Monday, November 26, 2012

(Cup)cake Pops!

Last November, I decided to try my hand at creating some pretty awesome birthday treats for my mom. Behold cake pops:

As you can see, they didn't really turn out super spectacular. It was my first try, though, and I was tickled at the result. This November, I tried a variation of the little cuties: cupcake pops! I didn't take too many process pictures because it's sort of messy. Plus, I took some decent ones last time.

To get the birthday party poppin', you'll need:

  • A regular cake mix (any brand; flavor of your choosing)
  • 1 can of frosting (any brand; flavor of your choosing)
  • Candy chocolate for dipping (milk & white)
  • Sprinkles (or other small decorations)
  • Sucker sticks (found at Michael's or JoAnn's)
  • Small flower-shaped cookie cutter

    This is an old picture. This time, instead of Candy Dips, I
    used Kroger brand baker's chocolate (milk and white for dying).

    Here's how it works:
    First, you bake a cake. I went with chocolate since it's Mom's favorite.

    Let the cake cool completely. I baked the cake a day ahead of time, but covered it so it would stay moist.

    Next, crumble the cake into tiny pieces. One website suggested you put the pieces into a food processor, but I just used my hands.

    For the next step, I used my Kitchenaid stand mixer, but a hand mixer would work, you need not use a mixer at all. Last year, I used one, but it wasn't really necessary. In fact, it was just annoying. I used my God-given tools this time around and it was way more fun.

    Add about 1/2 - 3/4 of a can of store bought frosting to the crumbled cake pieces. It's important not to use too much frosting, or your pops might fall off the stick! For this project, I used chocolate frosting. You can use any combination of cake and frosting.

    Mix well until you get the consistency of Play-Doh. Unfortunately, I don't know where I originally found that tip, but it's the best tip I could pass along. We all know what Play-Doh feels like, right? I woud have added the entire can of frosting if I didn't know any better.

    Next, cover the cake dough with plastic wrap and chill. I left it in the refrigerator for about an hour fifteen minutes.

    Prepare a cookie sheet by placing a sheet of wax paper on top. Once your dough is sufficiently chilled, bring it out of the refrigerator and remove the plastic wrap. Next, mold the cake pops.
    For cupcake pops, use a small (about the size of a half dollar) cookie cutter in the shape of a simple flower to mimic the shape of the bottom of a cupcake. Because I'm a turd, I don't have any pictures of this. You want to grab quite a bit (that's a precise measurement, you know) of dough and press it through the bottom of the cookie cutter. I used the bottom of my hand or the counter to level it off on the bottom. Then, just mold the top until you have what you think looks like a sufficient muffin cupcake top. Once you complete a couple, you'll surely get the hang of it.
    Next, melt a good amount (again, you must be very precise) of milk chocolate. Holding the pop from the mounded top, dip only the bottom in the milk chocolate. Stick one sucker stick into the bottom of each dipped pop. As you complete this step, place each pop top side down onto the prepared cookie sheet. As it dries, the chocolate will act as glue and should hold the pop firmly in place.
    Once each stick is popped, melt a good amount of white chocolate. Using food coloring, die the white chocolate any color. I chose pink because it just seemed right. Prepare a plate with a sprinkling of sprinkles. Picking the pop up by the stick, dip each of the cupcake tops in the colored chocolate. Immediately after dipping, roll the top of the pop in the sprinkles. (Check it out: Last time, I chilled the pops before dipping them into chocolate. I'm pretty sure it was another tip I found online that turned out to be not-so-awesome. I thought chilling the pops would prevent them from falling off the stick when dipping, but it caused the chocolate to harden so quickly that I couldn't decorate them with sprinkles. Having done it both ways, I'll never chill them before dipping again.)
    Finally, you'll need a way to display the precious little bites. I picked up a rectangular piece of floral foam from Michaels, wrapped it, and stuck the pops in. Next time, I think a tiered display is in order.
    Voila! Cupcake pops! Cute, right?!

