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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Xmas Chuckles

Ellie - Sock Elephant

Sock Elephant Sewing Pattern

Sock Elephant Sewing Pattern


Cut 3-1/2 inches off rib of sock. Starting 3 inches from the heel, sew a 1/8 inch seam on each side of the center line and across the end of the ribbing. Cut the sock between the seams and about 1-1/2 inches farther to make an opening for the stuffing. Turn sock right side out.

Head and Body:
To shape the head, stuff foot of sock nice and plump and tie off loosely at the neck with ribbon. Insert 1-1/2 inch circles of cardboard in feet and stuff. Finish stuffing, sew legs and slit in the crotch, making one seam on underside of the body and the other up toward the tail.
Legs:Cut the second sock as shown, about 5 inches long. Turn inside out, seam along one side and across the foot. Insert pieces of cardboard in fee, stuff, and attach near the front of the body.

Cut off complete heel from the second sock. Stuff it lightly and sew it to the head. Stitch across the center to shape the mouth.
Trunk:Open flat strip of sock so it is about 1 inch wide at one end and 6 inches at the other. Round the wide end. Fold in half lengthwise, inside out, and seam along one edge and around the narrow end. To bend and hold the trunk in various positions insert a piece of wire through the length of the trunk. Insert pipe cleaner tusks.
Ears:For each ear, cut two pieces in the shape of the ears. Seam and turn right-side out. Sew on level with the highest point of the trunk.

Eyes:Sew on moving eyes, buttons (my personal favorite), felt, or embroider with black thread. (For very small children be safe and embroider the eyes.)

Tail:Make a short roll of the material and sew into place.

Trim:Trim is optional. A fringed strip of bright material can be placed over the back, or tassels may be sewn on. Rickrack, little bells ribbons or beads naturally give the toy a more festive, circus-like appearance.

Boot Bench

This easy-to-make bench is the perfect piece of furniture for any mud room.
1 oak stair tread
1 pine one-by-ten, 6 feet
1 pine one-by-four, 6 feet
1¼-inch drywall screws
15/8-inch trim-head screws
2-inch drywall screws
Latex primer and high-gloss paint

120- and 220-grit sandpaper

1. Begin by cutting the two sides and lower shelf from a pine one-by-ten. Use a one-pound coffee can to trace the outline of the curved feet onto each of the one-by-ten sides. Position the curved outline 1½ inches from the edges and end, as shown in the illustration. Cut out the curved feet with a saber saw, then sand the cut smooth with 120-grit sandpaper.

2. Next, cut the apron, base and cleat from a pine one-by-four. Make each part 20½ inches long. Use the coffee can to mark 4-inch-diameter curves onto the apron and base. Cut out the curved shapes with a saber saw. Note that the apron and base were ripped down to 3 inches wide to better match the scale of the bench. However, you could skip this step and use the one-by-four at its full width of 3½ inches.

3. Set the apron and cleat between the two sides, and hold them flush with the top. Be sure to inset the apron ¼ inch from the sides to create
a shallow reveal. Secure the apron and cleat with
15/8-inch trim-head screws driven through the sides.

4. Use a circular saw to cut the oak stair tread to 24 inches long. Lay the oak top face down and set the partially assembled bench on top. Fasten the bench to the top by driving screws through the apron (2-inch screws) and cleat (1¼-inch screws).

5. Install the lower shelf between the two sides; position it 3 inches from the bottom. Attach the shelf with 15/8-inch trim-head screws. Slide the base piece between the sides and push it tight against the underside of the shelf. As with the apron, inset the base ¼ inch to create a small reveal. Secure the base to the shelf with two 2-inch screws driven up from below.

6. Use wood putty to fill the holes created by
the trim-head screws, wait for the putty to dry and sand it smooth. Apply one coat of primer and two top coats of high-gloss paint to all the pine.
Use a foam brush to apply a coat of semigloss
polyurethane varnish to the top. Allow the varnish
to dry, then sand it lightly with 220-grit sandpaper.
A second coat will add protection.

Cranberry-Orange Shortbread

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
  • 2 tsp finely grated orange peel

Preheat oven to 300F (150C). In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer or wooden spoon, beat butter until creamy. Gradually beat in sugar and vanilla. Continue beating until well mixed, about 2 min. Measure out 1/2 cup (125 mL) dried cranberries, then chop. Stir into flour with 2 tsp (10 mL) finely grated orange peel. In a small bowl, using a fork, stir salt into flour until mixed. Using a wooden spoon, beat into the butter mixture just until combined.

