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Heeeere’s your sign

My brother’s kitchen is going to rock.  I made him two more beer signs.  These ones are painted, but I’m only blogging about one of them.  The other one?  It sucks.  It was looking good, but I just kept playing with it…whoops.  I just started a new one to replace that one, so I’ll finish that story later.

So, originally when I decided that I wanted to make something for Cody’s kitchen I searched the internet high and low for ideas.  I didn’t really know what I wanted to do (or what my superbly picky brother would like).  I found subway art and fell in love.  I eventually decided to make it out of beer words (and later made one with beer brands), but was waltzing around the idea of quotes about beer/alcohol.  I had emailed a bunch of quotes that I found (Yay Google!) to my family to look over.  Cody decided that he was pretty stoked about two of them.  So I went ahead and made them into signs!

Our workshop is full of a bunch of scrap wood, and I thought this would be a great way to get rid of it upcycle it!  I headed off to Hobby Lobby where I bought light gray and off white paint (And some crackle paint which I will complain about in a future post.) and some nice brushes.  I spent less than $15 and will be able to use this stuff again and again!  I found a nice sized piece of wood and painted it black with some paint we already had lying around.  Yay free!  Once the paint dried I just went ahead and painted on the quote freehand.  I was positive that I needed a stencil, but I couldn’t find anything that I liked.  I just sucked it up and gave it a try.  I think it turned out pretty darned great!

At first I liked it, but it was still a little plain.  I took a bit of the light gray and added some color around the edge.  Then I sanded up some distressing action along the sides and rounded the corners.  Then I added a bit of gray into some of the lettering…and Voila!!  Honestly, I can’t really give you a step by step tutorial because I hardcore winged it… but I wanted to blog about it anyways. ;)

 

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Oops! I did it again!

Yep…made another piece of subway art for my brother’s house.  My mom called me up and requested another piece.  She has a “vision” for his kitchen. Cracks.me.up.  So, I came up with the idea to make this one using the same theme, but using beer brands instead of beer words.  It was definitely easier this time around.  Always is the second time, isn’t it?  I did it the same way as the first piece of subway art.
Check it out!

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To beer, or not to beer…

My little brother bought a house.  It’s another one of those moments when you have to stop and ask yourself, “When did we grow up!?”  Well, anyone that actually knows me would question if I am, in fact, a grown up but you get the picture.  So, being the amazing big sister that I am (pause for Cody’s rebuttal…), I thought it would be fun to make my brother a fun piece of artwork for his new kitchen.  He’s a 23-year-old boy so naturally he’s going with a beer theme.  I expect nothing less from him.

I’ve been obsessed with subway art lately.  There’s so many different ideas out there and people are using the idea for just about anything!  I stumbled across a picture of beer-themed subway art and knew that I had to take a crack at my own masterpiece.  Cody’s favorite beer is Budweiser (pause for a collective “ewwww”….I mean it’s Wisconsin.  Where’s the Miller, dear brother?), so I incorporated that brand and some of its catchphrases into the art.  I made the entire thing on Photoshop CS4.  I just started learning Photoshop, so I thought this would be a nice little project to get my feet wet.  It definitely took more time than I thought it would, but I wouldn’t say that it was hard. 

I think it really turned out well!  I made it as an 8×10 and we’re going to print, mat, and frame it.  When all is said and done, my brother will have a piece of custom artwork for under $20!  I think it’ll look cute!  Cody hates the word “cute”…had to make sure to throw it in here somewhere.  Looooooooove you! ;)

 I’m excited to try this for all sorts of different themes.  Maybe a Green Bay Packer one will be next. (Go Pack Go!!)

