Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes

One of the favorite flavor combination's of the season - now in a bite-sized cupcake version!  
This is an easy recipe and a sure hit at any holiday party.  
Here's what you will need:
Devil's Food Cake mix
small, bite-sized peppermint patties
mini cupcake liners
mini cupcake pan

Step1:  Follow the directions on the cake box and mix all ingredients together.
Step 2:  Place the cupcake liners in the pan and fill to 1/4" below the edge of the liner.

Step 3:  Bake in the oven.  While they are baking, unwrap all of the peppermint patties.
3-4 minutes before the cupcakes should be done, open the oven and place one patty on top of each cupcake.  Let it continue baking for 3-4 more minutes - enough to melt the patties slightly so that they stick to the cupcake.

Step 4:  Let them cool, then remove from pan.
The best part - no time-consuming, messy frosting!  
Just garnish with little candy canes, or crushed peppermint.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Fresh Cranberry Salad: a MUST for your holiday dinners

We've been making this recipe in my family for three generations now.  Some of you may have aversions to creamy "salad" type things, but this one is amazing!!  Here are the ingredients you will need:

1 lb fresh cranberries ( chopped) I usually use the food processor
1 cup of whipping cream, whipped ( you can use cool whip if you are in a pinch)
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup small marshmallows
1 sm can crushed pineapple, drained
1/2 - 3/4 cup crushed pecan

Chop the cranberries in the food processor and pour into a bowl.  Pour the sugar over the cranberries and let it sit for few minutes.  While those are sitting, whip your cream in a mixer (this really doesn't take long at all and is so much yummier than cool whip).  Then pour the pineapple, pecans, marshmallows, and cranberries into the bowl with the whipped cream.  Gently fold all of the ingredients together. Refrigerate then serve cold. Bonus: this can be made the day ahead :)
So now that you have made this yummy fresh cranberry salad, here are some of the benefits you can enjoy while eating it.  Recent research from Rutger's University states that cranberries are
  • Full of antioxidants
  • Block urinary infections
  • Prevents plaque formation on teeth (helpful during a Thanksgiving meal)
  • May increase good cholesterol
  • May protect against wrinkles
  • May prevent tumors from growing rapidly
  • And in a test tube, they stopped the growth of breast cancer cells!
Pretty amazing right? Hope you have fun preparing for Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

DIY Anthropologie-inspired "blooming deer" pillow

Hello!  Here I am with another project inspired by something I saw
while perusing my Anthro catalog that just came in the mail.
(Blooming Deer Pillow $88.00)

I liked it because it is seasonal, but not so literally Christmas.  I commissioned my talented hubby to draw the pattern for the deer head, then I did the rest.  I have made the pattern available for you here - so you can make one for yourself!  I just love pillows - they are such a fast and inexpensive way to spruce up any room.

Here's what you will need for this little number:
(I made a 14" pillow, but the Anthro one is 20" so adjust the measurements if you would like it to be larger)
Deer silhouette pattern
one 15" square piece of fabric for pillow front
a contrasting 15" square piece of fabric for pillow back
a 15" square of multi-colored decorator weight fabric ( I suggest home decor fabric because it usually has more texture to it and mimics the needlepoint design in the Anthropologie pillow).
1/2 yard of Wonder Under (when they cut it for you, be sure to ask for the directions)
1 spool of sulky white thread (I used the sulky type because I think it makes it look a little more professional)
1 bag of polyfil or a 15" pillow form
fabric marker 
sewing machine
craft scissors

Step 1:  Download the pattern, tape it together, then cut it out.

Step 2: Lay it on your applique fabric and trace around the pattern.

Step 3:  Cut out the deer.  
Go slowly, especially around the antlers

Step 4:  Lay it right side up on top of Wonder under.  The wrong side of the fabric should be in contact with the rough side of the wonder-under.  Iron the deer - the heat will fuse the webbing to the back of the deer.

Step 5:  Very carefully peel the paper off the back of the deer.  
There will be a film on the back of your fabric.
Position it onto the pillow top exactly where you want it to be.  Iron the deer and the wonder-under film will adhere it to the pillow top.  This is just to hold it in place while you stitch around.  You would loose your mind trying to applique it on with pins stuck everywhere.

Step 6:  Find the zig-zag setting on your machine.  Change the width of the stitch to 3.5 and the length to .5 - this will create a dense stitch.  I practiced on a little piece first, which I suggest you do.  Your machine's length and width may be different than mine.  

Step 7:  Congrats!  You finished the pillow top.  
Be sure to press it and trim off any stray threads.

