Thursday, April 28, 2011

end of {law} school cupcakes

Today was my sister's last day of law school. So, in honor of this awesome accomplishment, I made her chocolate chip devil's food cake cupcakes with buttercream icing. I'm pretty sure Ford has been sneaking them all afternoon...

Congratulations again, sister! I love you and am SO proud of you!

Monday, April 25, 2011

and the winner is...

You know what is so funny about this is that I had a few followers message me to tell me they were waiting to enter because "the first person never wins." Funny how that happens!

Congratulations, Lauren! I will be emailing you tonight to find out how to get your magnets to you.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Monday.

**I did 16 (instead of 17, which is how many comments there were) because one person had to leave their email in a separate comment, but there were actually only 16 different people. Just wanted to clarify so you didn't think I was leaving someone out!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

giveaway: monogrammed magnets

*this giveaway is now closed*

So, the promised-post is here and comes with a special surprise... the zesty baker's first ever giveaway!

For their anniversary, I made my sister and her husband monogrammed magnets. I also decorated cookies for them, but Ford and I ate them before we had a chance to take them over... oops. Yet another reason why I should not do anything food-related. I need to make things that I can't devour. Sometimes I can't resist spending a little time with my Kitchen Aid though... :)

You can't quite tell from the pictures, but they have a glass-like feel to them (it is not decoupage... there is a glass-like layer on top).  I kind of got a picture of this by taking a picture of an unfinished magnet...

I thought they turned out pretty cute. Then again, I'm a sucker for anything with my initials on it.

To win a set of 4 monogrammed magnets, please do the following:
  1. Post a comment to the bottom of this blog letting me know what your favorite post on the blog has been so far. Also, be sure to include your monogram (First, Last, Middle)... or the monogram you would want on the magnets, the font style you like, and the color paper you would like used.
  2. Share this giveaway post on your facebook, blog, or twitter. 
  3. Make sure you include your email in your comment so that I am able to contact you if you win!
A winner will be chosen on Monday, April 25 at 5:00pm and will be posted here on the blog.

Friday, April 22, 2011

last minute easter treats

I should preface this post by telling you that this is not the one I promised you yesterday. Unfortunately, while I was sitting at my desk this morning, I accidentally stuck my arm in the semi-wet glue (you know... I told you it was drying last night...) and had to start my project over.

That's okay! It actually worked out perfect. I had to go grocery shopping today anyways so while I was out I picked up a few things to make some Easter treats... and was able to step away from my desk and let the glue dry in peace so that I can get the promised-post up later this weekend.

I got the idea for Bunny Bait from Bridget {Bake at 350}. I didn't have sprinkles or candy melts, so I just used popcorn, M&Ms, and melted white chocolate. It was super easy, but she's not kidding when she says it is highly addictive. I went ahead and bagged these up to give away this weekend.

In addition to the bait, I figured I needed a few bunnies to go with it (after all, what good is bait if you don't catch anything?!). I got the idea for the bunnies from {SweetSugarBelle}. She made Peep cookies awhile back that I've been dying to try but don't have the right cookie cutters for it. When I got the flower cutters for the spring cupcakes (posted yesterday), they came in a set that also had mini-bunny heads. Still not exactly what I was looking for, but it works for now. I ended up not putting faces on my bunnies because Ford told me they looked creepy. So, abstract bunnies it is!

For my bunnies, I made the dough from scratch (and added a little food coloring to make them purple) and then used store-bought cookie icing and topped with sanding sugar. So, all of these Easter treats are semi-homemade and perfect for you to make with just a few hours to spare until Easter on Sunday!

spring cupcakes

Last weekend I received my first issue of All You magazine. Not only does it have great coupons in it (which is why I ordered it in the first place), but turns out it has awesome craft/baking ideas! I decided to try out one of their cupcake decorating techniques with my girls this week.

Check out our spring cupcakes...

Yes, the flowers are squished gum drops coated in sanding sugar. Next time, I would probably use green M&Ms for the centers, but I knew I wouldn't eat the whole bag of jelly beans (I'm not a big fan), so that's why I went for those instead of the chocolate. :)

Overall, the cupcakes were a lot of fun to make. The girls enjoyed making the flowers but most of all they liked eating the cupcakes when we were finished. I definitely recommend doing a baking project with your kids (or with those that you babysit)... it keeps them entertained for a while, teaches them how to do something new, and they get something yummy to eat when they are finished.

