Living in Pinteresting Times

Letting the internet inspire creativity, and the results that come from it

DIY Halloween October 31, 2012

Filed under: Celebrations,Crafts,Halloween — MKCoehoorn @ 8:27 pm
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Yes I am that mom.  I do the fancy birthday cakes for my kids, not to show up every other mom out there, but because I’m too cheap to buy one from the store.

I also make my kids Halloween costumes.  Yes, I do use patterns when necessary, but sometimes the kids have requests that don’t have easy to follow patterns, and then I get really creative.  These are the challenges I like.

This year presented two challenges.

Challenge #1: Rapunzel’s braid

So the pattern I used for the dress also came with instructions for the hair.  But those instructions were written for a kid with a normal sized head.  My daughter, well, at 9 months she measured 50% by length, 60% by mass, and 98% by head size.  At 7 years old she is more proportionate than she was as an infant, but her head is still larger than average, which meant the pattern’s instructions were not going to work.  So I read them over, got the gist of what they were going for, and threw them out the proverbial window.  Then I did my own thing and here is the result.

rapunzels braid

Rapunzel’s braid

I used a skein of Lion Brand Yarn Pound of Love in the Honey Bee colorway.  I then cut 90 strands of yarn that were about 3 yards each.    I measured by holding one end of the yarn in my hand and stretching to my far shoulder, then repeating 2 more times.  After all the yarn is cut, hold all the strands together and loosely tie a knot at one end.  Then carefully remove all the tangles and loosely knot the other end.  Cut two lengths of yarn about 5 or 6 inches long: these are used to make the bun loop at the top of the braid.  Double up the long strands and tie one of the shorter lengths in the middle, then tie the other to make the loop.

braid top

Bun loop

Next take a 9 foot spool of ribbon and unroll it.  Thread one end through the yarn tied at the base of the bun loop.  Pull the ribbon through until the ends are even.  Carefully untie the knots at the ends of the yarn.  Count out the strands so that you have 3 groups of 60 strands of yarn.  Include the ribbon in two of the groups.  Braid the yarn until there are only about 5 inches left.  Cut one final length of yarn, again 5 – 6 inches long, to wrap around the end of the braid and tie it off.

braid end

End of the braid is tied off with more yarn

Trim the ends of the yarn so that they are all even.  Through out the braid, weave in silk flowers.  To attach the braid, I pulled my daughter’s hair into a high ponytail and secured it with an elastic band.  Then I loosely twisted her hair into a bun and secured it with 4 or 5 hairpins.  Then I slipped the bun loop (there’s a reason I called it that) over her bun and secured it with another 4 or 5 hairpins.  And voila, one Rapunzel ready for trick or treating.

attached braid

Bun loop around the bun and pinned in place

Next post:  How I made Lightning McQueen.

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Grandma’s Butter Cookies October 22, 2012

Filed under: Desserts,Recipes — MKCoehoorn @ 2:40 am
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Warning: massive amounts of cookie dough ahead.  Do not proceed unless you have your sweet tooth ready.

I put the egg carton next to it for size reference. The dough sits as high as the top of the egg carton and is nearly as long in diameter.

Seriously, this recipe makes an incredibly large amount of cookie dough.  The card I inherited from my grandmother said that it makes about 170 cookies, but does not mention what size these cookies are.  I do know that it is big enough that when  I make the dough, I usually divide it up into about 7 lumps, and freeze it until I actually need to bake cookies for something.  The cookies by themselves are quite yummy and are great for frosting, but the best use I have found is for my Turtle Shells.  I haven’t tried it, but I suspect that this cookie dough would also make for a pretty good fortune cookie.

But on to the recipe:

10 eggs

1 lb butter, softened

4 cups sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

enough flour to make a dough (about 9 – 10 cups)

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs and butter.  Add in the sugar and mix well.  Sift in the baking soda, cinnamon, and cream of tartar.  Then add the flour one cup at a time.  After about 6 or 7 cups, you may need to give the mixer a rest and turn the dough out onto a very well floured surface to knead in the remaining flour.

Once you are satisfied with the texture of your dough, divide into 6 or 7 equal parts and coat with flour.  Then wrap with plastic wrap or wax paper, place in zipper freezer bags and freeze until ready to use.

