July 24, 2011 § Leave a comment
This post will be two tutorials in one. Because that’s how much I love you.
To have a good Mad Tea Party, you have to get into Wonderland, right?
And how do you get into Wonderland?
You follow a white rabbit. Of course.
Last year when we threw a Mad Tea for my sister’s graduation party we held it at a picnic area behind our church, out of sight of the parking lot, so I made white rabbits to lead the guests across the field to show everyone where to go. Making them couldn’t be simpler:
You will need white cardstock, a printer, scissors, glue, and skewers like these–look for them in the grilling section or with the kitchen utensils at your grocery store.
Download a rabbit silhouette. I used these–click on each image to download the full size!
Download one or both of the silhouettes, size them to fit on a single sheet of paper, then print them out on heavy white cardstock. Print two sheets for each rabbit that you want to make. Then just cut out your rabbits, sandwich a skewer in between the two sides, and glue.
Then stick your white rabbits in the grass leading to your tea party, and wait for the guests to arrive!
Chessboard Sandwich Skewers
One of my favorite touches at my Mad Tea Party was the chessboard of tea sandwiches–it looks awesome, and it was so simple to do!
I used ordinary white bread and a dark rye bread–you can use any bread as long as you have two colors! I cut each piece into quarters–in retrospect I wish that I’d also trimmed off the crusts, but I was in a hurry.
You’ll also need a large, square tray–if you want to make a full chessboard like mine you’ll need a tray large enough to hold an 8 by 8 square. We didn’t have a square tray large enough and I was just going to set my sandwiches out on a smaller tray that was 5 by 5 sandwiches, and put my extra chesspeople on the side like cocktail skewers. Then my dad went into his magic workshop (the garage) and returned with a beautiful custom tray, just for me, cut to just the right size. Is he the best, or is he the best? I think both are correct.
But the important thing for this project is, of course, the chesspeople skewers. You’ll need toothpicks, white cardstock, glue or double-sided tape (I used glue, but tape might be less messy!), a printer, and this downloadable papercraft chess set, created by T. John Peacock, inspired by the classic Tenniel illustrations:
click on the image to go to the download
Print out the chess set on white cardstock, then cut out each piece and fold it over the end of a toothpick, gluing (or taping) it in place.
Now you’re ready to play with your food!
July 18, 2011 § 4 Comments
Remember how I was going to write tutorials for some of the things I did for my Mad Tea Party?
Remember how I did…one?
Well, I have more!
I knew that I’d get around to them eventually.
This will be a tutorial for the playing card garland that I made. To make your own, you will need:
-Playing cards (this is a great use for that incomplete deck of cards that we all have in the bottom of the games cupboard! You know, the deck with only 51 cards?)
-‘Invisible’ nylon thread
-a sewing machine
It’s a pretty straightforward project–thread your sewing machine with the invisible thread, pulling out a long tail of thread before you start sewing (this is so that you’ll have something to hang your garland from!).
Pop a playing card into the machine, sewing down the middle….or, y’know. Mostly down the middle.
As you near the end of the first card, line up a second card with the bottom edge of the first, and just keep sewing!
When you get to the end of the second card, line up a third card, and keep sewing. Repeat until your garland is as long as you want, or until you run out of cards!
July 2, 2011 § 1 Comment
I was going to start posting my Wonderland party tutorials tomorrow, but decided at the last minute that I wanted to put this one up today (you’ll find out why at the bottom of the post). It’s really a very simple project that hardly merits a tutorial (she said self-deprecatingly)–in fact it’s so simple that I will use hardly any words at all–but I’m a visual learner and I like to see how things are put together, so there you go.
Besides, I wanted a sandwich.
You will need: Bread (I used round flat bread because there was no regular bread in the house), peanut butter, strawberry jam, and two heart-shaped cookie cutters, one small enough to fit inside the other.
…and there you have it. A peanut butter & (strawberry) jelly sandwich fit for the Queen of Hearts.
Of course, the same concept works very well with other cut out shapes, too, like this:
Happy Canada Day!
February 19, 2011 § 1 Comment
There are a lot of things that look really hard before you do them–knitting with cables, for instance, which looked so hard before I realized how simple it is. Or watercolor painting. Or (although I don’t really remember, but I imagine) walking. When it comes to cooking there are lots of things that intimidate me, and it is true to my tendency to improvise gets me into trouble, but I’ve found that if I take the time to figure things out I can make all kinds of awesome things.
