Thursday, July 18, 2013

Sparkling Ginger Lemonade

Last week I had a wonderfully surprising experience with some vegan friends at CafĂ© Gratitude in Berkeley. I was skeptical, because I am a tried-and-true carnivore. The first thing that was recommended was a refreshingly spicy ginger lemonade. Once I tried it, I knew I had to reproduce it at home. The final product tastes almost exactly like the restaurant's version. Feel free to adjust the amounts to your taste. I use Meyer lemons for my lemonade because we have a tree, but regular would work, too. I'm also eager to try a lime version. As for the rest of the food, it was just as good.  If you are in the area, give it a shot, vegan or not.

5 large lemons
1/4 cup agave sweetener
2Tbsp fresh ginger juice*
Sparkling water
2 quart pitcher

*if you're like me and don't have a juicer, grate fresh ginger and squeeze with a garlic press until you have the desired amount. Or, if you know of a place to get fresh ginger juice, get it there.

Squeeze lemons. Pour juice through a strainer into the pitcher. Discard any bits in the strainer. Repeat with fresh ginger juice.  Discard any bits in the strainer. Add 1/4 cup agave sweetener and mix to incorporate. Add sparkling water (I use San Pellegrino) to fill 2quart pitcher. Serve over ice and enjoy.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Alice in Wonderland Party

For my daughter's 9th birthday party, she wanted to do an Alice in Wonderland theme. These are all the things I made to turn our little home into her Wonderland.

First, I turned the front door into a door to Wonderland by covering it in craft paper (cutting around door hardware), adding a checkerboard pattern with pencil, and painting it black and white. Then I used an old Ikea plastic frame that I use at Halloween, traced out the size on craft paper, and drew in the words "Down the Rabbit Hole."  I put a little wooden accent table next to the door with a vase of red roses.

Dooooo you plaaaay croquet?!? We do! I put out the croquet set on the front lawn, complete with flamingos! Granted, we didn't play croquet WITH the flamingo, but they were there. Using a leftover piece of cardboard which I covered in craft paper, I made playing cards to watch the croquet action. They were quite easy to make, and required very few materials - cardboard, craft paper, glue (stick or spray), red and black markers, red, tan, and black construction paper, scissors. Cut shapes and put them all together.

Once down the rabbit hole, the entryway kept with the theme. Who's been painting the roses red?!? I added a few white ones to remind guests of that part of the story. I added a doorknob, which i cut from cardboard scrap and colored with crayon. I put a picture of the white rabbit in a fancy frame, added a candle, and a really cool antique silver/crystal teapot I purchased at a garage sale for $10! It brought in several elements of the story. The kids thought it was pretty, the adults remembered the details. I'm a sucker for the details.

Downstairs, i turned the washer and dryer into a snack station.  Cupcakes, oreo rice krispie treats, pink and blue sixlets, Upelkuchens (those little Eat Me cakes), tiny bottles for pishsalver (drink me), and a ceramic mushroom with a blue butterfly (Absolem).  Above, on the wall, a clock, so nobody will be late. Finally, a strand of purple lights I robbed from the Halloween decoration box and embellished with lavender tulle. You could do that with any color lights and tulle for so many occasions. It reminded me of the Cheshire cat's tail.  See, I told you, it's all about the details!

 On the right, some little Pinterest gems. First, auntique milk bottles I got cheaply on ebay, that later became vessels for pink and chocolate milk. I also made jeweled bottle idetifiers that are not pictured. Kind of like wine glass markers, but for milk. I saw the idea at BubbleandSweet on Pinterest, and decided to change the matching beads so the kids wouldn't mix up their bottles.  Next to that, for a midnight snack, personal cereal boxes and personalized spoons with the girls' names, which I saw here. 

In the back yard, I set up a tea party table. I brought out the silver and crystal serveware to make it fancy. I put a big washing pitcher filled with white roses in the middle. P.S. I got the pitcher at a yard sale for $5! Gotta love those yard sales! I made three types of tea sandwiches - peanut butter and jelly, turkey, and a goat cheese/strawberry/chive. That last one is my personal favorite, and was more popular than I thought with the kids. I made another plate with turkey dogs, plus fruit plates. I put out tea, lemonade, and water to drink. And isn't that an adorable little bunny teapot?

Hope that gives you some ideas for an Alice in Wonderland themed party!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

S'mores Cupcakes!

Every time I see something on pinterest I like, I try to improve upon it in some way, and make it my own.

I borrowed the cake and frosting recipe from Sugar High, who borrowed them from Martha Stewart and Nabisco.

Now, a disclaimer... For those of you not used to many dirty bowls, and who don't like a big sticky kitchen mess after a baking project, you should probably just admire the photos and not make these delicious cupcakes. Having been warned, the mess is worth the reward.

Graham Cracker Cupcakes

1 1/2 cups graham crackers, finely crushed - about 1 pack of Nabisco crackers.
1/2 cup flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup milk

In a small bowl, combine graham  crackers, flour, and baking powder. Set aside.

Beat the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla.

Alternately add flour mixture and milk, beating well after each addition.  Divide the batter into lined muffin cups, 1/2 to 3/4 full.  Makes about 16 total.

Bake at 350*F (180C) for 22-25 minutes or until done.  Cool in pans for 15 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely on wire rack.

Nutella Buttercream

1/2 cup salted butter, softened
1/2 cup Nutella
1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp milk

Cream butter and Nutella in large bowl of stand mixer or with a handheld mixer.  Add powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, until incorporated.  Add milk and beat until smooth. You can add up to 1 Tbsp more milk if needed, but only a little at a time, until it is spreadable consistency.

