DIY Gold Leaf Painted Acorns

DIY-Gold-Painted-Acorns-Victoria-Allison

Here in the Bay Area we’ve been experiencing disgustingly hot weather almost every day for weeks. I took advantage of the first day with temperatures in the 70s to cross my fingers that Fall might finally be on the way, and tackled a quick and easy craft project – gold leaf painted acorns!

For this project you’ll need:

  • Gold Leaf Paint (I bought mine at Michael’s craft store.)
  • Small paintbrush (foam ones work best, though I didn’t have any on hand and used a soft bristled brush.)
  • Acorn caps
  • Acorn nuts – either acorn nuts already attached .. or able to be re-attached to the caps, or polymer clay to make your own acorn nuts.
  • Protective gloves
  • Respirator mask (strongly recommended! The gold leaf paint is pretty potent, and even the bottle label is loaded with warnings about adequate ventilation.)
  • Something to cover your work surface, preferably plastic wrap or aluminum foil.
  • Glue (to make sure your acorn nuts stay attached to the caps. I used two part epoxy because that’s what I had handy.)

This project is so easy that it probably doesn’t even need visuals, but if you’re anything like me, photos are always encouraged!

DIY Gold Acorns - victoriaallison.wordpress.com If you already have acorns with the cap and the nut attached, you can skip this part. The first thing I did was to make faux acorn nuts with polymer clay, as I’d only collected these cute little caps while out for a walk.

I used the Sculpey “lightweight” clay since it’s really soft easy to mold for this type of project. I baked the clay acorns according to the package directions and let them cool before moving forward.

DIY Gold Acorns - victoriaallison.wordpress.comOnce cooled, I fitted a clay nut to each cap, to make sure I had a match for each one. They’re pretty cute as is, aren’t they? I debated leaving some white, but I can always  make more later if I feel the need to change up the decor.

DIY Gold Acorns - victoriaallison.wordpress.com

Once I’d matched the nuts to the caps, I separated them – but kept the nut close to each cap – and then I got to work painting! I found it was easiest to start at the bottom of the clay nut, and then sort of “stick” it to the plastic while I painted the rest of it – from the bottom/widest part up towards the small point at the top. You can see here why the gloves are necessary for this! Some of them required a second coat/touch up after the first layer was dry.

If you have real acorns, make sure you’ve properly dried them out before using them for any craft projects. Acorns fresh off the ground will get moldy, and could also be harboring insects.

DIY Gold Acorns - victoriaallison.wordpress.com

Here’s the group of painted clay acorns drying! They dry fairly quickly in low humidity. You could also paint and leave them outside to dry if you don’t have proper indoor ventilation.

Once the paint was dry, I mixed up my two-part epoxy glue and re-attached each cap. As mentioned earlier, you could use other types of glue, whatever your preference is. I like the epoxy because it has a really strong bond with most any material.

DIY Gold Acorns - victoriaallison.wordpress.com

So pretty, and so very easy!

DIY Gold Acorns - victoriaallison.wordpress.com

I haven’t yet decided what I’ll do with them, but I’m sure they’ll make a nice accent to my other Fall decor.

Happy Crafting!

Homemade Vanilla Extract Wedding Favors Doubled as Place Cards

DIY-vanilla-extract-favors

I’ve realized I’m very far behind in adding the DIY/tutorials posts from our wedding, so I’m going to try to get some of those up for anyone working on their late spring/summer weddings!

