Friday, March 30, 2012

Diy Knotty Necklace


Every year, my entire family tries to match on Easter Sunday. Only two of us live in the same city--we are spread out all over the country--but I think we all feel a little closer knowing that we're wearing coordinating outfits. Those of us who are really into it usually start discussing Easter colors around Christmas or New Years, and everybody else just kind of goes along with it. It might sound dorky, but I look forward to matching on Easter every single year.

Last year, my little sister chose a color scheme of white, tan, and light blue. It immediately conjured up images of bow-ties, seersucker, and warm weather. I made my girls some cute flower accessories out of blue and white seersucker, and decided to make myself a knotted necklace out of the same fabric. It was a quick, easy craft, and the necklace is one of my favorites.

Materials:

  • 1 1/2 to 2 yards of fabric (cheap fabric is more than OK here because you aren't using much, but you have to buy a lot of it)
  • wooden beads (mine are 3/4")
  • 2 pieces ribbon, about 15" each (I used 3/8" grosgrain)

Lay your fabric out on a large work surface and smooth it out.  Cut a long strip, about 4 inches wide, down the entire length of the fabric.

You are basically making a really long, skinny tube. Fold the strip in half with the right sides together.  

Match up the edges, and sew all the way down the open side of the fabric using a 1/4" seam.

Now comes the boring part, so you might want to put on a movie or something! Turn the tube right-side-out.  A knitting needle or not-too-sharp pointy object will help. When the entire tube is turned, find the middle and tie a knot. Slide a bead into the tube, snuggle it up against the knot (snug, but not as tight as possible), and tie another knot on the other side of the bead.

Continue adding beads and tying knots on both sides of the necklace until it is almost as long as you want it and goes from collar bone to collar bone.  If you want the necklace to extend further up your neck, feel free to keep adding beads at this point.

Before adding the last bead on each side, push the ribbon through the bead.

Tie a very secure knot so the ribbon can't pull out.  The knot won't show at all, so go ahead and make it big and sturdy.  Trim the knotted end of the ribbon.

Push the bead into the fabric tube so that the knotted end of the ribbon is toward the center of the necklace and the long end of the ribbon is sticking out. Using the fabric and ribbon together, tie the last knot.

Carefully trim the excess fabric on each end without cutting the ribbon. I used my zig zag scissors (I know that's not what they're called, but I'll be danged if I can think of the proper name right now!)

When both sides are finished, use the ribbon to tie the necklace on. I tied a small knot at the loose end of each ribbon to make it look more finished.  You could also hem the loose ends, serge them, etc.

I used these instructions to make a flower out of the same fabric, and pinned it onto the necklace.

Voila! All done!
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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Taking Care of Business: A Call for Sponsors


First things first, I am NOT looking for sponsors for Lulu the Baker. We'll see if we ever get there. :) I'm looking for sponsors for Bliss Handmade, a semi-annual boutique shopping event I help organize that focuses on fabulous handmade items from local crafters and artists. Our 2012 Spring Boutique is coming up on Saturday, May 5th, and we are looking for sponsors to donate items for our prize table. In the past, we've had donations from both local and online shop owners, everything from store credit and gift certificates to handmade jewelry, artwork, and housewares.

For our Bliss Handmade 2012 Spring Boutique, we'd like to be able to give away a prize every half hour, a mixture of single prizes and 10 goodie bags full of fun little treats and trinkets. If you have an online shop full of adorable handmade items, or you write a great blog and would love to grow your readership, we've loved to add you to our list of sponsors! As a sponsor, you would

  • have your logo posted on the sidebar of our website beginning April 1st until our Holiday Boutique advertising starts in the Fall (about 6 months of advertising); the logo would be linked to your shop/blog;
  • have your logo placed on all of our printed advertising, posters, and fliers;
  • have your shop/blog name and logo on our prize display table at the 2012 Spring Boutique;
  • have a small spotlight on our website shortly before the event when we highlight our generous sponsors.
We also plan on giving one of our goodie bags away through our website. The give-away will be open to all US residents, which means lots of visibility for our sponsors and their products!

If you're interested in being a sponsor, you can find more details and information on our website, blisshandmade.com.  And you can email me at blisshandmade@gmail.com to get the ball rolling!

