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DIY, Crafts & Other Projects: September 2011

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Great Pumpkin Cake

Goblins and ghosts are one thing at Hallowe’en, but a full-page glossy photo of Rose’s Great Pumpkin Cake is in quite a separate realm of terror. If you plan to make it, that is. Or, more specifically, if you’ve rashly promised to take that very cake to a Hallowe’en party in full knowledge of the fact that you have never before made either a caramel crème anglaise or an Italian meringue, and that these very tasks now lie between you and the burnt orange silk meringue buttercream that covers this cake so smoothly and so beautifully in that horrifyingly daunting photo on page 127 of Rose’s Heavenly Cakes.
Not only did I promise this cake to my friends and hosts for Hallowe’en this year, but I felt doubly bound to attempt this cake in gratitude to Rose for having very kindly lugged the pumpkin-shaped cake pan halfway across the world in her baggage for me earlier this year.
“I can’t wait to see the look on your children’s faces when they see this cake,” she told me. What she didn’t tell me was that I would be required to boil a supersaturated sugar solution not only once but twice during the process of making the cake’s burnt orange silk meringue buttercream.
Well, there wouldn’t be much for my children to look at unless I somehow managed to overcome my fear of boiling sugary syrups.
When broken apart and concentrated in a supersaturated solution, sugar molecules are unstable. They want to come back together again at any chance to return to their previous crystalline structure. An unclean pot, any jarring or stirring of the supersaturated solution at the wrong time, can send them back to their original crystalline pattern and dry state, crystallizing the mixture and ruining the whole candy batch. (From Baking 911)
I am in awe of anyone who can successfully make fudge and toffee in their home kitchen. When I phoned my Mum several months ago for a bit of motherly sympathy after yet another batch of my fudge crystallized and crumbled, she helpfully told me about the wonderfully shiny, brittle toffees and smooth, creamy fudges she remembers her Gran making for her when she was a little girl. Thanks, Mum! Grrrr.
Perhaps I have the wrong sort of sugar. My sugar has either overly-friendly or pathologically co-dependent molecules that stubbornly stick together regardless of the care I take to keep them apart. I must have sticky sugar. Yes, that’s it – I definitely have the wrong sort of sugar.
Or perhaps I have the wrong sort of weather …
It was procrastination rather than thoroughness that led me to read and re-read Rose’s instructions multiple times through on Saturday morning. The cake itself had baked beautifully the day before and I even tried to convince myself that it would look fine just sandwiched together with a bit of marmalade. After all, once it was covered in buttercream, you wouldn’t be able to see those lovely pumpkin grooves anymore.
In my heart of hearts though, I knew what I had to do. With trembling fingers, I carefully placed my super-sensitive sugar into the centre of a saucepan and poured the water around it. I drew an ‘X’ through the sugar and ensured that not even one single crystal dared to venture stickily towards the edges of the pan. I stirred as the sugar dissolved, I held my breath as the solution boiled … and I watched helplessly as the caramel crystallized.
Some kindly spirit must have had the worms’ best interests at heart because the whole thing wasn’t quite such a disaster the second time around and I was finally able to set aside my burnt sugar crème anglaise and turn to the Italian meringue.
This time, I managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by knocking the saucepan as my super-clear, supersaturated solution was boiling. Despite being so depressingly frustrating, it was actually quite a mesmerising sight watching the crystals starting to form so insidiously in one section of the pan, then rising and falling on the boiling crest of the sugary bubbles as they linked hands with increasingly more of their crusty friends.
How time flies when you’re boiling sugar. I had donned my apron that morning at 10.30 am. It had only taken me five hours to successfully get my burnt orange silk meringue buttercream ready for slapping on the cake!
As I painstakingly applied lines of darker orange to mark the segments of the pumpkin’s outer skin, M watched me thoughtfully.
“Is it supposed to look like a pumpkin, Mummy?” she eventually queried. I think she must have inherited her knack for saying the right thing at the right time from her Granny ;-) .
I only had a short time left now before the witching hour, which was when I risked having my pumpkin turn back into a coach if it was still unfinished (magic can be a tricky thing at Hallowe’en). My twirling cocoa tendrils and garish, green marzipan leaves were still a little floppy, but I arranged them artlessly on top of the cake before jumping into my witch’s dress and cape. I grabbed hold of my broomstick, a couple of little witches and an even smaller warlock, and we all set off together down the street with the Great Pumpkin Cake in tow.
No Hallowe’en party would be complete without an unearthly danse macabre …
… and a suitably ghoulish feast.
And the Great Pumpkin cake?
It was delicious – moist, subtly spiced and perfectly complemented by the smoothest buttercream I have ever had the pleasure of rolling around my tongue. Every forkful was savoured with relish …
… right down to the last crumbs.
Although Melinda and I are self-confessed Fallen Angel Bakers, you can see further renditions of the Great Pumpkin Cake by members of the Heavenly Cake Bakers group this month as they work their way through all of the cakes in Rose’s book. My thanks go to Marie for steering the project – it was certainly encouraging to know that I wasn’t alone in my buttercream trepidation!

