Fourth of July Rag Wreath

 

Edit: I got a new camera!  You can see the difference between the new one (first and last picture) and the old one (all the other pictures in this post).

 

Here’s a project that anyone can do!  I know because I first did this in second grade (except I didn’t have to cut the fabric then).  It’s easy, fun, and requires few materials.

 

You will need:

 

  • a foam or straw wreath (I got mine from Walmart for under $3.  I opted for straw because it was slightly cheaper than the foam, and because I figured if I didn’t have enough fabric, maybe I could leave some of the straw showing and it would look okay.

 

 

  • about 3 yards of cotton fabric – I used three different kinds (there are four in the picture but I didn’t use the red print).  Check your fabric scraps before you buy anything – the flag fabric is actually from  my mom’s scrap bin.  I spent about $10 on fabric but if I hadn’t bought the red bandanna print I could’ve spent a few dollars less.

 

 

  • a sharpened pencil, pen, chopstick, knitting needle – something that comes to a blunt point (too sharp and it will poke holes in the fabric, but if it doesn’t have a point it’ll be really hard to drive into the wreath) – I went through all my chopsticks and found one that was a little more tapered at the end than the others

Step 1. Cut all the fabric into 4-inch squares using pinking shears – not only is it cute, it prevents the material from fraying.  The best part is, it doesn’t matter if the measurements aren’t exact or if you don’t cut in a straight line.  The fabric is going to get all crumpled up anyway so it won’t make any difference.

 

 

 

Step 2.  Wrap a fabric square around your chopstick (or whatever) – you want the tip of the chopstick to be  in the center of the fabric.  Drive it into the wreath so that the fabric is secure.

 

Step 3. Repeat Step 2 until you run out of fabric. I alternated patterns, but you could also create stripes or a different pattern depending on what you want your wreath to look like.

 

 

 

 

And there you go!  The finished product is full, fluffy, and lots of fun!  I added some adhesive foam stars in red, silver, and blue (the silver showed up best).  I love my wreath so much I think I’ll make another non-patriotic one to put up for the rest of the summer.

 

 

The one thing I would have done differently is, I would have left the plastic wrap on the wreath.  That straw is messy!  But I ended up with a really nice piece of holiday decor for about $10!

 

Mother’s Day Cupcakes and My First Fondant!

Happy Mother’s Day!  I love my mom, and I love making presents rather than buying them, and I love baking, and my mom loves chocolate.  Add it all together and you get cupcakes!

 

A few months ago I came across these adorable cupcakes on Pinterest:

 

 

 

Those tiny little roses are too cute!  I had to try them.

 

I had never made or even worked with fondant before so I was a little hesitant.  I mean, I didn’t even know what fondant was made out of.  Fortunately, there is a super simple and super cheap way to make fondant, and it happens also to be super delicious.  Instead of using shortening and powdered sugar, which tastes about as gross as it sounds, you use marshmallows and powdered sugar – yum!

 

I’m going to write out the basic recipe, then give a link to a more detailed recipe that gives a lot more instruction on how to work with fondant (which if I had read it, I probably would have had an easier time!).

 

Basic marshmallow fondant recipe:

  • One large package mini marshmallows (my recipe said 16 oz, another said 21 oz, and the bags at the store were either 10 or 20 oz, so I think it doesn’t really matter that much)
  • 2 lb powdered sugar (one large bag)
  • water
  • food coloring

Melt the marshmallows in a double-boiler with a few tablespoons of water (you can also put them in a microwave-safe bowl, stirring them every 30 seconds until melted).  Add about 1/2 to 3/4 of the powdered sugar and stir until combined (you may need to add a little bit more water).  Then knead the rest of the powdered sugar in.  Very important: this stuff is sticky so keep your hands and kneading surface dusted with powdered sugar.  Alternatively, you can grease your hands and kneading surface with Crisco, but according to the in-depth recipe below, as well as my own experience, greasy fondant is harder to work with.

 

Add your food coloring and continue to knead until the fondant is smooth and firm – about 5-7 minutes.  Ta-da!  (Taste it – it’s yummy)

 

That’s the bare-bones idea so you can see that it’s not really very complicated.  But you should also read this recipe because it gives more instruction and details.

 

Anyway, so I tried making the tiny rosebuds, and considering that it was my first time ever working with fondant, I think I did pretty well.  I couldn’t get them as tiny or delicate as the ones in the picture, but again, I think this was partly because I used Crisco instead of powdered sugar to keep the fondant from sticking.  Next time I will try powdered sugar and see how it goes!

 

I frosted the cupcakes with buttercream frosting (Betty Crocker recipe – I hate store-bought frosting) before putting the fondant on.  I was surprised at how easily the fondant stayed on the frosting, even after the frosting had set (homemade buttercream frosting turns hard after a while).  The fondant flowers also sort of stuck to each other so I didn’t have any trouble keeping them on the cupcake – which was fortunate, because the cupcakes felt a little top-heavy!

 

 

Making those little rolled flowers takes a lot of time.  I didn’t have all night, so for half my cupcakes I used a cookie cutter to make a simpler flower.

 

I think they look really cute together!

 

 

It’s fun to experiment, and I think overall this was a success.  I am excited to work with fondant again!

Deviled Egg Chicks

Easter is a very important holiday for my family.  As Christians, we rejoice in the resurrection of Jesus and his victory – our victory – over death.  Easter also reminds me of college – my roommates and I started a tradition of having an Easter egg hunt and making fajitas for Easter dinner, and now that we’re spread out all over the country, it’s a way for me to remember them and all the fun we had.  Additionally, it was the day before Easter, four years ago, that Justin asked me to be his wife and start a new life together.  Finally, this year Easter fell very close to the one-year anniversary of my release from the hospital after near-fatal pulmonary embolisms.  So the holiday has lots of significance for us.

 

This year Justin and I had an Easter party and I saw the cutest recipe idea on Pinterest:

 

How sweet is that?!  I decided I had to try it.  Mine were not as awesome as the picture above (also I didn’t have grass) but people still thought they were cute, and they ate them.

 

As you can probably see in the picture, my egg-peeling skills still need work.  I’ve heard that fresh eggs peel the best – I bought these on Tuesday and peeled them the following Sunday; I guess that’s not fresh enough.  I also cooked them the Martha Stewart way (bring to boil, remove from heat and cover for 20 minutes, then ice bath) and peeled them under running water.  Does anybody have any additional tips for this?

 

After peeling the eggs, you cut off a small portion of the wide end to be a base, and then cut about 1/3 of the opposite end off to be the hat.  Here I ran into an unforeseen problem: often, the entire egg yolk was in the bottom 2/3 of the egg.  I am a deviled egg novice, so how are you supposed to scoop the yolk out without breaking the egg white? (Now I see why traditional deviled eggs are sliced length-wise).  If I stored the eggs upside-down – or rather, narrow side up – would the yolk float more toward the narrow end of the egg, and if so, would it stay there when boiled?

 

The next problem with this recipe is it is MESSY!  I didn’t use quite 3 tablespoons of pickle juice (the minimum called for in the recipe), but I think that amount or perhaps 1/3 cup mayo is too much because the egg yolk mixture didn’t hold its shape very well once I put the chicks’ “hats” on, so their “faces” got very squished looking and the yolk mixture got all over the place while I was trying to fix them.

 

Also, the spinach “grass” is not just for decoration – if you don’t have something to prop the eggs up, even though the bases are flat, they will tip over when you carry the tray.  Just a heads up.

 

Will I try this again?  Maybe, but I think I’ll practice making regular deviled eggs first, and maybe get a melon-baller or something for that tricky yolk.  I think I’ll modify the recipe a bit too to make it less squishy.

 

On the plus side, they tasted really good, and the people who don’t have Pinterest were really impressed with them!

Spring Wreath

 

I love my spring wreath!  It was easy to make and much cheaper than buying one.

 

I found lots of different grapevine wreaths on Pinterest, so I can’t point to one in particular that was my inspiration.  These were my materials:

 

  • 2 branches of silk flowers from Dollar Tree
  • 1 bunch of fake grass from Dollar Tree
  • 1 grapevine wreath from Walmart – I can’t actually remember how much it was, but I was surprised at how cheap it was because it’s huge!  I am pretty sure it was under $5
  • 1 bird’s nest from Dollar Tree
  • 1 bird accessory from Walmart (it was right next to the wreath, in the floral aisle)
  • There’s a spool of ribbon, but I ended up not using it.  It’s also from Dollar Tree.

