Friday, December 10, 2010

MY Sugar Cookie Recipe and Buttercream Frosting

I won't call this recipe the best since there are so many out there, but it is MY absolute favorite and I have been using it for over 10 years. This recipe makes nice, thick, and SOFT sugar cookies -- so if you are one of those weirdos that likes thin, cripy sugar cookies, you can just take a hike.

3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup sour cream

Sift dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the egg and vanilla. Mix well. Add sour cream and mix well again. Slowly add in your dry ingredients until combined. If your dough is too sticky, refrigerate for awhile to make it easier to handle.

The next part is very important to the quality of your cookies. Separate your dough into two balls (just to make it easier to roll out). Form into a round disk and start to roll out. DO NOT use too much flour when you roll your dough, using too much will make your cookies tough (darn gluten). You can even use powdered sugar to roll out your dough which will not make your cookies tough. Roll out your dough to 1/4" thick - No thinner! Use a ruler if necessary. Cut out your shapes however you like, being mindful to use your dough space as you're cutting wisely. You really only want to roll out your dough twice since working it and rerolling it and adding more flour will start to affect the quality of your cookie.
Your oven needs to be preheated to 350 degrees. Leave about 1-2 inches between your cookies on the sheet. Bake your cookies for FOUR minutes, rotate your pan, then bake for an additional TWO minutes (sometimes my first batch needs 3 minutes after I rotate the pan, but my oven gets a bit warmer the longer I leave it on, and 2 minutes usually does the trick). Take the cookies out even though they may not look done - they are! Do not be fooled. I pity the fool that leaves these babies in too long. Transfer your cookies immediately to a cooling rack, then use your spatula to swat your kids hands away.

Me and my kids can eat these cookies by the dozen just as they are - bare. However, if you must frost, frost with this:

1 cup softened butter
3 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1-2 tbs. whole milk or whipping cream

I start beating my butter and slowly add in the powdered sugar, then vanilla, then milk. I like to warm my milk just a bit so its coldness doesn't affect my nicely softened butter. Whip that up until it is your desired consistency. Frost away.
Pictures are from valentine's day 2009 - we have yet to make these for Christmas yet, but we will, oh yes, we will.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Decorating Idea for the Holidays - Peppermints!

I love the holiday look of red and white peppermints. I found these ornaments at Kohls and spent about $8.oo on all three (they were 50% off). I knew right when I saw them what I wanted to do.
In true Shana fashion I copied one of my old crafts instead of coming up with something new -- I just changed the colors from my Halloween cardstock circle garland to red and white. These are just paper circles fed through your sewing machine one right after the other. I used 4 different sized circle punches and created strands of varying length of in white, red, and then ones with red and white mixed, sometimes layering the colors together.
My peppermint ornaments had glitter on them so I thought it would be fun to add glitter to the white circles. I liked the effect, but I wouldn't say working with glitter is fun. It's messy and no matter how careful you are - you will spill it. Promise.
I used white sewing thread to hang the ornaments, then attached them to the ceiling with a thumbtack -- please note, the ornaments I used were plastic so they weren't too heavy, be mindful of how heavy the ornaments you choose are or you might have trouble hanging them. The circle strands will only need a bit of tape since they are so light. I have this arrangement hanging over the counter in my kitchen.
This was fun and easy, with the hardest part being taking a picture of the finished product that didn't show my dirty kitchen - you can bet I trimmed that picture above to cut out my messy countertops and sink full of dirty dishes.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Holiday Gift Card Holders

I know a lot of people dislike giving gift cards as gifts. Something about them being too impersonal or not very thoughtful. I don't mind giving or getting them, but if you do, here's a quick craft to increase your gift card's thoughtfulness.
I am very comfortable with felt. If you prefer a different medium, like fabric or scrapbooking materials -- go for it. This could easily be made with fleece or card stock and scrapbooking embellishments.

