Monday, December 31, 2007

Peanut Butter Balls

My sister and nephew and I made these last weekend. They are a traditional Christmas treat in my family. I would give the recipe here but I don't measure the ingredients when making these.
You will need:
Peanut Butter (I used creamy JIF but you could use a crunchy type, too)
Confectioner's/powdered sugar
Semi-sweet chocolate, melted
First mix together peanut butter and powdered sugar in a large bowl. The best way to do this is to mix with clean hands or with plastic gloves on. I've tried to use a fork or a wooden spoon but it doesn't really mix it that well. Also, you will need to pinch a piece off periodically to see if it is the right consistency. You should be able to roll it into a ball pretty easily. If it is too sticky and won't keep a ball shape, add more sugar. If it is too dry and crumbles rather than forming a ball, add more peanut butter. After all your balls are formed (make them about the size of a quarter - bite size) refrigerate for about an hour. Melt semi-sweet chocolate in a double-boiler or microwave (15 second bursts on defrost, then stir - stop heating while there are still a few lumps so as to avoid burning the chocolate). We coated our peanut butter balls using two spoons but you could use tongs for dipping or pour the chocolate over. Once covered in chocolate, place balls on wax paper and put in fridge. These actually have no dairy in them, except the chocolate, so could be left at room temperature.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve

All the presents are wrapped (except one for my sister and I will wrap that after she goes to sleep). All of the baking is done. Nothing to do now but wait for Ol' Saint Nick :)

Button Ornaments

I have some white, brown, and black shrinkable plastic that can't be colored with the paints and pencils that I have. I bought a variety pack to see which kind I liked best (the previously mentioned Frosted Rough N'Ready won out) and have been trying out some projects to use all the different kinds. Anyway, I cut out the tree shapes from the plastic and punched a bunch of holes. Then I used some colored buttons for the "ornaments" on the trees. I guess you could use thread but I used colored wire here.

These pictures show the size of the white tree before and after shrinking. I am still entranced by the shrinking process...

Christmas Cookies

The traditional Christmas cookie in my family is a peanut butter cookie with buttercream frosting. This is not your delicate, ornate cut out cookie. Oh no, the point is to make it colorful and load on the frosting. Anyway, this year my sister and I decided to try out a chocolate cookie instead. I tried the recipe for Old Fashioned Chocolate Sugar Cookies from Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts. I wasn't that happy with the taste of them - not very chocolatey but I wasn't sure how much two ounces was and probably didn't put enough in. Otherwise, the dough rolls out well and is nice and buttery.

Here is a close-up of my sister's awesome cookie man, complete with white pompadour.

I am goofy and still don't have a rolling pin. I never remember this until I need to roll out some dough. Anyway, I used a mason jar with ice in it, and it worked okay. It was hard to get the dough to be the same thickness everywhere but the ice kept the dough chilled so that made things easier.

Shrinky Dink Pendant

What's in the bag? A homemade present, of course! Christmas is almost here so I'm trying to get everything wrapped up (literally and otherwise). I had breakfast with a friend yesterday and gave her the gifts I had made for her.
Here is a little pendant I made as a gift for my friend, Chris. She is crazy about birds so I thought this was fitting. I haven't done shrinky dinks since I was a kid. I had some Care Bear ones, I think :)

Anyway, I used Shrinky Dinks brand plastic - the "Frosted Ruff N'Ready" type. I drew and colored the design with regular old colored pencils and punched a hole before baking. It only takes a couple minutes to bake and cool. I applied a coat of clear nail polish over the rough side and then attached a bail to make the pendant.

I'm pretty happy with the way it came out. Hopefully, Chris likes it as well.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Some Paintings

Here are some terrible pictures of one of the paintings I did for the office. I couldn't get a decent picture of them hanging on the wall but didn't have time to scan them before hanging them up. So, you can see the reflection of the fluorescent lights :(

Monday, December 17, 2007

My Christmas Ornaments

My sister didn't have a tree last year, so this is the first Christmas tree that Simon has seen. He explored it a little, as you can see, but has left it mostly alone. I was excited to get the tree up on Saturday, rediscovering all my ornaments and decorations. It is definitely an eclectic mix but I think that they all go together.

