15 December 2011

Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

It's time to do some more holiday baking. These cookies are one of my favorites of all time.  Believe it or not, the recipe is from a grocery store from many years ago when I was a kid.  My mom and I were both flabbergasted when we saw how few ingredients were required to make them.  See for yourself!
Ingredients:
  • One 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 3/4 C. peanut butter
  • 2 C. Bisquick original baking mix
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • sugar
  • 36 Hershey kisses
Heat the oven to 375ºF. Combine the sweetened condensed milk, peanut butter, Bisquick, and vanilla extract.  Stir together well with a wooden spoon.
Shape dough into 1 1/4" balls and roll in sugar until coated evenly.
Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake for 8 minutes. They will look more noticeably "crinkled."
Press an unwrapped chocolate kiss into the center of the cookie.
Let them cool for 8 to 10 minutes.
This is my go-to recipe for any occasion requiring mass cookie baking. They always end up looking flawless, and I love how they stay soft for several days. It's quite simple really.
peanut butter + chocolate = mmmmmmmm

12 December 2011

The Perfect {Gingerbread} Man

Goodness gracious.  I love everything about gingerbread cookies.  They're fun to make and decorate (especially with other people).  They fill my house with the best aroma ever.  They're soft. They're tasty.  Finally, their presence means that Christmas is almost here!  Wahoo!
Ingredients:
  • 1/3 C. shortening (I make half of it butter)
  • 1 C. brown sugar (packed)
  • 1 1/2 C. dark molasses
  • 2/3 C. cold water
  • 6 C. flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. allspice
  • 1 tsp. ginger
  • 1 tsp. cloves
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. 
Roll out the dough 1/2" thick onto a heavily floured surface. I like to lay down parchment paper for easy clean up. I might have gone a little overboard with the flour.
Use your favorite cookie cutters to cut out cookies. They need not necessarily be associated with Christmas or winter.

Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. 
Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. This is what happens when you go overboard with the flour, ha ha!
For the frosting: Combine 2 cups of powdered sugar and 1 cup of softened butter.
Add a couple of tablespoons of orange juice to thin the frosting.  Keep adding powdered sugar and orange juice as needed to reach a good consistency to pipe onto the cookies. (Frosting below is still too runny!)
Fill in a frosting bag using a #4 round tip and go crazy!!! Everything looks good in gingerbread form! Let the cookies sit for several hours so the frosting can dry.
I have it on good authority that Santa is a big fan of the cowboy boots!!!

26 November 2011

Simple Patch Stockings


Several months ago, I designed these stockings for Marcus Fabrics using their Provence Flannel collection by Faye Burgos. Isn't the flannel divine? When I first saw it, I thought of Christmas with the March family from Little Women.  That certainly is a nice picture to imagine, don't you think? Oh and that pattern is available for free, just click on the link below!
(Free) Simple Patch Stockings PDF pattern
I love the Provence Flannel. In fact, using it made me realize that flannel is truly the best material to make stockings from.  Not only do they feel nice and soft, but the thickness of the flannel really adds a nice bit of sturdiness and structure to the design.

13 November 2011

Fabulous Faux Snowballs

I think I should start off with a disclaimer that these snowballs are not actually for sale. Nope, the cute little sign is part of the charm.

This week, I made snowballs and chuckled as I thought of the original batch of fake snowballs my mom made many years ago. They were to be part of a wonderful winter display at the craft store where she was working. She arranged the snowballs in a cute little basket with a similar homemade sign "advertising" them as five cents each. Big mistake. Within hours, a customer snatched them from the display and bought them. My mom was ready to strangle the cashier.
Later, my mom made extra-large snowballs and turned them into ornaments for the designated "kid" Christmas tree at home.  My brothers and I thought they were the coolest ornaments ever! I still love these fabulous faux snowballs and now that I've got my own collection, I can share the "recipe" with you.
Here is a list of basic suppliess: 
  • Styrofoam balls 
  •  Snow-Tex by DecoArt (regular or glitter)
  •  Thin wire and wire cutters
  •  A butter knife 
  •  Clothesline for drying

I didn't mention specific quantities because it all depends on how many snowballs you want to make, and how big they are.  I bought twenty styrofoam balls in small and medium sizes and ended up using six jars of Snow-Tex to cover them. I hope that helps. The Snow-Tex consistency is similar to ricotta cheese while wet so keep that in mind as you are trying to figure out how much to buy.  You can always buy more if you need to--which is what I ended up doing. Also, Snow-Tex comes in regular or glitter varieties. Just be consistent in whichever kind you buy.
To prep your styrofoam balls, insert a wire through the styrofoam and out the other side about 1". Twist that end into a hook and push it back into the styrofoam.
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On the other side, clip the wire so that it is two or three inches long.
 