A couple of weeks ago I made tiramisu for my Bible study’s Italian potluck using this recipe. I thought that it was going to be a lot harder than it was. Guess what? It’s easy! It’s just not quick. It’s fairly time consuming just because you have to make several different parts and then assemble them, and then you have to wash all of the bowls that you made them in (I think I counted a minimum of six bowls dirtied during the tiramisu process. Thank goodness for the Kitchen Fairy, that’s all I’m saying). And THEN you have to let your tiramisu chill in the refrigerator overnight (and trust me, it will not be amazing if you do not let it chill overnight). Tiramisu is not an instant gratification kind of project, but you know what? Good things come to those that wait. And by ‘good things’ I mean ‘delicious and creamy desserts’.
Tiramisu has three components: a Mascarpone cheese filling, whipped cream, and ladyfinger cookies soaked with coffee and liqueur.
The first part of the Mascarpone cheese filling needs to chill for an hour in the refrigerator, so start there–and by the way, if you’ve never heard of Mascarpone cheese before (I hadn’t!) you’ll be interested to know that it’s an Italian cream cheese. Look for it with the specialty cheese in the deli section of your grocery store.
Mascarpone Cheese Filling:
6 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup milk
16 oz of Mascarpone cheese (you won’t be using the cheese just yet, but go ahead and leave it out on the counter to soften)
Separate the eggs, placing the yolks in a small saucepan (discard the whites, or save them for an egg white omlette). Whisk the sugar into the yolks until combined, then whisk in milk and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture boils (this took about five minutes for me).
Let it boil gently for one minute, then remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool slightly. Cover tightly and put in the refrigerator for one hour (I transfered the mixture into a different bowl and covered the surface with plastic wrap). Leave the Mascarpone cheese out while the egg mixture chills so that it will soften.
Now you have an hour to kill! Perfect, because you have ladyfingers to make (you could buy prepackaged ladyfingers, but where’s the fun in that? Besides, they’re really simple). I used this recipe.
4 eggs, separated
2/3 cup white sugar
7/8 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup strong coffee
1/4 cup coffee liquor (you won’t be using these two ingredients until later, when you assemble the tiramisu)
Place egg whites in bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high until soft peaks start to form. Slowly add 2 tablespoons of the sugar and continue beating until stiff and glossy. In another bowl beat egg yolks and remaining sugar. Whip until thick and very pale in color.
Sift flour and baking powder together (the internet advised me to sift thoroughly for the best results, so I sifted the flour and baking powder onto a paper plate, then moved the sifter to another paper plate, used the first plate as a funnel to transfer the flour back into the sifter, and sifted again. I did this twice, which may have been overkill). Fold half the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture. Fold in flour, and then add the remaining egg whites. Keep folding gently until the flour is well incorporated. (I was really focused on what I was doing at this point. Way too focused to take pictures).
Preheat oven to 400F. Line two 17 x 12 inch baking sheets with parchment paper. Fit large pastry bag with a plain 1/2 inch round tube or if you’re using a disposable piping bag just cut off the tip (you could also use a heavy duty freezer bag* and cut off one corner).Transfer mixture to pastry bag and pipe out onto prepared baking sheet. Bake 8 minutes.
*I’ve seen lots of tutorials that blithely instruct the reader to use a ziplock bag for piping. Most of them aren’t more specific than that, but I am here to tell you that you ONLY want to use a heavy duty freezer bag. This is not a time for bargain brand ziplock sandwich bags. Why? Because they will explode on you.
For my test batch of tiramisu I piped out three inch ladyfingers, but then I had to fit them into the bottom of my pan, which was a bit of a jigsaw. So for my second batch I got clever:
I took the pan that I was going to assemble the tiramisu in, set it on a piece of parchment paper, and traced around the bottom with a pencil. Then I moved it over and traced it again (making sure that both outlines would fit on one cookie sheet–otherwise I would have used a second piece of parchment paper). I turned the paper over so that the pencil marks were on the bottom and voila! a perfect template of my pan. I just piped the ladyfingers out to match.
