It's my life and I love it...most of the time.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Pinterest Projects - Cooking Part 1

 Another favorite pinning topic on Pinterest is recipes. 1000's and 1000's of recipes. And I have almost 400 pinned myself (yikes!). June brings a birthday at our house, so what better reason to make a homemade cake! I love Italian Creme Cake, and found a recipe posted to Pinterest. When I went to the link, I was estatic to find it on the Pioneer Women's website! I loveeeee the Pioneer Women, Ree Drumond. I began following her at the beginning of the year when her new show started on The Food Network. It was fun to realize many of my co-workers enjoy her, too! We have great conversations at lunch about the things she makes.

In the spring, I was so glad to discover she would be coming to my town for a book signing! I arranged for "tickets" for several of us to go see her. I say "tickets" because they were free. They were really just to hold us a sit in the auditorium for her presentation. We arrived early and waited about an hour so we had good seats, which we did. She did a small presentation which was funny and enjoyable. We laughed as she told us a little more about herself and her life. We had a bit of a wait to get our cookbooks signed, but it really wasn't bad when you considered how many were there and that many brought/purchased multiple books to be signed. She really is gracious and I think very genuine.

She was very accomodating to everyone there, including us. She had to take pictures with us individually, then there was the group shot, then there were our mulitple books! But this post isn't about my adventures meeting Ree, but cooking!! Let's get back to the cake!

This cake has a lot of ingredients, but is really not hard to make. The recipe can be found in Ree Drummond's latest cookbook, The Pioneer Women Cooks: Food from My Frontier. I hope you don't mind, I don't like to post a recipe that isn't mine and can be found in a cookbook. I would be happy to share it with you if you ask, you can buy her wonderful cookbook, or you can go to Ree's website by clicking here for her Italian Creme Cake.

I will share some of the process with you.

One of the techniques used to make this cake is creating a merangue by whipping egg whites.

After transfering the egg whites, clean out the bowl and use it make the batter.

You then fold the egg whites into the batter. The batter is a bit lumpy. It looks like this in Ree's pics, too. If you aren't familiar with the Pioneer Women, one of the great things about her website and her cookbooks is she includes great pics. You know what everything should look like!

I divided the batter between 3 round cake pans for a nice high layer cake. (That's Ree's cookbook right next to the cake as it cools. I love it! I love her. Do you think it is a little weird I call her Ree? Me, too! But she just makes you feel that way, like you know her.)

For me, part of what makes this cake so wonderful is it's frosting. It contains cream cheese, which is not one of my husband's favorites (and it was his birthday), so I decided to make half butter frosting and half cream cheese. I used colored tooth picks pushed in the sides of the cake at the bottom to keep track of which side was which. I will never do it this way again. He said it was too sweet (I NEVER thought I would hear those words come from his mouth.). He has actually had a store bought version of this cake before, and I don't think he even realized it was cream cheese in the frosting - hmmmm.

I think it turned out really good. I will make it again if we are having people over. All of the kids couldn't come over for his birthday dinner, so there was a lot of cake. It is sooo different cooking for a few, after so many years cooking for 7; which at one time included 5 teenagers - 3 of them boys! I would also make it for a church pot luck.

Yumm! This makes me miss it!!

Do you have a favorite from scratch cake recipe? Does your husband insist he doesn't like something, only he eats it when he doesn't know what it is?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Pinterest Projects - Fairie Gardens: Part 2

It's time to show you some of the tips I picked up while trying to decide what I wanted to do with my new Fairie Garden. The Internet is an amazing place, and I continue to use Pinterest for inspiration.

(First, here's a little sneak peak of what I accomplished by making many of my own features.)

One of the struggles I had was finding just the right door for my Fairies to enter into their new home. I didn't relish paying $25 for the doors that came the closest to what I wanted. I did find some on eBay and Etsy that I could purchase. They were handmade, and could be made to order. Wait a minute. Handmade? If they were handmade, why couldn't it be my hands to make it!? I found several tutorials online that were helpful.

I made a trip to Hobby Lobby to buy some essentials. (I like to frequent Hobby Lobby as I respect the fact they are closed on Sunday's so their employees can go to church and spend time with family; a philosophy that has almost disappeared in the United States.) In all fairness, they did not have everything I needed so I also made a trip to Michaels. Almost everything I purchased, I could have paid less for at Michaels.