 

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Tape + Canvas + Paint = Art

This is the easiest piece of homemade artwork you ever did see!  Therefore, this will be a tiny little post. :)  See my post title?  That’s seriously all you need.  Hubby and I threw together this artwork for our bedroom.  We had searched all over for something we both loved AND was in our price range.  Do you know how impossible that is!?  My mom had seen the idea for this on some home show…nope, don’t remember which one.  The steps are SUPER simple and you can alter this any way you’d like.
Purchase canvas. (We waited for a canvas sale at Hobby Lobby and purchased 3 the same size.)
Place painters tape (or masking tape) haphazardly across the canvas.  Rub your fingers along the edges of the tape to make sure it is firmly secured.
Paint the canvas.  We stuck with one color, but you could definitely use more than one.
Allow paint to mostly dry and remove tape.
Hang on wall.

See!?  So easy!

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Check out some other great blogs over at Somewhat Simple’s Blog Link Party.  You can find me there, too!

This project was featured over at Nibs, Nabs & Knots!  Come check me out and say hi!

 

 

I love…lamp?

Awhile ago the hubby and I re-did our bedroom and brought it more into this decade century.  One wall had some seriously sexy wallpaper on it – yellow and flowery.  Yeah, it was some hot stuff!  We removed the wallpaper and the hideous built-in corner vanity and we had a clean slate to work with.
Our “finished” product!

Notice the extreme lack of maroon?  That, ladies and gentlemen, is how this post was born.  On top of my dresser there is a little lamp with a maroon shade… it needed a makeover.  The problem with a maroon shade is how very dark it is.  I knew that no matter what I would do, I would only make the shade even darker.  That shade had to go…  So, that darling hubby of mine bought me a shade to beautify!

Old lamp and new shade!

I searched for days to find some inspiration on just what I could do to make this lamp our own.  So many options out there were far too frilly and girly for the direction I wanted to go.  Finally, I stumbled upon this.  It was an inspiration AND directions on what to do.  You could say that I was sufficiently stoked!  Truth be told, I didn’t read that blog.  I saw the pictures and that was as far as I went.  But thanks to Shabby Chic for a nice quick inspiration! :)

The next step was picking out words to put on the lamp shade.  I wanted to make it personal so I chose to use lyrics from our wedding song, “When You Say Nothing At All”.  There’s a perfect section of the song that states “you can light up the dark”.  How perfect, huh!?  I used that whole verse on our lamp.  I wanted the lamp to have a vintagey feel, and plain english words just didn’t feel right to me.  I plugged the verse into www.freetranslator.com and translated it into Italian.  I’m half Italian so this made me downright giddy!  I knew that I wanted something more than just words on the shade, so hubby and I agreed on vintage postage stamps.  I just did a google search and printed off the images.  I did the same with the lyrics.  I chose 4 different fonts (one for each line of the verse) and made them around the same size.  I taped the lyrics and postage to the inside on the shade and turned on the light.  It was actually fairly easy to see through the shade.  From there I just started painting away!

Word of warning: Don’t buy a textured shade.  It was pretty difficult to paint.  I actually did more blotting than painting.  I kept changing my mind through the painting process.  I liked it, then I hated it, then I was super worried… You know, the norm.  Once the painting was finished, I realized it was a bit too plain.  I liked it, but it needed something more.  I took a tiny bit of paint and went around the top and bottom of the shade to give it some texture and then used my finger and smudged it a bit.  It still needed something more.  I had a can of webbing spray paint that I used on a different project and i just sprayed a little bit of that on, smudged it around, sanded it up with a little sandpaper and…Voila!

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 I hooked up with House of Hepworth’s and It’s a Keeper, too!

Happy 4th!

Hello Blog World!  I hope you all had a fabulous day off of work…er…Independance Day.  I used this patriotic holiday as an excuse to make some adorable desserts – Red, White, and Blue sugar cookies and cupcakes!