    This recipe yields about 30 cupcake pops. I only made 20, so I saved the
    extra dough. I'll let you know how it holds up after being defrosted!
    Most other cupcake pops I've seen have been finished off by an M&M. I have to say, it's super cute. I just didn't want to spend the extra 75 cents. Or I was too lazy. Probably the latter.

    P.S. If you enjoy reading my blog, please follow me by clicking "Join this site" and/or entering your email address over to the right of the page. If you want to see what projects I have worked on or plan on working on in the future, follow me on Pinterest by clicking the link to the right! If you like it, pin it!

    Monday, October 29, 2012

    DIY Mason Jar Soap Pump & Various Other Pinteresting Projects

    Last week, Sherry @ Young House Love and Katie @ Bower Power, announced the Pinterest Challenge: Fall Edition. Caught off guard, and not feeling super pinspired by anything at all, I posted about a few things that I was diggin' at the time. I'm still diggin' all that stuff, but my crafting took a sharp turn when I realized that I just didn't have the time to take on anything super involved.

    I'm not currently in the middle of a huge room redo (although I'd like to be), so my brain wasn't on that wavelength. I'm all about not having random stuff around that I just don't need, so I was hard-pressed to find something I'd pinned that would add to the efficiency of our home while not adding to the clutter I despise. After looking for a while, I landed on a DIY soap dispenser using a mason jar and a recycled pump. I first came across the sweet little craft here and pinned it here.

    To gather my supplies, I ran to Michael's and grabbed a few mason jars for $1.29 each. I didn't get to use a 50% off coupon becuase I used one on another item; but at $1.29, it certainly didn't break the bank. Plus, I have some gift card credit left over from my birthday, so realistically, it didn't cost me a penny! Then, I ran into Walmart for some liquid foaming soap. According to The Frugal Homemaker, you can create liquid foaming soap by dispensing about an inch of regular soap into the bottom of your jar, adding water the rest of the way, and shaking to mix; but I wanted to make sure this would work the first time around, so I decided that I'll experiment when I run out of the store-bought version. Since I was already there, I opted to purchase a couple bottles of the soap with the foaming pump. I knew I had one at home that I could recycle, but at $1.57 a pop, I figured I'd splurge. I decided to make one for the upstairs bathroom, one for the kitchen sink, and one for my cousin, Tara, who has been desperately seeking a pretty version of a liquid foaming soap dispenser.

    From this point on, Rich pretty much took over. First, he drilled a hole in the middle of the lid.
    Then, using wire strippers, he bent the metal back until the hole was large enough to fit the pump. I was pretty surprised to find out that the foaming soap pumps are pretty big.

     Then, he added the liquid foaming soap.

    After adding putting the pieces back together, the new soap dispenser was ready to go!

    The Frugal Homemaker painted the lid and pump in her version. I opted to leave mine silver and white. For one thing, it coordinates well enough in my bathroom. For another, I didn't want to spend the money on spray paint. Finally, after a couple days of use, her pump started to chip. I don't do chipping. When things that I've spray painted start to chip, I go all Regan MacNeil on my husband.

    I may try to spray paint the lid and pump in the future with a spray paint meant for plastic. Time will tell. For now, I'm enjoying my little craft. I also like how the soap I chose coordinates with other accents in the bathroom. That was mostly an accident.

    In some ways, I feel like I cheated. The craft was so dang easy, Rich completed most of it, and I've tackled much harder things in the past. It's really just meant to be fun, though. I'm happy I did it. Plus, I also tried a recipe I pinned a while ago too: crock pot pork chops!

    The recipe was super easy. You need 3 (yes, 3!) ingredients: 4-6 pork chops (I used 4), 1 can of cream of mushroom soup, and 1 package of dry ranch seasoning. Add the chops to the bottom of the crock pot, sprinkle the dry ranch over the chops, cover with cream of mushroom soup. Cook on low for 6 hours. That's it! I meant to grab some egg noodles at the store, but I forgot. Instead, I served it with whole wheat rotini that I already had in my cupboard. Rice would work too. The recipe provides you with enough gravy to use it for the noodles or rice. Truth be told, I'm not much of a pork fan, and the recipe doesn't sound all that fabulous; but it was delicious and easy. Bonus: Rich loved it too! I will definitely make it again!