  • Using floured hands, pinch off about 1 tbsp (15 mL), then roll into a ball. Place on an oiled baking sheet at least 2 in. (5 cm) apart. Press a dried cranberry into top of cookie. Repeat. Bake 25 to 30 min. Store in an airtight container in a cool place up to 1 week or freeze up to 1 month
  • Saturday, November 26, 2011

    Caramel Christmas Wreath

    • 1 1/2 cup(s) sliced almonds
    • 1/2 cup(s) butter or margarine
    • 1 cup(s) water
    • 1/4 teaspoon(s) salt
    • 1 cup(s) all-purpose-flour
    • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
    • 1 cup(s) heavy or whipping cream
    • 1 can(s) (13.4-ounce) dulce de leche (see Tips)
    • 2 tablespoon(s) confectioners' sugar
    • Raspberries, for garnish
    • Fresh mint leaves, for garnish

    1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line large cookie sheet with parchment paper. Using 8-inch plate or cake pan as guide, with nontoxic pen, trace circle on parchment. (If not using nontoxic pen, flip parchment over so that ink does not touch food.) On 15 1/2" by 10 1/2" jelly-roll pan, spread almonds in single layer. Toast 4 to 5 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Cool almonds in pan on wire rack.
    2. In 3-quart saucepan, heat butter, water, and salt to boiling on medium-high. Reduce heat to medium-low and add flour. Stir continuously 1 minute or until mixture leaves side of pan and forms a ball. Continue stirring 2 to 3 minutes or until mixture begins to coat bottom of pan. Transfer to large mixer bowl and cool 2 minutes.
    3. With mixer on medium speed, beat mixture 1 minute. Continue beating and add eggs, 1 at a time, then beat 2 to 3 minutes longer or until satiny. The mixture should still be warm and cling to the side of the bowl. Transfer dough to large piping bag fitted with 3/4-inch plain tip or to large self-sealing plastic bag with one corner cut to form 3/4-inch hole.
    4. Using circle traced on parchment as guide, pipe dough onto parchment on cookie sheet in 1-inch-thick ring just inside circle. Pipe second ring inside of first, making sure dough rings touch. With remaining dough, pipe third ring on top of center seam of first two rings. With moistened finger, gently smooth dough rings where ends meet.
    5. Bake 20 minutes. Reset oven control to 375°F and bake 25 minutes or until golden. Remove wreath from oven; with tip of small knife, make several small slits all over to release steam. Bake 10 minutes longer. Cool wreath completely on cookie sheet on wire rack.
    6. While wreath is cooling, whisk cream until soft peaks form. In large bowl, with mixer or wooden spoon, beat dulce de leche 5 minutes or until soft. Gently fold almonds into dulce de leche. With long serrated knife, slice wreath horizontally in half; remove and discard moist dough from inside. With spoon or spatula, spread almond mixture into bottom of wreath; top with whipped cream. Replace top of wreath.
    7. To serve, dust wreath with confectioners' sugar and garnish with raspberries and mint leaves.

    Tips & Techniques
    The wreath can be baked up to 2 days ahead. Cool wreath completely, then store in self-sealing plastic bag at room temperature. Re-crisp in preheated 325°F oven for 10 minutes. Cool wreath completely on wire rack before slicing and filling with dulce de leche, almonds, and whipped cream as directed in step 6.

    *Dulce de leche, a thick caramel-like sauce consisting of slow-cooked sweetened milk that is popular in Latin America, can be found in most supermarkets or specialty stores in the canned-milk aisle.

    Mocha Bûche de Noël..........Mocha Yule Log

    French for "Yule Log," Bûche de Noël is a traditional rolled sponge cake served on Christmas. Ours is distinguished by a rich coffee-flavored cream filling.