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Friday, March 23, 2012

Recipe Redux: Molasses Crinkles


Molasses Crinkles are my family's #1 favorite cookie. My mom made them often when I was growing up, and those of us who are in charge of our own households now make them throughout the year, and probably weekly during the holiday season. When an early-Spring snowstorm closed schools and offices in our town earlier this week, we jumped at the opportunity to make our favorite winter-weather cookie. The molasses and brown sugar make them mellow and sweet, and the combination of cinnamon, ginger, and cloves gives them a pleasant warmth without the harsh spiciness that so often plagues gingersnaps. Best of all, they are soft and chewy, and the perfect accompaniment to snowman-building and hot cocoa-drinking!


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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Baby Shower in a Box

Towards the end of the summer last year, our little boy arrived 11 days early. We spent the afternoon of the day before his birth at the dress rehearsal and group photo session of the folk festival our girls dance in every August, not wise to the fact that Baby Boy would be making his entrance into the world less than 24 hours later. My mom and sister had just flown home Monday morning after staying with us for a few days, and as we drove to the hospital in the wee hours of Tuesday, I called my mom and told her she needed to turn around and come straight back. She got to stay with us for nearly two magnificent weeks after James came. 

The afternoon before she left, a big, mysterious box was delivered to the house. She seemed to know something about it, so I assumed it was from her. When I opened it, the box was full of a dozen yellow- and navy-wrapped packages tied with grosgrain ribbons, and again, I assumed that my generous mother had showered me with dozens of baby gifts, and I was very touched. Then I picked up the first gift and read the little tag attached.  And I started crying. The gift wasn't from my mom (although her small mountain of gifts was further down in the box). It was a sweet message from my friend Ashley, who lived around the corner from us for just one year and moved away right before our second daughter was born almost 4 years ago. The next package was from Jill, who was my best friend all through high school and one of my bridesmaids when I got married almost 8 years ago. We lived down the street from each other until my oldest was 10 months, and now we are lucky if we get to see each other ever. Another package was from Sarah, who's children I babysat the night after I got engaged, and who I used to talk about books with. There were packages from friends and relatives, all living thousands of miles from me.  My sweet sister had organized the whole thing. She got the invitations printed and sent out, asking "guests" to send all of the presents to her by the end of July. She wrapped everything in coordinating paper and ribbon and stuffed the box full--all without ever mentioning a word to me!
It was one of the most fun, thoughtful gifts I've ever received. If you can ever do the same thing for someone you care about who is far from loved ones, do it!
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Monday, March 19, 2012

Berry Cobbler


I'm going to make a bold statement here: I think baked fruit desserts are my favorite! I might have a small dalliance now and then with chocolate cupcakes or brownies or lemon bars or ice cream, but it always comes back to cobblers and pies and buckles and tarts. In high school, when they made us stay on campus for lunch my senior year, I used to order the peach cobbler at least once a week (don't judge!).

This recipe is the latest in a long line of cobbler favorites. It starts with frozen berries piled in a baking dish and topped with a crumbly mixture of flour, sugar, and an egg.  Over the top of all this is drizzled lots and lots of melted butter, which produces a crackly, blistered crust. It would be an ideal ending to any summer meal, but is equally at home on these cold, drizzly early spring evenings.

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Friday, March 16, 2012

St. Patty's Day Punch


I love having bright green things to eat and drink on St. Patty's Day. But you can tell from the title of this post that I'm not talking about things that are naturally green or even remotely good for you. I generally try not to buy a lot of junk food, mostly because I know that if it's in the house, we'll eat it. I rarely buy Kool-Aid (even though I happen to think Tropical Punch Kool-Aid is one of the most delicious things ever), but if you can't drink junky green concoctions full of sugar and fake flavoring on St. Patty's Day, when can you?! St. Patty's Day Punch combines all kinds of different junky beverages: Kool-Aid, Pineapple Juice (let's not kid ourselves into thinking that it is good for you because it comes from nature!), and not one, but TWO kinds of soda! And I have to tell you, it is absolutely delicious! You just have to keep chanting, "It's just once a year," as you pour yourself a big, teeming glass!

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Celebrate Pi Day with Chocolate Cream Pie


Happy Pi Day everyone! What better way to celebrate 3.14 than with a good old-fashioned chocolate cream pie! I know french silk pies are super popular these days, with their fancy-pants chocolate cookie crusts and chocolate shavings on top, but I prefer a more classic chocolate pie.  Give me a buttery pastry crust, mountains of smooth, homemade chocolate pudding, and piles of fluffy whipped cream, and I'm a happy girl!