    What do you think? Is anyone inspired enough to make their own DIY mason jar soap dispenser? How about an easy crock pot pork chop recipe? Go for it!

    P.S. Each season, via Facebook, I recruit my friends to join me in the Pinterest Challenges. Many of them don't have a blog, and most of the time, no one else shows any interest. This time, though, my friend, Kim, participated in the only way she knows how: baking! Here's a little collage she whipped up to feature her spooky creations:

    According to her, she was inspired by those edible knives you see in the cuipcakes. Her and my sister came across them at JoAnn Fabrics and thought they'd be perfect in a dessert Kim would make for a Halloween party they were going to. Not having a Pinterest account or a blog, Kim has dubbed this the "She's Crafty" challenge.
    So that's it. The Fall edition of the Pinterest Challenge is officially over! I'd love to know what everyone else created! Let me know!
    P.P.S. I just finished Sing You Home by Jodi Piccoult. It was great! If anyone is interested, I'd gladly pass it along to you. I'm looking for a couple recommendations on a new book to read. Anyone? Anyone?
    P.P.P.S. If you enjoy reading my blog, please follow me by clicking "Join this site" and/or entering your email address over to the right of the page. If you want to see what projects I have worked on or plan on working on in the future, follow me on Pinterest by clicking the link to the right! If you like it, pin it!



    Tuesday, October 23, 2012

    Pinterest Challenge: Fall Edition!

    We interrupt the pinning in progress (because you know you are) to bring you a special announcement: the Pinterest Challenge: Fall Edition is here! Once per season, a bunch of crazy people get together over the Internet to share the projects that they've pinned and punched in the face. By punched in the face, I mean they've completed the project for themselves (maybe with a few tweaks here and there based on their own taste).

    Hosting this challenge are Sherry @ Young House Love and Katie @ Bower Power. Their co-hosts this time around are Sarah @ Ugly Duckling House and Carme @ Our Fifth House. These four are among the best bloggers out there. (I just haven't been discovered yet.)

    I've joined the last two Pinterest challenges with my Blueberry Lemon Yogurt Loaf and my 1940s wood file cabinet redo. Having just realized that Fall is already upon us, I'm still not 100% sure what I'll complete. Here's what's currently pinspiring me:

    An upcycled dresser drawer made into an ottoman by Becky @ Beyond the Picket Fence,
    A DIY sunburst mirror by Andrea @ Decorating Cents,
    or something gray and yellow for my next room redo
    (styleboard created by Chelsea @ Tis So Sweet).
    Please consider joining me for the Pinterest Challenge: Fall Edition. Along with many most of you, I am so very busy and don't have a heck of a lot of time to pinning and projecting; but here's what's awesome about the challenge: 1) It's meant to be fun. Don't stress yourself out by biting off more than you can chew. Do something simple and manageable if you don't have time for much more. 2) It can be used as a stress reliever! If you're bogged down with stuff at work or home, use the challenge as a chance to take time for yourself!
    The rules are simple:
    • Give credit where credit is due. Link your project to the original source.
    • Shut up and commit! Take one week, and only one week, to complete the project of your choice. Projects should be completed by Tuesday October 30. You have the whole weekend!
    • Come back here on October 30 (and visit YHL or BP) to share your results.
    • Have fun! :) Projects can be anything you've pinned -- a recipe (MOM), a piece of art, a furniture repurpose, a sewing or knitting project you've been dying to try. The possibilities are endless!
    Please join me! It's so much more fun to do things together! :)
    P.S. If you enjoy reading my blog, please follow me by clicking "Join this site" and/or entering your email address over to the right of the page. If you want to see what projects I have worked on or plan on working on in the future, follow me on Pinterest by clicking the link to the right! If you like it, pin it!

    Monday, October 22, 2012

    Patio Furniture Upgrade

    Remember those outdated gliding patio chairs that we were gifted way back in the Spring? I told you I was going to have them updated by the time I went back to school. Well, school has been back in session for almost two months now, and I just finished the upgrade last night.