The one on the right is one that my sister, Emily, made in her ceramics class. It is one of my favorites.
The owl below is also a favorite. I got it at a store called Heavenly Soles when I lived in Uptown.

Photo Ball Ornaments

I got this idea from Photjojo's newsletter - it's a great website that has lots of ideas of what to do with photos ( I have about a million prints of nature photos. Thank God I have a digital camera at my disposable now. I have spent good money developing entire rolls of film with nothing on them but leaves, trees, and flowers. Half of them are blurry or just not as interesting as they seemed at the time.

Anyway, all you need is some photos (ones with bold colors or patterns seem to work best) a hole punch, and brass fasteners like these

First, cut your picture into strips of equal width. If you want a bigger ball then cut the long way (you'll probably want two photos' worth of strips to make one ball). For a smaller ball cut shorter strips the other way (shown in the top picture); you should be able to make one ball from one picture for the smaller size. I cut the picture into six or eight strips for the ones I made.

Next step is to stack your strips and punch a hole at each end of the strip. Put the fasteners through the holes in your stack - one at the top and one at the bottom. Spread the arms of the fasteners in back to secure the strips together. The last step is to bend the stack of strips into a half circle and spread the strips out to make a ball shape. If you want to hang them on your tree, just attach a string to one of the fasteners. Needless to say, you could use other materials for this project. I've used cardstock with good results. It does need to be made of a sturdy paper, though, for the ball to hold its shape.

Here are a few that I made earlier tonight- two large ones and one small one. The other great thing about these is that you can fold them back flat for storage.

Christmas Wreath

Here's a picture of the wreath I made for our front door. I didn't have much free time but wanted to make some sort of Christmas decoration. I had this paper that I had bought at an Asian grocery store on Nicollet Ave last summer. I have a feeling that the paper I used for the bow has some sort of religious purpose. So, is is this wreath blasphemous or merely mulicultural? I'm not sure but I like the way it came out and, not being religious, that's all that matters to me. I cut the basic form out of cardboard (free hand, which is why it is lopsided).

A flurry of posts to come

I haven't been posting much but I have been making all sorts of things. I will be writing some posts about them today since I (blissfully!) have nothing that I absolutely have to do today (well, my sister might say that I really need to wash the dishes - don't worry, it will get done!).

In the meantime, I will point you to a blog that I love to read called Angry Chicken. She has created some really awesome gift tags that can be found here:

I especially like the one that says, "I made this, just so you know. So, don't say anything mean about it."

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Millions of Magnets

Okay, maybe not millions, but I've been putting a lot of time into making these magnets. I sold some at the bake sale I mentioned in my last post and will probably give some as Christmas gifts. To make them, I bought large (1" or so) glass "pebbles" (the kind you use to put in the bottom of vases) at Target. Then I cut out the images I wanted from various magazines and glued them to the back of the glass pebble, using Aleene's Tacky Glue. You could use any glue that dries clear. I don't think a gluestick would work, though. Then I cut and glued a little circle of cardstock over that and applied a stick on magnet. It's an extremely easy craft but it looks really nice. If I were going to sell these for real then I probably wouldn't use magazine pictures but would instead use my own images or decorative papers.

Cookie Mix in a Jar

We had a bake sale at work to raise money for our office fun committee. I brought these cookie mixes in addition to some cupcakes and brownies. I'm not going to put the recipe here because I didn't change it at all from this one: I thought the cookies it made were really good and not dry as some of the reviewers thought. I made some of the cookies to sell so people could get a taste before buying the jar.

We had a huge turnout of both bakers and customers for the sale. We raised over $400 and gave 10% of that to Second Harvest Heartland to help fight hunger in the Upper Midwest ( It's always so satisfying when I put a lot of work into planning an event and it goes as well as I'd hoped. I'm happy that it went well and I'm happy that it's over!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

No Coast Craft-o-rama

For the third year, this awesome craft show will be at the Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis. It runs this Friday and Saturday. I am considering going but am concerned about my ability to look and not buy. However, both crafts and the Market are pretty awesome so it is hard for me to pass up the chance to combine them. Maybe I will just bring a limited amount of cash and leave all plastic at home - that might work. Anyway, more info can be found here:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Gift Tags

These are some gift tags I'm making out of pictures cut from some old books I got from the library book store and some adhesive mat board usually used for scrapbooking.