Now you have your ladyfingers cooling (you can speed up the cool time by sliding the parchment paper off of the cookie sheets and onto a wire rack) and your egg mixture has been in the refrigerator for an hour, so you can get it out and finish it by folding the 16oz of softened Mascarpone cheese into the egg and stirring until well blended.
Two components down! Only one to go!
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
Combine in a bowl and beat with an electric hand mixture, gradually increasing the speed to high, and beat until it is light and fluffy and soft peaks form when you lift the beater. (Be careful not to overbeat, unless you’d rather have butter than whipped cream).
And now it is assembly time! Arrange a layer of ladyfingers in the bottom of your pan and and brush them with a mixture of strong coffee and coffee liquor (remember the coffee and liquor that I mentioned before? this is when you use it). Most recipes say to dip the ladyfingers, but I don’t like my tiramisu too wet so I wanted a lot of control. My original recipe (the one I used for the test batch) also called for coffee and rum, which I didn’t like–I thought it was too strong and bitter, so definitely splash out for some coffee liquor (or omit the liquor and just use coffee and vanilla extract, if you want your tiramisu alcohol free). I brushed each ladyfinger three or four times–you want them to be saturated, but not dripping.
Once your ladyfingers are boozed up to your satisfaction, cover them with half of your Mascarpone cheese filling, spreading it in an even layer. Then take half of your whipped cream and spread it out in an even layer, and repeat with another layer of ladyfingers, another layer of Mascarpone cheese, and another layer of whipped cream. Top with a sprinkling of shaved chocolate.
Put the assembled tiramisu in the refrigerator for the night, and go get some well deserved rest.
Then have tiramisu for breakfast.
February 8, 2011 § Leave a comment
There are lots of tutorials out there about how to make a silhouette portrait. I mean really, lots, so I feel a little silly putting up my own tutorial. However, the tutorials that I read all varied in their methods, so I thought it would be worth it to explain just what I did (and what I will do differently next time)
First I found the picture (obviously). You want a simple picture that shows the person’s profile, and if there’s a good contrast between the person and the background it will make your life much easier. A closed or slightly open mouth is better than an open mouth or a really big smile (because those expressions don’t translate well into a silhouette). An interesting hairstyle is a plus. You can take pictures specifically for the project, but you can also look through pictures that you already have and look for good profile shots (especially if you want a silhouette of a child who won’t hold still for a portrait session- -it might be easier to get sneaky profile shots while they’re engaged in something else than attempt to stand them against a wall).
Once I had chosen the picture and cropped it, I uploaded it to Flickr and edited it in Picnik with the ‘pencil sketch’ setting–if you’re using Picnik, go to the ‘Create’ tab, click on ‘Effects’ in the toolbar, then scroll down the menu on the left until you find ‘pencil sketch’. If you aren’t using Picnik then check your favorite picture editing software–most will have a similar sketch tool. Or you could skip this step. It’s not essential, it just makes it a little easier to trace the outline in the next step.
I sized the image to fill a regular piece of paper and printed it out. Now, this made my silhouette large enough to require an 11×14 frame. Then I had to hunt and hunt for a frame that would fit (this would have been easier if I had been willing to settle for a rectangular frame). I really recommend choosing your frame before you cut your silhouette and sizing the image to fit.
I taped a piece of tracing paper on top of my printed image and then just used a pencil to trace around the outside of the picture. This was my chance to experiment with the image–this is when you have to make decisions about what to include. I used Jason’s collar and Sharon’s necklace as handy guides for where to end their necks, but I debated about how much detail to add. Should I try to cut out Jason’s shirt collar and tie? Sharon’s veil? The flowers that were in Sharon’s hair? Her necklace? In the end I decided that keeping it very simple would have the best look. The biggest challenge was Sharon’s shoulder, because of the angle, so I added a couple of tendrils of hair.
I also added their eyelashes–this is something that all of the tutorials I read agreed on. Most people’s eyelashes don’t actually stick out far enough to be visible beyond the bridge of their nose when they’re in profile, but most silhouette portraits include them anyway. Silhouettes without eyelashes look a little strange to me, and have less personality, so I just marked the level of their eyes when I was tracing the silhouette and cut a whisp of eyelash.