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Homemade Corned Beef

A few years ago, I decided to try corning my own brisket for a pre-St. Patty's Day dinner. I was skeptical that it would work and skeptical that it would taste good, but my fears were completely unfounded! The homemade corned beef and cabbage turned out fantastic--and we've since started a new tradition of having it for dinner on the Sunday nearest St. Patty's Day every year.  My husband was just saying yesterday that it is one of his favorite meals (he has Irish heritage, after all).

Making your own corned beef is reasonably easy to do, but because the beef has to dry-brine (yes, I made that term up) for almost a week, it requires some planning ahead.  I just did mine this morning.  If you'd like to try your hand at homemade corned beef, here's how!

Homemade Corned Beef
from the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, which has simple, easy recipes for EVERYTHING
Clearly, our butcher isn't going to win any spelling bees :)

3 1/2 to 4 1/2-pound brisket
1/2 cup kosher salt
1 Tablespoon cracked peppercorns (if you only have whole peppercorns, put them in a heavy-duty ziplock bag and smash them with a hammer or meat-pounding mallet!)
2 bay leaves, crumbled
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons allspice
1 Tablespoon dried thyme

In a small bowl, combine everything except the brisket. Set aside.

Take something sharp (I use a corn cob holder, but a skewer or really sharp fork would work too) and poke holes all over both sides of the brisket. Rub your salt mixer all over both sides of the meat.  Use all of it, cover every surface, and really work it in.

Place your brisket in a gallon-sized ziplock bag. If your brisket is too big to fit in one bag, cut it in half, make sure both cut surfaces get rubbed with some salt mixture, and put each piece in a separate bag. Get as much air out of the ziplock bag as possible and seal it.

Set the bag on a cookie sheet in your fridge, put another cookie sheet on top, and load it up with heavy cans to weigh it down.

Every day, unload the cans, take the top cookie sheet off, and flip your meat over. Replace everything and repeat the next day.

On St. Patty's Day, remove the now-corned beef from the bag, rinse it with water, and pat it dry with paper towels.  Put the corned beef, 3 whole bay leaves, 1 Tablespoon whole black peppercorns, and 1 Tablespoon mustard seeds in a large dutch oven.  Fill the pot with enough water that everything is covered plus an extra 1/2" of water, and bring to a simmer.  Cook for 2-3 hours, until a fork easily slides into the center of the meat. Heat the oven to 200°F. Transfer the meat to a large baking dish, cover with 1 cup cooking liquid, cover, and place in the oven to keep warm. Add 1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes and 1 1/2 pounds peeled, cut carrots (or baby carrots) to the dutch oven. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add 1 head of cabbage (washed and cut into 8 wedges). Simmer until all veggies are tender. Remove meat from oven, slice across the grain into 1/4" slices, and place on a large serving platter. Add cooked veggies to platter, and serve with grainy mustard.
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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

March Favorites (and Give-Away)

This month's favorites are all about St. Patty's Day, with greens, golds, and rainbows.

1. favorite easy way to avoid getting pinched on the big day:  DIY felt shamrock barrettes (or lapel pins) from Paper & Ink
Proving that, in the right hands, the words "elegant" and "understated" can actually be applied to St. Patty's Day accessories. {photo used with permission, from Paper & Ink}

2. favorite movies about leprechauns, rainbows, pots of gold, banshees, and all things Irish:  Finian's Rainbow, The Quiet Man, Laws of Attraction, Darby O'Gill and the Little People, and Leap Year (if you didn't already watch it on Leap Day last week!)
If there's one thing my family loves to build traditions around, it is food.  But if there are two things my family loves to build traditions around, they are food and movies. We just love watching the same movies at the same time of year, year after year after year. We basically have a movie for every holiday, even St. Patty's Day. My kids were addicted to Darby O'Gill and the Little People last year AND the year before, and I pretty much watch Laws of Attraction any time I stumble across it on TV and it is always hilarious. And if your menfolk want in on the holiday movie action, have them watch The Quiet Man, a funny (according to my husband) John Wayne classic. {photos from amazon.com}

3. favorite gold at the end of the rainbow: my very own tiny gold charms from max & ellie
I love making these sweet little gold charms. I think they're the perfect everyday accessory, and the perfect gift. And at only $8 a pop, they will score you major thoughtfulness points without breaking the bank.

