Monday, December 28, 2009

Peppermint Candy Cake


2 layers white cake (mix)
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk
½ tsp peppermint extract
1 cup crushed peppermint candies
white frosting (store bought)

To make peppermint filling, melt butter in small saucepan. Add sugar, milk and extract. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. While cake layers are still warm, prick tops with a toothpick. Place 1 layer on cake plate and pour 1/2 of peppermint filling slowly over layer. Sprinkle with ¼ cup of peppermint candy. Repeat with remaining layer, but don’t sprinkle top layer with candy. Frost top and sides with frosting, then sprinkle top and sides with remaining ½ cup peppermint candy.

Friday, December 25, 2009

25 Days of Crafts! Day 25: O, Christmas Tree!

Well, I made it to 25!! Yeah for me! I think the yearly Christmas tree is the quintessential family craft project. Here's ours. Everything three feet down is in a different spot than when I first decorated it. I tried to keep the boys away from it, but that turned out to be a losing battle. Putting a giant conifer in the living room, covering it with lights and sparkly ornaments, and then telling them not to touch it seemed cruel, anyway. After all, so many of our ornaments were made with their help. Those will be the ones I cherish most. I see this tree as perfectly reflecting my imperfect life, but it's the life I love. Merry Christmas!!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

25 Days of Crafts! Day 24: Apple Bags

I wanted the boys to participate in the gift-giving this year. So, since they enjoyed apple printing so much, we made some grocery totes for family members. I bought the canvas bags at a craft store. Tater did the printing. I put newspapers inside the bags, so the paint wouldn't bleed through. Though I tried to get him to line the apples up straight, their imperfections are part of the charm. I mixed craft paint with textile medium. Once dry, heat set the print.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

25 Days of Crafts! Day 23: Jingle Bells

We use this as a door hanger. I came across the idea somewhere.

egg carton (paper is better, but foam works too)
small jingle bells

Cut apart the egg cups to make bell shapes. Paint them desired color. Punch a hole threw base. String length of ribbon through bell, knotting the ribbon an inch or so up. Thread two ends of ribbon through hole of egg cup and tie off. Repeat using various lengths of ribbon. Tater helped paint the cups. We are snowed-in right now (20 inches!), so this is a nice activity when we came in from playing in the snow.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

25 Days of Crafts! Day 22: Trees

Tater helped out with this as well. Thought our little gingerbread house needed some trees. We painted some cardboard cones I had, but you could use store-bought foam cones. I guess you could even paint party hats or make some yourself! I glued little yellow pom-poms to the tops of each.

Monday, December 21, 2009

25 Days of Crafts! Day 21: Snow Painting

We were blessed with a big snow fall, nearly two feet! I put some food coloring and water in some squirt bottles, and the boys took them outside to color the snow.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

25 Days of Crafts! Day 20: Star Pillow

With little ones in the house, finding child resistant ornaments can be a challenge. I say child resistant, because I don't think anything is ever child proof. I made a few of these a couple of years ago to hang near the bottom of the tree or over door handles. It was a nice way to use remnants. I enlarged a star image I found online and printed it. This one is about 5 inches high. I cut two pieces of fabric with 1/4 inch seam allowance. I sewed the pieces together, leaving about an inch opening for the stuffing. I turned it inside out, filled it, and sewed up the opening. I hand-sewed small jingle bells to the points and tied silver ribbon around each, adding a longer ribbon to one point for hanging. I used a lot of thread to secure those bells, so it would take an awful lot of effort to get them off.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

25 Days of Crafts! Day 19: Paper Star

- paper, vellum preferably
- vellum tape, a dry adhesive that won't warp paper available at craft stores

Below is a photo of basic directions to fold and assemble a star. I cut out 5 2x2" squares. When attaching sections, transfer adhesive to areas where each section will overlap another. It takes a little time, but older kids might enjoy this. I like the translucent quality of vellum paper, but any paper will do. Use an exacto-knife to cut a little slit near a point on one fold to loop ribbon through. You can also hang these in front of windows for a stained-glass effect.

Friday, December 18, 2009

25 Days of Crafts! Day 18: Cookie Cutter Ornaments

This is an easy one, I know. I tied a ribbon around the small ones. I just stick the big ones on a branch.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

25 Days of Crafts! Day 17: Chenille Rod Snowflakes

Another easy ornament craft. Cut two pieces of chenille rod 3 inches long and one 3 1/2 inches long (the extra length will be bent as a hook). You'll need small clear beads, plastic or glass, and some pliers. Wrap the three lengths together at the midpoint, so all 6 sides are the same length accept for the side that will hook to the tree. Begin adding beads. You might need the pliers to help you move the beads down. Push the first ones down toward the center to secure the knot. Once you have added beads, fold over the ends so beads can't fall off. Bend the end of the longest piece to form a hook to attach to the branches. This is a project older kids can do (7+), but they may need some assistance.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

25 Days of Crafts! Day 16: Foam Xmas Trees

There is a lot you can do with craft foam sheets. We made this last year. You can buy precut trees, but I made this by tracing around a tree cookie cutter. Tater made this for Monkey last year. Even little guys can make these. Gather craft odds and ends to decorate the tree. I know I will treasure this for years to come.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Warm Lentil Salad with Goat Cheese

I've been perusing my recipes for low carb options and came across this...

