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Friday, December 24, 2010

Sugar Cookies

I had SO much FUN doing these.

 I used this book, and have officially changed to this sugar cookie recipe too. Tastes good, and once baked doesn't crumble as easily as the Betty Crocker recipe I used to use.

I baked a regular batch, and a chocolate batch, and used only a handful of cookie cutters. I've realized it's best to underestimate your baking skills.

It took me 8 hours to mix, bake and decorate these cookies.

Also, GET SQUEEZE BOTTLES! Piping bags are so messy when it comes to decorating with royal icing, especially when you need to flood the cookies. I had 4 on hand, but another 4 would have been perfect.

You really need to do some planning, and thinking. Which colours to use together, which ones need to be watered down, which ones should keep thick to pipe designs, etc. If I had more squeeze bottles, I could have had a piping and flooding version of each colour.

The techniques in the book are easy to follow and easy to achieve, so give it a try!


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Tags

I needed some tags for gift wrapping and I get sick of all the store-bought cheesy designs. The best part about presents is wrapping them. I love to make them look nice and hand-made-crafty, so I almost always make my own tags. This year, I've been hung up on red, green & blue for Christmas colours, so that's what I went with.  I've made a PDF to share, so feel free to download them. Red/Green or Red/Blue. There are 17 tags, about 4cm x 8cm / 1-1/2" x 3" per sheet of A4. For 8.5" x 11" paper, simply scale the page to fit in the printer settings.

1. Print onto card stock, and cut out using an exacto knife (or scissors, if you're not a perfectionist). See Tip below.

2. Mod Podge, or use a glue stick, to adhere them onto store bought tags. (I use mod podge because it's strong, and doesn't warp paper like other glues.)

I found some great tags at Ikea (and they matched my scheme to boot!), otherwise, just look at the office supply store, or here in Australia, many newsagents have tags you can buy. These are formatted to fit a large tag, but scale the printing down if you want smaller ones.

 3. Tie a string through the tag, and embelish it if you want.

Tip: I've found the best way to cut out multiple items printed onto one piece of paper is to use an exacto knife with a steel ruler as a guide (if you use plastic, you end up cutting chunks out of the ruler). I always cut as long a cut as possible, without cutting through the sheet. Ie, I do as much cutting inside the paper boundaries as I can. This way you don't have to fiddle around as much cutting out each individual piece. Make sense...?

Here are a few tied onto some stocking stuffers I put together.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas Paper Pom Poms

My sis-in-law sent me a Christmas card in the form of a paper pom pom last year, made with vintage wrapping papers. It was perfect to hang on the tree. So this year I decided to make some myself, and use them to decorate wrapped gifts. I created a simple PDF, and I'm trying something new by sharing it. You can download for free here. You could also use these for individual tags for addressing gifts, or print onto sticker paper, creating labels, and use instead of tape.

Here is what some of the pom poms look like that I did. You can go for a full look, using all 12 designs, like this:

Or make them with less circles, for a simpler look.

Using all 12 makes a nice full complete circle, but I think using less to top a gift makes more sense - you can see the designs better.'ll need some:
*card stock, size A4 or 8.5" x 11"
*scissors / circle punch
*hole punch
*ribbon or string
*glue / double sided tape (optional)

1. Print the PDF (which is formatted for size A4, but easily scaled to 8.5" x 11" in your printer settings), and either cut out by hand, or use a circle punch. I'm not lucky enough to have all the cool scrapbooking gadgets, so I cut by hand. The circles are about 57mm or 2-1/4" diameter.

2. Fold each circle in half, right sides together.

3. For gift toppers, hole punch a hole just above the fold line in the center of the circle. You don't want to cut the crease, or the ribbon will not thread through the circles.

4. Optional: (You don't have to do this, but it makes a nice sturdy pom pom.) Glue the wrong sides together with the other circles. I used mod podge applied with a paintbrush, since it's nice and thick, and won't make your paper warp like other glues. You could use double sided tape too.

5. Thread your ribbon through the hole punches, and tie onto your gift.

To make a hanging decoration, be sure to glue or tape the circles together, and also sandwich some string in between the paper circles. There is also no need to punch holes in the paper circles.