One of the fun and easy projects we created combined two tasks in one – favors for our wedding guests and name cards/place cards (sometimes known as “escort cards”,) to help our guests find their seats. Many of our guests enjoy cooking and baking – or live with someone who does! – so we decided to make a big batch of vanilla extract and divide it among our guests as favors. We dispensed it into adorable little glass bottles, adorned with sticker labels indicating the guests’ names and seats. We also had children attending our wedding, so we filled their bottles with miniature M&M’s candies.

wedding favors

Homemade vanilla extract wedding favor

I designed the sticker labels to match our wedding invitations, which was a fun and easy way to tie in the existing design elements and color scheme. Each label had the guest’s name, followed by the table number they were to be seated at.  As a little extra, I made the simple little ‘chalkboard’ style sign in front.  Since I added this piece at the last minute, we didn’t have time to find any small chalkboards. I made a quick little 4×6″ graphic and inserted it into a photo frame from Michael’s craft store.

vanilla-extract-favors-seating-signIf you’d like to make the same favors/seating guide for your guests, feel free to use the sign! I took our initials out of the heart, so you may download the image, or download the file as a .pdf to print it at a higher resolution, available here:

Favors-Sign

For the bottles, I purchased the clear glass 1oz size from Container & Packaging Supply:

You can find those here. I used the corresponding small silver bottle tops to go with them, but I do believe they also have white, and possibly black, in the same size. When you view the product page, it shows you the other items that fit with the bottle.

For the labels on the bottle, I went with a 1-1/2 x 1-1/2″ square sticker labels. There are plenty of additional sizes as well as round labels if you prefer, but I liked the look of the square to go with our theme/designs. These are the ones I used:

averylabels

You can find those here. One pack comes with a total of 600 square labels, which is a LOT! Plenty of extras for trial & error when you’re testing out your prints.

Last but not least, making your own vanilla extract is incredibly easy! This is the general guidelines I use, as follows:

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Ingredients for 8 oz of extract:

1 cup vodka

4-5 whole vanilla beans

glass jar with lid

Instructions:

Slice the vanilla beans open lengthwise with a sharp knife. Add the vanilla beans (the whole bean,) and vodka to the clear glass container. Give it a good shake, and store it in a cool dark place for at least 3 months. Every week or two, shake the container again. You’ll notice the little vanilla seed flecks floating around – this is perfectly fine, they are the bulk of the flavor!

Optional: Once the mixture has steeped and is a nice rich brown color (the darker the better,) remove the pods from the jar and pour the liquid into a separate vessel, if you so desire. Some people like to strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve, but I personally don’t do that. It’s entirely at your discretion.

A great source for vanilla beans is Vanilla Products on ebay. I’ve been buying from them for years.

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Even if you aren’t getting married, vanilla extract makes a great gift for your fellow bakers! Be sure to start steeping it well ahead of your event for gifting.

The wedding photographs in this post were taken by Sarah Jayne Photography.

Italian Pasta Night Dinner Party

When my husband and I got married, we decided to finally get some “grown up” dishware to replace the set I’d purchased when I was 18 and had been using ever since. (They were clear glass – not very exciting, but they didn’t conflict with any of the decor through my numerous moves and held up for over ten years!) We decided what better way to celebrate the new dishware – and silverware – than by hosting a little dinner party for some friends? Our theme was “Italian Pasta Night.” We had an enormous array of food, and everything was delicious.

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Our menu included:

– Two kinds of homemade pasta (spaghetti and fettuccine)

– Two kinds of homemade pasta sauces (pesto, and a red marinara sauce)

– Garlic bread with a delicious herbed garlic butter

– Caesar salad with homemade Meyer lemon Caesar dressing

– Vanilla panna cotta topped with grated dark chocolate, accompanied by almond brittle

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What would a dinner party be without the decor though, right? OK, maybe I get a little bit more excited about this kind of thing than other .. normal.. people do, but I really wanted an excuse to be fancy and try out some projects that were on my DIY list!

Italian Pasta Night Dinner Party 3I spent a little bit of time sourcing out different candle holders for the center grouping. I found some for .49cents each at Ikea, which conveniently can hold either a stick candle or a votive! I also went to our local thrift store and picked up a few other clear glass candle sticks in varying heights.

Italian Pasta Night Dinner Party 2

The blue goblets were already part of my collection. They are vintage “Kings Crown” style goblets, by Indiana Glass company. They were made somewhere around the 1960s-1970s. I loved them so much when I first got them, that I ended up buying the same ones in different colors for the head table at our wedding. (You can view those here!)