Found on:
Halloween Blog: The Great Pumpkin Cake

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Mini Mummies

I like to come up with funny & original Halloween crafts for my kids – this project is super easy and perfect if you’re looking for a party activity…

Mummies made from rubber coated flexible wire and strips of muslin are easy to make and a look cute hanging around the house for Halloween.

The bendable wire frame allows you to position your mummy any way you like.

Relaxing Dude Mummy.

Yoga Mummy.

To make these you will need: flexible wire (I used a flexible garden tie that I picked up in the dollar spot at Target - but I have seen these at dollar stores too. If you can't find this - look for any flexible wire at craft stores), wire clippers and muslin.

Using the flexible wire, make the frame for your mummy body.

Tear muslin into 1/2-inch strips. I do the "snip and rip" method to speed this up; make a small cut and then rip the rest of the fabric.

Wrap your wire form with muslin strips. Add strips by tying ends together. End muslin with a knot and trim ends.

Let your mummy hang out.
found on:
Mini Mummies | Family Chic

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ghost Poop

Here is an easy craft. You deserve it after making the costumes, carving the pumpkins and staying away from the candy. This is fun and just disgusting enough to delight any seven year old boy (even if he is 35).
Download the label here. Print on cardstock and cut out one label (there are 4); fold in half lengthwise. Fill a cellophane bag with miniature marshmallows and staple label over the open end.
You may never look at marshmallows the same way again.

Found on:

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Black Cat Pillows

Do use frayed materials and let your imagination run wild.

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Individual s'mores using Halloween peeps.

Individual Peep Smore Kits

1 graham cracker
1 fun-size Hershey bar
1 ghost Peep

Place in a clear cello bag with a pretty orange ribbon. Voila!

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Buttons Galore & More

  • Belt made of loosely woven or crocheted fabric. It is best if it has a hook closure.
  • Buttons
  • Plastic covered wire
  1. Lay the belt out and arrange buttons so they are spaced to your liking
  2. Make sure they do not interfere with the closure
  3. Stick the shanks through the belt and secure them on the back by running the wire through each shank
Secure the ends of the wire on both sides with a few stitches.

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Button Charm Bracelet

-small buttons

- jump rings

- jump rings
- chain
- clasp of any kind
- small pliers

Step 1: Measure the length of chain needed for your wrist and break off that section.
Step 2: You need to decide how many buttons to use. The number of buttons needed depends on the type of chain used so a lot of that is up to your judgment. For chains with larger links I would put a button on every link but with tighter chains you might want to go every other link or more so the bracelet isn’t too crowded.
Step 3: Use your pliers to open up a jump ring and thread your first button onto it. Then slide the jump ring through one of the links of the chain and close it back up with the pliers. Start at one end of the chain and work your way down so that you don’t miss any links. Make sure to leave a couple links empty at either end of the chain to attach the clasp to.
Step 4: Keep adding your buttons until you’ve filled the chain.
Step 5: With all of the buttons on double check the size of the bracelet to make sure it will still fit.
Step 6: Attach your clasp to the open links at the end of the chain. Depending on the type of clasp you might need to use more jump rings. For a really clean look try opening one of the links of the chain to attach the clasp.
See more of Caitlin’s button jewelry by clicking on the link below:

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Monday, September 5, 2011

Cute As A Button Bag - PURSES, BAGS, WALLETS

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customized candles = endless possibilities.

Transferring Ink to Candles

Making personalized candles is easier than you think. Today with some help from the kids we made some candles to give to my parents on Valentine's Day.

You will need some regular paper, tissue paper, tape, sharpies or markers, a candle, wax paper, and a heat gun.

First, I taped a piece of tissue paper, about the size of my candle, to a piece of copy paper. Markers will bleed through the tissue paper pretty easily so you will need something to protect your table, and it was easier for the kids to draw on the tissue paper when taped to the "paper".

When your little artist is done, remove the tissue paper from the copy paper. Cut out your design, and place it on to your candle. It is important to cut away as much of the excess tissue paper as you can.

Next, you are going to take a piece of wax paper that is larger than your candle. Pull it tight around your candle, and use your heat gun to melt your design into the candle. Moving the heat gun in a back and forth motion for about 30-40 seconds. Be careful of your fingers, the heat gun will be hot.

Once you have heated the entire design gently peel back your wax paper and make sure the entire design is adhered to the candle. If not just repeat with the wax paper and heat gun.

A very cute gift for the Grandparents. Don't you think?

It got me to thinking .... wouldn't it be cool if you could use images from the computer and do the same thing? Just think of the personalized candles you could make.

Guess what, you can!

I very carefully taped a piece of tissue paper to a piece of copy paper, making sure there were no edges and the tissue paper was completely flat. Then I crossed my finger and sent it through the ink jet printer. Seriously, my husband would not have been happy if I had jammed up the printer. So, I didn't tell him until I was finished and it had worked. :)

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The "Purse"onal is Political Birkin Inspired Bag

« on: June 05, 2009 12:46:57 PM »

Thank you for all of the wonderful comments!! This is the first thing I've ever posted. I'm working on another "Birkin," this one is all black and white tiles I cut out of the same catalog. I'm making a "Hermes" "Kelly" wallet to go with it. I will take pictures of the progress and post them. Thanks to everyone who voted for me! If you have any questions or comments you want to give me directly, please feel free to contact me - I'd love to hear from you and I promise to answer! (P.S. my Etsy will be up and running August 1)

I was watching a tv show on the world's most expensive things the same day that I read about this challenge. The world's most expensive handbag is a Hermes Birkin that costs $200,000.00. After I finished choking on my drink and wiggling my finger in my ear to make sure I heard right, I got to thinking. Hmmm...wouldn't it show them if I could make a decent copy made out of garbage?! Talk about the ultimate upcycling! Well, after looking at real Birkins on the internet to get the pattern right (BTW they always seem to be attached to a celebrity's arm) and almost a month of hard work here is the end result. A Birkin inspired bag that is made out of 99.99% recycled materials.

I cut an old Ethan Allen catalog into 1"x1" squares and glued them to a piece of newspaper I painted black. I ironed adhesive vinyl on the front and glued heavy interfacing to the back. I covered the interfacing with some scrap satin wrong-side out (the wrong side of satin feels almost like kidskin). When it was all dry I cut out my pattern and sealed the edges with a clear acrylic used for beading. The end result really looks, feels and sews like leather!! I was all out of crocodile, so I used duct tape painted black to make the handles and straps. Painted duct tape looks and feels remarkably like crocodile. (Since I made this purse, I found out duct tape comes in black!!! I'll be using that from now on!) I sewed everything together with some old leftover black embroidery floss. Here's a view of the back. Look at that expert stitching!

All of the hardware (including the ring that holds the lock) is made out of used paper clips. The lock came from a diary that was thrown in the garbage. I even added the "feet" that are on a Birkin by using some repurposed upholstery tacks. This is a really sturdy and usable purse!! It also wipes clean when you spill stuff on it!!
Here's a close-up of the front.

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