Using your knife, scoop a glob of the Snow-Tex onto the styrofoam ball. Spread it around like you would frost a cupcake. You could certainly try to cover the whole styrofoam ball by holding it by the wire, but I found it easiest to actually hold the styrofoam ball and just cover half of it at a time.
Yes, they're a bit messy, but luckily the mess washes out with soap and water :) 
Hang the snowballs to dry onto your clothesline by wrapping the wire around the rope/ribbon/string. (I strung up some old ribbon for a makeshift clothesline.)
 
Let them dry overnight. Resume applying the Snow-Tex to the other half of the styrofoam and hang to dry overnight again.
Then you are ready to do what you want with them! You could twist the wire into a loop and add a ribbon for ornaments. Or you could tie them into a garland or wreath. I snipped the wire off for my basket of snowballs.
To make a charming little sign, see my tutorial at the Therm O Web blog: 
Snowballs for Sale (Sign Tutorial) 

I've shared this tutorial with my favorite link parties!
Laugh, Love, & Craft

20 October 2011

Delicious Holiday Wassail

I love fall weather. I love the crispy leaves, caramel apples, and fall fashion.  This morning, I was ecstatic to find the temperature in the 60's as I escorted the Netflix DVD to the mailbox. I decided to celebrate by making some of my favorite homemade wassail.
 
I admit that I used to hate wassail.
That all changed a few years ago when a bank co-worker brought some for his assigned "treat day" during the holidays. Initially, I poured a cup (just to be polite) but soon found myself pouring another cup, and another, and another. Thankfully, he was willing to share his absolutely delicious recipe and I am going to share it with you. (If you are wondering what wassail is, I think its closest relative is hot cider.)
Ingredients:
  • 1 gallon of water 
  •  3 C. granulated sugar 
  •  2 cinnamon sticks 
  •  10 whole cloves 
  •  8 allspice berries 
  •  One 12 oz. can frozen lemonade 
  •  One 12 oz. can frozen orange juice 
  •  64 oz. cran-raspberry juice

  1. In a large soup terrine, combine the water, sugar, and spices.  Bring to a boil.
  2. Remove the spices.  Add juices to the pot and stir together. Reheat and serve. 
Now if you'll excuse me, I need to pour myself another cup.

28 September 2011

Walk the {Quilted} Line

Dear walking foot: 
Where have you been all my life? And why am I just now learning to use one?  Crazy.
 
Do you know the difference between a regular presser foot and a walking foot? All I knew for the longest time was that if you wanted to quilt straight lines (and have them look good), you would need the latter.
 So what makes a walking foot so special? Feed dogs.
Because of a quilt's added thickness, one set of feed dogs is not enough. A walking foot adds an extra set to sit on top of the quilt, ensuring that all the quilt's layers are fed through the machine evenly. Otherwise, you get bunching.
I'm going to use my walking foot to quilt an autumn table runner. For this project, I want to do a bunch of random lines so I'm using Therm O Web's PeelnStick Ruler Tape to help me mark 1/2" pairs of lines.
Now, normally if I want to quilt straight lines I don't need to mark the lines--I use the existing seams or quilted lines as a guide for my walking foot. In this case, however, I wanted them to be a bit random, so I just laid the ruler tape down wherever I wanted and traced along it on both sides. (The whole point of marking these lines was to show me where to guide the needle and keep the lines perfectly straight.)
I started out by centering the table runner within grid lines on my cutting mat. Then, I laid the ruler tape down to split the center.
Using Crayola washable markers (a wonderful tip I learned from Lu), I drew along the ruler on both sides.
Then I added another set of lines a few inches away on both sides...
I still wanted more lines, so I rotated the table runner so that its bottom side lined up along a diagonal line on the cutting mat. I added more lines about 3 1/2" apart all across the table runner. There is no rule about where you should lay the ruler tape! Just wherever you want!
Once I was satisfied with the amount of lines, I started sewing. I used both hands to help guide the fabric and stay on the lines.
Next, I washed the table runner to remove all traces of the washable marker.  After it dried, I ironed it with starch. Ta da!