When you are ready to bake, allow the dough to thaw to room temperature before you begin working with it.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Roll out dough and cut with cookie cutters or form a log about 1 – 2 inches in diameter, then cut into 1/4 inch slices.  Bake on a greased cookie sheet for 12 – 15 minutes or until golden (and smell delicious).

 

My First Pattern August 17, 2012

Filed under: Crafts,Knitting — MKCoehoorn @ 5:14 pm
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Just last night I finished a baby blanket for my niece, June, and for the first time ever, I created the pattern that I used.  I’ve made a lot of baby blankets over the years.  Some quilted, some flannel, some knit and some crochet (at least 18 that I can remember, probably more).  Until now, not a single one was completely my own creation.  Oh, yes, I’ve made subtle changes to patterns over the years so that something I saw would work better for what I was doing.  But it was still someone else’s pattern.  But not this time.

It took many hours in Excel to chart it out to know what I was doing.  And I still haven’t gotten the directions written to my satisfaction (darn seed stitch).  Here is the final result.

I knitted it on the diagonal using a combination of knit, purl, and seed stitches.  Eventually I hope to have some easy to follow instructions written up for someone else to try making it.

 

Baking with Bacon

Filed under: Anniversary,Celebrations,Desserts,Recipes — MKCoehoorn @ 3:56 am
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With 2 birthdays, a dessert competition, a commission and a back to school event, August quickly becomes a very busy baking month. This year, 3 of those events fell on the same weekend with the other two occurring  about a week later. Fortunately my husband gave me a freebie on his birthday and asked for Butterfinger Torte (I’ll go into that with another post) instead of a cake. But that still left me with three events to bake in one weekend.

Cake #1

Cake #1 was a commission. Every so often a friend of mine pays me to make a cake for him. He’s actually asked for two this month with the first being an anniversary cake. I started making flowers for this cake a few weeks ago with gum paste.  I deliberately made extras on the flowers to account for breakages.  So before I started assembling and decorating the cake, I had 9 lavender roses, 9 orange roses and about 36 hydrangeas in three different shades of blue, though I only used 6 roses (3 of each color) and half of the hydrangeas.

Cake #2

Cake #2 was an entry in our dessert competition at church.  It got the flowers leftover from making the commissioned anniversary cake as well as some other flowers I made to use up colored gum paste that was getting old.  It was a great excuse to practice my flower skills.  It ended up with the remaining 18 hydrangeas and 36 roses in blue, lavender, orange, gold, yellow, and pink.

Cake #3

Cake #3 was technically a batch of mini-cupcakes and was also be entered in the dessert competition.  Over the last year I have realized that most of the judges for our church competitions (we also have pumpkin and chili cookoffs) are males.  And a large number of them like bacon.  So when I found a recipe for Maple Bacon Breakfast Cupcakes on the Cupcake Wars website, I knew I had to try out the recipe on them.

Cake #4 was my son’s birthday cake.  Since he is a big fan of all vehicles (show me a 4 year old who doesn’t love cars and trains) we are doing something of a train theme this year.  He is getting a train set for his birthday and I made a train inspired by Thomas and Friends.  Even though he was quite happy with the result, I was not and so I refrained from taking a picture of it.  But for the record, it consisted of two cakes baked in loaf pans.  One was cut into two pieces, one of which was stacked at one end of the intact loaf cake for the engine, and the other half was made into the coal car.  For the smoke stack I used 1 regular sized cupcake and then the wheels on the train and coal car were mini-cupcakes.

This sounds like a lot of work, but it really was not too bad.  The biggest issue  was that we’ve been having triple digit temperatures for the last few weeks and I have to fire up the oven for the better part of the day.  But I do have a few ways of saving on time.  Of the four projects above, only 1 was be truly from scratch – the bacon cupcakes.  For the other three I starting with Betty Crocker chocolate fudge cake mixes as my dry ingredients.  Instead of using the box instructions, I add 1 1/4 cups of milk, 1 stick of melted butter, and 3 eggs to each box of mix.  I divide the batter into the pans and bake as directed.  For 9 inch round cakes it’s about 30 minutes at 350 degrees.  For the cupcakes – bake at the same temperature but about 15 – 20 minutes for the minis and 20 – 25 minutes for the regular size.  Or just bake until a bamboo skewer comes out clean.