    This is what the chairs looked like pre-upgrade:

    I decided to go with a trendy color combo for the update: grey and yellow. After measuring the original cushions, I bought 3 yards of a yellow and white geometric indoor/outdoor print from
    When the fabric came in, it sat around for quite a while. A few weeks back, I finally got around to recovering the cushions. After carefully measuring a second time and cutting the fabric, I sewed two pieces together on three sides. Then, I slipped the original cushion inside the pocket. Finally, I used my  Dritz snap fastener and some size 16 (7/16") snaps to close the top. That way, I can easily remove the covers for cleaning.
    After covering the cushions, the filthy chair frames sat outside for another few weeks. I finally decided to get my butt in gear this weekend. I pulled out the spray paint and got going. After thoroughly cleaning and drying the frames, I gave them each a coat of gray spray primer by Valspar. Then, I added a coat of gloss protective enamel in gray by Rust-Oleum.
    When I got home from work this evening, I went straight to the garage to add the cushions to the frames to see what the final product would look like. I have to say, I'm pretty happy! Check them out...

    What do you think? If you look closely at the first picture, you can see that the dark green strips from the original cushions show through a bit. It's pretty subtle, so it doesn't really bother me a whole lot. It certainly wasn't worth the extra work to sew in a lining! I just love that snap fastener. It should make it way easier to clean the covers since they'll get filthy dirty before I know it!
    It's too bad that I didn't get my butt in gear early enough to enjoy the chairs during the Summer. We may squeeze out a couple more mild days before they get put away for the Winter, but we should get much more use out of them next year.
    P.S. If you enjoy reading my blog, please follow me by clicking "Join this site" and/or entering your email address over to the right of the page. If you want to see what projects I have worked on or plan on working on in the future, follow me on Pinterest by clicking the link to the right! If you like it, pin it!

    Saturday, September 29, 2012

    DIY Unpaper Towels

    In keeping with what seemed to have become a theme last (Last?! Is it Fall already?!) Summer, I went ahead with something I'd been seeing all over Pinterest: unpaper towels. I could link up with about a hundred bloggers who have created the reusable towels, but I have to say, my favorite tutorial has to be Lilly's at Cottontail Babies. I'll explain exactly why a bit later.

    To get the party started, I ran to JoAnn's with coupon in hand and purchased 1 yard each of flannel and terrycloth. Most of the tutorials I checked out suggested a pretty, decorative flannel and a coordinating terrycloth. I just didn't see the point of choosing a cutsie fabric since the unpaper towels would be stored underneath my kitchen sink. It would make more sense to pick out something specific if they'd be displayed on the counter. I picked the least expensive terrycloth I could find (on sale for $2.50/yard) and a reasonable flannel for $7.99/yard. (I used a 60% off coupon for that.) I walked out of the store about $6.00 poorer.

    When I got home, I cut the fabric into 11-inch squares. I got 9 squares of each out of the fabric I had.

    Then, I pinned each of the pieces of terrycloth to a piece of flannel.
    Then, I sewed along the edges with about a 1/4-inch seam allowance. I don't have a picture of this, but I ended up leaving the edges raw. (As opposed to sewing them inside-out and turning them inside-in for a cleaner, more finished, look.) I figured since these would be kitchen towels that would be stored under the sink, it didn't really matter what they looked like.
    I also sewed a big X on the towel (from corner to opposite corner both ways) so that when they were washed, the sides wouldn't come apart.

    Next, I used Dritz snap fastener and some size 16 (7/16") snaps to help create the effect of actual paper towels. Again, no picture for this step. (Sorry. Sometimes I get wrapped up in the process and forget to snap them. I need to be a better blogger.) If you have or purchase these pliers and snaps, the directions on the back of the package are easy to follow. Most importantly, when making these towels, you need to fasten an outtie (the part of the snap with the nub) on both corners of the right side of the square. Then, fasten an innie (the part of the snap with the hole) on both corners on the left side of the square. This ensures that when you use and wash the towels, you can snap them back together correctly.
    For my unpaper towels, I recycled a used paper towel roll. Some tutorials suggest making a roll out of plastic, but my way is free! I simply secured a snap using the same fastening method to the top and bottom of the cardboard roll. Check it out.
    Sweet, huh? Finally, I rolled the pieces of fabric together for a $6 unpaper towel roll that can be used for years!
    Back to why I really liked the Cottontail Babies tutorial. In short, she was honest. To wrap up her post, she admitted a few of the very things I was thinking on my way home from the store:
    • It's going to take some effort on my part to snap them back together after washing them. I hope I don't end up just folding them and stacking them under the sink.
    • I could have skipped the sewing part and simply fastened snaps to cheap washcloths instead. But they're durn cute.
    • This could have been yet another use for upcycled T-shirts. It would have been free. I only paid about $6 for the fabric, though, so if I use them like they should be used, they'll end up costing pennies over the next few years.
    Even though all this is true, the project was fun and it's super cute. I think it could be a pretty cute (and inexpensive) housewarming gift! Let me know what you think!
    P.S. If you enjoy reading my blog, please follow me by clicking "Join this site" and/or entering your email address over to the right of the page. If you want to see what projects I have worked on or plan on working on in the future, follow me on Pinterest by clicking the link to the right! If you like it, pin it!
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    Monday, August 27, 2012

    DIY Laundry Detergent & Dishwasher Detergent

    Late August/early September is the real new year for teachers. For me, it's a time of announcing resolutions and setting goals. With the impending doom of work/school starting back up (tomorrow!), I've been thinking of ways to better utilize our time and money. One thing I've decided to do to save money is to DIY a (much) more inexpensive and more natural version of laundry detergent and dishwasher detergent.

    The process is super easy and you only need a few ingredients to get started. At the grocery store, I picked up:
    I even used my DIY reuseable shopping bags to lug it all home!

    To make the laundry detergent, using a hand grater, grate 2 bars of soap into a bowl.

    Then, add 2 cups of Borax...

    and 2 cups of washing soda.

    Then, mix well.

    Finally, add the soap to the container of your choice. I opted to purchase a couple plastic containers for a couple dollars a piece. I felt a little bad about the plastic (since this is somewhat of a greener and healthier alternative to regular detergent), but I figured since I'd use the containers over and over, it wasn't so bad. I also picked up a couple measuring spoons that I'll store inside the soap container. This will make it easy to measure the right amount of soap (1-2 tablespoons, depending on the size of your load and how soiled your garments are).

    For the dishwasher detergent, mix 2 cups of Borax, 2 cups of washing soda, and 2 packagees of unsweetened lemon Kool-Aid.

    I did a bit of research before diving in. Some people are concerned whether Borax safe. According to my research, people get Borax confused with boric acid. Borax is a mineral that is mined directly from the ground. Boric acid is produced when borax is reacted with another acid (like sulfuric or hydrochloric acid). Borax is safe for and is not readily absorbed by the skin. Crunchy Betty does a pretty good job of explaining the product in more detail. For me, it boils down to the fact that using these three natural ingredients has to be a healthier option than what we were using before (whatever name brand was on sale). As for the dishwasher detergent, I might eliminate the Kool-Aid in future batches, but I chose to stick to the recipe I found.
    As for the cost? You'll save a ton. Tide 2x Ultra will run you $17.99 at Target and will get you through 90 loads of laundry. It ends up costing you about 20 cents per load. A batch of homemade detergent will run you about $5.96 and will get you through about the 90 loads. It ends up costing you about 6 cents per load. All things considered, you'll end up saving about $12.50 for each batch of detergent! What's even better, the ingredients I bought will get me through at least one more batch of detergent. I still have 6 bars of soap and a few cups of both borax and washing soda left over.
    While $12.50 doesn't seem like a whole lot, when added up over the course of a year, it's a ton! Plus, think about how much you could save by DIYing other household supplies on top of these ones. I'm considering trying out others, but I have to decide if it's more about saving money or making healthier alternatives. (There are lots of tutorials out there that use ingredients that are cheap but aren't natural.) I'm thinking the healthier alternatives route is the best. I'm hoping to find a way to balance the two.