I purchased polymer clay in three different colors. I used most of 3 packages of the main color (the door, and an accent color for the rock frame), and part of 1 package each of the others (2 colors for accent rocks). I started by cutting a pattern for my door.

I began working the clay. This took awhile. Remember how I mentioned patience was not one of my virtues? At one point I thought, what was I thinking. Why didn't I just buy a door! I used my hands to knead the clay, and a rolling pin to flatten it it. This was such a large piece it took awhile. If I were to continue making polymer clay things, I would definitely invest in a dedicated pasta machine to roll out the clay. This would be a good time to mention after I started working the clay, I read some information that says you should not use tools for cooking after using them on the clay. I would have chosen something else to roll this out on had I read it first. I also found that the clay stuck to the cutting mat. I switched to aluminum foil and had much better luck.

After getting it rolled out to the correct size, I used a butter knife and the door template to cut out my door.

I used an old paint brush handle that had lost the bristles to create knot holes, and the knife to draw lines in the door to create a wood pattern.

I used some silver to cut out triangles to use for hinges.

I rolled out tiny balls for the rock door frame out of three colors. I placed them around the door, and pressed them flatter and together to create the frame. After I was done, I did notice some tiny holes where some of the "rocks" came together. I don't think it will cause problems, but time will tell. You can purchase liquid polymer clay that you could use like a grout, but that would have been another $7, so I chose to try it without. I also saw a tutorial that cut a flat frame out, and then they placed the rock on the flat frame to create a complete frame, given the effect of grout.

I also used my finger to rub pigment powder to the surface. The mica in the powder gives a pearlescent sheen to the door. Can you have fairies and no sparkle? I had this on hand in my rubber stamping supplies, so no extra cost there. Don't forget to check your craft stores before purchasing new products when starting a project.

I got to wondering how I was going to get my door to stand up? Toothpicks!! I stuck the toothpicks in an interval I thought would give stability. But I began to worry they wouldn't be strong enough to stick in the ground. I tried to think of what else I had.

Of course! The floral pins I had bought to help secure the fairie furniture from blowing away in the wind!

So I stuck them right in.

I had clay left, so I also made some stepping stones by cutting circles out of the clay and stamping them with a pattern.

In the process, I had some extra door color so I made an additional door, as well as a small ball to create a door knob for an additional fairie home I was going to renovate. (More on that later.)

I baked according to package directions and here is the finished product.

I found this idea on another blog (I am afraid I did not save the site, and can not give credit where is credit is due. I really wanting a gazing ball, but did not want to spend $5 for a pre-made one. So I put out a call on Facebook for a golf tee (thanks Andrea) and bought a marble.

With a little hot glue, I had my gazing ball! (In case you were wondering, that glue gets REALLY hot!)

I wanted to add some color to my pre-purchased pots. I had some craft moss in my craft drawers. I added some hot glue to the pot, and just stuck some in.

Easy, peasy. Remember when I said check your supplies before buying new products? Never in a million years would I have thought I had moss at home, so I bought some I needed for this and my fairie home renovations. And then I found this moss, after I had already opened the other package. Uggg.

I also determined we needed some more color through plants! I was so happy to find a half price sale at another garden spot in town!

The next step was to put it all together!! I'll let the pics speak for themselves. I did by a fairie (I guess they don't just show up on their own) and a little bird bath.

One fairie garden I saw a picture of had swimming pool. I figured if I couldn't have one, my fairies could! I had plans to carve out a pool from the top of the trunk. The more I looked at the cut off top, and it's irregular shape, the idea came to me we needed a lake!

Cameron helped me nail some twigs from our yard to the edge of the stump to create a retaining wall. I added sea glass to give the effect of water. This was another of those purchases, that if I had more patience, it wouldn't cost me as much. You can order bulk sea glass online for a lot less. (http://www.save-on-crafts.com/vasgemmarsto.html - this is a great site I found for low prices on lots of craft items) On top of that, the craft stores were out of bulk (evidently wedding season had depleted their supply). I did find some in small qualities in a $1-$2 isle in Michaels. I used some other river rocks I had bought at the Dollar Tree and some large glass beads for filler. I found these chairs for a reasonable price at Johnsons.

If I have a lake, how can the fairie's not have a lake house!? Years ago Cameron found this old birdhouse in pretty run down condition. He fixed it up, with his dad's help to give to me as a gift. It has set on my front porch (much to his chagrin - he thought it should be in a tree so the birds would make a home out of it). I remodeled, adding a moss roof and turned what is now the door upside down. It went the other way, creating a round hole for the birds to enter through. But it made a perfect door turned upside down. I also hot glued a polymer clay bead I made for the door knob. I made a cross out of polymer clay to put in the window to make it more like a window, but didn't like how it turned out. I will work on that.