Here is another tutorial with downloads, and ideas for gift wrapping.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Triple Chocolate Cheesecake Squares

This recipe is divine. I didn't think it could be this good. I kind of shy away from cheesecakes, as they are always quite rich, and I don't always feel like something so heavy. This was exactly that, but was worth it! I got it from another Women's Weekly cookbook, this one called Easy Baking. I modified very little, except the cookie base. And this photo shows about the neatest I was able to cut the squares. Very thick and sticky...

1 package of cookies (about 24).
 (I used 1 pkg of Arnott's choc ripple cookies, but you can use plain choc chip too, or something else those chocolate waffer cookies too. I think an Oreo cookie or crumb crust would be so good with this as well. You could separate the cookies, and add the oreo icing to the cheesecake mixture, or layer cookies as-is, if you don't have Oreo crumbs like Australia).
1/2 cup cream
250g white chocolate
500g cream cheese, softened (2- 7 oz. blocks)
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
Chocolate Ganache
200g dark, or semi-sweet chocolate
1/3 cup cream

1. Preheat oven to 150°C /  and grease a 20cm x 30cm rectangle pan. Line the base and sides with baking paper (not wax paper) and place cookies in a single layer inside of pan.
2. Melt white chocolate with cream in a double boiler until the mixture is smooth. Cool.
3. Beat cream cheese & sugar until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Add cooled white chocolate mixture and beat well.
4. Poor cream cheese over cookie base, and bake for 35-45 minutes. Cool with oven door slightly ajar. Refrigerate a few hours, or overnight, once cooled.
5. Make chocolate ganache for topping by melting the chocolate with the cream in a double boiler, or carefully over low heat, stirring constantly. Cool 10 minutes, and spread over cheesecake. Refrigerate until completely cooled.
6. Cut into bars, and enjoy!

This isn't on my 'Christmas squares' list, but I think a topping of crushed candy cane, or a mint chocolate ganache would be perfect to add that little bit more to the recipe.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Lemon Bars

Another on my Christmas squares/bars list.

Lemon Bars (Betty Crocker)
1 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c butter softened
1/4 c icing sugar
Mix first 3 ingredients, and press into a 8x8 or 9x9 pan, building up 1/2 inch edge. Bake crust for 20 min @ 350.

1 c granulated sugar
2 tsp grated lemon peel, if desired (but strongly recommended! I love lemon!)
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
Beat remaining ingredients with electric mixer at high speed for 3 mins, or until light and fluffy (mine never really got light and fluffy, but it still worked out). Pour over hot crust.
Bake 25-30 mins or until no indentation remains when lightly touched in centre. Cool in pan. Dust with icing sugar. Cut into bars.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Vintage Sale

Last weekend I went with my sister-in-law to a little market she created with some friends. They've been collecting vintage clothes for a few years in the hopes of re-selling them at a later stage. She asked me to come along, and suggested I try selling cupcakes. I happily agreed, and after many long and stressful weeks with my normal job, I was able to do a trial run, and come up with some interesting flavours to sell. The week before, I ended up not having any work (the nature of my job, when it rains it pours, but then there are really dry spells in between), so I dug out the sewing machine and finished off some projects I had going, and started a few new ones to bring along too. It was a busy week, but it was so nice to be spending time creating things. I finished off a stash I had for making aprons, and also baby bibs. I also made some mini journal / scrapbooks too. Too bad having fun didn't translate into money for me though. I didn't sell a single item besides cupcakes, and only sold about 15 of those. So, for me, the markets were bust, but I think I know where I went wrong - I'm not much of a sales person it seems. We might be doing them again in a month, so I'll get my game on then (I tell myself).  And make a sign. No one really noticed me sitting behind my cupcake stand. Anyhow, here is what we came up with:

I made and finished off a bunch of aprons:

I made a bunch of new baby bibs from a classic vintage pattern:

I made a bunch of journals too, with stickers, and labels, and lots of different kinds of paper & envelopes.

Here is a page by page example, with repeat pages left out. There are over 70 pages of new and recycled, and some hand made papers to use for journaling, scrapbooking, or notes:

And then I made a heap of cupcakes (mocha, chocolate, vanilla, cotton candy/ fairly floss, key lime, strawberry & cinnamon roll), which were packaged in take-out containers:

Here are some shots from the markets:

Laura made some gorgeous hair combs & headbands too:

The girls had racks of clothes and shoes, there was so much stuff!