The Dollar tree had several packages of the cute little bird nests, but every one of them had at least two of the eggs sunk in, probably during packaging and transport.  In a stroke of brilliance, I stuck a long needle through the end of each one and popped the plastic back out from the inside.  There was even a little hole in the seam of each egg already, so it wasn’t at all hard to do.

 

Problem solved!

 

 

 

 

The flowers were easy to attach – I just stuck the stems into the wreath.  I didn’t secure them with anything because they’re wedged in pretty tight.

 

The flower branches will stick straight out unless you tie them somehow.  Floral tape would probably be best, and hot glue would probably work to, but I have a ton of thin wire that I use for just about every project so I can get rid of it.  So I wired the flowers to the wreath.

 

Once the flowers and grass are in the wreath you can still adjust them – the grass is kind of covering the flowers in the picture above so I pulled and twisted a bit to get everything where I wanted.  I also pulled a few of the grass pieces apart and stuck them farther up on the wreath.

 

The bird’s nest was tricky to attach without hot glue.  I wired it in very delicately.  Then when I hung it up on my door, I realized it looked weird to have the nest hanging vertically, so I re-positioned it.  If you use hot glue to make wreaths, make sure you know exactly where you want things to go before gluing.  Wire is a lot easier to redo than glue.

 

 

 

Finally, I attached the bird – it actually came with a little clip, but that wasn’t very secure and it fell off, and then the clip broke off anyway and I had to tape it on.  Hot glue would probably be best for the bird.

 

I love the way my wreath turned out!

Seasonal Block Letters

UPDATE:  I did another set of these for my mom, and they turned out (I think) a lot nicer than the ones I did for myself.  I might redo mine sometime.

 

 

 

 

I love the trend of using words to decorate!  I wanted to include some in my fall decorating, but I also wanted to save money.  I made my blocks for free using materials I had on hand.

 

Inspiration

I found these pictures (among others) on Pinterest:

(Source)

 

(found on Pinterest)

These things are all over the place; I’m sure you’ve seen similar things before.  I wanted to recreate a similar look, but without using a lot of money (or power tools).

 

Process

You will need:

– wooden blocks (the number depends on what words you’re writing)

– paint

– paintbrush

– Sharpie (or a small paintbrush if you are painting the letters on)

– stencils (optional – see Improvements)

– Mod Podge

 

At first I thought of putting letters on mason jars.  Then I remembered that my mom had a ton of wooden blocks sitting up in her attic that haven’t been used since we were little kids.  They were already sanded and there were several of the same size.  My mom said I could take as many as I wanted.  I picked out a few different sizes.  My idea was to write letters on the front and back of each block, so that I could turn them around to go with a different season (in this case, Thanksgiving and Christmas).

 

After rinsing off the dust, I painted one side of each block.  I wanted to use two different colors.

 

 

 

 

 

They dried pretty quickly in the sun.  I painted the opposite side as well.  Then I did another coat of each color because these particular blocks absorbed a lot of the paint.

 

I did the letters freehand (see below for Improvements).  Before writing the letters, I had printed them out so I had a sample of the font I wanted to use.  On most of them I just used a Sharpie.

 

(These are the blocks that I planned to write on both sides of)

 

(I’ve only done one side of these but I’ll probably add another side later on)

 

I used paint for the second side of my larger blocks.

 

 

After they were dry, I just finished them off with a coat of Mod Podge.  And that was it!

 

Result

 

 

Improvements

The most obvious way to take these blocks a step up is to use a stencil for the letters.  I have another set of blocks that I’m going to make for my mom, so I’ll try that with them.

 

If you’re really good with a paintbrush, you can also embellish the background of your blocks so it’s not just a solid color.

 

If you have cubes, and you want to go for maximum versatility, I bet you could recreate these blocks which can be made to spell 16 different seasonal words!  (The link isn’t a tutorial, but it pretty much tells you how to do it).  I might try it myself!

Fall Ribbon Wreath

 

Fall is coming, and as I browse Pinterest I am getting more and more excited about decorating my small apartment for the season and its holidays.  I thought I’d start by trying my hand at making a ribbon wreath.  Since I didn’t actually look for a tutorial, I completely made up my design, and although I’m happy with how my wreath turned out, I don’t recommend you follow my method.  Instead, I recommend this step-by-step tutorial.

 

A beautiful wreath can cost a minimum of $20 and upwards of $100 if you buy it.  My wreath cost less than $10 to make with the following items:

 

– wreath form from the Dollar Tree, $1

(I used a wooden form because I didn’t know what I was doing; you should use styrofoam for a ribbon wreath, and they sell those at the Dollar Tree too)

– four spools of wide ribbon,  also from the Dollar Tree – $4

(You will probably need more ribbon than this if you use the tutorial I posted – the more ribbon you have, the fuller and richer your wreath looks.  The spools at the Dollar Tree only have 3 yards of ribbon each, so look for spools that have more than that.  If you want to order online, I highly recommend JKM Ribbon – and BBCrafts – great selection and amazing prices).

– sunflower bunch from Walmart, $3

– one spool of goldish 3/4″ ribbon from the Dollar Tree, $1 (I later took this off to use elsewhere; it didn’t add much)

– thin wire I had on hand

(the tutorial I posted uses straight pins – trust me, don’t do it my way)


Total: $9

 

In case you want to know, what I did was I wired loops of ribbons together and wired them onto my wreath.  It was time-consuming and poky, and while again, I’m happy with the overall result, I think it would have been much easier and less painful if I had used a styrofoam wreath form and pinned the ribbons (in bunches) onto the wreath.  I’ll try it that way come Christmas.

Tissue Paper Pumpkins

Holidays are all about people coming together, and one of my favorite parts of decorating is sharing ideas with other people.  I got the idea for this project from a total stranger in Walmart!  Thank you!

Inspiration

While browsing Pinterest (again) for decorating ideas, I came across a site that has 50 (count ’em) pumpkin crafts – basically 50 different ways to make pumpkins out of things that are not pumpkins.  This one was my favorite:

(Source)

 

This project uses fabric to create the look of a pumpkin.  It’s a fairly inexpensive project (if you can find large quilting squares for a good price), but while I was looking for fabric squares at Walmart and telling my mom about this project, a lady in the same aisle said she’d seen the same craft done with tissue paper – much cheaper!  I thanked her and switched gears.  Thanks to her, I was able to recreate this craft for free.

 

Process

For each pumpkin, you will need:

– 1 roll of toilet paper (the larger the better)

– 1 sheet of orange tissue paper

– green tissue paper

– brown paper (a brown paper bag works)

– Scotch or double-stick tape

 

My mom supplied the orange tissue paper (she’s a schoolteacher so there is lots of tissue paper at her school) and brown paper bag, but I already had the rest of the supplies.  You might have everything you need lying around your house, especially if you are the kind of person who saves tissue paper after opening presents.

 

Step 1. Fold your tissue paper in half and place the toilet paper in the center.

 

 

Step 2.  Fold one corner of the tissue paper up and stuff the end into the toilet paper tube, keeping the tissue paper as close to the toilet paper as possible.

 

 

Step 3.  Tuck an adjacent corner into the tube the same way, folding excess paper underneath to hide it.

 

 

 

Step 4.  Fold in a third side, leaving one corner.

 

 

Step 5. Fold in the last corner.  Remember to tuck all the excess paper underneath your folds so it doesn’t stick out.

 

 

Step 6.  Cut a large strip of brown paper – about the same size as copy paper is plenty – and fold it in half lengthwise.

 

Step 7.  Roll the paper into a cylinder.

 

 

Step 8. Twist the tube like you’re wringing out a washcloth.

 

 

Step 9.  Stuff the brown paper into the center of your pumpkin.  The excess tissue paper will make the hole small enough to hold your “stem” in place.

 

 

Step 10.  Cut out a leaf shape in green tissue paper.  I tried this freehand and it was awful, so since I didn’t have a leaf pattern with me, I traced the shape of a leaf from one of my silk flower arrangements.  If you want to use my pattern, click on the picture below to view it larger, then right-click it and save.

 

 

Step 11. Tape the leaf onto the pumpkin.  Ta-da!

 

 

I made three pumpkins using two  shades of orange tissue paper.  Since I wanted all three pumpkins to look a little different, I put polka-dots on one sheet.  You can fancy up your tissue paper by adding a design of your own.

 

 

In other news, I’ve been taking pictures with my almost 3-year-old cell phone, which is not what it used to be.  I’d use my camera, but it’s twice as old and takes pictures twice as slowly.  Maybe someday I’ll have a new camera; until then, bear with me. ^_^