And now, a preview of this weekend's post... I'm just waiting on a few things to finish drying...

Can't wait to show you what I've had in the works for a while. Happy Easter weekend!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

growth chart

Last week, my sister called and told me about a friend of hers who is having a baby, due in July. Jennifer was invited to a couple of her baby showers and wanted to give her something unique, so she asked me to come up with a gift.

I looked at a few baby stores and came up with the idea to make a personalized growth chart. Now that I had an idea, the only hard part was figuring out how on earth to make something for a baby boy.

I'm used to making gifts for girls (as seen in my "previous projects" post). I can do flowers and polka dots and stripes and swirls and curly fonts, etc. But a boy? I was at a loss on what on earth to paint on the growth chart. After wandering aimlessly around Michaels for over an hour, I finally found animal cut outs... perfect for creating the shadow of zoo animals on the growth chart to mark each foot.

Here's how it all went down...

Materials List:

  • Wood Board
  • Blue, Yellow, Brown & White Acrylic Paints (& paintbrushes of various sizes)
  • Circle & Animal Templates
  • Wooden Letters & Numbers
  • Measuring Tape
  • Hanging set (with wire)
  • Tacky Glue
  • Acrylic Sealer

Step One: Paint all sides of the board white (think primer).

Step Two: Paint the board (excluding the back, whichever side you choose that to be) brown. You will want to do at least two coats of brown to ensure good color. Allow color to dry.
Step Three: Using your circle template, outline your polka dots using a small brush and fill in using a larger brush. Note that your polka dots will not be "perfect" at first. This will be fixed once the first coat is dry.
Step Four: Fix your polka dots using the brown paint and a small brush. (This might be my favorite step. There's just something about watching the polka dots get rounder and prettier that makes me feel like I'm accomplishing something.)
Step Five: Using a tape measurer, mark the inch and foot "ticks" on the right side of the board. Don't worry about making them perfect at this point, you just need a general idea of where to place the animals.

Step Six: Center your animal templates with each foot marking. Trace the animals onto the board with a small brush, then fill in with a larger brush.
Step Seven: Go back and fix everything. Chances are, your inch markings are not the same length (mine sure were not), you have blue/yellow paint on the sides of your board, and brown paint seeping over onto the white paint on the back. Take time to make sure everything is perfect. Again, probably my second favorite step. I love seeing the final product come together.

Step Eight: Add the wire to the back of your board. Directions should be on the hanging kit that you bought.
Step Nine: Glue on the letters and numbers.

Step Ten: Spray on the acrylic finish (do this outdoors... and if it's super pollen-y like it is here, lay down parchment paper to avoid the back of the board turning yellow). 

Voila! You are finished.

It took me about six days to complete this project, but I love that it is going to a great family and that it was my very first custom order for someone other than my family or my girls.

If there is anything I can make for you, please let me know. Per request, I will be opening an etsy shop in the near future with unique, personalized gifts available for order. More on that in the next few days.

**As a side note, I'm providing steps to make the growth chart above as a project for you to enjoy. Please do not sell my original designs, but enjoy them for your own use.**

Friday, April 15, 2011

roses & fried pickles

Okay. I probably shouldn't even know (or admit to knowing) what the title of this post means. You probably don't. But, I am a faithful watcher of Jersey Shore and every time I think "roses" I automatically think "fried pickles" thanks to Pauly D & Snookie.

Now that my guilty pleasure is out in the open, I can move on to what this post is actually about.

{Wine & Design... click here to read all about the Paint Party Studio!}

Ashley and I went tonight and it was a session all about painting, you guessed it, roses.

We had so much fun learning to paint peony-roses (we have no idea what flower we actually painted, we're just pretty sure they are not roses). We also decided that our two paintings needed to get together and have a baby and then it'd actually be a good one- ha!