Warm Lentil Salad with Goat Cheese

Serves 4

¾ cup green lentils
3 Tbls. Extra-virgin olive oil
3 shallots, thinly sliced crosswise and separated into rings
1 carrot, cut in ¼ inch dice
1 stalk celery, cut into ¼ inch dice
1 red bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, cut into ¼ inch dice
2 tsp. coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 Tbls. Balsamic vinegar
6 oz. spinach, stemmed and coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)
salt and pepper
4 oz. fresh goat cheese

1. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add lentils, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbls. Oil in a large skillet over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add carrot, celery and bell pepper; continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes more. Stir in parsley, vinegar and remaining tablespoon oil. Transfer to a large bowl.
3. Drain lentils and add to bowl with vegetables. Stir in spinach, and season with salt and pepper. Crumble goat cheese into bowl, and toss gently to combine.

25 Days of Crafts! Day 15: Light Bulb Penguins

I have a hard time throwing anything away. It's a problem, really. Just ask my husband. I've just got it in my head that almost everything can be reused somehow.

This project is a great way to repurpose all those incandescent light bulbs. I painted a penguin, but I'm sure you can come up with a variety of creatures. I started by painting the light bulb white. I enlisted Tater's help with that. I painted the metal part green. Red would be another option, of course. I then covered most of the glass with black paint. You can play around with how much black you want your penguin to have, just try to be symmetrical. I eye-balled it, but you can draw it out before you begin. It's easier to paint black over white, than white over black. I added feet and a beak using orange craft foam with hot glue. I painted the eyes with the end of my brush dipped in black paint. Next, I hot-glued looped ribbon to the "top" of the light bulb, the metal part which will be his hat. I wrapped and glued white chenille rods around the hat for trim and to hide the glue.

Monday, December 14, 2009

25 Days of Crafts! Day 14: Peppermint Labels

I decided to make some fun holiday labels. I created an Avery Template 8160 in Word. I found a peppermint candy graphic searching images on Here is an example of a page...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

25 Days of Crafts! Day 13: Advent Centerpiece

This year, our family is observing Advent by lighting an advent candle each Sunday of the four Sundays before Christmas. I have a little setup on our dining room table. For each Sunday evening, after dinner, we light a candle representing four aspects of Christ's birth: Hope (purple), Joy (purple), Love (pink) and Peace (purple). We talk about what each candle represents and read the account of Christ's birth in Luke. On Christmas Day, we light all four along with a white candle representing the light that Jesus brought to the world. I used tapered candles we had from last year and put together a tree from cupcake stand, green ball ornaments and glass votive.

This Sunday is the pink candle representing Love, which is so appropriate since two people that I love will be celebrating their birthdays on that day. So, Happy Birthday to my sis Ellen and my sweet husband Dan!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

25 Days of Crafts! Day 12: Sometimes a pickle is just a pickle...

Do you know the story of the pickle ornament? Legend has it that German parents hang a pickle deep within the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. The first child to find the pickle Christmas morning will have good luck for a year and receive an extra gift. Traditionally, the pickle ornaments are glass. But the catch is that German families don't actually observe this tradition. It is apparently a marketing ploy by a German glass ornament manufacturer. Well, I don't think this is the first holiday tradition invented by a clever businessman. That said, if my boys knew that finding a glass pickle ornament meant an extra present, than there wouldn't be much of a pickle or tree left when it was all over. So, I decided to make one out of....craft foam sheets! Cut out a pickle shape out of green foam, a slightly bent log with rounded ends. I put a little curve to my pickles so it wouldn't be so phallic in shape (Freud would've had a field day with this). Punch out circles with a hole punch with the same green for the bumps. Glue those on and punch a hole in the top of the pickle for hanging. The dots really give it a pickle look.

Friday, December 11, 2009

25 Days of Crafts! Day 11: Glass Ball Ornaments

These add a wonderful sparkle to the tree. The ornaments to the left and right are clear glass balls I filled with silver and gold tinsel.

The one in middle took a little more effort. To create this, begin by pouring some white glue into an empty clear ball. If you want a more uniform effect, dilute the glue with a little water. Rotate the ball until glue has coated the glass the way you like. Pour out the excess. Next, add some glitter to the ball. Cover the top and roll it all around to coat. Take off the top and set the ball in a plastic cup to dry. Turn the ball periodically so the glitter and glue don't get concentrated in one spot. The glue will dry clear and you will have a lovely glittering ornament. This is a fun activity for kids, but only with careful supervision.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

25 Days of Crafts! Day 10: Play Food

Can I tell you how much I love craft foam sheets? They are inexpensive and versatile. Tater and I were playing kitchen the other day. He was the chef. He would cut food using this really cute Melissa and Doug set. I had an idea to make a sandwich out of different colors of craft foam. So, I busted out the scissors and pinking shears and made cheese, lunch meat, tomato slices, bacon and lettuce to go along with the wooden sandwich bread. I used a red permanent marker on the tomato slices and bacon. You could also make your own bread from tan foam. He had fun arranging the various parts and serving me the sandwich.