I divided each of the batters into 3 sections.  I kept one white and used Wilton dye  to turn the other sections red and blue.  The colors didn’t quite have the oomph I was hoping for, but they worked!  For the cookies I took a little batter from each color and formed them into a ball.  I placed the ball on the cookie sheet and then smooshed it with the sugared bottom of a glass.  I’m not including the actual sugar cookie recipe because I didn’t really love it.  I would assume you could follow the above steps for any recipe you’d choose. :)

The cupcakes turned into a complete guessing game and I ended up overfilling the pans a little bit.  It wasn’t a big deal, but we had some rather large cupcakes. ;)  I decided to put the filling into the liners as blue, red, and then white.  I baked them (yep…cake mix), frosted them (with canned frosting…sometimes I’m just too lazy for the extra steps), and topped them with red and blue sprinkles.  Yay Festive!  Coordinating with the holiday or event makes me all warm and fuzzy inside!

 

Slackers R Us

If at some point in this crazy string of days we call “life” I would decide to open a store, there’s a very good possibility I would name it “Slackers R Us”.  Actually, that’s a really good reason for me to NOT open a store…  The thing is, I am the Queen Bee of procrastination and you just cannot properly procrastinate without first mastering the art of slacking.  (Plus, Slackers R Us has a much better ring to it than Procrastinators R Us…)  I’ve done a lot that I could blog about the last couple of weeks, but I have neglected to sit my tooshie down to actually blog about it.  I am here to apologize to all 5 ½ of you that read said blog.  My tooshie is firmly planted here until something shiny comes along to distract me once again. 

PS – I’m cheating on this blog.  It’s 3 blogs in one so that I can catch you up to speed all at once.  Yeah, yeah…Cheater, cheater pumpkin eater.  I can’t help it.  At least I have a theme, right?  Cakes.  It’s been quite the eventful couple of weeks – Confirmation Party, Graduation Party, and a Birthday Party!  Here’s a little synopsis of each of my cake adventures.  And we’re off!

 Round 1: Confirmation Party
My sister was confirmed this year and my mother put me in charge of making her cake, (gulp!) and I needed to make two of them to have enough for all the people coming (double gulp!).  I did a bunch of research on both decorating ideas and working with fondant, and came up with a plan. (Remember the F word post I did way back when?  Yeah, that’s how long ago I made her cake…whoopsie daisies!)  I was going to make a round layer cake (red velvet) and a cross cake (yellow).  And heck yes, they came from a box…

With all of my research I learned that frosting a cake doesn’t have to be as hard as I had been making it.  It really IS possible to frost a cake without having a million little crumbs showing through.  One little thing that will change your life forever:  Freeze.The.Cake.  I’m not joking.  Holy easy cake frosting, batman!  The party was on Saturday so I baked the cakes on Wednesday and froze them until Friday when I decorated them.  I also added a crumb coat layer of frosting before doing the topcoat.  The crumb coat is literally just a thinned down layer of frosting that you allow to harden a bit.  I used a bit of milk to thin it down, frosted the cake, and set it in the fridge to crust up.  Yeah, that sounds disgusting but it’s what the “pros” called it.  After that I was able to frost the cake without any crumbs!  I added some flowers and lettering and Voila! – Cake #1

Cake #2 was being covered with fondant.  In order for the fondant to adhere to the cake, it also needs a layer of frosting.  (Can we say sugar coma!?)  I took the frozen cake and gave it a crumb coat.  It then needed to thaw completely so it wouldn’t make the fondant sweat.  Speaking of fondant… That was rather…frustrating, at first.  I needed to roll out a chunk that would be big enough to cover my cake, but my counter space isn’t very plentiful and I kept ripping the fondant when I would pick it up to place on the cake.  I learned 2 things from this experience:  Number one – ask your husband for help BEFORE you haphazardly pick up a huge chunk of fondant and then have to stand there frantically screaming for his help because you didn’t think it through and now have nowhere to go.   Fact – The fondant will fall apart before he casually walks into the kitchen and looks at you like a nutcase.  Number two – if you use a rolling-pin and sort of roll the fondant on to it, you can use that to unroll the fondant right over the cake thus making your life a million times easier.  You have to be smarter than the fondant, Erica… 

I did eventually get the cake covered in fondant.  Then I was able to make the lovely bow that YouTube taught me how to make.  Really not very difficult, and it is simply gorgeous!  I jazzed up the ribbon tails with my fondant roller and embossing ring.  The way this cake turned out made me über thrilled, but what really matter was that my sister loved it!

Round 2: Graduation Party
Super Duper cheating here.  I didn’t bake this cake OR frost it.  Yep, I just showed up and put my pre-made fondant cut-outs on it and wrote on it.  Easiest.job.ever!  This was my cousin’s graduation party and my godmother requested my assistance so I was off on another adventure!  My cousin is a boy (Hi Brock! :)) so we wanted to stay away from pinks/purples and flowers.  Stars and Dots seemed like a fun and easy solution to me!  I used some of the fondant I had already made and dyed some green and some blue.  I just love the blue/green contrast, don’t you?  We have it EVERYWHERE in our house.  Virtually every room is painted either blue or green.  Our dinner plates?  Blue and green.  Our wedding colors?  Yep… blue and green.  Hmm…temporary tangent here.  This is just screaming for a google search on what these colors mean to us. *Goes to search google*  So, green is my favorite color and blue is my husband’s.  If you know us, after reading this you will notice the distant sound of the hammer striking the nail dead center.  Dan is seriously the most passive individual I have ever met.  He doesn’t understand why I care at all what other people think, but there I am freaking out about it as he shakes his head.  How interesting!  This has absolutely NOTHING to do with this cake, but I get sidetracked easily. Ohhh.emm.gee! Colors were just my something shiny!  I honestly thought I could make it through this post without a massive tangent.  Oh well, at least I warned you…

ANYWAYS…  I made blue and green fondant and I cut out stars and circles with cookie cutters and let them dry on the counter for a few days.  I also rolled some snakes out of green and blue and twisted them together to form his graduation year.  That looked pretty banging!  (Hmm…that’s not really a word people use anymore, is it?)

Round 3: Mom’s 50th Birthday
There was a little banana peel on the road to Mom’s cake.  It goes by the name “chocolate ganache.”  The ganache was super delish and gave the cake a fun shine, but it was not one of my finer moments to combine that with a big, heavy, fondant bow.  The ganache doesn’t have the stick power that regular frosting has, so my gift bow slowly slid its way apart.  It was kind of a lot of work to make that bow, so it was a little disappointing that it didn’t turn out quite as I planned.  Thankfully the cake still tasted delicious!  I made a red velvet cake (thank you, Betty Crocker!), a cream cheese filling, and then topped it all with the ganache.  I’m glad that I decided to go the ganache route, because more frosting would have made the cake far too rich. 

Since I made this cake forever ago I no longer remember what recipe I used for the cream cheese filling, so I’m going to skip that part in my description.  Just imagine me doing an amazing job of it. ;)  The ganache was really easy.  Heat cream, pour over chocolate chips, stir.  After that hard labor you just sit and wait for it to cool down and give it a stir every once in a while.  Seriously, that’s it.  I put the cake on a Tupperware lid for a bit more support and then put the cake on a cooling rack.  Under the cooling rack I had a cookie sheet covered with wax paper.  I took the cooled ganache and poured it on the cake, starting in the center and gradually circled further outwards.  The cake looked fairly decent, but not amazing.  I put it in the fridge to cool and then poured another layer.  Layer two was fabulous!

Here’s the part where I should explain to you fine folks how I made a fondant gift bow, instead I’m going to take a rain check.  I’ll try it again sometime and when I actually succeed I promise to fill you in. 

Just don’t hold your breath waiting for me…

The F Word…

Fondant.

