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!