    Mocha Cake:
    • 1/2 cup(s) unsweetened cocoa, plus additional for dusting
    • 1/2 teaspoon(s) baking powder
    • 1/8 teaspoon(s) salt
    • 2 tablespoon(s) instant coffee or instant espresso powder or granules
    • 2 teaspoon(s) vanilla extract
    • 6 large eggs, separated
    • 1/2 cup(s) granulated sugar
    Chocolate Glaze:
    • 4 ounce(s) semisweet chocolate
    • 3 tablespoon(s) butter or margarine
    • 2 tablespoon(s) corn syrup
    Coffee Cream Filling:
    • 1 cup(s) heavy or whipping cream
    • 1 tablespoon(s) instant coffee or instant espresso powder or granules
    • 1/4 cup(s) confectioners' sugar

    1. Prepare Mocha Cake: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease 15 1/2" by 10 1/2" jelly-roll pan; line with waxed paper. Lightly grease waxed paper.
    2. In small bowl, combine cocoa, baking powder, and salt. In cup, combine instant coffee and vanilla, stirring to dissolve coffee.
    3. In large bowl, with mixer at high speed, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Sprinkle in 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until whites stand in stiff, glossy peaks when beaters are lifted. Set whites aside.
    4. In another large bowl, using same beaters, with mixer at high speed, beat egg yolks and remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar 2 minutes or until thick and pale yellow. With mixer at low speed, add coffee mixture and beat until blended. Beat in cocoa mixture just until blended. With rubber spatula, gently fold egg whites into cocoa mixture, one-third at a time.
    5. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until top of cake springs back when lightly pressed with finger. Cool cake in pan on wire rack 10 minutes.
    6. Sprinkle clean kitchen towel with some cocoa. Immediately invert warm cake onto towel; carefully peel off waxed paper. Starting from a long side, roll up cake with towel inside, jelly-roll fashion. Transfer roll, seam side down, to wire rack to cool completely, about 1 hour.
    7. Prepare Chocolate Glaze: In 1-quart saucepan, heat chocolate with butter and corn syrup over low heat, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove saucepan from heat. Let glaze stand at room temperature 15 to 20 minutes to cool slightly and thicken.
    8. Prepare Coffee Cream Filling: In medium bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat cream and instant coffee until soft peaks form. Add confectioners' sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
    9. Gently unroll cooled cake. With metal spatula, spread filling evenly over cake almost to edges. Starting from same long side, roll cake without towel. (Cake may crack slightly as you roll it.) Cut 1 1/2-inch-thick diagonal slice off 1 end of roll and reserve. Transfer roll to large cookie sheet.
    10. Spread some glaze over roll, but do not spread glaze on ends. Place reserved end piece on side of roll to resemble cut branch. Spread remaining glaze over branch, leaving cut side unglazed. Refrigerate cake, uncovered, until glaze sets, then cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour or up to overnight.
    11. With 2 metal spatulas, gently transfer roll to long platter. Garnish platter with Coffee Meringue Mushrooms if you like.


    Pretty Close to Reality

    Tuesday, November 22, 2011

    How to Make a Gingerbread Cookie Tree

    Not only is this gingerbread tree a fun holiday project to try your hand at, it's also wonderful as a centerpiece or to gift to friends. So, put aside your generic gingerbread house kit this year - and follow our step-by-step instructions: 
    1. You'll need a set of graduated star cutters. We used the President's Choice cookie tree kit (available at select Loblaws and Superstores), but can also be purchased online through Wiltons or Golda's Kitchen.
    2. Prep your cookie dough. I recommend making double batches of solid and sturdy cookies, such as this sugar cookie or gingerbread. I prefer rolling out my dough to 1/4-in. thick to make them even more sturdy, but this may increase your bake time.

    3. Use graduated cookie cutters and cut out two of each size. Using two cookies of each size gives you a taller and leaner tree. Cut out an extra cookie with the smallest star cutter to use as your tree topper. You may need to re-roll your dough and chill multiple times.

    4. Bake according to directions. Do not crowd your baking pan. Bake cookies together based on size. For example, you can bake 6 of the smaller stars together on one sheet because they will probably bake in the same time. However, bake the largest size on its own. This is because the bake time will be longer on the larger sizes. Add 1 (incremental) min bake time to your larger cookies if they don't seem to be baked through in the recommended time. But don't burn your cookies!

    5. Often, cookies will 'puff' as they bake, especially cookies with baking soda (such as the gingerbread), and then won't sit on top of each other as neatly. So, it is important that the top of the cookies be as flat as possible. To combat any puff, have an extra baking sheet at the ready. When a tray of cookies comes out of the oven, immediately place your extra baking sheet over the cookies. Use an oven mitt to press down lightly on the cookies. Check your cookies, and repeat if the tops are not flat enough. This step is important as cookies won't flatten once cooled.

