

Recently, we were looking for something new to hang on the wall beside our bed. It had to be something light (because of the risk of earthquakes), so anything framed was out, and we didn't want to go for the dorm-room poster look. In the end, I remembered that I had several old canvases that we could use, and decided to embroider them with different constellations that have significance to us. I decided to start with Ursa minor, and this is what I came up with:

I like that the end result is subtle, and I'm going to make a few more to hang, gallery style, on the wall beside our bed. If you would like to make one, they're super easy to do, and all you will need is a canvas, paint and embroidery floss in colors that you like, a permanent marker, and a needle.

First, paint the canvas (I used one that was 8"x10") with navy blue acrylic paint, and while that paint is still wet, add a dollop of pearl acrylic paint in cornflower blue (find the kind I used here). Use a clean paintbrush to blend it in with the navy. This helps to add some depth and dimension to the color, instead of it being a flat blue. Make sure that you also paint the sides of the canvas for a finished look. Let the paint dry overnight.

Once you are sure that your paint is dry, turn your canvas over. Use your marker to sketch out a mirror image of the constellation that you'd like to use. Make a dot where each star will be on your finished piece, as in the photo below. 

Get your needle and embroidery floss. Thread the needle and tie a knot in your thread, and then embroider french knots where you marked the main stars in your constellation. If you're not sure how to make a french knot, check out this video, which will show you how.

Once your constellation is embroidered, tie a knot in the embroidery floss and cut it. Divide a new piece of embroidery floss in half (so that you have two strands of floss, each with three threads). Thread one of these strands on your needle and make small, random stitches around the canvas to represent other stars in the night sky. Continue making small stitches until you are satisfied with how your piece looks, and you're done!
I hope you are having a wonderful day - and enjoy making your own embroidered constellation canvases!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Oatmeal Breakfast Bars

My husband recently started a new shift at work that requires him to leave the house at 5am a few times a week. While he doesn't mind getting up early, in his rush to get out the door, he'll often skip breakfast on these days - which totally throws his day. We typically have muffins or scones around the house, but those aren't exactly a full breakfast...so I started brainstorming something to make that would be quick, filling, and nutritious. These breakfast bars fit the bill, and are easy for him to grab on his way out the door!

The oatmeal base means that these are filling and give you a good amount of fiber. And the add-ins mean that you can jazz them up any way you'd like - they can be made with super-healthy dried fruits, nuts, and seeds, or you can add in chocolate chips or substitute jam for the honey if you want a sweeter or more fruity-flavored twist. This is a recipe that definitely invites experimentation!

Dense, chewy, and packed with flavor
Oatmeal Breakfast Bars
*2 cups cooked oatmeal, cooled
*1 TB unsalted butter, melted
*1 egg, beaten
*2 TB all purpose flour
*1/2 tsp vanilla
*1/2 tsp cinnamon
*1/2 tsp salt
*1/4 cup honey
*optional add - ins; I added sunflower seeds, slivered almonds, sesame seeds, and raisins

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and prepare an 8"x8" square cake pan by either buttering it or lining it with parchment paper.

Mix oatmeal, melted butter, and egg together in a medium bowl. Stir in flour, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, and honey until combined. Add any add-ins that you like - any kind of nut, seed, or dried fruit would work well, so play around with it!

Bake for about 55 minutes (I know, doesn't that seem like forever? This is how long it took in my oven, but as soon as they are firm and slightly browned, they are ready to go). Let cool and cut into bars.

Makes about 8 bars.
Grab one on your way out the door!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Hand-stitched Felt Baby Shoes

One of my closest friends recently announced that she is expecting a baby this summer. She's the first of my friends who live locally to be pregnant, and I am so very excited and happy for her! Since I found out, it feels like I am seeing baby-related crafts everywhere on Pinterest and on other blogs I follow, and finally I couldn't resist trying my hand at making something for this newest little one. 

Then I found these wonderful, hand-stitched felt shoes on the Purl Bee (find the tutorial and free pattern here,  on the Purl Bee Blog). They are sweet, simple, and stitch up quickly - and they'd be easy to modify in dozens of different ways: add additional embroidery, add a felt applique, lace them up with faux mini-shoelaces. 

If you're a parent, what gifts were the most helpful to you when your children were young? 

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