Side note, instead of toothpicks, I test my cakes with bamboo skewers, the ones you would use for shish-kebobs.  The longer stick means that you don’t have to remove the cake from the heat to avoid burning yourself when you test for done-ness.  Also, to avoid having to hunt for them, as I always have to do with toothpicks, I keep all my skewers in a mason jar (a la flower vase) next to my stove.  They are contained, out of the way, and still convenient when I need them.

But on to the bacon:

I found this recipe on the Cupcake Wars website and for the most part I remained true to the recipe, with only two exceptions.  As you read through the ingredients on that recipe, you will see that it calls for maple sugar.  Maple sugar may be common in grocery stores in metropolitan areas, but in Small Town, Nebraska, where I live, the only way you can find such exotic ingredients is online.  And I don’t like to pay shipping – so I skipped that one ingredient.  At my husband’s suggestion (he was my taste-tester) I increased the strawberries in the frosting to 1/2 cup.

Since I did remain so close to the original, I’m not reposting the recipe here.  But you can follow the link straight to the recipe on the Cupcake Wars site.

Unfortunately my bacon cupcakes were too avant-garde for my small town compatriots and while my flowers were impressive, neither entry won the dessert competition.  But I’m not too upset.  Instead, I’m already looking to our pumpkin competition this fall and considering other desserts for next summer.

 

Cheater’s Manicotti July 26, 2012

Filed under: Dinner,Recipes — MKCoehoorn @ 4:22 am
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My default meal for a family with a new baby or a potluck is Cheater’s Manicotti.  I call it “Cheater’s” because real manicotti has a ricotta cheese filling that I don’t use.  I got the idea several years ago while watching The Rachael Ray Show.  She was making a Sloppy Joe Manicotti and I remember thinking “that would be really good with string cheese.”  (No, I was not pregnant at the time.)  So I started experimenting.  After a few tries my husband suggested putting some salami in the noodles with the cheese.  And it has pretty much stayed the same since then.

I will say, you can use individually wrapped string cheese (ie Cheeseheads) if that is all that is available.  But if you happen to live somewhere like Wisconsin where your grocery store has 4 cases containing nothing but cheese, cheese, and more cheese, then you should really get the string cheese that is packaged together (I like J&S from Woodmans).  I mean it.  It really does make a difference in the taste.  Whenever my family goes to Wisconsin, and often when we have guests from there, we get good cheese as a part of the visit so that I can make this when we get home.

It also makes a difference if you buy a block of mozzerella and shred it yourself instead of buying the preshredded bags.  They do work, but there is a definite difference.  (I married into a family of self-professed cheese snobs – they know when they are getting good cheese.)

Ingredients:

1 box of manicotti noodles

14 sticks of string cheese

14 slices of hard salami

1 jar of pizza sauce

1 lb shredded mozzerella cheese

Bowl of cold water

Directions:

Preheat your oven to about 425 degrees.

On your stove bring a pot of water to a boil, then add the noodles.  Cook them for 7 – 9 minutes.  Drain off the hot water and submerge them in the bowl of cold water (or pour it into the pot).

While waiting for the water to boil and the noodles to cook, you can prep your cheese by separating the sticks or removing them from their packaging.  You can also separate your slices of salami and shred your mozzerella.  Then spoon some of the pizza sauce into a 9×13 inch glass casserole dish and spread it around so that the bottom is covered.

Once the noodles are cooked and cooled enough to hold them without burning your hand you are ready to stuff them.  Wrap a slice of salami around one stick of string cheese and insert into the noodle.  Place the noodle in the prepared dish and repeat with the rest of the noodles.  When they are all done, spoon the remaining pizza sauce on top and spread it around until everything is covered.  Top it with a generous amount of mozzerella cheese, evenly spread over the noodles.

Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until all the cheese is melted and gooey.  Serve immediately.

I generally allow two noodles for adults and one noodle for kids, so one batch will feed about 7 adults.

 

How to Pin a Blogpost June 25, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — MKCoehoorn @ 4:17 am
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I don’t know about you but when I find a pin that looks interesting, I like to follow it back to the original blog or website posting, rather than just repinning.  That way, when I go to give it a try, my pin takes me straight to the instructions so I can get right to work.

But not everyone does it this way.  And not everyone knows how to correctly make that first pin.