    Friday, August 17, 2012

    Upcycled T-Shirt: DIY Scarf & Headband

    After creating 15 DIY reuseable shopping bags, I had a bunch of scrap cotton fabric laying on my living room floor. Instead of throwing it away, I used it to create some cute accessories.

    I had already pinned a bunch of DIY T-shirt scarf tutorials, so I didn't have much research to do; but because I only had a tiny bit of fabric left (the sleeves and bottom 2 or 3 inches from my Ts), I only had a couple options. I picked Rabbit Food For My Bunny Teeth as my teacher. I followed her instructions pretty closely with a few tweaks here and there. To do this yourself, all you'll need is an old T-shirt (the larger the better) and some scissors.

    To make the scarf, I could really only use the few inches I salvaged from the bottom of the shirts. I had bunches of colors, so I had to pick and choose from what coordinated. If you try it, I'd use an entire shirt from the bottom hem to the armpits. The loops need to be long enough to drape around your neck a few times, so anything above that doesn't work. I cut pieces measuring about an inch (give or take a bit) along the width of the shirt. (Sorry for the lack of pictures. I was busy trying to figure out what I was trying to do.) Your pieces should remain as loops. Do not cut them open! Cut pieces until you no longer have any fabric left. If you go from the bottom of the hem to the armpits, I think you'll end up with about 15 loops. If you'd like a bulkier scarf, repeat these steps with a second T! Save the bottom hem for later.

    Once all your loops have been cut, put your thumbs inside and pull outward, stretching the loop as far as it goes, until the fabric begins to curl inward. Repeat this step for each loop.

    Here's where you'll need the bottom hem line. Cut the bottom hem line so it becomes one long piece.

    Gather all of your loops.

    Then, using the last 4 to 6 inches of the hem you cut, tie a knot in any random place around all of the loops. You'll want to leave a bit fabric hanging for later. With the remaining hem, wrap the loops in an overlapping fashion up and then down again for about 3 or 4 inches. When you come back down, tie the end of the hem piece with the piece you left hanging from earlier. You can either trim those pieces short or leave them hanging a bit to add some interest. I left mine hanging a bit.

    Depending on the look you're going for, wrap the finished product around your neck once or twice. I like the twice-wrapped look!

    I would have liked it to be a bit chunkier. In the future, if I do this again, I'll definitely use more loops. I was working with what I had!

    After I was done with the scarf, I made a headband. Rabbit Food For My Bunny Teeth also has a DIY Workout Headband tutorial. I followed that one pretty closely too. I prepared 5 loops exactly the same way as I did for my scarf (by cutting and stretching). For this one, I cut them to make 5 long strings (instead of loops). Then, I taped the 5 strands together and used a binder clip to secure it to the piping on my couch so I could weave without worry. Remember the days of making friendship bracelets with embroidery floss? It's kind of like that!

    The weaving pattern is very simple once you figure it out, but it's a bit tricky at first. Make sure your strings are completely separated so you can clearly see the order. First, you bring the far left string over the second farthest left string. Then, you bring the middle string over the second farthest left string (which was originally the farthest left string). Then, you bring the farthest right string over the second farthest right string. Next, you bring the middle string over the second farthest right string (which was originally the farthest right string). This pattern continues until you're finished weaving. Finally, measure the headband around your head and double knot the strings at the top to the strings on the bottom. Each of the strings (top and bottom) should be double knotted to a different string on the opposite end. That way, it's pretty secure. When measuring, keep in mind that the fabric you're working with is cotton and will stretch considerably. I went with a snug fit knowing that it will stretch over time.

    Rabbit Food For My Bunny Teeth offers a fabulous pictorial. Check it out since I'm not doing a very good job:

    Rabbit Food For My Bunny Teeth

    When it's all done, it should look something like this:

    Pretty cute, huh? I was pleased to complete 3 fun, simple, and free projects using 15 old T-shirts! What do you think?

    P.S. If you enjoy reading my blog, please follow me by clicking "Join this site" and/or entering your email address over to the right of the page. If you want to see what projects I have worked on or plan on working on in the future, follow me on Pinterest by clicking the link to the right! If you like it, pin it!

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