4. favorite rainbow accessories: Neon Aztec Faux Leather Feather Earrings from Love Sexton
I don't usually wear huge, fabulous earrings, but when my little sis pinned these a few days ago, I couldn't resist buying a pair. They're pretty much gorgeous AND they're on sale with free shipping to boot. And yes, I asked my sister's permission first. She was very generous and allowed me to buy them even though she technically had dibs. Sisters are like that. {photo from Love Sexton on Etsy}

5. favorite office supply:  Martha Stewart Home Office with Avery Color-Coding Labels from Staples
Whew.  That name is a friggin' mouthful. But the labels are so cute; they come in a rainbow of colors and a sweet tear-drop shape. I have no plans whatsoever to label things in my office with them, but they'll look pretty darn cute on envelopes and packages. {photo from staples.com}


***
The give-away is now closed, and the winner is Leslie! Congrats Leslie, and thanks to everyone (all 18 of you) for entering.

And now for the give-away part: this month, I'm giving away a pack of the cute Martha Stewart rainbow labels pictured above and a tiny gold charm stamped with the letter (or design) of your choice. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this post. Don't forget to include your email address if it isn't easily found on your profile or blog. I'll draw a winner next Wednesday. Good Luck!!


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Monday, March 5, 2012

Momo's Rolls


My Mother-in-Law makes the best rolls ever. Whenever we have family get-togethers, sons, daughters, in-laws, grandkids, and guests all clamor for Momo's rolls, and sometimes don't each much of anything else because they just can't stop eating these soft, pillowy rolls, usually slathered in butter and blackberry jam. I think we would all eat Momo's rolls at every meal if we could.

Sadly, I think Momo has gotten tired of making them and they've become more of a special occasion thing than an everyday occurrence. Which has led me to create a new #1 family rule:  if Momo offers to make rolls for you, you never ever turn her down. Or I will give you the dirtiest look I can muster and mutter horrible things about you under my breath.  Just ask my husband's youngest brother, who made the mistake of turning down an offer of rolls for his birthday. I practically body slammed him (mentally, of course).

Momo's Rolls
This recipe yields a whopping 6 dozen rolls!  I usually cut it in half if I'm only making enough for my family, and we freeze the leftovers.


5 cups warm water, divided
1 packet Milkman powdered milk (enough to make 1 quart of milk)
4 Tablespoons yeast
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 1/3 cups butter, melted
4 teaspoons salt
4 eggs, beaten
16 cups flour

In a glass measuring cup, combine 1 cup of warm water with the yeast and a pinch of sugar. Allow to sit for 5 minutes. **Here's my fool-proof, never-fail way to proof yeast:  instead of letting the glass measuring cup sit on the counter while the yeast proofs, I set it in a small bowl of the hottest water I can get out of my tap. If the yeast seems sluggish, I just keep refilling the bowl with piping hot water until I can tell that the yeast is working its magic. This method has never let me down, but if I don't do it, I get bad results at least half the time!** While the yeast is proofing, combine the remaining 4 cups warm water with the powdered milk. Add yeast mixture, sugar, butter, salt, and eggs, and mix well. Blend in flour, a few cups at a time, until the dough is no longer sticky. **Here's my fool-proof, never-fail way to get the dough nice and light: when I check the stickiness of the dough, I don't shove my entire hand into the bowl or grab a big hunk of dough and see if it sticks to my fingers. Of course it will. Instead, I lightly and quickly tap one finger against the dough. If my finger comes away clean, I don't add any more flour.** Knead the dough for 10 minutes on a lightly floured surface, or just keep using your stand mixer! Lightly oil a large bowl, place dough in it, cover with a towel, and let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size. When the dough has risen, punch it down, knead it briefly, and divide it into two batches. On a floured surface, roll dough out to a 1"-thickness. Use a round cookie cutter, biscuit cutter, or cup to cut rolls (2 1/2-3 inches). Place rolls, lightly touching, on two buttered cookie sheets, cover with a towel, and let rise 30 more minutes. Bake at 350°F until golden.

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Friday, March 2, 2012

Nutella Scones for club: BAKED


This one is for all you Nutella fans out there:  Nutella Scones from Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. I made these expecting them to taste like giant brownies covered in Nutella, which certainly would have been delicious, but not necessarily appropriate for last week's Saturday morning breakfast for the family. Instead, they were light, flaky, not-too-sweet chocolate scones with a layer of Nutella nestled inside and more Nutella drizzled on top, the perfect partner to a huge glass of ice-cold milk. Like everything else I've made from this fantastic cookbook, they were insanely good.

You can find the recipe, along with some helpful step-by-step photos, at PhDcupcaker, and you can see other club: BAKER member's scones here.

**A quick note:  The recipe calls for hazelnuts, which I left out. I just didn't think they'd go over that well with the kids. Or the husband.



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