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:

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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.

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Homemade Hot Fudge Sauce Recipe

 

Okay, let’s face it – hot fudge sauce does not need much of an introduction, does it? Rich, gooey, chocolately deliciousness that’s perfect atop waffles, ice cream sundaes, or eaten straight from the spoon. (Ahem.)

 

The most shocking aspect of this post? The fact that it’s taken me so long to try my hand at the homemade version of this classic topping! The recipe was really easy, and the finished product can easily be kept in your fridge for a couple of weeks….. if it lasts that long. (In our household, it did not.) Store it in a glass jar for easy re-heating when you’re ready to serve it.

 

Bonus: It would make a great gift, if you’re feeling generous enough to share!

 

Homemade hot fudge sauce - close up

 

I know what you’re thinking, and I’m here to tell you that it absolutely tastes as good as it looks!

 

Homemade Hot Fudge Sauce Recipe

Yield: A heaping 2 cups

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

2/3 cup heavy cream
½ cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon sea salt
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped, divided in half [note: I used Ghirardelli “60% cocoa” baking chips. I stand by that decision!]
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

1. In a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the cream, syrup, brown sugar, cocoa powder, salt and half of the chocolate to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low or low (enough to maintain a low simmer), and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining chocolate, the butter, and the vanilla extract, stirring until smooth. Let cool for 20 to 30 minutes before using (it will thicken as it cools). Store in a jar or airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. To reheat, microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute until it’s pour-able but still thick.

(Recipe slightly modified from Brown Eyed Baker.)

New Year – BuzzFeed Article Feature – and Custom Map Quote Compass Necklaces!

Happy New Year! I know, I know, it’s February and I’m a little late to the 2014 game. I think it’s socially acceptable to wish someone a Happy New Year up until January 31st, after that, well.. what can I say?

I spent the first couple of weeks of the new year catching up on orders from December, and then spent the last part of it working on a happy flurry of new orders, thanks to a Buzzfeed Travel list that included one of my designs!

Map Quote Compass Necklace featured in Buzzfeed Travel

The article was titled “21 Things Every Traveler Wishes They Owned” and can be found here. The quote on the back of the compass can be personalized with anything you wish – poetry, a special message, a birthday, etc.

This piece is a really fun design for me with an amusing story about its conception. It started over a year ago, and was inspired by a Christmas gift I gave to my parents: a GPS for their car (how ironic, no?) I didn’t have the GPS on hand yet to physically give to them – it was being shipped from the store to their home – but I still wanted to give them something tangible in the mean time as a place holder. I mailed them an envelope that I’d made out of a paper road map, and on the front of the envelope I displayed the following Robert Frost quote, printed onto paper that I had tea-stained:

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by.”

12-20-12-envelope

My mom called me and said how much she loved the envelope, and was carrying it around in her purse to hold coupons. She was so sad when it started falling apart, that I decided I needed to make her something a little more permanent that she could carry with her.. subsequently, I made her a compass key chain with the same design – a map clipping background, and the same quote on the same tea-stained paper. And with that, a new design idea was born!

Lately, I’ve had a lot of requests to personalize the map behind the quote. I don’t typically do this, as I like to use maps cut from the same atlas used in the sample photos (it’s a vintage atlas with beautiful earth toned colors and really great fonts!) However, I do love to make my customers happy, so I worked on a design that does allow for a custom map in the background behind the quote/text area. Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of small towns available, but do have the major cities and large suburbs of most areas in the U.S., and major cities worldwide. Both the map and the quote are protected under a hard glossy layer of jeweler’s resin, for a professional finish and durability.

Personalized map quote compass necklace

The sample shown is with a map of the San Francisco bay area. I’m using prints from my antique atlas collection for these – the atlases are nearly 100 years old!

Large Compass - Custom Map and Quote 3 - Sm

I made a samples showing 8 different cities, but you can of course request your own different city!

Antique Map Compass Options

You can order your own Custom Map Compass Necklace with Personalized Quote here: http://www.victoriaallison.com/Large-Personalized-Compass-Necklace-Custom-Map-p/compass-lgpersonalizedmapquote.htm

Speaking of quote compasses, I need to go make some more tea-stained paper. Happy February!

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.

PeppermintMarshmallows3

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!

Constellation Lockets in the Etsy Finds

I hadn’t gotten a chance to post this earlier, but my hand painted tiny constellation locket necklaces are in Etsy’s holiday gift guide: Editor’s Picks: Personalized Gifts. I took a screen capture from the website:

Pretty awesome, right?