    6. Cool cookies on a rack. Prepare your royal icing. When cookies are cool, pipe a thin line of royal icing around the border of each cookie. Press a silver dragee into each star point while icing is still wet. Let stand until royal icing is firm.

    7. For tree topper, use a small star. Brush the inside of royal icing border with more royal icing, or corn syrup. Sprinkle with coarse pink sugar. Let stand until dry.

    8. When icing is dry, stack cookies into a tree shape on a cake stand. Attach tree topper to cookies using more royal icing. Sprinkle tree with more coarse sugar.
    Tip: If one of your cookies accidentally cracks, use some royal icing to "glue" it back together. It won't affect the tree as it will be laying flat against the other pieces.

    Monday, November 21, 2011

    Advice to New Mom - Treasure the Time

    If I could turn back time - a letter to a new mom:
    The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow,
    But children grow up, as I've learned to my sorrow.
    So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
    I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep

    (A verse from the poem Baby's don't keep by Ruth Hulbert Hamilton)
    The recent birth of a friends new baby and my attempt to organize a bin full of old photos found me taking a trip down memory lane. I remember feeling so busy, overwhelmed, frustrated and ohhhhh so sleep-deprived when the kids were in their infant and toddler years. I remember saying, many times "I can't wait until they're past this stage".
    And now as I sit here today, I'm finding myself looking at photos of pudgy little faces and wishing I could turn back time. I wish the more relaxed, confident me of today could go back into those photos of yesteryear, grab hold of those babies and mother them all over again - this time with the new found knowledge that only time and experience can provide.
    Well, I can't go back. I can only pay it forward. And my new mom friend and to all new and expectant moms.

    If I could turn back time...
    I would worry less and love more. I wouldn't allow my baby to cry out for me from her crib because I was told that she needed to learn to soothe herself to sleep when all I wanted to do was hold her close.
    I wouldn't feel frustrated that my 10 month old was still nursing through the night . Instead, I would look at those three am moments as a blessing, as special bonding times between just the two of us.
    I wouldn't care that the dishes needed to be done or that dinner needed to be prepped. I would cuddle my baby and enjoy a little peaceful slumber in the middle of the afternoon without a care in the world.
    I would listen to everyone's well intended advice but in the end I would follow my heart and I would allow myself to just sit and stare and love my baby without feeling guilty about what I really should be doing. Laundry be damned.
    I wouldn't have thought twice about how I could ever love another child as much as the first during my second pregnancy. I would have known that as soon as I laid eyes on him, my heart would instantly grow.
    I wouldn't be so quick to rush them out of their bassinets, their high chairs, their cribs, their bottles, their strollers. They'll get there soon enough.
    I know that now.
    ...if only I could turn back time

    Thursday, November 17, 2011

    Blanket Box, Toy Chest.....You Name it

    Chest do it: - ) Make a lovely chest for your dainty things.  Or if you are a guy you can store your porn magazines and guns....HaHa!

    • Lumber (see cut list)
    • 30" piano hinge (cut a longer hinge to length using a hacksaw if you can't find a 30" pre-cut hinge)
    • 12" piece of steel chain
    • 58 - ¼" hardwood plugs (or size that fits the countersink bit you're using)
    • About 3' of heavy nylon rope for handles
    • Food-grade beeswax polish for non-toxic finish
    • 1 ½" wood-screws
    • 1" wood-screws
    • Small 3/4'" brass wood-screws to attach piano hinge
    • Two ¾" steel screws to attach chain
    • Saw
    • Countersink bit
    • Drill
    • Jigs cut from plywood or cardboard 2"x ¾" and 2"x 1 ½"
    • Hammer
    • Knife
    • Lighter or matches
    • Clamps
    • Sandpaper and/or electric sander
    Cut List:
    • Bottom: 1"x 6" cedar decking - 3 pieces 28 ½" long - Make sure the cedar decking you buy is the typical milled dimension of 1" by 5 ½" - otherwise the rest of your cut list must be adjusted to fit the bottom dimension, because your bottom will be too big or too small. Nobody's ever satisfied with their bottom.
    • Sides: 1"x 8" pine - 4 pieces 16 ½" long
    • Front and back: 1"x 8" pine - 4 pieces 30" long
    • Corner posts: 2"x2" pine - 4 pieces 13 ½" long
    • Lid: 1"x 10" pine - 2 pieces 31" long
    • Lid strapping: 1" x 2" pine - 2 pieces 14" long

    Three one inch thick cedar decking boards make the bottom of the chest.