15 August 2011

{The Best} Chicken Salad Sandwiches

My husband and I have a serious addiction to chicken salad sandwiches. We can't get enough of the dang things! When we got married eight years ago, it was close to Thanksgiving. For the reception, we served things like pumpkin cheesecake and hot cider to fit the season. My husband's one request was to serve chicken salad sandwiches--and I am so glad that we did! Some couples have a song; we have chicken salad sandwiches.

A good chicken salad recipe can come in handy for a variety of occasions like baby showers, bridal showers, picnics, etc. Or, if you are like us, we make it for no reason at all. Here is our lovely recipe:
  • 2 C. cooked chicken, shredded
  • 1/2 C. celery, diced
  • 2 1/2 T. yellow onion, finely minced
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 C. real mayonnaise
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 C. grapes or craisins
  • Walnuts (optional)

Just throw all the ingredients into a big bowl and mix everything together with a big wooden spoon. The chicken salad filling can be made ahead of time and refrigerated until it's ready to serve.  You can use a variety of breads, though I always prefer fresh croissants from the local bakery.

01 August 2011

How to Make Crib Bumpers with Piping


It should come as no surprise that a nursery is my favorite room to decorate.  (Is there a more fun occasion to decorate?! Seriously.) 
When I was pregnant with my daughter in 2010, I decided I wanted to make her custom crib bumpers. At the time, I was working full-time and didn't really have time (or quite frankly, the knowledge) to add piping. I'm sad to say that I settled on making them simply according to basic package instructions. 
It was one of my biggest decorating regrets, so since then, I have gone back and created a free tutorial. It was created exclusively for Fairfield and uses their wonderful Poly-Fil Nu Foam Baby Bumper Pads! Just check out the link below for the free pattern: 
I have used this tutorial to make multiple sets since then, including this aqua houndstooth set for my son who was born in January!
 
If you make a set using my tutorial, I would absolutely LOVE to see them.  Just upload a picture to the Lella Boutique Flickr Group!
Just check out this lovely chevron set I made using some of Marcus Fabrics' PRETTY SPECIAL prints. 

18 June 2011

Quilting 101


I love the simplicity of a basic block quilt. It is such a great way to showcase beautiful fabrics! 
Back in 2010, I started this blog after giving birth to my daughter. A few friends had expressed an interest in learning how to quilt, but just didn't know where to start.  I love spreading my quilt addiction, so I decided to put this blog together and do my best to teach them how to get started--with a basic block quilt. Basically, if you know how to sew a straight line with your sewing machine, you can make a quilt! 
There are various ways to arrange the blocks to form patterns.  Sometimes, I enjoy mine placed in random order.  (There is just something about the organized chaos that my eye finds extremely appealing.)   
Other times, the fabric seems to have a mind of its own and I find that the design I had envisioned is not the one I actually go with. 
The important thing is to have fun and take your time! I've broken this basic block quilt into four lessons to really make it comprehensive.
Week 1: Fabric Selection & Pre-Washing
Week 2: Cutting Fabric & Arranging Blocks 
Week 3: Sewing It Together & Basting 
Week 4: Quilting & Binding 

05 June 2011

The Quilt of a Thousand Swear Words

Have you ever wanted to cuss up a storm over a sewing mistake? I certainly have.  
My most recent "moment" was about a month ago when I discovered the mangled back-side of a quilting job in progress. I had been using some lovely, cuddly fleece for the back of a baby quilt. Despite my careful basting (sticky basting spray and all), the fleece had stretched while I was moving it around in a free-motion swirl design. In a way, I wasn't totally surprised because the fleece had made the quilt thicker and heavier, thus more difficult to move around. The back was bunched up in several places and just looked ghastly to me. After little Olive washed my mouth out with soap, I picked up my seam ripper and went to town picking out stitches for the rest of the day. So frustrating! (I was finally able to quilt it properly, but I kept thinking that there must be an easier way to quilt the soft backings.)
This situation was on my mind as I attended Quilt Market a few weeks ago. When I came across the Robert Kaufman Cuddle booth, I got the opportunity to talk with one of the designers and ask her about any quilting tricks or tips when dealing with these "soft" materials. She had several brilliant suggestions, and the overall idea was to ditch the detailed quilting when using soft materials. Instead, I will show you how to do what I call invisible quilting.

28 April 2011

Baby Girl Texture Book

Oh my heck.  I love how this baby girl texture book turned out.  
I can't decide which shape is my favorite. Maybe the sunflowers?