Quick Sour Cream Coffee Cake

I adapted this recipe from The Joy of Cooking. The changes I made are to add orange zest and vanilla extract to the batter. I chose not to add the traditional streusel topping because I didn't want something really sweet. Instead I sprinkled some chocolate chunks and dried cherries on top.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 tsp orange zest
Chocolate chunks (optional)
Dried cherries (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9" square baking pan. Whisk together dry ingredients. In separate bowl, beat sour cream, orange zest and eggs together until thoroughly mixed. Add wet to dry ingredients and mix until just smooth. Be careful not to overmix! Spread batter in pan and top with chocolate chunks and cherries. Bake until toothpick comes out clean - about 25 minutes.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Winter is Coming

I took that picture the other day, on my way to the train, and have been meaning to post it. Winter is definitely almost here.

Apron Project

Here is a project I started last weekend. I bought a plain apron at JoAnn's Fabric and am spiffing it up. So far, I just have this black outline (done with puffy paint which was really fun). Should I fill it in? Which colors? I haven't decided - maybe some turquoise.

I am definitely going to add a pocket, though.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Cranberry Cream Pie

I made this for a work potluck, and it was well received. I had two pieces myself because, coming from Cape Cod, I have a genetically encoded love of cranberries. I'm also descended from those Mayflower pilgrim punks on my dad's side of the family. Not something I'm especially pround of (the pilgrims, being persecuted in Europe, decided to come over to the New World to live out there dream of persecuting others); I'd rather be descended from the Wampanoag tribe that brought most of the actual food to the first Thanksgiving. At least they had the good sense to know that lobster is good eatin' (true fact: the pilgrims thought eating lobster beneath them, like eating grubs....)

Anywho, I adapted the recipe from one I found on (

Cranberry Cream Pie

1 prepared graham cracker crust (I used a store-bought shortbread crust, which was good, too)
1/2 cup chocolate chunks

2 tablespoons milk or cream
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon orange zest
2 1/2 cups cranberries

1/2 cup dried cherries (optional)
1 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons orange juice

To Make Chocolate Layer: Melt chocolate using double boiler method or microwave. (Personally, I prefer using the microwave instead of messing around with a double boiler. The trick is to microwave at 15 second increments and stir in between. As soon as the mixture is mostly melted but still has a few chunks in it, you should stir and it will melt those chunks. If you keep microwaving it until it is absolutely all melted then it will burn and become disgusting). When melted, stir in 2 tablespoons of milk or cream to make a ganache. Spread chocolate on bottom of pie crust.

To Make Cream Cheese Filling: In medium mixing bowl, whip cream cheese until fluffy. Mix in confectioners' sugar. Scrape sides of bowl. Add vanilla extract. Add orange zest. Mix well.
In a separate bowl, beat whipping cream. The original recipe said "until soft peaks form", but I was worried about the pie being fluffy enough so I actually beat it more than that. Fold into cream cheese mixture.

Spoon filling into crust. Cover with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and chill at least 3 hours (I chilled it overnight and added the cranberry topping the next morning)

To Make Cranberry Topping: In a medium saucepan, combine cranberries, cherries, 1 cup white sugar, and orange juice. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a full boil and thickens, stir constantly. Remove from heat and cool. Spread cranberry topping over cream cheese filling. Chill pie thoroughly before serving.

* Edited to add picture!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Day of the Dead and Frida Kahlo

Today marks the end of the Mexican celebration of Day of the Dead or Dia Des Los Muertos. You can find tons of info about the celebration here:

Below is a picture of my jack o'lantern decked out in the fashion of a "calavera". I did a little bit of research on traditional ways of celebrating the Day of the Dead in preparation for a party in honor of celebrating the life and work of Frida Kahlo. The Walker Art Center is hosting an exhibit of Kahlo's work in honor of the 100th Anniversary of her birth It opened last Friday so I threw a party to celebrate.
The party was a great excuse to visit the Midtown Global Market in my search of authentic Mexican candy and maybe even some sugar skulls for our ofrenda or altar honoring Frida. I visited Fiesta in America ( where I found the much needed skulls in addition to a huge array of candy. When I mentioned that I had tried tamarind candy before and not liked it much, the woman at the store threw a few different kinds of candy into my bag (chili spiced tamarind and some sweet pulp) and couldn't have been more helpful. Unfortunately, I still didn't like the tamarind candy but I have to think I'm missing something since a whole nation of people seem to love it. I also stopped at Cosecha Imports to stock up on Jarritos soda (
Above is a picture of our ofrenda. Guests were asked to bring something to add to the altar, if these wished. Guests were also encouraged to wear their most festive, Frida-like outfits. At one point we had six or seven unibrowed guests in one room - a little surreal, sure, but lots of fun. Below is a detail of the altar; you can see one of the cool (inedible) sugar skulls. Also pictured are some of the postcards I picked up at the Walker gift shop.

