December 22, 2011

Yellow Dress!

And the last one of my handmade gifts for the season!  This one was made for someone who is just like family to my husband and I.  She's had a pretty tough year, so we wanted to give her something in this holiday season to bring some cheer.  The yellow dress is a middleweight fabric so it is nice for many different seasons and it can be accessorized just like a little black dress!

Zoey always tries to help me when I'm sewing...

December 21, 2011

Gift Giving- Placemats

I found chalkboard fabric online a while back but I had never been able to figure out what to make with it.  Until I found the idea online to make chalkboard placemats!  The ones I had found online told you to paint a piece of wood with chalkboard paint and use that.  I immediately thought of the chalkboard fabric as a great material for this project.  I used the fabric and denim for the other side.  I also tried out some of the fun stitches on the sewing machine to make the edges.

December 20, 2011

Peppermint Sugar Cookies

Merry XMas Eve!!!

Another one of the traditional cookies I tried to update for this year are sugar cookies.  I found this recipe for sugar cookies with ground up candy canes in them to add some holiday flair.  Mine is missing the icing still since I'm going to add that when I get home!

Peppermint Sugar Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup candy cane flour**
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
crushed peppermints, for garnish (about 1/2 cup)
6 ounces (3 squares) white chocolate flavored almond bark or candy coating

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
Whisk the flour, salt, baking powder and candy cane flour together.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably one fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed for a minute or so, until smooth. Beat in the sugar and continue to beat for about 2 minutes, until the mixture is light and pale. Add the egg and yolk and beat for another minute or two; beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and steadily add the flour mixture, mixing only until it has been incorporated. When mixed, the dough will be soft, creamy, and malleable.
Drop the dough onto the baking sheets by rounded spoonfuls.
Bake the cookies for 9 to 11 minutes, rotating the sheets at the midpoint. The cookies should feel firm, but they should not color much, if at all. Cool completely.
Heat the almond bark in the microwave in 30-second intervals until melted and creamy. Drizzle over the cooled cookies (I used a ziploc bag with the tip snipped off, but you could also just drizzle with a spoon), then sprinkle with the crushed peppermints.
Makes about 40 cookies.
**Like I noted above, “candy cane flour” is just finely crushed candy canes- you can make it with your food processor or just use a hammer (or rolling pin) and a ziploc bag (which is what I did).

December 19, 2011

Gift Giving- Chocolate Covered Cherries

I never liked chocolate covered cherries when I was younger.  They just didn't do it for me.  But I think I found the best version ever of them.  And I do mean ever.  They are covered in buttercream first and then in chocolate!

Here is the original recipe.

Chocolate-Covered Buttercream Cherries

60 maraschino cherries with stems (About  2 10-ounce jars)
2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons butter, softened
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons shortening

Pat cherries dry with paper towels; set aside. In a small mixing bowl, combine the sugar, butter, corn syrup, and salt; mix well. Turn onto counter and knead until smooth. Don't worry if it seems crumbly at first; it'll come together after a few kneads. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Roll dough into 1/2 inch balls (about the size of a cherry); flatten each into a 2-inch circle with your hand. Wrap each circle around a cherry and lightly roll in hands to cover. Place cherries with stems up on waxed paper-lined baking sheets. Cover loosely and refrigerate for 1 hour.

 In a microwave or heavy saucepan, melt chocolate chip and shortening; stir until smooth. Holding onto the stem, dip each cherry into the chocolate; set on waxed paper. Refrigerate until hardened. Store in a covered container and refrigerate for 1-2 weeks before serving.

Best if served at room temperature.

December 18, 2011

Gift Giving- Dog Treats

I again had to make dog treats for the family dogs!  We can't leave them out of the holiday celebrations!  Zoey went crazy while I was making these.  She just somehow knows when I'm making stuff for her...

Our doggie loves her technology... playing Xbox and using the Kindle at the same time! 

December 17, 2011

Peppermint Cupcakes

My husband and I were invited over to a friend's house this past weekend.  I wanted to bring some food, but it was only about two hours until the party.  I threw together cupcakes in that time and I'm pretty darn proud of them!

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease 12 muffin cups with cooking spray.
2. In a medium bowl, stir together: 1 1/4 cups flour, 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3. In a large bowl, beat 1/4 cup of shortening with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.
4.  Add: 1/2 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla
5. Beat until combined, occasionally scraping the side of the bowl.
6. Add 2 egg yolks, one at a time.
7. Beat well after each addition.
8. Alternately add the flour mixture and 2/3 cup cold water to the shortening mixture.
9. Beat on low speed after each addition until just combined.
10. Thoroughly wash beaters. In a small bowl, beat two egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks form (the tips will curl).
11. Gradually add 1/3 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating on high speed until stiff peaks form (tips will stand straight).
12. Fold beaten egg whites into chocolate batter.
13. Do this in small batches.

