Wednesday, January 26, 2011

decorating dud

When it comes to home decor, I'm somewhat of a decorating dud. 

I can pick out colors that match, clash, coordinate, etc.  That's not the problem.

I can arrange a room in a practical manner, but I just don't have an eye for home decor.

You know those women whose homes look like they could be photographed for Better Homes and Gardens or the Pottery Barn catalogue?  You know the ones.  They have unique, adorable furniture.   Knick knacks all over the place with no practicality, but they really pull the room together without making it feel cluttered?  That's not me.

However, every now and then I make an effort at adding something to our home to make it unique, and a little more ours.

That's what I did yesterday, and I've once again born my weakness for all to see.

I took a left-over bottle from some Sparkling Cider, and tried to make it into something cute to put . . . well, I don't know, but somewhere.  I hadn't planned that far ahead, but in the back of my mind, I pictured it on top of my cupboards in the kitchen, or maybe on the large entertainment center in the front room which now houses toys and games.  Whatever the subconscious plan, it doesn't matter now.

I took that bottle from this:

to this:

It's probably not as horrible as I made it sound, but it's not something really cute, either.  I tried to step outside my comfort zone and go for random . . . and this is why I don't do random.  It just looks like a sloppy, wrinkled mess.

I need help, people.  Someone tell me whether this is worth keeping? 

Should I cover it in plain brown paper, or will that make it look like I'm some kind of drunk trying to hide my bottle during biology class? 

Should I just throw it out? 

Is there something out there that I could pair it with that would make my sad, sad bottle look less out of place wherever I set it down?


the Decorating Dud

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

little bit of heaven brownies

Make these. You'll thank me.

When my sister was pregnant with her daughter, we had a baby shower for which I made these brownies.  One of the guests took a bite of hers and declared, "Well, that right there is a little bit of heaven," and since then, that's always how I've thought of these brownies--a little bit of heaven.

They are brownie.  They are chocolate.  They are caramel.  They are divine.  Hungry yet?

Little Bit of Heaven Brownies:
1 box chocolate cake mix (the recipe I have calls for German Chocolate, but any kind of chocolate will do.)
3/4 cup butter
2/3 cup evaporated milk
Approximately 50 caramels
1 cup chocolate chips (I like semi-sweet, but you can pick your favorite.)

1.  Find a child with nothing to do.  Enlist her help unwrapping all the caramels into a small sauce pan.

2.  While the caramels are being unwrapped, place the butter in a medium-sized bowl and melt it in the microwave it.  (You could of course use softened butter instead of melted, but that would require remembering to get the butter out ahead of time.)

3.  Add 1/3 cup evaporated milk and the chocolate cake mix to the butter.

4.  Mix together with a spoon.

5.  Place half the batter in a 9x13 baking dish, which has been previously prepared either with butter and flour, or baking spray.  Spread evenly along the bottom of the dish.

6.  Bake batter in the dish at 350 degrees for approximately 7 minutes.

7.  While the bottom half of the batter is baking, add 1/3 cup evaporated milk to the unwrapped caramels.

8.  Heat caramels over medium heat until smooth (it will probably boil.)

9.  When the bottom layer of brownie is out of the oven, sprinkle 1 cup chocolate chips on top, and then pour the melted caramel on top of those.

 10.  Spoon the remaining batter on top of the caramel.

11.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes.  When you pull it out, batter will still be a little wobbly, but don't worry about it.

12.  Refrigerate for 1 hour, during which time it will solidify.

Serve in small portions because this stuff is rich (and that will leave more for you!!)

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Monday, January 24, 2011

flannel baby blankie

Each of my kids has had several blankets, but the ones they end up attaching to that then become their "blankies," are the flannel, crocheted-edge ones.  I cannot refuse to do the edging because I hate to crochet, but luckily, I have an uber-talented sister who loves me enough to edge blankies for me!--I honestly can't figure out how anyone can enjoy crochet.  It's time-consuming, and by the end of a row, my hand is usually cramped and looking like the claws you find on the ugly old woman version of the queen in snow white.

With the new little one joining us in about two months, it is time to make a few new blankies.  We don't know the gender of this baby (it's most likely our last baby, and we wanted a surprise,) so there is one for a boy, and one for a girl.  I'll give the other one away as a baby shower gift.

I thought it might be fun to give you a step-by-step tutorial for my version of these easy little blankets.

First, you'll need 1 yard each of two coordinating flannel fabrics.  Wash and dry them.

 2.  Next, you'll need to iron each piece.

3.  Lay your two pieces on top of one another, wrong sides together, matching up two edges.  Brush your hands along the fabric, starting at the corner you lined up and working your way out to make the two pieces of flannel "stick" to one another.

4. Now, you want to trim your edges so that they are straight and even.

**One of my pet peeves is when stores have this printed on the edge:**
It forces me to cut an extra 1 1/2 inches off because I don't want their name on the edge of my baby's blanket!  (scowl)

When you're finished trimming, you should have 4 edges lined up perfectly.

5.  Next, I pin (about 10 inches apart) my fabrics together.  I do this because it bothers me when they shift after being washed several times and there is an edge with a fold in it because one fabric is slightly bigger than the other.  I like to machine quilt the blanket so that it all stays in place.

You can pin using any method you like.  You could measure to make your lines even.  I counted little squares for these blankets.  You could even free-hand it, if you're so bold, but I strongly recommend pinning before you start so that the pieces don't shift while you're sewing and create bunches and perma-wrinkles in your blanket.

6.  After pinning, sew your layers of flannel together.

7.  Next, I like to serge the edges to keep the flannel from fraying, and to give it a little more sturdy edge.

8.  The final step requires the use of a hemstitch needle.  (Shown below.)

Sew around the edge of the blanket, turning the blanket with the needle down at the corners.  I sew 3/8" (the first line) from the edge, but you could sew a closer or further from the edge, depending on how wide you want your crocheted border.
 These are the holes my sister will use to put on the crocheted border.

Viola!  Two blankets done in a matter of a few hours (minus the border.)

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