You see at lot of people will go to the homepage of the blog in question and pin from there.  That means the pin is a placeholder for the blog as a whole, and not one specific post.  Then when someone follows the pin back to the site, she then has to hunt through the entire blog to find the post that sounded so interesting.  And so she gives up and doesn’t read the post.  Very annoying.  And also a waste of everyone’s time.

So what do you do?

First things first.  What is the difference between the blog’s homepage address and the post’s specific address?

The homepage address on my site, when seen in the search bar, looks like this:

But if you were in the mood to pin my post on gum paste, that is not what you should pin.  If you were to pin the homepage address, for the time being people would be able to find my post on gum paste.  But only until I added enough posts to move it off the front page.  Then, they would become frustrated and unable to find that wonderful post that looked so interesting.

Instead, you should click on the post name and bring up that specific post.  In this case you would click on the words “Gum Paste” in the large-ish green font.  Right there at the top of the post, where it also says “Posted on June 25, 2012 by MKCoehoorn.”

Clicking on that title will give the appearance of refreshing the page.  But in reality it is loading a new page.  How can you tell?  Look back up at the search bar.  It should now look like this:

You want to see something after the .com that indicates you are going to a particular part of the website.  For my site it will show the posting date followed by the name of the post.  But if you go over to Heavenly Homemakers and follow the same steps, you will see that she uses the name of the post for her addresses.  It doesn’t matter how the blogger chooses to link her posts, so long as you can see that you are not looking at the homepage before you use your Pin This! widget.

After that, you know what to do.  Click the widget and pin the post to your regular board of choice.

 

Gum Paste

Filed under: Celebrations,Crafts,Desserts,Edible,Recipes,Wedding — MKCoehoorn @ 3:40 am
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Gum paste (also called sugar dough) is a companion to fondant, and a cake decorator’s friend when it comes to making lots of flowers.  Unlike fondant, after sitting out for a while, gum paste becomes hard, yet very fragile.  While delicate, this makes gum paste a wonderful choice when you want to have a lot of flowers or other 3D decor on a cake.  It can also be used with a Cricut Cake machine (so far I prefer it to fondant and sugar sheets for that purpose).  Because it dries out, you do have to work quickly, but while you are learning it’s not a chore to eat the failures.  Plus, as you have scraps that get a little too dry to work with, you can drop them into a little bit of water to make gum paste adhesive (I’ll discuss that more later.)

Gum paste can be a little pricey when purchased ready-to-use.  I think it runs about $8-10 at my local Walmart.  So when I was asked to make a cake for my aunt’s wedding, I decided to do a little research and try my hand at making gum paste.  The recipe is simple, but it does require some ingredients you are not likely to have on hand.  Gum-tex and Glucose are both available from Wilton and Amazon, as well as many craft stores such as Hobby Lobby.

My recipe:

4 cups sifted powdered sugar (divided)

1 Tbsp Gum-Tex

1 Tbsp Glucose

1 Tbsp Imitation, Clear Almond Extract

3 Tbsp warm Water

Sift 3 cups of powdered sugar and the gum-tex into a bowl and make a well in the middle.  The sifting is very important.  If your sugar has any lumps, they will be very apparent in the gum paste and will affect the outcome of your project.  Make sure you sift the sugar at least once before combining it with the other ingredients.  Combine the glucose, extract and water in a glass measuring cup and warm in the microwave for 30 seconds.  Pour into the well and mix together.  Once the water/glucose mixture is worked in, pour everything into a ziploc baggie and seal without any air in the bag.  Let sit overnight.  The next day, when you are ready to work with the gum paste, work in the last cup of powdered sugar.  I found it necessary to also add some more water by misting it on with a small spray bottle.  The dough should turn white and soften as you work with it.  Once every thing is combined, cover the unused portion of gum paste with white shortening and wrap in plastic wrap so that it does not dry out.

I mentioned above something called gum paste adhesive.  This is basically a little bit of gum paste that has been dissolved into water.  It makes a runny syrup that can be brushed over soft gum paste to make it stick to another piece of gum paste.  It is used quite a bit in making flowers and attaching leaves to floral wire stems.  When I make it, I generally use about a 1/4 inch piece of gum paste and drop it into about 1 Tbsp of water.  Then let it sit for at least an hour so that it has time to dissolve.  If there is still some gum paste in the water an hour later that is okay, you can still use it.  Just stir the water a little with your brush before you spread it onto the flower you are working on.