Step 8:  Now it is time to assemble the pillow.  Lay the pillow back on top of the pillow front - right sides together.  Pin around the sides - leaving an opening in the bottom about 6 inches long (if you are using a pillow form, leave almost the entire bottom edge open).  

Stitch around the edges, using 1/2" seams - be sure to leave the opening.

Step 9:  Flip the pillow - push out the corners using a pencil or chopstick.
Stuff it with polyfil or the pillowform until it is nice and firm.  
This is a great activity for those little eager hands.  
Charlotte calls it stuffing "clouds" into the pillow :)

Fold in the edges of the opening and pin.  Top-stitch or hand-whip it closed.  
That's it!  A gorgeous new pillow to spruce up any room in your home!

happy sewing!
please don't use any free Sew Homegrown patterns for your profit - only for personal use -thanks!

Friday, November 5, 2010

DIY - fat quarter Date-night Handbag

That's right!  This little number is made from only a fat quarter.  It is self-lined and the strap is made from fabric too!!  It is just the perfect size for a date, wedding, or party.  Anytime you only need to bring your wallet, lip gloss, and phone.  I hope you don't mind the fabric I used.  Mr. Sew Homegrown said it looked like an old couch.  Hmph.  I think it looks vintage.  Guess I'll have to make a different one to go on a date with him...but you know the possibilities are endless - you could make it out of velvet or some sparkly sequin-y fabric or linen or really anything!  So get busy ladies because coming up soon is a giveaway based on your Sew Homegrown projects!
Girls who won the fat quarter/thread combo they should be coming to you soon - only 3 girls have claimed them and if the other two aren't claimed by next Wed. they will go to some other lucky follower :)  So this is a little project you can make when your goodies come in the mail ;)  If you didn't win...
Here is what you will need
a fat quarter of fabric
elastic thread
regular thread
sewing machine

Step 1:  Cut it into a piece 22" x 13".  This is how I did it, but this might get confusing -
Fold your fat quarter in half (length-wise).

Step 2:  Fold the bottom edge up 6 1/2 inches.

Step 3:  Cut the remaining fabric at the top off (save it though b/c you will make the strap out of it).
If you open it up, you have a piece of fabric 13 "x 22".

Step 4:  Fold it right sides together - it will now be 11"x13"
Like this:
Sew along the top and bottom edge - about a 1/2 inch seam - using regular thread.

Step 5: Flip it right sides out and press.

Step 6:  Fold the bottom edge up to the top, making a rectangle for your bag.
Sew along both sides - these are the side seams of your bag.

Step 7:  We are going to square the corners - just to give it a little shape.  Simply measure 1/2" both directions from the corners.  Connect them with a line, and sew across the line.
 Trim about 1/4" away from the diagonal line.  Flip inside out and press.
(My mom would say you must finish those inside seams - zig zag, serge, or pinking shears...)

Step 8:  Elastic Thread  There was a little bit of confusion about this on the scarf, so I am going to try to explain it better.  Using your machine, wind the elastic thread onto the bobbin.  I know it says to hand-wind it, but I have had better success winding it on my machine.  Then put the bobbin in your machine, and thread the needle with regular thread.  Sew a straight line around the opening of the bag - letting the fabric loosely flow through the machine.  You could even place your finger behind the presser foot - where the fabric is feeding through - and kind of slow the fabric as it is feeding through - making it bunch up a little more.  Just release it every couple inches or so.  Once you have sewn around the top, wet it and hand scrunch it.  Toss it in the dryer for a couple of minutes.  You could also just steam press it.  Either process should make the thread shrink up nicely.
(yes I stitched mine twice - I wasn't very happy the first time and I was too lazy to rip out the first seam...)

Step 9:  Go and fetch that little remnant that you cut off at the beginning.  Open it flat and cut or tear it into strips 3/4" wide and 22 " long.  you should be able to get 7 strips.

 Step 10: Braid three of the strips into one braid.  Braid three more into another braid.  To join them, lay one end of the braid ontop of the other, perpendicular to it, like this:
Sew a little diagonal line where that arrow is.  (Don't forget to put regular thread on your bobbin again!)
Trim off the raw edges and you should have one long, thin braid to use for a strap.

Step 11:  Sew the ends of the strap onto the inside of the bag - where the side seams are located.
(Sorry this picture is kind of blurry)

For a bonus interest, take that 7th strip and tie it into a little bow on the strap.
And that's it!!  You have a sassy little bag to swing over your shoulder and dash out the door the first chance you get!

Happy Sewing!