I cut two rectangles of felt 4 3/8 x 2 5/8. I found my reindeer pattern online simply by googling 'reindeer outline.' You may have to copy the image into your word processing program to adjust the size. You can add a pre-made embellishment as well - they are sold in a lot of forms at the craft store - felt, foam, paper - use whatever design you like. If you are a scrapbooker, you most likely have something in your stash you could use. If you're a sewer, you most likely could whip up one of those cute yo-yo flowers from your scraps to put on. The possibililtes are endless.
Once I had the front done, I attached them together using a blanket stitch, leaving one end open, then sewing a button on for closure. Scrapbookers - you can attach eyelets for ribbon to thread through and tie in bow.

To add to the gift card, I attached the whole thing to a Scentsy bar (because who doesn't love Scentsy?). You could attach it to your loved one's favorite candy bar or a bottle of their favorite lotion -- any small thing to add to the gift card to make it a bit more personal.
hmmm. . .who could be getting a Joann gift card from me?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Before and After Plus an Easy Halloween Craft

and after...
This is the area between the living room/front entry and the dining room/kitchen. We got this red side table at a SLC thrift/antique store a long time ago. I have always loved decorating around it. I thought my Halloween tree was a bit bare so this year I shopped around for a new addition, though they were either way over priced or too cheaply made, so I made my own.
I've had this idea in my mind for awhile and I even saw someone selling garlands like this on Etsy for some crazy price like $15.00 for six feet. Boo. All you will need is cardstock, a circle punch, and a sewing machine. If you don't have a circle punch, borrow one from your friend, or use one for free from your local scrapbook shop. Warning - do not attempt this without using a punch.

I choose 6 coordinating colors and punched away. I used the smallest punch I own - a 3/4" circle since this was going on a small tree. If you are going to hang your garland from a mantle or hang a bunch of strands from your ceiling I'd suggest a bigger sized circle punch, it will be quicker. For me, the 3/4" worked best and it took just 10 minutes to sew about six feet.
It is actually really easy to sew paper. It needs very little guidance - once the foot grabs it, you're good to go to feed another circle in. You can choose to space your circles farther apart, or keep them fairly close like I did.
All that was left was for me to string them up on my tree.
Though no sooner had I done so, two crows flew in and took up residence.
I think my Halloween tree is complete. It would be fun to try other color combinations like black, green, purple, and white (witch colors) or go for orange, red, yellow, and brown for fall.
Crows are from Micheal's, on sale now for $2.50 a piece.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Make Your Own Paper Patterns

Just a quick how-to for the apples in my previous post. It is quick and easy, and makes a nice, even, almost diecut-machine quality pattern.
You probably used this method as a child to make hearts for Valentine's Day. Just fold your paper in half, draw half of a heart, or half of whatever shape you are making, then cut out. You control the size and shape.
I make all of my own patterns for my shop, and I use this method for a lot of them. Most of my patterns look like this:
Which I use to turn into this:
Or this:
If it is a pattern that you are going to be using over and over again, or one that you are going to let your children use, copy your pattern onto heavy cardstock or posterboard for durability. Sneak peek for next week - I'll be posting some before and after shots of my house decorated for Halloween. Have a great weekend!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

'Happy Fall' Wreath

This was a simple wreath I did with my kids in school to help celebrate the coming season. Apples are ready to harvest in the fall so I thought this would be a fun alternative to leaves or pumpkins for a wreath.

You can also take this opportunity to teach your kids about Jonny Appleseed, an American Legend. Chances are, your kiddos might not know what a 'legend' is, and in this case, Mr. Appleseed is based on a actual person that played an important role in our country's early years.

Another thing this craft teaches, is patterns. So far in my homeschooling, patterns have popped up in Kindergarten - 2nd grade levels. We've been playing with them in our lessons, so it was fun to incorporate this skill into a craft.