And the final product. One adjustment we had to make was cut out a space for the door from the trunk. That was the one thing about this project, and working with the tree stump (versus making a garden in old tub, or flower pot). I had originally thought I would stick the door in the ground using the floral pins I had baked in. In order to do that, the door stuck out too far from the stump. Roger used the chain saw to cut away the entrance and allow the door to be placed. I easily bent the pins back, creating a flat surface for the door to set on, giving more stability.

By the time I thought through everything, and kept adding embellishments, this took a couple of weeks. I never dreamt it would take so long, but I thought it was worth it! I love looking out the back door and seeing my new treasure. This is not any ordinary tree stump now. Nor is it a negative reminder of the majestic tree that once graced our back yard, but was lost to fire. It is a whimsical place, a reminder of what it is like to be a little girl, playing in an imaginary world in the back yard.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Pinterest Projects - Fairie Gardens: Part 1

Back in May I decided this summer I was going to accomplish something. While I enjoy reading in bed until noon during the summer, I wanted to do more.

Just as many of you have, I have discovered Pinterest this year. I usually get on a couple of times a day, check out what my friends have been pinning and then run through one page of strangers pins. I have to admit I have 100's of things pinned. I had made a couple of comments on my Facebook wall about some things I had tried, when one of my cousins suggested I blog about my Pinterest projects. That was enough to give me some inspiration for my goal of accomplishing something this summer!

(For those of you who aren't familiar with Pinterest, check it out at www.pinterest.com . To put it in old school terms, think of it as going through your magazines, tearing out the articles (recipes, crafts, gardening, etc.) that interest you and pinning them to a cork board. Only now you "pin" a website idea to a virtual board that you created. It keeps your ideas organized without having to print everything off, or even use your favorites to mark web pages.)

One find on Pinterest were pages and pages of Fairie Garden ideas. I found them enchanting. After finding one pin particularly interesting, it inspired me to create a fairy garden using a tree stump in our back yard.

This is the pin that provided the inspiration: http://www.capadiadesign.com/2011/08/little-bit-of-whimsy.html .

Pretty amazing if you ask me. I loved the idea of making something out of an old tree. Several years ago, we had a devistating fire. One of the losses, and constant reminders, was a beuatiful old tree in our back yard. It caught fire as well, and eventualy died. We were forced to cut it down. All that was left was the stump.

I began researching ideas, looking at the canvas I had available to me. I began to envision what it could become. As ideas came to me, I would sketch them in a notebook I keep. When summer vacation began, I began putting everything together. I went to our local nursery (Johnson's), who has a section for mini/fairie gardens. I checked out their plants, specifically marketed for fairie gardens, and then went and searched the rest of the nursery for the same or similiar plants in the "regular" garden areas. I was able to find what I wanted for $1-$2 less than in the fairie garden section. I also found some furniture I liked. If I had been a little more patience, I could have purchased online and saved several dollars. But patience is not one of my virtues. Besides, I believe in supporting local businesses when I can.

I brought everything home and began assembling what I had so far.

First I had to clear away the grass and weeds. Then I began planting the plants I had found. I envision carving steps into the root all the way to the left in the picture, just as the original Pinterest pin showed.

Another tip I found on Pinterest, was to lay newspaper down and cover with soil. It helps keep the weeds at bay. I will take all the help I can get and gave it a shot. I placed the paper where I didn't think I wanted anything to grow. So far, so good. I have not had to do a lot of weeding. I figure I might as well set myself up with as much help as possible. I am not known for having a green thumb and really want this to be nice.

Then I placed the furniture and a few accessories I had picked up, and my fairie garden was beginning to take shape. I had still failed to find a door, however. How can you create a fairie garden, a home for fairies, and not have a door so they can get in their new home!?

I found that this was not such an easy task! I found several doors at the garden store as well as online. But they just weren't quite right and/or were a bit on the expensive side. They were anywhere from $15 on up, mostly on up.

I had to take a few days to regroup, and make some decisions, as well as do some more research. But that is for next week's blog. I hope you will come back to see some of the tips I picked up along the way on using things you may have around the house to embelish your garden, as well as the finished product.

What projects do you have going this summer? I would love to hear about them!