When I was satisfied with my outline I removed the printed picture and looked at my traced outline alone, to make sure that it looked okay on its own, before using masking tape to secure it to my black paper. I used black scrapbook cardstock from my local craft store and a fresh exacto knife. And a piece of very thick cardboard as a cutting surface. And a steady hand. I just cut through the tracing paper and into the scrapbook paper beneath, following my pencil lines slowly but firmly (so as not to tear the tracing paper and ruin everything forever). It took about thirty minutes. For some of the details–such as Jason’s hair–it was easier to cut beyond what I needed into the area outside the silhouette (NOT into the silhouette) to get a sharper point, if that makes sense.
When I’d gotten all the way around my outline I removed the tracing paper, and followed the cut lines that I’d made to make sure that they all went all the way through. It was hard to gauge through the tracing paper whether I was cutting deeply enough–it was also hard to make my cuts very clean (a ragged cut means a fuzzy edge to your paper). Next time I’ll either make shallow cuts through the tracing paper just to score the black paper, and then remove the tracing paper and go back to cut the silhouette out all the way OR I will transfer the outline onto the black paper with carbon paper or white pencil, so that I can cut through only one layer and really see what I’m doing.
Also, because my silhouette was joined at the nose, I had to be careful not to bend it. I made the mistake of cutting out one head entirely before cutting the second–I should have left the center of the image, the faces, for last, and cut out everything else before doing their features. It would have made things much easier.
Having the faces joined at the nose also meant that I couldn’t pick the silhouette up–if I were cutting a single profile I think I would pick it up and cut with scissors (one tutorial I read mentioned cuticle scissors, but I think that any small, sharp craft scissors would work). And when it was time to turn the silhouette over so that could attach it to the background, I sandwiched it between two pieces of paper, the way that you would flip a cake.
My background was just a piece of Bristol board, which is like a heavy cardstock. You can find it in the art supplies section of your local craft store, or (if you silhouette is small enough) you could just get a piece of scrapbook paper. Or a piece of fabric, or wallpaper, or anything else that strikes your fancy. I stuck to white, because I wanted this silhouette to be very classic (and to always go with Sharon’s decor, no matter what colors she uses in her home!). I turned my silhouette over and applied double-sided scrapbook tape to the back, then laid the Bristol board down on top of it (instead of picking it up and setting it on the Bristol board) and voila!
January 3, 2011 § 5 Comments
I spent most of my childhood in countries that don’t exist–Narnia, Oz, Prydain, Never-Never Land, Wonderland–but it all began with Middle Earth. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are in my earliest memories. January 3rd is J.R.R. Tolkien’s birthday, so to celebrate I made cupcakes. Hobbit hole cupcakes!
If I could choose to live in a fictional place, the Shire would be high on my list–I would make an excellent hobbit. Since I can’t move into Bag End right away (unfortunately) these will have to do for now.
I made chocolate cupcakes and froze them, so that they’d be easier to cut, and then trimmed off one side to make a flat surface–
The hobbit doors are made from candy melts–the door knobs and hinges are yellow candy melts, put into a disposable piping bag and microwaved in thirty second increments and then piped on–
I covered the cupcakes with green fondant, then used more melted candy coating to stick the doors onto the flat side of the cupcake. I melted some more green candy coating and piped it onto the sides of the cupcakes for grass, and added flower sprinkles–
December 23, 2010 § 2 Comments
Here’s a true story, boys and girls: 99.9% of my creative impulses take place in the middle of the night, at the last minute, when I should be doing something else.
I was wrapping my gift for my office Secret Santa and thought ‘hm…this package really needs something.’ I mean, look at it! Something is definitely lacking here:
Anyone who says otherwise is clearly sane, and therefore an unreliable opinion.
I formed loops with my ribbon, adding a dab of glue to the center each time to hold the ribbon in place:
Then when I had four ‘petals’ I put a dollop of glue in the center and added a shiny red button
(there may have been a daring post-midnight raid on a button jar first. No idea whose jar–my mother’s? my sister’s? Either way, the jar was left unguarded and vulnerable, and the two buttons that were the slowest and least agile and which also happened to be red were culled from the herd)
A little rolled-up tape, and voila! So much better!
And What was in the packages? Candy, a chocolate orange, a book of the hardest Sudoku puzzles that I could find, and a knitted snowflake: