Sunday, January 25, 2015

Our Little Knit Wit


Life is just one, constant, arts & crafts project with Bea. 

If I try to throw away an empty Kleenex box, she says "Wait! Can I have that?" And 30 minutes later, she's turned it into the Taj Mahal for our backyard birds. Or, she'll take all of our recycled newspapers, cut them up, and weave a basket for her teacher at school.

Such was the case last weekend, when she asked for some yarn. She said she wanted to make me a scarf. The only problem with that is, she doesn't know how to knit. And neither do I. But I let her play and experiment anyway. It kept her busy for a while, and she presented me with a wadded and knotted tube of yarn that was held together with 3 yards scotch tape. Naturally, I applauded her effort (as any supportive mom would do.) But I decided it was time to channel her creative energy into something I might actually be able to wear. So we went to Michael's and purchased a Quick Knit Loom kit. It was so easy to figure out. Especially with the help of some YouTube videos we found online.

Within 24 hours, Bea-the-Craftmaster had made the most adorable knit hat. And it fits our cat, purrrrrfectly! Whether Cake likes it or not. (P.S. She does not.)

We've already purchased some larger circle looms and Bea's now working on a hat for her dad. Hey wait a second, wasn't she suppose to be knitting me a scarf? Guess I'll have to put in another order.










Thursday, January 8, 2015

Hungry Hippo Soup


I originally had the idea for this bread roll hippopotamus back in 2006. I was working on some cookbook designs for the Sedgwick County Zoo, but the project never got past the concept stage.

Fast forward nine years... and my hippo is finally emerging from his soupy slumber. Some ideas just take a while to surface, I guess.

Bea and I had a great time making these last weekend. She made the babies, and I made the moms. It was like working with Playdoh. But better, because we actually got to eat them when we were done. 

Our hippos are wading in a bowl of tomato bisque soup. But you can choose whatever kind you like. I think they'd look pretty hilarious in a bowl of chili too.

You can find my simple, step-by-step instructions for bread roll hippos at Handmade Charlotte.


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Hot Cocoa + Candy Critters


It's 7 degrees today. SEVEN.

The only thing that can soften the blow of temps in the single digits, is a steamy cup of hot cocoa. And the only thing better than a cup of hot cocoa on a freezing winter day, is a cup of hot cocoa topped with one of these cute candy critters.

I'm especially fond of the little ski bunnies, swooshing down a mountain of whipped cream. But the penguins on iceberg marshmallows and the cardinals on snowy pretzel branches warm my heart too.

Make some for a hot chocolate bar at your next winter-themed party. Or make some just for fun. You can find my tutorials for these sweet treats at Handmade Charlotte.


Saturday, January 3, 2015

Do The Shuffle


I've been helping my brother decorate his house for a few years now, and 2014 was all about creating a chic (and only slightly geeky) entertaining space in the basement. 


Like most guys, he loves TV, movies and gaming. So his must-haves included: a giant flat-screen TV, some serious theater seating, and a shuffleboard table to fill his long narrow basement. Check. Check. And check. After he purchased those items, I was given freedom to decorate around them.

I've said it before, but my brother is the perfect interior design client. He enjoys fun, interesting, and slighty-quirky d├ęcor. I don't think he's ever said "NO" to any of my wacky ideas. (And I only had to veto two or three of his video game-themed suggestions.)

Here are a few photos of how the basement has come together so far. I especially love the posters and knick-knacks that really bring out his personal interests.


The basement is long and narrow. Perfect for a 14-foot shuffleboard table.


Massive, comfortable, theater seating - with Mario Brothers pillows, of course.
Eric built this custom "Shuffle" sign to hang over the shuffleboard table.

I love this awesome, white credenza and the movie & TV series posters on the wall.
Kurt's always wanted a dog, so I got him this decorative bulldog at Target.

Quotes and accessories from his favorite movies - Caddyshack & Christmas Vacation.

Modern poster designs of some of his favorite TV shows and movies.

Illustrated posters of the Super Mario Brothers series by Christopher Lee.

He ordered these cool floating acrylic frames from Wexel Art Displays.


Some funky, multi-perspective, fractal mirrors from CB2.com

I found these little silver men (holding the movie quotes) on Amazon.
Eric made the "Shuffle" sign out of a sheet of MDF board and painted it white.

The nieces and nephews love playing at Uncle Kurt's house.

A few, colorful, modern accessories on the white, glossy credenza.
Hanging glass orbs he got from CB2.com

Some modern Nintendo controller posters on the wall and a bar table with chairs.

The perfect, comfy theater seats to sit, relax and stay a while.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Santa's Very Best Helper


Thanks to Eric's quick and wonderful woodworking skills, my entire family was able to surprise mom this Christmas with a beautiful entertainment center and a new flat screen TV.

He's been oh-so-busy the last three weeks building this 3-piece, custom cabinet and side shelves. They're made out of oak with a reddish/chestnut finish. And they match perfectly with the living room tables and buffet cabinet he built for my parents 15+ years ago. 

To say that mom was surprised would be an understatement. She was absolutely thrilled. And now she can watch Days of our Lives, The Ellen DeGeneres Show and Shocker basketball in 46-inch HD! 

Thanks, Eric. You really are Santa's (and Sandra's) very best helper.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Giant Christmas Sugar Cookies


Shhhhh.... don't tell anyone, but I kinda cheated on my Christmas sugar cookies this year. Instead of making 100's of individual rolled & cutout shapes, I baked large sheets of cookies, put them on big, 18"x25" trays and covered them with copious amounts of buttercream icing. (Sorta like a sheet cake, I guess.) On the top, I piped MERRY CHRISTMAS in more frosting and added a cardstock cutout of Santa making a snow angel in the corner. Then I dusted powdered sugar over the whole thing. I'm going to put a knife beside the trays, and let everyone cut off as much or as little as they want.

I must be getting old. Or lazy. Or both. For the last couple of years, I've been devising ways of simplifying my Christmas cookies. Don't get me wrong, I love being the designated sugar cookie baker for our families. But when you have to travel hundreds of miles in a small car and need to make enough to feed 50+ people... you gotta get creative to keep your sanity. 

I'm pleased with how these turned out. And I was especially happy to cut my baking and decorating time in half. I ended up making 4 giant trays of cookies. Tomorrow we'll pack them in our "sleigh" and travel west to share them with family.

Here's hoping your holidays are sweet!





Here's a few photos of the baked cookie sheets and the first layer of buttercream icing.




Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Winter Wonderland Dessert


Attention edible artists, kitchen crafters and fun food folks – have I got a project for you!

First, search your cabinets and cupboards for various cone shapes. Next, drizzle melted chocolate candy wafers over the cones to create an entire forest of fabulous, colorful trees. And finally, artfully arrange the trees to decorate a winter wonderland dessert.

I used a giant bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream covered in whipped cream to make my festive, edible centerpiece. But you could easily build the display on a white frosted cake or individual cupcakes. And look for unusual or unexpected containers too! This bowl is actually the top of a vintage kitchen scale that I found at World Market.

You can find my complete tutorial and easy, step-by-step photos at Handmade Charlotte. Check out some of my other edible art ideas too, while you're there.





Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Celebration of Polar Bear Cookies


Did you know that a group of polar bears is called a "celebration?" (Seriously. I'm not makin' this up.)

I can't think of a better word to describe these cute, little polar bear cookies either. They just make me want to celebrate the season. They'd be a great treat to bring to any holiday gathering or cookie exchange.

And there's an even better reason to celebrate: they're NO-BAKE! No kidding.

For my easy recipe and instructions, check out Handmade Charlotte

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ping Pong Pet

Pets don't make very good ping pong partners. But that didn't stop Bea from trying to teach our cat, Cake, to play.



Bea and Eric were in the middle of a ping pong game on the kitchen table the other night when the cat hopped up and sat right down in the middle of the action. She didn't want to play, necessarily. She just likes to make her presence known, no matter what you're doing. (The same is true if you're reading the newspaper, eating a bowl of cereal, or trying to make the bed.) 

Ahhhhh.... cats.




Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Easy Calico Cat and Dalmatian Dog Cookies


After I made those calico cat sugar cookies for Bea's birthday in September, I started wondering what other spotted, dotted and creatively-colored animals you could bake using the same technique - Cows, leopards, cheetahs, Dalmatian dogs or maybe even zebras?

I made some more calico cats and experimented with Dalmatian dogs for my Handmade Charlotte tutorial this month, and they both turned out great. I especially love how no two cookies are the same. There's an element of surprise every time to flatten your dough.

To see my step-by-step instructions for Calico Cat and Dotty Dalmatian Sugar Cookies, head over to Handmade Charlotte. I'd love to see what fun and creative cookies you can create using this technique of colored, rolled dough. 




Tuesday, November 4, 2014

#chocolategives

Chocolate always gives me joy.

Chocolate often gives me inspiration.

And this year, chocolate also gives to those in need.



Last week, I received this wonderful box from Seattle Chocolates. Not only was it filled with bits, bites and bars of beautiful chocolate deliciousness, but it was also filled with a message of hope and charity. 





From now through the end of the year, for every item purchased at www.seattlechocolates.com and every post of #chocolategives, Seattle Chocolates will donate a serving of fresh food to someone in need. Donations will be made through a network of food banks including the Food Bank for New York City, the Greater Boston Food Bank, the SF-Martin Food Bank and Northwest Harvest.

I'm going to join them by donating food to my local food bank - the Kansas Food Bank.

Thanks for the inspiration (and dessert), Seattle Chocolates




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