The silver colored chargers were on sale at Michael’s craft store, 2 for $3. They added a nice touch!

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I am quite obsessed with these place cards! Obviously they weren’t necessary for a small dinner party, but when I saw the idea, I just couldn’t resist. They were one of the easiest crafts I’ve ever done. You simply take a sprig of fresh rosemary and bend it into a circular shape, then secure it with a little piece of floral wire. Adorn it with a bow of your choice, and a name tag clipped from a piece of printed cardstock. My rosemary stalks were pretty sturdy, so I had to break them just a little bit in a few places as I formed the circle. It wasn’t noticeable at all, and it achieved the nice wreath shape for each of them. I used a little bit of kitchen twine for the bow. You could use colored ribbon or whatever you’d like!

DIY lemon leaf garlandOne of the biggest projects was the lemon leaf garland. I didn’t take too many in-progress photos, but have included one so you can get a better idea of what I did. I found a tutorial online, and it was actually a really simple project!

I used about 2 large bunches of fresh lemon leaves, which I purchased at a florist. I clipped off each leaf, leaving about 4-5 inches of stem below it. Cut a long length of twine and attach each leaf/stem to the twine by wrapping floral wire around it. Wrap the stem, lay the next branch over it, and wrap again. You will keep overlapping each branch with the new leaves until you get to the end. How close or far apart you wrap them is completely up to you. I ended up wrapping 2-3 at a time for a full look. The garland extended the entire length of the table!

I made this in advance, so I stored it in our guest shower, and misted it with a spray bottle of water 2x a day for 2-3 days. I wouldn’t advise making this more than 3 days in advance, or it will dry out. 1 or 2 days is preferred, or even same day if you have the time available.

To accent the garland, I simply placed fresh lemons around it on the table. So easy, and beautiful! As you can see, our dinner party looked really elegant without a whole lot of time or money spent to decorate the table.

Don’t worry, I am not leaving you without any recipes.. here’s the recipes for the vanilla panna cotta, and the almond brittle. Both are very simple and incredibly delicious.

Vanilla Panna Cotta

yield: Makes 8 to 10 servings

This recipe was created by chef Lachlan Mackinnon Patterson of Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, Colorado. It’s part of a special menu he created for Epicurious’s Wine.Dine.Donate program.

Start this recipe a day before you plan to serve it. Both the pear jam and the panna cotta are best if chilled overnight.

Ingredients:

  • 4 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin from 2 (1/4-ounce) envelopes
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise

Directions:

In small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over cream. Let stand until gelatin softens, about 1 minute.

Meanwhile, in medium saucepan over moderate heat, whisk together milk and sugar. Scrape in seeds from vanilla beans; add beans. Heat, whisking occasionally, until sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in cream mixture. Strain through fine-mesh sieve, discarding vanilla beans, then ladle mixture into 8 (4-ounce) ramekins. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.

Unmold and serve:
Run thin sharp knife around inside edge of each ramekin to loosen. Dip bottom of 1 ramekin in bowl of very warm water 6 seconds. Put plate over ramekin, then invert panna cotta onto plate, gently lifting off ramekin. Repeat to unmold remaining panna cottas.  (Note: I poured my mixture right into a fancy glass serving dish, as shown in the image earlier in this post. I did not unmold it, and instead left it in the pretty dish. I topped it with grated dark chocolate.)

Almond Brittle

Yield: 13 servings

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light-colored corn syrup
3/4 cup coarsely chopped almonds, toasted
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
Directions:
Line a jelly-roll pan with parchment paper. Combine sugar and syrup in a 2-quart glass bowl. Microwave at HIGH 3 minutes (sugar mixture will be clear and bubbly). Stir in almonds. Microwave at HIGH 3 minutes or until mixture is a light caramel color, stirring every minute. Stir in butter, vanilla, and salt. Microwave at HIGH 1 1/2 minutes or until mixture is the color of peanut butter. Add baking soda, and stir until texture is foamy. Quickly pour mixture onto prepared pan. Spread to 1/4-inch thickness. Let stand 30 minutes. Break brittle into pieces, and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Homemade Peppermint Marshmallows and a Gift Packaging Template

It’s that time of year – peppermint season!

Okay..peppermint can be enjoyed year-round, but I personally associate it with wintertime. I’ve been so busy with work (for which I am grateful!) that I haven’t had much time to enjoy many holiday festivities, baking and candy making included.

The very first thing on my to-make list when I had a spare moment was marshmallows. Not just any marshmallows – peppermint marshmallows!

PeppermintMarshmallows01

If you haven’t tried your hand at homemade marshmallows, have no fear; they’re incredibly easy to make. The hardest part is the waiting! Last year I made regular vanilla marshmallows, and thought I would switch it up with peppermint. (Oh – I also made some pumpkin ones in October! Those were equally amazing!) I made a batch of these peppermint ones the other day, and shipped most of them off to various parts of the country as part of my Christmas packages to family and friends, but did keep a few to enjoy here at home.

PeppermintMarshmallows2

.. and as expected, they’re absolutely delicious in hot chocolate!

For whatever reason, inspiration struck when I was packaging these for gifts. I made some labels for the packages, and found some adorable red and white striped ribbon in my supply stash.

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It’s not too late to whip up a batch of these yourself for some last minute holiday gifts! To save some time, I thought that you might like to use these labels too..

PeppermintMarshmallowsLabel

You can right-click and save the above image (a .jpg) and print it as you wish, but I also made a high-res .pdf file that you can download and print (it has 6 labels per page.) Click the link to view and save or print the file: http://victoriaallison.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/peppermintmarshmallows-printout.pdf

And last but not least, here’s the recipe I used:

Homemade Marshmallows

Bon Appétit  | July 2008

by Molly Wizenberg

Ingredients:

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1 cup cold water, divided
  • 3 1/4-ounce envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (for the peppermint version, I used 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1 tsp peppermint extract.)
  • * Optional: 2-3 drops red food coloring
  • 1/2 cup potato starch**
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar**
** I use cornstarch.. I also use about 1/4 cup cornstarch and 1/4 cup powdered sugar. It’s PLENTY!
Directions:

Line 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan with foil.

Coat foil lightly with nonstick spray. Pour 1/2 cup cold water into bowl of heavy-duty mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Sprinkle gelatin over water. Let stand until gelatin softens and absorbs water, at least 15 minutes.

Combine 2 cups sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup cold water in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over mediumlow heat until sugar dissolves, brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush. Attach candy thermometer to side of pan. Increase heat and bring syrup to boil. Boil, without stirring, until syrup reaches 240°F, about 8 minutes.

With mixer running at low speed, slowly pour hot syrup into gelatin mixture in thin stream down side of bowl (avoid pouring syrup onto whisk, as it may splash). Gradually increase speed to high and beat until mixture is very thick and stiff, about 15 minutes. Add vanilla and beat to blend, about 30 seconds longer.

*Optional: I added a couple of drops of red food coloring and gently stirred it into the marshmallows to create a light pink ‘swirl’ effect.

Scrape marshmallow mixture into prepared pan. Smooth top with wet spatula. Let stand uncovered at room temperature until firm, about 4 hours.

Stir potato starch and powdered sugar in small bowl to blend. Sift generous dusting of starch-sugar mixture onto work surface, forming rectangle slightly larger than 13×9 inches. Turn marshmallow slab out onto starch-sugar mixture; peel off foil. Sift more starch-sugar mixture over marshmallow slab. Coat large sharp knife (or cookie cutters) with nonstick spray. Cut marshmallows into squares or other shapes. Toss each in remaining starch-sugar mixture to coat. Transfer marshmallows to rack, shaking off excess mixture.

 

Enjoy!