    Measure the width of the bottom boards and cut a side board to fit.

    Cut the length of the side boards to match the width of the three bottom ones.
    Lay out the bottom boards and measure across the width of your three boards to make sure that it adds up to 16 ½". If it doesn't, STOP BEFORE YOU CUT the rest of your lumber. You've got to cut the side pieces to match the exact dimensions of the bottom, so account for this in the rest of your cuts!

    Attach the sides to the corner posts allowing room for the bottom boards.
    Put the bad side of the board to the inside.
    Tip - Reload your palm sander with several layers of paper
    Build one of the short ends by laying two 16 ½" 1x8 pine boards on top of two of the corner posts.

    Make a jig to help locate the screws evenly.

    Use a counter sink bit to allow the head of the screw to set deep enough for a plug.

    Use the jig to locate the position of the screw for drilling.

    Drill the hole deep enough to allow for the wooden plug to go in.

    Attach the sides, front and back to the corner post with screws.

    Build the sides first then attach the front and back.
    Using a countersink bit, pre-drill for the screws, boring a 3/8" deep countersink channel so that the screw's head will sink deep into the hole. Use a jig to help you space the screws evenly. Build the other end in the same manner.

    Make a new jig for the front so that the screws go into the corner posts.

    Attach the piano hinge to the box first.

    The overhang on the lid should be even on the front and sides.
    Balancing the ends using idle body parts, pre-drill and countersink
    the long facing boards, attaching them to the corner posts at both ends. Use the larger jig to space the screws accurately in the corner post. Now you have the basic box. Slip the box over the three bottom boards. Attach the bottom boards to the box using six pre-drilled, countersunk screws on each end of the trunk ½" up from the bottom.

    Make a jig to help hold the lid while attaching the hinge.

    Use the jig to help hold up the lid while attaching the hinge.

    The finished piano hinge.
    Build the lid by laying out the two 1x10 boards and clamping them together. Lay the 1x2 pieces across two large boards and center them, then sink four 1" screws in each piece of strapping. Bingo, you are lid-enabled.
    Set the lid aside and drill two ½" holes in each end of the trunk to hold the rope handles. Tie knots on the inside of the trunk to secure the handles in place, and cauterize them using a lighter so they won't fray and undo themselves.
    Attach the 30 inch piano hinge to the box along the back rim. Then use a jig or a pile of books to support the lid while attaching the hinge to the lid.

    Use wooden plugs to cover the screw heads.

    The attached lid with restraining chain.

    Choose a chain that is strong enough for the weight of the lid.

    Use a food grade wax like bees wax to insure the finish is non toxic.
    Hammer in the plugs to cover the screw heads. Take your length of steel chain and screw one end to the inside of the trunk, the other end to the lid of the trunk. Sand and finish the chest's exterior surface with beeswax polish.
    Load it up with dainties and be on your chest behaviour.

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011

    Mini Owls..Made from Bits and Pieces and Recycled Scraps

    Tutorial: Stuffed Owl

    You will need:
    - approximately 8 x 12 inches of fabric
    - scraps of fabric for the wings, feet, beak and eyes (I recommend to you felt for the feet since you don't need to finish the edges)
    - 2 buttons
    - thread
    - needle
    - sewing machine
    Click here to download the free pattern. Print the pattern and cut the pieces along the full lines.

    Cut the pieces:
    Use the pattern to cut the pieces. Next you have the diagram for 2 slightly different owls, the first one with one eye bigger than the other, I think this option looks kind of cute when finished. The second one has both eyes the same size.


    Set your machine to a short zig-zag.
    1. Take both pieces for each eye together, sew along the edge to attach the smaller piece to the bigger piece. Repeat this step to make the other eye.

    2. Place the eyes over the body and sew along the edge.

    3. Sew one button on each eye.

    4. Attach the beak, wings and feet.

    Now set your sewing machine to a regular straight stitch.

    5. Take both pieces for the body right sides facing. Sew along the edge leaving an opening at the bottom (as shown by the dotted lines in the pattern). Clip cut the seam allowance in the curved edges (it will make it look better when to turn it right side out).

    6. Turn the owl right side out.
    7. Stuff the owl with cotton or any other material.

    8. Slip stitch to close the opening, you can use the sewing machine as well, but I think slip stitching looks better.

    A new friend