You can order your own constellation locket through my website: http://www.victoriaallison.com/Zodiac-Constellation-Necklace-on-Vintage-Locket-p/smconstellationlocket-brass.htm I currently (as of Nov. 25th) have at least one of each constellation made and ready to ship, so the turnaround time isn’t quite as long as stated at this moment.

Time to get back to work .. enjoy the rest of the weekend!

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!

DIY Easter Chick Necklace

Victoria Camp Designs - Easter Chick Tutorial

Now that Valentine’s Day is over, Easter inspiration will be popping up everywhere you look. I’ve decided to join in on the fun and offer a DIY tutorial on how to make your very own Easter chick necklace! The original little marshmallow treat these are inspired by are quite popular here in the United States – typically most people either love them or hate them. If you’re in the “love” group, you’re sure to enjoy the following tutorial! These instructions are for a necklace, but you can create the chick for any use (bracelet, earrings, or just to put on your desk!)

DIY Easter Chick Tutorial

Materials needed:

– Yellow Polymer Clay

-Brown Polymer Clay

– Flat end head pin

– Finished necklace chain

– Pliers (round nose and flat nose recommended)

– Waxed paper (for keeping your work surface clean)

– Aluminum foil (for baking the clay in the oven)

Victoria Camp Designs

Step 1: Gather your materials (listed above.) As you can see, I like the Sculpey brand clay. I think it’s softer to work with than some of the other brands, but any brand of polymer clay will work!

Victoria Camp Designs

Step 2: Break off a small piece of yellow polymer clay, and begin to knead and soften the clay. This is called “conditioning” the clay.

Victoria Camp Designs

Step 3: Once the clay has been conditioned, roll it into a ball.

Victoria Camp Designs

Step 4: Hold the clay in one hand, and use your other hand to gently make an “edge” around the entire perimeter of the bottom of the ball.

Victoria Camp Designs

Step 5: You can see the “edge” along the bottom of the ball here. Make the edge a little longer on one end of the ball. This will be the “tail” of the chick.

Victoria Camp Designs

Step 6: Working on the longer end of the edge, pinch the clay together to form a soft point. (The “tail”.)

Victoria Camp Designs

Step 7: Working towards the tail end, gently pinch the clay upward from the round dome/top section (this will be the head.)

Victoria Camp Designs

Step 8: Working with the head area you just formed, gently pinch the tip of it and fold it towards the front of the chick (to form the beak.)

Victoria Camp Designs

Step 9: Keep pinching the “beak” section until it has formed a small point. You can then gently push the beak downward a little bit, if you so desire.

Victoria Camp Designs

Step 10: Now it’s time for the eyeballs! Using a pin (or the pointed end of the headpin) press a small dot onto each side of the head where you’ll be placing the eyes.

Victoria Camp Designs

Step 11: Using a VERY small piece of brown clay (smaller than you think you’ll need! Smaller than showing here!) make a teeny tiny round dot of clay for each eyeball.

Victoria Camp Designs

Step 12: This is where the eyeball placement comes in handy. Gently press the tiny piece of brown clay eyeball into each side of the head. You can use your fingers, or the tip of the headpin to put the clay in place. Gently press down on the clay with your finger to set it in place and flatten it slightly.

Victoria Camp Designs

Close-up of the completed chick (with eyes!)

Victoria Camp Designs

Step 13: Starting from the underside of the chick, gently push the headpin through the clay, making sure the flat part is on the bottom. I like to angle the pin so it exits out behind the chick’s head, although you can certainly angle it any way you choose.

Victoria Camp Designs

Step 14: Bake the clay in your oven according to package instructions. (Mine went in for 15 minutes at 275F. Your temp/times will vary based on the brand of clay and size of your chick.)

Victoria Camp Designs

Step 15: Once the clay has baked and cooled, you’ll want to form a wire wrapped loop with the end of the head pin. Here’s an easy tutorial from Artbeads if you aren’t sure how to do that part already: http://www.artbeads.com/howtomawrlo.html

Victoria Camp Designs

Step 16: Attach the chick onto your necklace chain/ribbon/etc. (I had pre-made my chain already. You can make your own chain, or buy a pre-made chain. You could also slip the charm onto a ribbon.)

Victoria Camp Designs

Ta-da! Here’s the finished necklace!

Victoria Camp Designs

You can make these in any color of clay you choose, and for any type of jewelry. This photo is an example of various colors I had made for earrings.

Hope you enjoyed the tutorial! I’ve been working with polymer clay for over 15 years. It’s really very fun, and those with any level of skill can create something! You can browse some of my other clay creations in my Etsy shop, Victoria Allison Jewelry.