Butters in his Professor Chaos dog costume

I’ve never been good at coming up with names for pets. My first cat’s name was Shadow. She was all black. (Really original, no?) Most other animals in my life have been named by friends or other family members.

When we adopted our dog, we were told that his name was Butters, and he’d had brothers (already adopted) named Kyle and Stan. Having watched many episodes of South Park since it’s inception, we knew that we had to keep the name! Well, come to find out, the name really is quite fitting for this dog. Akin to South Park’s Butters, he really is the sweetest dog, albeit sort of naive, but goodhearted and always eager to please.

Anyway, one day Butters (from the show) grew tired of being a people-pleaser, always doing the right thing, helping everybody.. thus one night, his alter ego was born: Professor Chaos. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Professor_Chaos and/or http://www.southparkstudios.com/clips/153471/professor-chaos-is-born) Complete with a tin-foil hat and gloves, and a green cape made from an old t-shirt, he vowed to rein chaos on every path he crossed!

I decided that our Butters needed a new Halloween costume, and Professor Chaos was the obvious choice.

 

 

Yup, he knows he’s adorable.

This outfit has really been a work in progress for the past few weeks. I made the helmet in September. It’s formed out of paperboard, covered in masking tape (scrunched up to look wrinkled) and then spray painted silver. There’s a thin clear elastic underneath to help hold it in place on his head, but it is still pretty loose.

I draped fabric over him and marked it to make a general template (a dog bodice pattern, if you will..) He’s kind of an awkwardly shaped dog.. large rib cage, short stubby legs! The armholes are actually a bit too big on the shirt, but you don’t notice when the outfit is all together. His blue top is jersey knit fabric. I sewed his cape out of dark green flannel, and it closes with a large piece of velcro along the side of the neck.  I sewed his booties out of plain gray cotton woven fabric, added more masking tape to the front, and then spray painted the front. I didn’t want to make it too thick or all the way around the foot, otherwise he couldn’t bend them to walk!

The button/chain detail was pretty fun to make.  I made the large gray buttons out of polymer clay, and affixed a pin back to each one. I also included a hole/connecting piece on the back of each one, to attach the silver chain. This piece actually came in handy, because I was able to pin the top edge of the shirt and the bottom edge of the cape together, so they would stay in place!

When all is said and done, I suppose I could have used aluminum foil for the helmet, but I was worried about it being too heavy – and quite frankly, I just didn’t want it that shiny!

Here’s a comparison of the two. What do you think?

Butters got some treats during the photoshoot for his excellent behavior, and a rawhide chew as a reward when we were through. He’s such a good dog!

Mother’s Day Edible Flower Lollipops

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Sometimes an introduction is best done with a photo rather than words, and this is one of those times!

I recently made these edible flower lollipops for my mom for Mother’s Day, as my mom has a green thumb and loves flowers! She lives 3,000 miles away, but thankfully with modern day technology I was able to watch her open them via video chat. Needless to say, they were a hit!

The recipe I used came from this blog post at Sprinkle Bakes. Since this recipe is so quick to put together (the candy heats quickly and the candy cools just as quickly!) I wasn’t able to get any tutorial photos of my own.. thankfully she has a step by step photo tutorial on her blog already, and I highly recommend it!

If you have someone to assist you in making these, I’d recommend it – FYI, this isn’t really a kid friendly recipe due to the high temperature of the candy, but feel free to invite a crafty friend to come help! I encountered a little bit of trouble making these..

I think my first problem is that I was using a kitchen thermometer instead of a candy thermometer (my candy one kicked the bucket) and I accidentally let the mixture heat up to a couple of degrees hotter than it needed to be.. My candy mixture ended up cooling REALLY quickly! I’m pretty sure that it cooled faster than it would have, had I heated it to the correct lower temperature to begin with. Hotter heat = quicker cool down? Possibly. I’m not sure. I might try these again sometime and heat them to the correct temperature and see how much longer I can work with the candy before it hardens. I only was able to make 8 before the mixture hardened around my spoon!