You can control your kids involvement depending on their age, either cutting all the apples beforehand, or let your kids do it themselves. We didn't have a lot of time for this craft so I had everything ready for us to put it together, and it only took about 10-15 minutes to complete.

I had everything on hand, and you most likely do as well. You will need construction paper or cardstock, hot glue gun or Elmers, ribbon or string, and cardboard.
Use a plate to draw a circle onto your cardboard to your desired size. I choose to cover mine in strips of felt since I thought it would look better in the end, but it turns out the apples will cover the entire thing. So you can skip this step if you'd like.

If you just have cardboard to attach apples to, Elmers glue will work just fine, but if you're gluing to felt, use a glue gun. I put a dab of hot glue on the wreath, then my boys stuck the apples on in a pattern.
Use ribbon or string to attach a dangling apple for the 'Happy Fall' sign, as well as a ribbon loop for hanging. I just used a sewing pin to attach the ribbon. That's it! I have found that keeping things simple when it comes to kids and crafts is key to both you and your kids having an enjoyable time. Happy Fall!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

in the works

The reason I haven't posted in forever is because I have been saving all my projects until I have a massive collection of them, so many in fact, that when I look at them I get stressed out and back away slowly. Smart, right? I spent the summer making stuff for my shop while my boys played wii, or laying out in the sun while my boys threw water balloons, ran in the sprinklers, and made mud patties. Perfect summer, but now it is back to business. School started for us this week - Kindergarten and 2nd grade. Something about 'back to school' is making me feel like I need to tackle my list of projects. In order to feel productive I took pictures of projects that I want to tackle first. We'll see if I can finish them and post finished project pictures.
This is a vintage puzzle, made in the 1960s or early 70s in Denmark. It was my oldest brother's puzzle and it has definitely seen better days. I saved it from my moms house a few years ago and I haven't had the heart to let my boys play with it for fear that they would lose more of the pieces. I finally came up with a use for it. Magnets. The remaining vehicles will have a magnet glued to the back to become some cool, retro magnets for the fridge - I have always loved that blue bus and red flatbed truck. I figure it's a great way to salvage any puzzle that you or your child loves that has lost a few pieces.

I thought it would also be a good idea to buy a wooden alphabet puzzle and turn them into fridge magnets. I think I have been through 2 sets of plastic ABC magnets. They are always so cheap, either they have very weak magnets and can barely even hold themselves onto the fridge, or they break. Wooden ones would be a much sturdier option. You can buy magnets at most stores.
I found these ceramic cups at Michaels for $1.00 each. They are waiting for candy and a spooky note for some of my neighborhood friends.
I knew I had to have these when I saw them at Joann. Who doesn't need a set of 3 nesting cardboard coffins? They are waiting for a coat of paint.
Not sure what I had in mind with these. I think I had some idea to paint the yard stick and clothes pins, then glue the pins to the stick, then somehow attach the whole thing to the wall to display works of art. Or something like that. It's been sitting around for awhile now.
These stacks of paper are waiting for me to cut circles out for Halloween garland. I'll probably sew the circles together like I did with paper hearts for Valentine's day. I've seen people selling these on Etsy, though if you're any type of scrapbooker, you most likely have all you need for this project on hand and can do if for free.
I found these Martha Stewart favor boxes at Joann. I belong to a book group and I'll be filling these with treats to take to our get together in October. Easy and fun idea for gift giving.
Styrofoam egg shapes. Watch out, these are going to become spider egg sacks.
Finally, the most recent addition to my list of projects, a penny rug pattern I just bought from Etsy a few days ago. What was I doing starting another project? Who knows, I am a glutton for unfinished projects. Hopefully I will get on the ball and be able to feature a few of these finished. Wish me luck!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I spy books, part 2

Thanks for the ideas Kristina! Everyone should check out those taby trays, they look like they'd fit most any car seat. Not having something hard to color on has always been a problem, as well as not having a tray to keep everything from dropping into the indefinite depths of car seat crevices, never to be seen again.