And I want to thank ohdeedoh for featuring my post on their website.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

25 Days of Crafts! Day 9: Pinecone Ornaments

I took the boys over to a local church, and we raided the grounds for pinecones. They had a great time of it. A better mother would have had some prepared lesson plan about conifers, but that ain't me. I told them pinecones are from pine trees. Pine trees drop pinecones, leafy trees drop leaves that have changed color. There, end of the lesson.

I put small screw eyes into the tops before I did anything. It makes them easier to paint and hang. I had grand plans, but I ended up painting the tips white and spraying them with gold floral spray glitter. I tried one with just the gold spray, but didn't like it as much. Yes, I have floral spray glitter in my house. Doesn't everybody? I think it's from some Vacation Bible School set I made long ago. I think they will work really well for the inevitable "holes" in the tree. I hung them with thin white satin ribbon.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


A friend and I spent a wonderful afternoon shopping in Ellicott City, Maryland recently. We went to all these charming little shops that I would never dream of walking into with my boys. Think bulls in a china shop. At one store I spotted a flower that I have had a crush on since I saw them in bloom three years ago at Brookland Gardens: the allium. I only bought one bulb and it was a giant varietal. I planted it near my grape hyacinths and siberian irises. I'm confident it will look stunning with the other purple flowers. There are few color combos that appeal to me more than purple, green and yellow-green. Now, if I can only keep the rabbits from eating it. Those darn things ate all my tulips bulbs, but Chili killed a whole litter of bunnies. It was gruesome, but I was proud that my lap dog still had the stuff.

25 Days of Crafts! Day 8: Aw, Nuts!

I used gilded walnuts in my Thanksgiving centerpiece, but they make great ornaments with a little ribbon loop glued on top. I bought a bag of walnuts at the grocery store for about $3 dollars and painted them with gold acrylic craft paint I had on hand. You could also use them to embellish gifts. Kids might enjoy painting them as well. They don't shatter when knocked off the tree and are too big to be a choking hazard. Since the paint is non-toxic, I might throw them in the backyard this winter for the squirrels. They'd certainly be able to find them.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The folks over at odeedoh have some great craft ideas for the holidays. Check it out, checkitouters.

25 Days of Crafts! Day 7: Candy Canes

Few objects are as constant in holiday decor as the candy cane. These are fortunately sugar-free! I twisted red and white pipe cleaners together, cut them in half, and curved the ends. Hang them all over the tree.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

25 Days of Crafts! Day 6: Angel Tree Topper

In years past, we topped the tree with a paper star I made out of white vellum. This year, I wanted to try an angel. Luckily, I have a mess of craft supplies, so I was able to make this with things around the house. The cone is a thread spool I acquired while teaching studio art. I used to scavenge for simple shaped objects for still life studies: cube, sphere, cylinder, cone, etc. The angel stands about 8 inches high, so hopefully it won't be too small. The head is a wooden ball I glued to the spool. I added a halo made from tinsel. The "wings" are silver tulle I had on hand. Trim and snowflakes were the finishing touches.

25 Days of Crafts! Day 5: Glass bead necklace

I really enjoy making my own jewelry. Usually, I wear cooler colors and jewel tones, but these green beads looked so delicious, they made me pucker. I spent about $20 on supplies making this necklace and matching earrings. I wear it with purples, but pair it with reds for the holidays. I used tiger's tail for the string. It's very strong and flexible. All supplies were purchased at Michael's.

Friday, December 4, 2009

25 Days of Crafts! Day 4: Stocking Clips

We have family coming for Christmas this year, and I can't tell you how happy I am that we're staying home! So, I pulled together several stockings we've collected over the years to add to the mantle. I decided to use pom-pom clips to designate stockings, since they aren't marked. I created Christmas themed ones with iconic subjects: angel, snowman, reindeer and a Christmas caterpillar (that's a new one Tater invented. I think it will catch on.) I added a piece of paper with each person's initial. You could use first names, too. I also thought these would make fun place card holders, if I was a place card person.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

25 Days of Crafts! Day 3: Wreath

I put out our wreath. No real wreath for us this year. I'm sick of the needles. We're getting a real tree, but I like the fact I can reuse this one. Found the wreath marked down for $3 at my favorite craft store. Bought the plastic ornaments at IKEA.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

25 Days of Crafts! Day 2: Pillows

I love pillows. They can really change a room with very little effort. I like pillows with zippers for easier cleaning. Here are a few I've made...

If you can sew a straight line, you can make a pillow. Buy a simple sewing machine. You can thank me later.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

25 Days of Crafts! Day 1: Advent Calendar

This year, since I have more to do than ever before, I've decided to make things even more complicated by posting a craft a day from now until Christmas. So here goes...

Advent calendar. Picked this up at Michael's for $12. The train on top closed the deal, considering the obsession my boys have with all things trains. It's made of balsa wood. I stained it a red mahogany and painted the numbers and a few items on the train silver. Advent calendars were never a part of my childhood, but I wanted to begin the tradition with my boys. This seems simple and sturdy enough to last us a while.