After the preparations and party, I was too worn out to actually go to the exhibit last weekend. Anyway, tomorrow is the Walker's free first Saturday so I am planning to go then. There are lots of fun activities planned so I'm sure it will be mobbed. I'm really excited about the exhibit itself.

Attack of the Bat Cupcakes!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

The scary pumpkin on the left is my sister Melanie's and the tree is done by my friend Laura. The other two are mine. Hope today is filled with some treats as work has been extra lame today.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Pumpkinpalooza Continues...

Here is a picture of the sugar and spice pumpkin seeds I made last night. We had a ton of pumpkin seeds from the five pumpkins we carved at our house. The seeds are good for you and tasty when toasted.

I used this recipe on Allrecipes:

The only change I made was to use butter in the skillet (instead of oil) and I didn't exactly measure the ingredients so there might be some variation there. It is a time consuming process but well worth it if you like toasted pumpkin seeds; they come out nice and carmelized.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


Here are a couple of pictures from my recent trip to Sever's Corn Maze. Having never been to a corn maze, I wasn't sure what to expect. I certainly wasn't expecting the giant Corn Pit (think dry kernels, not creamed corn - less of a "Double Dare" challenge and more Chuckie Cheese ball pit).

If you read the rules above, you'll see that one of the rules is "do not bury your head". Although I didn't bury my head, Laura did shovel some kernels into my ear accidentally, so I can attest to the fact that it is easy to get them lodged there. Corn kernels were also found to be lodged in my jeans pocket, cuffs, socks, bra and underwear - don't ask me how. So, you see, I broke the "no removing corn" rule, too.

The maze itself was fun in a laid-back kind of way. It was the first sunny day in weeks (and one of the last nice days before winter) and good weather to be wandering around in a field. Not being from corn country, I didn't realize that corn mazes have themes. This year's them at Sever's was the Wild West and the maze was in the shape of a cowboy on a bucking bronco. Yee-haw!

The highlight of the day for me was the roasted corn from the concession stand, though. By that time, I was ready for some corn that could actually be eaten. The food area also offers the usual kettle corn, bratwurst, and assorted fried things.

Other available activities included a petting zoo, pig races, a pumpkin launcher, and live music.

Due to my procrastination in posting this, I think the corn maze is closed for the season now. I'm sure they will be back next year with an even cooler theme and even faster pigs.

Pumpkinpalooza Part 2 - Finally

Last weekend I finally found the time to make the Pumpkin Chocolate Covered Raisin Muffins (recipe here: The change that I made is using a total of 2 teaspoons of pre-mixed pumpkin pie spice instead of the individual spices. I really would have liked to have used ginger but I didn't have any. These are moist and keep for several days (I ate the last one on Thursday and it was pretty much as good as the one I had on Sunday). They don't rise very much so feel free to fill the muffin cups up pretty much to the top.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Fall Leaf Project

I like to collect things. I collect pebbles from the lake shore. I collect shells from the beach. And I collect leaves in the fall.

However, I don't really care too much about the collection once I have it; it's the act of looking and sorting that I enjoy. I have recurring dreams where I am sorting through a pile of junk and find some kind of treasure in the bottom. My biggest thrill in life! What does that say about me? I don't know for sure, but I sometimes feel like I should be one of those people who is satisfied to just take a picture or just look and appreciate. But, no - I want the physical object itself. Maybe it is pure greediness, but I like to think it is my attempt to hold on (literally, I guess) to those fleeting moments of beauty - so startling in everyday life, kind of electrifying really.