I previously blogged about some I Spy books I made for my boys last year that they loved. So, with this trip looming I decided to take some more pictures to add to it. I made up a few twists this time though. Here are some pictures if anyone tried this out for themselves and needed some ideas.
This one I call "Man, Monster, or Robot." You have to count how many men, how many monsters, and how many robots are in the picture. Clever, I know. If you have only girls, you are most likely out of luck in recreating this one.
This one is "find the food." I placed a number of food items amongst the buttons. There are cheese nips, cheerios, smarties, funyans, apple jacks, crispix, goldfish, and fruit snacks - pretty much any small food item I had in my pantry.
These are just chipboard scrapbook letters I had left over from my scrapbooking days. You have to find the numbers 1-10, as well as 3 hiddens words. If you have boys, you can make them happy and copy the words I hid - POO, FART, and BUM.
This one is find the items that don't belong. Really easy to create, just open your fridge and stuff it full of things that don't belong.
This is one I did for myself I call it "mom's faves." My favorite color, pink, my sunglasses, candy, lip gloss, and some of my crafting materials. There is also a sneaky picture of me included in this one.
This last one is actually one my 7 year old set up for me. He saw me working on this and got excited and created one of his own. He's a seasoned I Spy buff so he knew he had to hide stuff. Can you find the army guy?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

special orders

I really shouldn't complain about doing special orders for my shop. It means have I business, right? And any business is good, right? Well it usually doesn't feel that way to me when it comes to special orders.

A special orders means I HAVE to make something. Something of someone else's choosing. I have a deadline. Like an assignment, like homework. You see, the way I work, I make what I feel like making, what I'm inspired to create. If I discover I have the perfect colors to make rainbow goldfish crackers, I don't rest until I make them.
Or if I discover the cutest miniature rolling pins at Joann, I get up at 6 in the morning to make miniature sugar cookie dough to go with them.
Another reason I dislike special orders is that my time is limited (hence the 6 am craft wake up call). I have just enough time to make 2-3 items for my shop per week, and if that time is taken up by a special order, that means no new items for my shop, which means no sales usually (and no crafts to post on this blog). Then I begin to loathe the special order and the person who ordered it. Which brings me to the point of this post, to show off some of my recent special orders that I loathe.
This lady (who I really should not be complaining about, since she really is the nicest, most considerate customer AND orders a ton) wanted a whole pizza, plus all the extras like a personalized box. The box was the biggest pain to find, since it needed to be unprinted and the right size.
Here is the customized box - it came with 4 checkered napkins, as well as 4 order forms that I laminated so that they could be written on with dry erase markers. I had barely recovered from this project when she commissioned me for another special order.
This snack set was just a small part of her newest order - some cookies, some strawberries and a bazillion crackers. So glad it is done!

On a side note, we waited a day too long to buy our plane tickets for a trip we're planning and the price jumped a gazillion dollars. I thought I was off the hook for entertaining my boys during travel since the plane ride is only two hours long, but no. I am back to figuring out what to do with them for 13 hours in the car. So, barring any more special orders, I will be busy making/putting things together for their entertainment. We'll see if any of it ends up here, I'm not making any promises. Anyone have any great craft ideas for travel entertainment?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Please stop me from eating this

Sorry, no crafts this week. I have one project in the works that I haven't even had time to look at lately. So I'll have to leave you this week with some pictures of a new creation. I'm not going to apologize if you have to go out and buy a box of these.
Little Debbie Swiss Rolls

They are about true to life-size - 3" long. They're soft, and since they are not very small, nor do they have any beads or other choking hazards, they're ok for younger tots.
Here they are in Strawberry Shortcake form, also a Little Debbie snack cake. Rolls of cream and strawberry jelly and vanilla cake. I don't think either the real chocolate or strawberry versions have a drizzle on top, but I like it with it. Who doesn't like a drizzle?