14. Gently fold in 1/3 cup of miniature semisweet chocolate chips.

15. Divide among prepared muffin cups. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow cupcakes to cool. Remove from pan.

16. While the cupcakes are cooling, prepare a batch of Peppermint Buttercream Frosting.

17. Then put 6 or so candy canes into a ziploc bag.

18. Crush the candies.

19. Cut the cupcakes in half horizontally and spread about 1 tablespoon of frosting onto the bottom of each cupcake. Replace cupcake tops, pressing gently to spread frosting to the edges.
20. Place crushed candies on a sheet of waxed paper and roll the sides of the cupcakes in the candies to coat the exposed frosting. Pipe or spread the remaining frosting onto tops of cupcakes. Sprinkle with additional crushed candies.

Peppermint Buttercream Frosting

1. In a medium bowl, beat 1 cup of softened butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy. Gradually add 2 cups of powdered sugar, beating well. Beat in 2 tablespoons of milk and 2 teaspoons of peppermint extract.
2. Gradually beat in an additional 3 cups of powdered sugar until smooth. If necessary, beat in additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, to achieve spreading consistency.

Gift Giving- Toffee

I'm giving out food gifts for a lot of people this year in addition to my other handmade gifts.  The original recipe I used can be found here

Almond Toffee

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup whole blanched almonds
1/2 cup wonderful, dark chocolate - the best you can find (or milk chocolate if you must), chopped
1/4 cup chopped, toasted pecans (optional)

Melt butter in heavy sauce pan. Add sugar and almonds. Cook on high with pan tilted, stirring constantly, with wooden spoon until light brown (for those of us with candy thermometers, that would be the crack to hard crack stage or about 300F). Pour into large flat pan. Allow to sit for 5 minutes and then cover with grated chocolate and allow to melt - smooth with a knife. Add chopped pecans, if desired, and press in with the back of a wooden spoon. Cool completely in the fridge and break into pieces.

I ended up making a batch and a half.  I used a good sized pan to cook it in, but it still ended up pretty thick.  If I were to make this recipe again, I would make sure to use a really big pan to cool it in.  Maybe a cookie sheet for a recipe and a half like I made.

December 16, 2011

Wedding Decor!

I finally got photos back from the wedding so I thought I'd share some photos of those decorations that I had talked about making before!

Our bridesmaid flowers!

My flowers wrapped with lace from my mom's wedding dress, with our programs.

All of these wooden place holders were hand cut by my mom!

Here's our guestbook with the typewriter I refinished and shipping tags to write messages to us.
Our cake.  I didn't do much with this, but it's still pretty!

Our centerpieces, and twig vases that I made.

My vintage overnight bag used as a card holder, and vintage mail to and from tv and movie characters!

Our evergreen tree favors.

One of my favorite guestbook additions.  A drawing of Alex and I!

Butterscotch Toffee Shortbread Cookies

Next on the holiday cookie list are butterscotch toffee shortbread cookies.  Supposedly these are diabetic friendly because they don't have very much sugar in them, but with the butterscotch chips and toffee in it I find that hard to believe.  But they are really, really good!  Usually shortbread isn't very sweet, but the additions of butterscotch and toffee give it some new sweetness.

The recipe is originally from here

Butterscotch Toffee Shortbread

Butter (unsalted, softened) – 1 cup
All purpose flour – 1 3/4 cup
Cornstarch – 1/2 cup
Confectioner’s Sugar (powdered sugar) – 1/2 cup
Pure Vanilla extract – 1 tsp
Salt – 1/4 tsp
Butterscotch Chips – 1/2 cup (finely chopped)
English toffee bits (Heath’s) – 1/2 cup

  • Cream the softened butter and sugar until fluffy. Mix in the vanilla extract.
  • In a separate bowl, sieve together the flour, cornstarch and salt.
  • Combine the butter sugar mixture and the flour and mix well. The dough will not be super sticky and will almost fall apart, do not worry! That’s how it is supposed to be.
  • Cover the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. The dough would have hardened a little bit and will be easier to handle.
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/4th inch thickness. Cut with a fluted 2 inch round cookie cutter (or use the fluted small hearts). Place the cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets or cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.
  • Bake for 10-11 minutes. The cookies need be just lightly browned, They will look undone, but let them rest on the sheet for 4-5 minutes. Then transfer the cookies to a cooling rack.
Cool to room temperature and store in airtight containers.

December 15, 2011

SW- Going Patternless

This week's challenge on Sew Weekly is to create something without a pattern.  I had been wanting to make a holiday dress also, so I just sort of combined the two!  I was originally going to use a pattern I had gotten from Meg, the Vogue 8280.

