Thursday, February 28, 2013

Side trip: easy embellished baby gift

We decorated onesies for the activity at a baby shower a few weeks ago, and since we had some leftover materials, Ben and I each made a onesie for the newest baby in our family.

The steps are simple and the materials are minimal - really a great activity to do with kids.

  • Fabric for designs
  • Pinking shears and/or fabric scissors
  • Fabric markers for drawing/outlining (optional)
  • Plain onesies
  • Fusible web adhesive (we used Wonder Under)
  • Iron (set to low)
To decorate the onesie
  1. Cut out a fabric design.  You can use a template or just cut out a design you like...pinking shears are best to keep the edges from fraying all over the place.
  2. On a low setting, iron the fabric to a fusible adhesive.  Once it's attached to the fabric, the paper backing will peel off exposing a slightly glossy surface that will attach the design to the onesie.
  3. Iron the design onto the onesie.
  4. Add other design elements with fabric markers.
Ben and I had a great time planning out our designs and both added a little tie embellishment.  We boxed them up with a few jarcakes for mom and dad (and maybe enough to share with the neighbors across the street) and shipped them out.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Over the top zebra cakes. Ready to ship.

My niece called me a few weeks ago and asked for a zebra cake, and I plan to do everything possible to never tell that child no. Making a zebra themed cake for local delivery is no problem. But Sofia lives about a thousand miles away and the thought of trying to ship a decorated cake wasn't too appealing.  So I made her jarcakes.

I've seen zebra stripe cakes made by layering two colors of batter in the pan, adding each color in the center right over the last layer. Since I wanted to make the zebra stripes in jarcakes for easy shipping, I used the same technique but piped the batter in to keep it from getting all over the place. I braced myself for a huge mess, but it really wasn't bad.  iping each color into the center was easy - the colors don't need to be perfectly clean so I just plunged the piping bag into the center to add batter then did the same thing with the other color to get a bullseye look.

I was hoping the zebra striping would show through the jars.  I crossed my fingers and put them in the oven.

Zebra stripes!  

As far I'm concerned, there isn't such a thing as too much when it comes to this kind of cake.  The louder the colors and embellishments, the better.  So pink frosting is an obvious pairing with purple zebra stripes.  

I had planned to put a little zebra striped fondant topper in each jar.  But then I remembered how disgusting fondant is and started going through my cabinets for other options.  Who doesn't like chocolate?  Way better than fondant.  

Since I don't have any circular chocolate molds I put regular cupcake liners in a cupcake pan and piped melted chocolate into the bottom then tapped it to get the air out.  I put them in the fridge to let them set up for about ten minutes then popped them out and flipped them over to use the flat side. I painted zebra striping on them using food coloring thinned out with a touch of gin. (Don't worry!  The alcohol evaporates as the food coloring aren't going to be giving alcohol to minors or anything.)  

After the striping dried, I added them to the jarcakes then froze them until they were ready to ship. Happy birthday, Sofia!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Glaze icing / freezing decorated sugar cookies

When I see decorated sugar cookies in a bakery for $3 or $4 each, I think they are totally worth it. Anyone who has made them knows that they take forever and ever to make...multiple steps over a couple of days using lots of space.  But they make really great little special occasion treats so if you can figure out the timing to get them done, they can really add to the theme of a party.

I use the glaze icing recipe below rather than royal icing on decorated sugar cookies; the color seems to stay more vibrant and I think royal icing can get very flat and brittle. I love the way the glaze looks.

I knew I could bake the cookies ahead of time and freeze them, but couldn't find any information on freezing them after they've been decorated with glaze icing (royal icing, yes, but not glaze)...that would be a game changer.  The decorating can take a couple of hours for two dozen cookies.  But more problematic is the drying order for the icing to dry properly, the cookies have to sit out in a single layer for at least 24 hours.  This always results in taking up every single inch of available counter space and me shrieking at anyone walking in that general direction to stay out of the kitchen.  If I could freeze them already decorated, I would be able to make them when it works for my schedule rather than trying to adjust my schedule around the cookie prep.  

I had some extra, not-so-great-looking cookies left from the baby shower a couple of weeks ago so I decided to see what would happen to the icing if I froze them in the bags, packaged up to give as party favors.

 The original cookie prep - drying on the kitchen counter.

Here is what the cookies looked like out of the freezer:

Yuck.  See the line of splotchy color through the middle of the cookie?  This will happen if there is water improperly incorporated into the icing - it sort of comes back up to the surface later on.  So it's probably condensation/water spots from the thawing process.  Maybe next time I should try thawing them outside of the bags so the water won't be trapped.  ?

For now, I will just need to keep changing my schedule to work around the needs of the cookie decorating - freezing ahead isn't going to work.

Sugar cookie glaze icing

  • 2 pounds (I bag) powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 1 tsp clear vanilla extract (if it's not the clear extract, it will mess up your color.  I promise.)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup water

Mix all ingredients on the lowest setting until incorporated.  Start with 1/4 cup water and add up to 1/2 cup to get the desired consistency - humidity/time of year matters and you won't always need the same amount.  

This recipe makes a lot of icing - I separate the large batch into tupperware containers to add color and thin out as necessary.

Don't mix on high or over-beat; it will introduce extra bubbles into your icing and that will be problematic later on.  

Cookies will need at least 24 hours to dry, sometimes longer depending on humidity.  

Friday, February 15, 2013

Baby shower open house

I admit it:  baby showers are not generally my thing.  I think the games are ridiculous and awkward and I just don't....get it. So when my friend Heather asked if I was interested in co hosting a baby shower I had an immediate sense of trepidation. But. I adore the expecting couple and Heather is down to earth and fun; opting out never crossed my mind.
Rather than an uber structured event, we planned an open house format with a window of time for guests to drop in and see the couple.  Heather did the heavy lifting in terms of the theme and the location and I brought the sugar cookie favors and cupcakes.  


We share a general distaste for shower games and opted to do a onesie decorating station instead, asking guests to design and decorate onesies in all different sizes for the baby to wear over the coming year.  

The couple was happy with the outcome and I love that it was relaxed and not filled with weird games.   Success!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

40 caliber earrings

When I got the shotgun shells from an Etsy shop, I also ordered some 40 caliber shells.  Cutting down the shotgun shells was a challenge, but these shells were also a little difficult to cut apart.  Sawing through the metal to get that end piece took longer than I care to admit.  But once that part was done, they were fairly easy to sand down and use in a pair of simple earrings.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Shotgun shell rings

When I was little and visiting my grandparents, I would sometimes see my grandfather sitting in front of a big machine in a side room of the basement making shells.  I *think* they were shotgun shells.  The motion of the machine reminds me of a slot machine - a big arm that he would pull down to pack the shell.  When I saw spent shotgun shells in the supply section on Etsy, the memory of standing behind him and watching while he worked came back to me and I decided to see what I could make out of them.

When I make jewelry I work with chemicals, torches, saws...lots of stuff that can tear up my hands.  But these shells were a new challenge and a total pain.  I tried cutting the plastic insert out with a hand saw, with shears, and finally with a box cutting knife before I got the metal end pieces cut away to use.

The finished rings are HUGE.  In a fun way.  But if you don't want people commenting on them (and possibly sparking yet another gun control/second amendment conversation), these would not be the rings for you.

So maybe the rings are just the start. They are too heavy to use in earrings, but possibly bracelets and pendants...?