Archive for the ‘Crafts’ Category

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Gingerbread House 2009

December 9, 2009

Here it is…gingerbread house 2009, which is my second from-scratch gingerbread house. I’m really happy with how it turned out. The snowman is my favorite part!

I’ve included all the information I can think of below, but if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or send me an email. If you’ve made a gingerbread house, give me the link so I can take a look!

Details

  • The roof is shingled with Golden Grahams cereal.
  • The door and shutters, candles, and bow on the wreath are fondant. The candles have a little silver pearl dust on the flame.
  • The window boxes and wreath are royal icing colored green with some sugar pearls for decoration. I made the wreath on parchment paper and then attached it to the house.
  • The snowman is a base of fondant rolled into balls, covered with royal icing. The arms are pretzel sticks and the eyes and nose are fondant.
  • The “stained glass” windows are made with crushed red and green Life Savers.
  • The walkway is paved with sliced almonds.
  • The Christmas lights along the roof are mint holiday M&Ms.
  • The chimney is made from Twizzlers Bites (bite-size licorice).
  • The log pile is pretzels with royal icing snow.
  • The fence is holiday gum drops.
  • The base is a piece of wood covered with heavy brown paper. Thanks to my husband, there’s a light bulb attached to the base, and I built the house around the bulb. It looks really pretty at night with the light shining through the “stained glass” windows.

Some of my ideas were taken from the resources listed below. If you look at those links, you’ll see more details and tips about the windows, window boxes, wreath, and candles.

Resources

  • I made a gingerbread house last year and I came back to that post to see what I had to say. My advice was helpful!
  • This PDF file from King Arthur has lots of helpful information on construction of the house and decorations, including the candy windows. It also has the recipe I used for the gingerbread and icing. I made 1.5 batches of gingerbread and 3 separate batches of royal icing (but I had extra icing).
  • This year, the King Arthur blog featured a really cute gingerbread house. This is what gave me the idea to use fondant. It was my first time with fondant, and their instructions helped a lot. I also used the ideas from this post to make the window boxes, candles, and wreath.
  • I started with this template (PDF), though I did make some modifications.

Top Tips

  • Roll and cut the gingerbread directly on the sheet you’ll bake it on or do it on parchment and pick up the parchment to place on the sheet. If you move the pieces around, they’ll get distorted (I think I did this right last year and wrong this year).
  • If you’re using crushed candy for the windows, be sure to bake the pieces on parchment or a silicone mat, or else the candy will stick to the baking pan.
  • Line up your pieces before gluing them together with icing; trim if necessary to get them to align better. A microplane is a fantastic tool for trimming the pieces. I used a flat rectangular one that I usually use for Parmesan cheese. I filed away on some of the pieces and felt like a woodworker!
  • I used a small curved microplane to file away a little spot for the cord to come out the back.
  • Give everything plenty of drying time. I worked on one thing at a time and let it dry before moving on. That way, there’s no danger of bumping into something before it’s dry.

Biggest Challenges

  • Our dog is fascinated with this project! I used the dining room table as my work area and she got up there and ate some small pieces I had made to use as a chimney. After that I closed off the room so she couldn’t get in, and now it’s up in a high spot that she can’t get to (but she’s trying to figure out how she can!).
  • My husband kept eating the candy while I was still working on the house. Lucky for him, he didn’t deplete any supplies that I needed. He took these nice photos too, so I’ll give him a break!

More Gingerbread Fun…

  • Check out this year’s White House Gingerbread House. It doesn’t exactly look gingerbread-y, but take a look at the garden and the mini-Bo!
  • When I went to Chicago, I saw a giant gingerbread house at the Marriott on Michigan Avenue. Those photos are here.
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Tote Bag Sewing Project

June 27, 2009

I’m a wannabe crafter, but I’m so practical that I’m always looking at projects wondering what I’d do with the finished product if I made it. Sewing seems like a good solution because it’s kind of crafty and kind of practical. And I can do it sitting down. Yes, I’m usually writing about a baking or cooking project, but I’ve had to limit my time in the kitchen because I’m (still!) dealing with a knee problem. So today I bring to you an easy tote bag project. The instructions are here on the Homemade by Jill blog (Note! this is a different Jill…just a coincidence). I’m a beginning sewer, and I think this project is really easy!

Tote Bag 1

Tote Bag 3

Notes:

  • I found some cute dish towels at World Market. The tote bag in the tutorial is made with Orla Kiely towels from Target. Target seems to be wiped out of all things Orla Kiely.
  • I think this would work pretty well with two pieces of material too: my towels measure 20″x28″ each.
  • If you’re looking at towels, note that the towel will be folded in half, so make sure that the pattern will look OK on both sides of the bag (I looked at some patterns that would end up upside-down on one side of the bag.)
  • I’ll definitely use iron-on interfacing on the next tote bag. This is pretty floppy, even though the towel is thick.
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Gingerbread House

January 1, 2009

This year I decided to make a gingerbread house from scratch. I did a little research and found these instructions from King Arthur Flour, which are really helpful and include a template.  This was a fun project – sort-of a craft project and sort-of a food project.  I’m not going to eat it, so that saves some calories (the leftover candy doesn’t have any calories, right?).

Here are some of the pieces ready to bake.

ready-to-bake

Here are the pieces out of the oven. A little more than halfway through baking, I put crushed Life Savers inside the window cutouts to make “stained glass” windows. I wasn’t sure how that would go, but it turned out great.

baked-pieces

My husband helped out by making a base and adding a light to it.  He suggested the light and it was a great idea!

board-with-light

The walls went up first and I let them dry overnight before adding the roof.

under-construction

Here I am working on the roof. I shingled it with Golden Grahams.

roofing

 

Here is the finished product. The wreath is made of sliced gumdrops and the trees are covered in gumdrop halves and pieces.

finished-1

finished-2

And here it is at night with the light on.

at-night

I wanted to do something simple for my first attempt and I think it turned out cute!  Next year…bigger and better!

A few tips:

  • Using this template and this recipe, I had just enough dough for the house and two trees.  If I made this one again, I’d make an extra half batch for more landscaping. I’d also make the roof a little bigger so there is more overhang. Oh, I’d add a chimney too.
  • Read through the instructions. Read through them over and over each step of the way. It’s not that difficult, but your life will be easier if you do everything in the right order and read the tips.
  • Be patient. Align the pieces before attaching them with icing and trim them if needed to get a 90 degree angle. Allow the royal icing plenty of time to dry between the steps.
  • Don’t cover your base in parchment. You know how nothing sticks to parchment? Well, tape doesn’t stick to it and even royal icing doesn’t stick to it very well.  I managed to make it work but I wouldn’t do it again.
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Happy Halloween!

October 31, 2008

I saw a neat alternative for carving pumpkins on Eddie Ross’ site, so I decided to give it a try.  I hollowed out the pumpkin and my handy husband drilled it.  It looks kind of goofy just sitting on the counter.

But it looks pretty good with a candle in it.

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