I was going to make the black dress that is in the bottom corner.  I didn't like the back of the dress... it was too boring for a cocktail dress.  You can't see it on these photos, but it was just a full back with no special detail work.  Also, when I was looking at the pattern I had, it was the wrong size.  So I didn't completely go patternless as I used the top front piece... but I did the rest free hand and had to make lots of changes to that small piece too.

Oh, and Zoey tried to help me yet again... I don't know why she does stuff like this, but it leads to very cute photos.

I started by designing what I wanted the back to look like.  I copied the shoulders from the front and then pleated the lower back.

I had to redo all of the pleats, including the chest ones because they were placed oddly... or maybe I just have an odd body... I dunno.  The top looks kind of goofy in this picture because my dress form is really flat chested.

Sorry all the photos are dark... I leave for work with the sun rising and get home as it sets... so we are lit by Christmas lights!

And tomorrow night my husband is taking me out so hopefully I can get a photo to put up of me in the dress!

More Holiday Decorations

I love decorating for the holidays.  If I could I would make my place look like this...

This would be pretty expensive to do, but one day... hehe.  One of my recent additions to the apartment was adding holiday chair sashes.  I found this great fabric with red and green glitter circles on it.  I usually hate glitter, but it's the holiday season so I'll give it a reprieve. 

December 14, 2011

Cookie Time!

At the holidays in our house I like to bring home cookies I've made and swap them with my families cookies.  We get much more variety and I still get to cook like I love to!  Usually I make typical cookies like gingerbread and sugar cookies, but this year I wanted to branch out.

First on my list of cookies is gingerbread.  Instead of the regular gingerbread, I found a recipe for drunken gingerbread cookies.  Essentially homemade gingerbread with the addition of rum.  Here's where the original recipe came from

Drunken Gingerbread Cookies

3 Cups all-purpose flour
1 TBSP cinnamon
1 TBSP ground ginger
1/2 tsp. cloves
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 Cups dark brown sugar, packed
3/4 Cups molasses
12 TBSP (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into chunks and softened slightly (if using salted butter, just leave out the salt)
3 TBSP rum

For the glaze:
2 Cups confectioner's sugar
2-4 TBSP rum


In a food processor, combine brown sugar and all dry ingredients with a few pulses. Add the butter and process until grainy or sandy looking. Add the molasses and rum, and blend until the dough comes together.
Divide the dough in half and roll out to 1/4 - 1/2 inch thickness between two sheets of parchment paper - refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight, or chill in the freezer for 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350f.
Once firm, take the dough out of the fridge or freezer and cut out with the cookie cutter of your choice. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet, leaving a good inch or so between the cookies. Bake until the middles have just barely set, about 8-11 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through. Cool the cookies on the sheet for 4-5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

While the cookies cool, mix together confectioner's sugar and 2 TBSP of rum, then gradually add up to 2 more TBSP until the icing is a thick but spreadable consistency.

Once the cookies are completely cooled, spread a big dollop of icing on each one - let dry before serving.

I haven't added the icing yet.  I'm freezing all my cookies this year and frosting them when I get back home for the holidays.

December 13, 2011

Gift Giving- Scarf

This gift is one of my favorites.  I might make one of these for myself too!  I found this scarf design on Pinterest before, and it was really easy to sew a piece of stretch fabric and lace together!  Here is my burgundy one!

I thought the fabric was a plain blue, but it ended up having blue flowers on it.  It still looks pretty nice though!

December 12, 2011

Gift Giving- Apron

I love making aprons and I have a fantastic retro pattern to work with. Aprons are a tough gift to give because who really uses them anymore?  Even the one I made for myself doesn't get used very much.  I usually just throw on a t-shirt if I'm going to me making something messy.  But they are still pretty gifts to give, and hopefully they'll get some usage even if it's just for decoration.

When I ordered the fabric online for this one, I thought I was getting purple... but the colors still matched each other so it all worked out well.

This one is blue and black.  The fabric isn't the best, but it's really pretty and the black is a velvety material!

Here is my green apron.  It is still missing button details, but you an get the general idea.

December 11, 2011

Gift Giving- Purse

For this holiday season, I am making many of the gifts that Alex and I are giving.  Since I have such a sewing background I thought it'd be nice to share what I make with others.  I am planning on posting things I've made for gifts from now until Christmas.  We shall see how far I get.  I can't say who they are for just in case that person is reading the blog, but I can show off to everyone what I've been working on!

First off I'm making purses for a few family members.  I've tried to sell purses I've made before, but it's never worked too successfully... but I can always use them as gifts!  Usually I make fabric purses, but I decided to branch out for this holiday season.  I tried my hand at leather purses!  Here is the first one.  Oh, and I designed the purses as well.  No patterns, directions, etc.

