DIY Fall Wreath

As like many others, I’ve become somewhat obsessed with pinterest in the last few months (where was this website when I was planning a wedding?!) which has really increased my motivation both for craftiness (good) and baking (not always so good). One thing I started pinning a while ago were fall-themed wreaths.

I love wreaths but they’re always so expensive and I can never justify $40+ on something hardly anyone will see (I don’t have a lot of people over!). So when I saw the yarn/felt wreaths popping up everywhere I knew I wanted to make one. They are super cute and rustic looking, and it definitely looked like I could DIY it. The first one I saw that I really liked was this one:

(Source)

I figured that buying some yarn to wrap around a wreath form was easy enough, so then I started googling tutorials on how to make different flowers. I liked the shape/idea of the wreath I found, but the flowers themselves weren’t my favorite. What I ended up loving were the felt poppies.

(Source/Tutorial here)

So, I headed to the store and bought:

Straw form – $2.49
1 scane yarn- $3.60 (5.99 + 40% off coupon)
7 sheets of ecofelt- 2.38 (34 cents per sheet)
1 bottle tacky glue- 2.79

= $11.26 for supplies (I already owned needle and thread)

It took me most of the afternoon yesterday, but I got a few flowers made and got the wreath wrapped. Wrapping it was actually surprisingly difficult because I bought a straw wreath rather than a foam one (both because it was a little thicker and also because it was cheaper). The surface was a bit bumpy though so the yarn didn’t want to sit where I put it and I actually had to wrap the whole thing twice!

I didn’t have a real plan I just decided to make a few flowers and play around with a design. Surprisingly, after making just two poppies and three rolled roses, I really liked the layout.

I also made the flowers detachable (I glued them to a piece of felt and tied the felt onto the wreath with yarn, rather than glueing the flowers directly to the yarn) so that I can make a new set of spring-colored flowers to tie on for spring!

I loved this craft because it was fun to do, looks just as good as the inspiration (in my opinion), and was cheap. These wreaths seem to be around $50-65 online, and I made mine for $12. It could have been even less if I’d known what I was doing. I only ended up using 4 sheets of felt (1 white, 1 red, 1 mustard, 1 black), and I could’ve done without the craft glue (I used it for the rolled roses, but I could’ve sewed them). Plus, for about $1 in new felt, I’ll be able to turn this wreath into a spring wreath!

And because I had a ton of left over yarn, and a craft M that I bought on clearance for under $2 a while back that has just been chilling on the mantel…

I decided to see if I could wrap it in yarn to give it a bit more color and texture. About half way through I really wished that my new last name started with a T or something without slanty edges… but I got it worked out:

It probably isn’t very durable because I didn’t really glue hardly any of it (a tiny dot to start and one to finish). I didn’t want to do too much gluing because I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get it all wrapped and I didn’t want to ruin it if I had to disassemble it. I’m wondering if I can maybe spray it with some sort of clear glaze or something to make the yarn more stiff/permanent…. any thoughts?

p.s. I promise at some point I’ll start getting out my real camera and taking decent photos of things… the iPhone is just so easy!

Anyways… there is my weekend of craftiness. Anyone else get crafty this weekend?

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Snickerdoodle follow-up and recipes

Good news… I managed to transport the snickerdoodle cake all the way to my parents house without it toppling! That being said… while the cake looked pretty…

it will probably not become a regular in my line-up. I’ll give it a solid A for flavor because it was definitely snickerdoodle and quite tasty. For texture though, I’m going to have to give it a C. The cake itself was very very dense… it reminded me a lot of a muffin or a loaf of banana bread. I prefer a softer, fluffier cake. And the frosting, while good, got a bit crusty. Now, I think that may just be the nature of buttercream. Every traditional buttercream I’ve made (i.e. primarily composed of butter and powdered sugar) has gotten that dry texture after a few hours… and I used to be fine with it. But the thing is, I’ve found a better frosting, and now normal buttercream is just disappointing to me. So, while this cake was quite tasty and was fun to make– I’m going to have to put it in the pile of recipes that probably won’t make the cut for a second try.

Speaking of second-trys though, (or is it tries?) there was some interest in recipes for the other things I’ve made, so I’ll explain below what I made, and what I thought of it.