Nevertheless, we had an absolute ball painting together with the other thirty ladies that were in attendance. The teachers help you through every step of the process and really work with you on your painting technique. These classes are for everyone-- zero experience holding a brush to a professional painter. I strongly suggest it for anyone looking to tap a little into their creative side. The $35 is worth it. You come home with a work of art and you spent quality time with your friends creating it.

Here are pictures from tonight...

Please excuse our tired look. We just finished teaching kids who already thought they were on Spring Break all day long. :)

I hope that you will take advantage of this awesome place and get a group together to go. All you do is bring wine and a snack and they provide the rest. Let me know if you are going, I'd love to go back.

Happy weekend (& Spring Break for us teachers)!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

{classy} bachelorette party favors

Today at work, Betsy asked me to help her come up with favor ideas for a Bachelorette party she is throwing in July. This got me thinking about past bachelorette weekends' both that I've thrown and that I've been to recently.

First of all, I made monogrammed shot glasses for my sister's bachelorette party back in 2008. I know what you are thinking... classy shot glasses? But trust me, everybody loved them...

Last July, I had the privilege of being Ashley's Maid of Honor. I threw her a bachelorette weekend in Edisto Island, South Carolina. Since it was a destination event, I got the other girls to go to the grocery store as soon as we arrived so I could surprise them and have the condo decorated when they returned. Here's how it turned out...

I ordered way in advance, and got each of the girls a monogrammed towel (in the colors of the weekend) from Lands End. They were on sale when I ordered them, so it wasn't too pricey. Ashley got two towels-- one with her married monogram (can't use that until the island honeymoon) and a plain towel with no monogram (perfect for John to take on the honeymoon). She also had a crown, light up rings, fun bead necklaces, "The Bride" button, and the movie {My Best Friend's Wedding} so that we had a girly wedding movie to watch over the weekend. The rest of the girls received monogrammed towels, "Bridesmaid" buttons, and a light up ring.

Above is a view from the other side of the room (opposite the welcome gifts). I used a teal sharpie to monogram plastic champagne glasses and tie ribbons around the stems.

I also planned on playing the question game with Ashley during her lingerie shower. I wrote out all the questions that I asked John, each on it's own index card. I then push pinned a long piece of ribbon into the wall and hung the cards so that it resembled a clothes line. On the night of the shower, I took all the cards down and passed them around, 5 or 6 to each girl present. We took turns asking the questions and if Ashley got the answer wrong, she had to put a piece of Double Bubble into her mouth. If she got a question correct, she was allowed to open one of her presents. Once the lingerie was opened, we hung it up on the ribbon with the clothes pins in place of the cards.

Here are some close-ups of what I'm talking about with this side of the room:

As always, plan your parties in as much advance as you possibly can. I remember last year I was planning at least two months in advance to make sure that I did not forget even the slightest detail. You should be proud of your work and not feel rushed to get it done the night before. You are way more likely to have an enjoyable, relaxing weekend with the Bride-to-be if you plan it out and get it done early.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

polka dots & stripes

I had some of you ask me about how to get the "perfect" polka dot on your project. All you do is find the size circle that you want, and trace.

I recommend making either a wax paper or cardboard template so that you can do multiple polka dots at one time. I personally like to space mine out before... or else I spend a lot of time re-painting (I'm slightly anal about things like that). 

However, at Michael's today, I found a set of 12 different size circles (you can paint them and glue them on your projects, but I thought they were just fabulous to use as templates) for only 99 cents

When painting stripes, I eyeball it. I know, I know-- crazy about polka dots and not so about stripes? Well, I really don't ever feel like getting the measuring tape out, sticking painter's tape on, etc. But, those are possibilities if you are worried about messing up your stripes.

I typically start off by brushing on a thin & very light coat of my stripes first to make sure they are evenly spaced out. Then, I go back and make the stripes darker and thicker. You can also try getting a square-tip brush to help you make those stripes straighter on the edges.

I hope these tips help you as you create your projects. I'm loving the messages about how this blog is helping to inspire your creativity. Please let me know if there is anything you are interested in learning more about.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

isaiah 40:8

As I was working on a painting for my mom today, she texted me to let me know that today would have been my Nana's 100th birthday. My Nana lived with our family for two and a half years before she passed away when I was in elementary school. She taught my sister and how to sing, bake (namely, fudge), and use (and appreciate) the gifts with which God has blessed us.