 Here's another purse I designed.  This one has pleats along both sides of the purse.  My sewing machine didn't really like this one.  Though I may have just needed to change the needle on it.

And the last one I made!

December 5, 2011

New Year's Plans

I love cooking for big groups of people.  This year for New Year's, my husband and I are throwing our 3rd Annual New Year's Party in Chicago and our 5th Annual New Year's Day celebration.  Last year we had 11 people and a dog crammed into our apartment.  I'm not sure how many will be here this year, but I'm hoping it'll be more!  I've had a great time already planning the menu for the long weekend.  And the food should be enough incentive for everyone to come.  Here's what I have planned so far...

Friday, December 30th
Snacks– Fresh Tomato Brushetta and Homemade French Bread
Dinner– Steak Fondue with various dips and Tzatziki Dip with Veggies
Dessert– Peppermint Stick Ice Cream with Chocolate Shell Topping

Saturday, December 31st
Breakfast– Almond Waffles with Apple Chutney, Cinnamon Sugared Bacon
Lunch– (in the city)
Dinner– (Giordano’s)

Sunday, January 1st
Breakfast– Cinnamon Rolls, Mimosas, Manmosas
Lunch- Barbeque Ribs, Maple Ginger Glazed Carrots, Cheese Broccoli, Parmesan Potatoes, Gourmet Mac and Cheese
Dessert– Black Forest Gateau

Cheddar Cheese Ball and crackers
Pico de Gallo and Tortilla Chips
Christmas Cookies

And all of this means that I will get to post like crazy about my cooking right around the New Year!!! 
At some point my husband I will start working out and eating well... yeah... ugh.

December 4, 2011


I'm working on picking cookies to make for the holidays.  Usually I make very traditional cookies, like gingerbread and sugar cookies.  I'm wanting to branch out this year and try some more unique cookies.  I've been looking on for recipes and found some ones I find interesting.  And here's where you come in!  I want some opinions!  Which of these sound good to you?

Drunken Gingerbread Cookies
Butterscotch Shortbread Cookies
Chocolate Turtle Cookies

Choco-Ancho Chili Cookies

Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies

Swirl Sugar Cookies

December 3, 2011

A Bunch of Posts...

First off... I am apologizing because I hate technology... and I guess it hates me too. 

Second... I notice that on my last blog post that it says "I took an old sweated that was too brigand made the sleeves into wine bottle covers."  I typed sweater into my iPod and it changed it to sweated... cause that makes sense.  And the word big was changed to brigand... cause that makes even more sense.  I hate that iPods auto correct words to what it thinks I mean... when I typed it correct the first time. 

Third- I set up the next few posts on the iPod... and have since seen that they did not post.  Fail.  So this post will be all of those in one... sorry.  And now that I have a computer again I can add photos in!

November 30th's photo!  I'm not crazy about the buttons.  I'm going to rethink how to decorate them.

(Supposed to be on December 1st)
Day 26- Winter Holidays
Craft something for the winter holidays!

My Day 25- Someone elses suggestion
My days suggestion for crafting came from my husband.  He had been telling me to get a XMas tree to decorate for a while, but we hadn't gone to get one cause.. well... we're busy people.  Well he is... so I went out and bought a Christmas tree to surprise him!  I brought it home, set it up, put the lights on and decorated it! 

I texted him to tell him I had a surprise for him when he got home.  He gets home and notices some flashing Christmas lights across the room and comments that that is new.  I then point to the spot directly next to him where there is a 5 foot tree next to him on a table... he's not the most observant.

(Supposed to be on December 2nd)
Day 27- Dream Item
Is there something that you have always wanted but never made for yourself?  Well now is the time to make that dream item!

My Day 26- Winter Holidays
I crafted some ornaments for our tree because it is pretty sparse right now.  I got some clear ornaments and filled them with floor wax (it is sticky) and glitter.  They turned out ok, but I'm not completely crazy about them.  They look sort of cheap to me.

(Supposed to be on December 3rd)
Day 28- Finish a Project
Are there any projects that you started but haven't been able to finish.  Today you get to pick that project back up and finally finish it!  Hopefully!

My Day 27- Dream Item
I have been wanting a bar in our apartment for a while, but haven't known what to make it out of.  I don't have extra bookcases around and I don't have the time/money to buy wood and build my own.  I ended up deciding to make a small one out of an entertainment (DVD) case.  I've painted it and am going to put polyeurethane on top later.  For the top I lined it with corks.  I am a few short so I have to drink about 1/2 a dozen more bottles of wine to get the corks.  I measured the shelves so I can do a shelf of small glasses, martini glasses, regular wine glasses, and large wine glasses.  Additionally there is the top and the bottom shelf for alcohol bottles!