First up, the lemon blueberry cake.

This. Was. Awesome. It was the first cake I ever made from scratch and it will definitely become common in my house because everyone loved it. Even my cake-snob husband (he thinks pies are always better than cakes… but you can’t decorate a pie which makes them way less interesting to me). I used the recipe linked above for the cake, but did not use the frosting in that recipe. It seemed a bit too lemon-y to me, and I’d been dying to try Swiss Merengue Buttercream, which I’d read about. I was a little intimidated because the frosting is much more involved than just dumping a bunch of stuff in my kitchen aid… but it was surprisingly easy (if a bit time consuming).

The frosting was amazing. It is super light, soft, and fluffy. Best of all, it stays soft and fluffy without getting the buttercream “crust” which I really loved. Also, it is far less sweet than traditional buttercream, which I appreciated. Especially when you do fancy frosting that uses a lot more frosting than you usually would.

For the chocolate strawberry “roses”:

I actually just used store bought chocolate cake for these. I just get whatever dark chocolate kind was on sale… and it was good. The frosting is Swiss Merengue Buttercream with fresh strawberry puree mixed in. The recipe is basically the came as above, but I just blended some strawberries into a mushy pulp and added about 2/3 cup to the recipe. Both pretty and delicious. And again… I loved that they were distinctly strawberry flavored without being overly sweet.

Last but not least, the nutella cupcakes:

I actually made these twice. The first time, I used a box chocolate cake mix, but otherwise followed the recipe above. This includes hollowing out the center of the cupcake to spoon in straight nutella, and making the nutella flavored buttercream. These were also a hit, and I liked that the buttercream stayed softer (I’m guessing because of all the nutella mixed into it?). The second time I made these, I made my own chocolate cupcakes with this recipe, and omitted filling the cupcakes– opting to simply top them with the nutella flavored buttercream. I didn’t miss the filling at all because the frosting is plenty flavorful, and it saved me both time and $2.99 in an extra jar of nutella, so I will probably not fill these in the future.

And now some honesty about chocolate cake. The homemade chocolate cupcake linked above was good. But really? Not any better than the store-bought mix. And not because it was in some way lacking… I just happen to think that the store bought dark chocolate box mixes are really good. And cheap. And easy. So I’m probably over making home-made chocolate cake/cupcakes. One thing I do always do though– which I don’t know if it helps or not but my cupcakes are always fantastic I think– is I always replace the water in the chocolate cake mix with strong brewed coffee. I can never taste the coffee in the final cupcake, but my cupcakes are always super tasty and moist.

So… that is it for now! Everything I’ve baked recently. Moving forward I’ll be better about documenting each recipe as I make it. Anyone else make anything tasty lately? Feel free to share some links!

Just call me Betty

As with most engaged people, we did the registering for gifts thing. Which, by the way, is not nearly as fun as I thought it would be. But that is perhaps a story for another day. We registered, a shower was thrown (by my MOH and mother), and I received many of the things that we had registered for.

I think that we fall into the category of lucky, though, that the off-registery gifts we received were pretty awesome. I could probably do a whole post right there, but today I want to talk about the gift I didn’t think I liked, but now I love. It was?

A cake decorating kit! It was bought for me by my aunt who has a talent for decorating cakes. I had never really shown any interest at all in cakes, though, so I couldn’t imagine what I needed with frosting bags and tips, an offset spatula, frosting dyes, and a manual on how to use them all. I thanked her and away the kit went in a closet upstairs, unopened, for about six months.

Then a funny thing happened, I got married and had more time. Also, I joined the world of pinterest which is perpetually filled with pretty looking and fabulously tasting treats. When mother’s day rolled around, I decided to give the kit a try, just for the hell of it. And also because I wanted to make “mums for my mum” because I’m cheesy like that. The first batch turned out… ok.

They were kind of cute but I used the frosting recipe in the decorating manual and it was not good. Despite the completely mediocre taste though, I enjoyed decorating them. It was actually really fun to play with the frosting and I started reading a bunch of baking blogs. And thats when things really got crazy.

I found a recipe for a lemon blueberry cake that sounded fantastic and made it for my family. Not only was it DELICIOUS, but it looked super cute too! I was hooked.