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The other problem, as you can see, is the air bubbles. When I stirred in my flavor oil and food coloring, the air bubbles did not all dissipate as the candy settled. I have a sneaky feeling that this was also due to the temperature of the mixture!

All things aside, I kind of prefer the organic shape of these pops versus a perfectly round circle, especially with the flower center.

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The flowers I used came from my grocery store. They had a small selection of edible flowers near the fresh herbs. I chose to use all pansies for these, but you can use any flower that’s edible and pesticide free. Some of the flowers were a little bit too squished to use whole, so I used some of the petals in a couple of the pops. I think they’re just as pretty!

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I packaged up the lollipops in tissue paper to match the card I was sending, and tied them up with one of the same purple ribbons used on the pops wrapping. The flower on top is a cardboard die-cut that I affixed with double stick tape. Pretty, no?

One of the great things about this recipe is that it all comes together fairly quickly, so you can make these in an afternoon and have them ready for gift-giving the next day! (Their cooling/hardening time will vary based on your climate. Mine were ready to handle within a few hours.)

Happy Mother’s Day!

Fabric two ways – Wool Coat and Satin Bolero

It may seem a little late to be posting pictures of wool coats, but here in the California bay area we’ve been having a lot of chilly, windy, rainy days this spring!

I’ve spent many winters on the hunt for the “perfect” wool coat, only to come up disappointed; usually I find something I sort of like, but it’s either too big, too expensive, or otherwise just not quite right. Now that I’ve made pattern blocks (basic pattern templates) in my own clothing size/made to my measurements, I finally sat down and made myself a coat this winter! (Let’s ignore how long it took me to find the perfect shade and thickness of grey wool fabric.. and how when I found the “perfect” fabric, it ended up being $200 per yard.. which meant I now had to find the *second* best, because clearly I wasn’t spending over $300 on fabric for my coat!)

Okay, so the first step was coming up with the coat design. I sort of have an obsession with designing princess seams on coats and blouses, which is amusing because it requires additional pattern pieces and thus additional work. Sometimes I think I’m a glutton for punishment when patterndrafting and sewing. Oh, what, did you say that pattern is going to require over 50 pieces and take a full day to sew? Bring it on! *Ahem.*

I’m also very indecisive.

Needless to say, I had multiple variations of a jacket design happening, and finally chose one. I drew up a “technical flat” for it (quite literally a technical drawing to show all seams and hems/sewing lines of a garment) before I got started on the pattern, so I’d have a better idea of what the finished product should look like.

Here’s my technical flat for my coat design:

The specs, for those who know what I’m talking about: My design is a long wool coat with front and back princess seams, a waist seam, two-piece sleeves, asymmetrical peter pan collar, belted waist, and a double breasted front placket (one row is workable buttons, the other is just for appearance.) There are hidden pockets at the side seams. It is also fully lined, of course! The bow at the collar is just for decoration, as you’ll see below..

I sewed up a sample before sewing the finished garment to make sure I liked the fit, and then sewed it in the grey wool. Here’s some photos of the finished coat!

 

 

Victoria Camp Designs Wool Coat Feb 2012

 

 

At first, I was a little disappointed in myself for waiting until February to make the coat. Then I remembered that we have chilly nights here year round – and fairly un-typical weather other months – and I have actually been wearing this coat frequently, even this month. I’ve been accenting the front closure/collar area with an assortment of sashes, fabric flower brooches, and large vintage enamel brooches. It’s a lot of fun to dress up this coat!

Now as for my title, “Fabric two ways”.. I typically buy more fabric than I need, just in case something goes disastrously wrong and I need more fabric. Better to have too much, than not enough. I still have wool left over, but also had plenty of that beautiful blue teal satin! Feeling creative one night, I made two boleros. (The second one I will show you later, in another Fabrid-Two-Ways post!) For now, here’s the teal satin bolero..

 

 

 

 

Well, there you have it! Fabric two ways.. teal satin fabric used in completely opposite seasonal garments.. a winter coat and a spring bolero!