Anyway, some of you probably did this little project in elementary school but I didn't discover it until after college. It's pretty simple. All you need is:

Fall leaves
2 sheets of wax paper
An iron
Some newspaper

Lay down a sheet of newspaper to protect the table or surface you are working on. Put down a sheet of wax paper on top of it. Arrange your leaves on top of the wax paper - taking care to leave some space between the leaf and the edge of the paper (maybe an inch?). Place the other sheet of wax paper on top and another layer of newspaper over that. Then iron the whole thing for a few seconds. The wax will melt together and seal in the leaves. They still won't last forever, sadly (but if they did, then we wouldn't appreciate them so much probably). They will last a few weeks. I hung mine in my windows to allow the sun to shine through the leaves. I would think that this probably contributes to their eventual decay, but it seems to be the best way to display them.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Just a quick post to show one of the things I've been working on this week - when I really should be painting. I'm trying to improve my carving skills so I can do more complex relief prints. I have to keep muttering, "the carved part is the color of the paper, the carved part is the color of the paper". The technique is opposite from drawing with ink or pencil and I can't seem to get used to it. Anyway, I bought the blank bookmarks at Michael's (50 for about $3). The linoleum to make the print block cost about a buck. Add in the ink (maybe another $5? I bought it a while ago), carving tools (about $10 and you only need to buy them once) and this is a pretty cheap and easy project. After I printed the black outlines, I colored the pumpkins yellow and orange with pencil. The tassel is some embroidery floss I had left over from some other project. That's the nice part about having so much random crap - if you can find it in all the boxes and drawers, of course.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Fall Fun

As usual, I have tons of projects that I am working on and tons more that are still in the planning stages. I will get around to posting all of them soon!

I have been taking a continuing ed class at MCAD( on Saturday mornings. The class is focused on papermaking and relief printing with a little basic bookbinding thrown in. This Saturday is the last class and I will post some pics of my finished projects as well as a bookbinding tutorial. The people in the class are really cool (with just a couple exceptions) but I do wish the class itself was a little more stuctured. It's been a good opportunity to become familiar with the campus - especially since I'm considering applying to their post-baccalaureate program.

I am also supposed to be working on two watercolor paintings. One is a commissioned piece for someone at work. The other is a donation to a silent auction benefiting breast cancer research. I am hoping to have time to work on those tonight.

In addition, I am starting to plan Christmas present projects. I'm determined to make gifts for the majority of the people on my list this year. There are a million other things I'm planning - including a bunch of baking experiments. There aren't enough hours in the day. It might help if I stopped obsessively watching Food Network and those design makeover shows on TLC and HGTV.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Iron Fork

This looks like a really cool event for those of use who just can't get enough Iron Chef ( Plus - the proceeds go to Second Harvest Heartland (

I would really like to go but am torn because I am supposed to be budgeting my money and I have a million projects going on right now. Tickets are $30 in advance, which seems pretty reasonable. Hmm....we'll see.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Man in Black

Here he is! The Man in Black, himself - well, tiny and made out of fondant but still Johnny Cash. My friend Laura has been a huge Cash fan for years - even before the movie came out and made him so popular with the kids these days. So, for her birthday, I made a simple round cake decorated with a chocolate record. I made the record label and the figure out of fondant.

"I fell in to a burning ring of fire
I went down,down,down
and the flames went higher.
And it burns,burns,burns
the ring of fire
the ring of fire."

Here is a close up of Johnny. I was worried that he looked a little bit too much like Fat Elvis, but oh well. The Sun Records label could have been smoothed out on the side (dang camera catches every little imperfection) but I just ran out of time.
This was my first time working with fondant. It was fun but I definitely need more practice :)
The cake was a hit, anyway, and we had fun playing Karaoke Revolution until 2 AM.
Happy Birthday, Laura!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

My Own Glove Monster!

I saw the tutorial for this cute little guy on CraftyPod ( and knew right away that I had to make my own.
Luckily, the stores are under the impression that it is winter already so I easily found the needed stretchy gloves. I bought four pairs of gloves for $4 and will use the stripey ones for more monsters and the plain black to keep my hands warm this winter. These cheap gloves are perfect for people like me who lose several pairs each winter.
Anyway, this was a fun project and great for people who don't really know how to sew. I didn't follow the tutorial exactly (as you can see) but I think it turned out well, nonetheless.