I was going to just do a pattern (inspired by a new Lilly Pulitzer fabric) for my mom with no words, but when I got her text and remembered everything my Nana used to teach us, I could not resist putting a Bible verse on the canvas.

After all, the only reason that I have the ability to do what I do is because of Jesus and my work should be a reflection of His love for us. The things of this earth are fleeting, but the word of God is forever.

sugar cookies & royal icing

About two weeks ago it was my co-worker, Meghan's, birthday. We had gone out for her birthday but I wanted to take treats to school for her to continue the celebration. Long story short, they were not that fabulous. The cookies... those were amazing. I have a family recipe that is exceptionally moist and overall delicious. However, the icing was a disaster. 

I follow several cookie blogs and I've watched countless video tutorials by those ladies. Compared to theirs, my icing was hard, cracky and pretty much just gross looking. I didn't know the trick about watering down your icing to flood it, so I was trying to spread piping icing with a knife. I ended up covering them in sanding sugar so that you could not see the awful mess that was below, but trust me, it was not pretty.

After that first try, I was discouraged but I really wanted to try again. So, that's exactly what I did this weekend. It was a long process, I made lots of mistakes, but I learned a lot along the way. I'll be starting a new batch today just in time for my sister and her husband's anniversary on Tuesday. For now, here's the process I did for the this weekend's batch...

1. I got all of my ingredients together for both the cookies and the icing, just to make sure I didn't need to go to the store.

2. On Friday afternoon, I made the cookie dough. It takes less than an hour from start to finish (including clean up).

3. After making the cookie dough, I split the dough in half and wrapped each half in plastic wrap. I put them in the refrigerator until I was ready to bake.

4. On Saturday afternoon, I got one of the halves of cookie dough out (I'm saving the other for the anniversary cookies) and began to roll it and cut out shapes. I floured my rolling pin for this process. I like my cookies extra thick, so I didn't get many cookies out of my dough. :)

5. I put the cookies on the cookie pan (covered in parchment paper) as I cut them out. I then put the entire cookie pan into the refrigerator for about an hour.

6. MISTAKE: I began making the royal icing while the cookies were in the refrigerator. Not a big deal, but I was so excited about putting the icing into the piping bag, that I did this too while the cookies were still in the refrigerator. NEXT TIME, I will wait to make the icing while the cookies are baking... and avoid putting it in the piping bag until the cookies are cooled and ready to ice.

7. I put the cookies in the oven.

8. After the cookies were finished baking, I moved them over to the table where I'd be decorating. I let them stay on the pan until they had the chance to cool a little and then I moved them to the cooling rack. If you move them too soon, they can break because they are too hot.

9. Once the cookies were completely cooled (in hindsight, I should have watched a movie or something... but you know with a new project you are always anxious to get to the final product), I piped icing around the edges. MISTAKE: My icing was WAY too hard at this point. I definitely should have added more water to the icing, but it was already in the piping bag and it was late at night.. I was not starting over at this point.

10. I then took some of the icing and watered it down to a thick honey/syrup consistency. I put it in a squeeze bottle and flooded the cookies (after the piping dried). I ended up cutting the tip on the squeeze bottle because I wanted more to flood at once... that's probably a personal preference.

11. I put the flooded cookies in the refrigerator for the night and went to sleep.

12. When I woke up this morning, I added a little bit of water to the piping icing (I did not want it to be as hard as it was yesterday). I also used a #4 tip (instead of a #2 that I used yesterday). I piped the edges and then whatever design I wanted to in the middle. My attempt was to put sanding sugar on just the wet design, but I think that because my cookies were cold, they held moisture and therefore the sanding sugar stuck to the "dry" flooded part as well.

At any rate, here is a picture of two of my cookies from this weekend (I was too anxious to get a blog post up that I did not want to wait for all of the cookies to dry so I couldn't stack them on each other)...

I will post more pictures as I learn how to do this form of art a little better. I encourage you to try something new today that will challenge you. Cookie decorating is a definite (exciting) challenge of mine. What will you try?!