And then the chocolate cupcakes with strawberry swiss merengue buttercream frosting (made with fresh strawberries!) which were unbelievable:

Look like roses, right? Kinda? I thought so anyways!

And the chocolate cupcakes filled with nutella, topped with nutella buttercream:

These were actually so good I made them a second time for my father in law’s birthday last month!

And last but not least, last night’s adventure– a snickerdoodle cake topped with brown sugar buttercream frosting.

The decorating on this one is a little…. rustic? But I was still pretty happy with how smooth I was able to get the frosting and I didn’t want it to look too “girly” since I made it for my dad’s birthday. I haven’t tasted it yet, but if the batter is any indication it might be my new favorite.

Until the next cake I make, no doubt.

What I’m saying here is… I have a problem. A baking problem. I’m hooked and I can’t stop! I only wish that I had more occasions to bake for, because if I didn’t keep waiting to bake until I could give my goodies away I would be in danger of being one of those people that needs a hole in the side of the house just to get out. And that wouldn’t be good for anyone.

Anyone else have a random off-registry gift turn into a fantastic new hobby?

Is there any such thing as good news?

Anyone else wish that the world would just take a break from all of the reporting on doom and gloom? Just for one week, report only happy things? Not feasible, I guess, but I can’t be the only one who feels bombarded with doomsday-esc messages. Usually I’m pretty good at ignoring all of it and just focusing on my own little bubble, but it seems like that is getting harder to do. Not that I always make the best choices for avoidance, I guess. Here’s what I think of when I look back on 2011 from a world news perspective:

March- Japanese earthquake and tsunami. This one actually hit me pretty hard because we were honeymooning in Kauai when the tsunami hit, and although we were perfectly fine, we had about 45 minutes of being scared out of our minds. Also, all of that end-of-the-world nonsense started claiming we were going to face an apocalypse on 5/21.

April-May- Crazy tornados throughout the middle of the country; waiting for the 5/21 end of the world

Whole Summer- Talk of the US financial system collapsing due to political stand-offs

August- Earthquake on the east coast + Irene

September- Massive flooding along the east coast; wildfires spreading throughout Texas due to drought; anniversary of 9/11

Not to mention non-news stuff like the new movie Contagion. Plus my inexplicable decision to buy a book on my way home from our last trip about biological warfare (Hearbeat Away by Michael Palmer) and to start watching a netflix series about a post-nuclear US (Jericho). Those last two are obviously totally my fault– although I think I’ll be skipping Contagion due to the fact that the description of it wigs me out.

Oh and the world is supposed to end again on October 21, 2011. And also December 21, 2012. It is exhausting.

I’ve seen more things on the news/blogs in the past month about disaster readiness than I think I’ve seen in all the rest of my days combined. And while it is a good and important message… it is starting to wear on me. Plus, I can never help but wonder if all of these disasters are new. Is there really more this year than in past years? Or is it just being reported more? Or– perhaps I’m just paying attention more now? I really don’t know.

What I do know is that I wish the news would occasionally focus on GOOD news. There must be SOMETHING good happening in the world, right? I refuse to believe that the only news-worthy events are those in which people die. Rather than telling the same sad story twice an hour, every hour… perhaps consider peppering in some feel-good stuff? If its good news, is it not news anymore?

What do you think? Am I being too isolationist in my wish for a bit of a break from the gloom?

Lazy blog #2

I didn’t sleep well last night, plus my husband has the day off and is downstairs playing video games while I’m working (and um, blogging), which means I’m feeling cranky/lazy and don’t feel like blogging right now. haha. So, I’m just going to steal the questionnaire my blogging friend Mrs. B did on Friday. Feel free to copy/paste to your own site if you’re feeling lazy as well– Mondays are all about the lazy.

1. Do you drink coffee? Decaf or regular? Cold or hot? If not – what’s your go-to morning drink?

Yes. I’m addicted, although not as addicted as I used to be. In law school I drank way too much, got addicted, then gave it up cold turkey. Then my mom got annoyed that we didn’t have a coffee maker when she’d come stay with us so she bought one– and now I’m back to making it every day. But, I just have 1 cup of hot (regular) coffee every morning. It’s a happy way to start the day. (Also, we are kind of obsessed with ONE particular kind of coffee which isn’t always easy to find and that adds a little drama to our morning routine, haha).