Fill cooled cupcakes with Nutella buttercream.  I use a strawberry huller to pull out the cupcake centers. You could use a tip fitted onto a pastry bag to inject the buttercream, but I find it's more of a fight and doesn't get an even amount of filling in each cake.  The tops will be covered anyhow, so just pull a chunk out of each one and fill the hole. I didn't want to wash my pastry bag in between buttercream and marshmallow, so I just cut the tip off a plastic sandwich baggie and piped it in.

Marshmallow Frosting

8 large egg whites
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
2 tsp vanilla extract

Place egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in a heatproof mixing bowl. Set over a saucepan of simmering water.  Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are warm to the touch, 3-4 minutes.

Remove bowl from saucepan, and beat in stand mixer with whisk attachment, starting on low speed and gradually increasing to high, until stiff, glossy peaks form (5-7 minutes). Add vanilla and mix until combined. Use immediately.

Final Touches

Pipe the frosting onto the cupcake tops. I used a kitchen torch to toast the marshmallow frosting. You could put it under the broiler quickly, but watch it closely!!! I always seem to put things in the broiler "quickly" then I see shiny squirrels run by... what was I doing again? So if you broil, watch!

Lastly, I drizzled Hershey's syrup over the toasted marshmallow frosting, and used some leftover graham cracker to sprinkle on top.

They will be a huge hit, so be sure to make extras!

Leave me a comment and let me know how yours came out, and how you improved upon them!


Monday, February 25, 2013

Painted "Sally" Nightmare Sneakers

You may have seen previous posts of mine of homemade Disney accessories. I decided to make sneakers to go along with my Sally (Nightmare Before Christmas) ear hat.

I started out with some Converse I got on clearance. I used acrylic craft paints to paint shapes on the shoes. Some of them are glow-in-the-dark.** I bought red laces, since Sally has red hair.  I painted the eyelets black with craft paint, then once dry, painted over it with clear nail polish to seal the paint. I used a fine tipped brush and black craft paint to add the detailing. I painted the rubber parts of the shoe too, but they are a bit washed out in this pic.

After all the paint had dried, I coated the shoe with a quick spray of gloss (Martha Stewart craft spray paint). I wanted the shoe to be water resistant, because I just wasn't sure what the paint would do if it rained or if I went overboard on Pirates of the Caribbean :)

**The glow-in-the-dark paint was pretty much rendered useless by the clear gloss overcoat. I guess something in how the paint absorbs light was ruined by the gloss. It's ok, they looked and held up great. This picture is after a full day of walking the park and being transported in luggage.

I think I'll find some other shoes to paint now...

Friday, February 15, 2013

Renew Your Shoes!

Last week, my husband and daughter went to a father-daughter Valentine's Day dance. My daughter is almost 9, but wanted to dress fancy and grown-up since she felt like it was a special occasion. We found the perfect dress, since she fits a 0/1 in teens. The problem was the shoes. She wears a size 5, but try finding an age-appropriate size 5 dress shoe. They all had 5 inch heels with platforms, etc. Now, while she is perfectly capable of walking in them like a runway model in the living room, I'll be darned if she leaves the house like that at her age.

We hit all the outlets to find a perfect shoe, with a low heel, that didn't break the bank. No luck. None were perfect for the dress. Silver, strappy sandal, rhinestones, etc. It's the wrong time of year for that sort of thing.

So, I wondered if I could just spray paint a shoe. It seemed easy. Practical. We went to our favorite local thrift shop and found the PERFECT shoe style, heel height, and size. The shoe was gold and had dark embellishments.

I started by pulling off the old embellishments on the straps and taping off the sole of the shoe. Then I used chrome spray paint from the hardware store to give them a good coating. I let that dry, then coated them again.


Once that was dry to the touch, I sprayed the heel lightly and coated it with silver craft glitter.

After that adhered, I tapped off the excess glitter.  I purchased adhesive rhinestones from a craft store, and cut them to size with a craft knife. I stuck them where the old, darker embellishments had been. 

Next, I flipped the shoes over. I thought of those beautiful Louboutins with the red soles and thought, "Why not?" So I used nail polish to paint the bottoms of the shoes (2 coats) with a complimenting color to the dress.  Once that dried, I coated the soles and glittered heels with a light, single coat of Mod Podge. I didn't want glitter dropping everywhere and I wanted the soles shiny.

Here's a step I didn't take. I finished the shoes the day before she needed to wear them. I would really give it a week if you have the time, for the paint to cure. Poor thing came home with just a bit of rubbed-off silver paint on her feet. I think if they had had proper time to cure, that wouldn't have happened. Also, I would Mod Podge the toe area. The friction rubbed off a bit of color under her toes, and I'm not sure how much more drying time would have helped that. I also added gel dress-shoe inserts to the foot bed so they would be comfortable. You can find those at any drugstore.

Here is the finished product on my little lady's feet.

And finally, the finished product in action!

I hope you find this useful. After I did this and saw how easy it was, I see makeovers in the future for my existing shoes! How nice to wear a shoe that's already broken-in, no blisters, just a little color-change!

3D Valentines

Want to make personalized, creative, 3D valentines for your child to hand out? These are easy and inexpensive.

First, have your child dress in their Valentine's Day attire, and choose a pretty background. We went in our front yard and used a very green plant. Have your child hold their hand out so that it's closer to the camera than their body.  Take a few shots and choose the best one.

I used Snapfish to order prints online.  I also added the cute border. They have a lot to choose from for various holidays.  I chose matte prints instead of glossy to combat fingerprints, since you're going to be handling the photos to insert the lollipop.

My daughter chose to sign her name to each one.

Use a craft knife and make a 1/4" to 1/2" slice right at the top and bottom of the hand. Insert a lollipop through the slit, passing it behind the hand.

Et voila! You have a 3D Valentine!