2. What are your top six characteristics in a partner if you could hand pick them. And just for kicks – if you’re in a relationship – after you make the list of six – does the person you are with possess all five?

Honesty
Kindness
Humor
Loves animals
Home-body
handy

B is all of these things except handy. Although, he’s learning. 🙂

3. I’m going to pick a person – not knowing if this person even exists in your life – and you try to describe this person in 5 short words or sentences:

Paternal grandfather

Carpenter
Surly
Sweet
Loyal
Always remembered

4. What’s your signature item? Color? Piece of clothing or jewelry? Accessory? You know – that one thing people know you will ALWAYS have on?

Hm, probably big earrings. Ever since I was a teenager I’ve loved any kind of big earrings and they’re the one piece of jewelry (other than my wedding rings) that I try never to leave the house without.

5. Repeat question: Summarize your week in real life and in blog life.

Blog week: Started out talking about curtains and then launched into a few of the longest-ever wedding recap posts. I still owe a recap of the reception. Oh, and then got angry about mail.

Real life: Long/short week. The week seemed to go by pretty fast because it was a short week, but I was more desperate for the weekend than usual. I go through phases of being fine with the day-to-day of everything, and then other times I’m like… “really? I have to do this every day, like, forever?” and I think right now I’m in the latter of those phases.

Top 10 post

I’m having a gloriously lazy Saturday, and I’d hate to mess that up by doing anything that even kind of resembles “work.” Thus, I’m going to do a super easy top 10 post. And because I had my first pumpkin spice coffee of the season today, it will be the top 10 reasons I love fall.

Without further ado:

10. The weather. Obviously. I love cool breezes and chilly nights. Hoodie weather is my favorite weather

9. Shorter days. I know most people love the endless days of summer, but they always make me feel kind of lazy. Like if it is light out, I should be doing something. Dark evenings are much cozier.

8. Fall colors– love ’em. Ironically, I hate the color orange. But only in my house/clothes. In nature? Love it.

7. Pumpkin spice everything. Coffee, lattes, donuts, candles… not to mention pumpkin pie!

6. Bonfires. I actually haven’t had one in years, but fall always reminds me of high school football games and post-game bonfires.

5. Football in general. I actually don’t like sports, or football– but B LOVES football and it’s hard not to be happy about something he’s so excited about.

4. My birthday. Yep, I’m totally one of those people that loves their own birthdays. What’s not to like about presents?

3. New shows finally come back! I am SO sick of reruns, you?

2. Halloween! My favorite holiday. The decorations, the costumes, the trick-or-treating, love it!

1. To me, as soon as we hit Sept 1, it is the start of the best half of the year. We get to enjoy fall, my birthday, then Halloween, then Thanksgiving which leads into the Christmas season. I love the start of winter and the first few snows, Christmas, New Years, B’s birthday and our anniversary… Sept 1-Feb 28 is just one good thing after another!

What’s your favorite thing about fall?

Enough is enough.

Enough of what, exactly? Freaking mail. I’m over it. Ever since we bought the house, our junk mail has been increasing exponentially. I’m not even talking about things that I find moderately legitimate (if thoroughly annoying) like the incessant notices from my bank or credit card company about this change or that change or whatever.

I’m talking about flyers/ads, free magazines that we never asked or registered for, requests from charities for money, and pre-approvals for things we don’t want or need. Oh, and insurance offers. We get at least 2-3 per day for car insurance, mortgage insurance, etc. WE ARE INSURED LEAVE US ALONE.

I didn’t get the mail yesterday because it was raining (yes, really) so when I got it today, there was two days’ worth. We got exactly 1 envelope that was necessary. We also got this:

Let me bring that in a little closer for you.

Over two freaking pounds of junk mail! Yes, I weighed it. And it was not because this was “a lot.” It was because this has been going on every day, 6 days per week, and I finally had to know.

Apparently we’re averaging about a pound per day of junk mail. Six days per week. Fifty-two weeks per year. That’s 312 pounds per year of paper wasted on things that get tossed approximately 23 seconds after coming through the door.

I’m about to go all Kramer on the USPS and chop down the mailbox! Who’s with me?