What!?  Of course I didn’t mean THAT F word.  Though, I really thought that word would escape my mouth about 100 times while making homemade fondant, but it didn’t!  Okay, I probably said it.  Afterall I was making fondant for over an hour…that’s quite the stretch of curse-free time.  But, without lying, I can tell you the F bomb was not delivered due to the pain-in-the-arseness of Rolled Marshmallow Fondant.  Once again, Erica stumbled upon a recipe that was actually easier than anticipated.  After accomplishing the first batch sans troubles I actually made a second batch.  Both batches were made and cleaned up after in an hour and a half! 

Ingredients: (The directions really recommend name brand products) 
1 package (16 ounces) white mini marshmallows
2-5 tablespoons water
2 pounds (about 8 cups) sifted confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening

 Directions:
1.  Place marshmallows and 2 TBSP water in microwave safe bowl.  Microwave for 30 seconds.  Stir.  Microwave for another 30 seconds and stir again.  Repeat the process until all the marshmallows are melted. (It took my marshmallows 2.5 minutes to melt.)
2.  Put about 3/4 of your powdered sugar on top of the melted mallows.  Fold in the sugar.
3.  Scoop out your shortening and put it in a separate dish.  You’ll be reaching into this dish throughout the course of your fondant kneading. (Your measurement here doesn’t need to be exact.)
4.  Cover your kneading surface and your hands in shortening.  Really, really cover them.  Load those babies up!
5.  Dump the contents of your bowl onto your greased surface.  Knead away and slowly add in the remaining powdered sugar.  
Warning: Don’t dump a bunch of powdered sugar on top and haphazardly press down on it.  You will, in fact, create a powdered sugar volcano in your very own kitchen.  Disastrous results immediately follow.

Powdered Sugar Explosion!

 Honestly, that’s really it.  Re-grease your hands and surface as you knead.  If the fondant is too dry and tearing, add small amounts of water until you reach the correct consistency.  I added about 1.5 more TBSP of water as I kneaded.  Oh, and you’re going to be kneading for like 10 minutes.  So make sure to crank some tunes before you get all greased up.

I did dye half a batch of fondant once it was all kneaded and ready to go.  I just used Wilton’s dyes and added a small amount with a toothpick and kneaded it in well.  I went with purple!

One batch of fondant


The directions say it is best to let your fondant sit overnight.  Double wrap it and store it in the fridge.  It’ll keep that way for a few weeks.  You know you want to try it.  Bust out your Crisco and get cracking! 

Word of Warning:  Making this F word turned out to be a literal pain in another f word…finger.  Between the fondant making and yard work I did last week I seem to have strained my thumb.  Try not to knead the fondant like a crazy person, and maybe you’ll be okay.

 

I linked up at It’s a Keeper!

Smells like roses…

Roses and Daisies, that is!  Do you remember my first post?  I blogged about my first foray into cake decorating.  I started “simple” with drop flowers and leaves and I was surprised at how well it went.  I should have learned something from that experience, but in true Erica form I did not.  I was quite certain that making Royal Icing Daisies would be a walk in the park and learning to make roses would be the death of me – I.was.wrong.

I did some research (Youtube rocks, by the way!), and started this adventure with the daisies… since they looked simple.  Daisies did NOT start off well.  I eventually realized that my Royal Frosting wasn’t stiff enough, so I put it back in the bowl and beat it so more.  (That helped tons once I reached the roses.   PS – When the directions say to beat for 8 – 10 minutes…beat for 8 – 10 minutes.)  My main issue, though, was that I couldn’t figure out the spacing of the petals.  They kept turning out lopsided and awful looking.  I took a break from the daisies, made some roses, re-watched the youtube daisy video and tried again. 
Use a rose tip (I started out with #104 but switched to #102 later on.) with the larger end towards the top and directly above the wax paper.  The trick with the spacing is to first make four petals in the shape of a cross and then go back and put one petal in each corner.  Then you can fill the center in with a round tip and a different color.  Voila!

 

Roses look incredibly difficult, don’t they?  I’m hear to tell you that not only can Youtube teach you anything, but also…roses aren’t that hard to make!  Mine don’t look nearly as pretty as the ones the professionals make, but you can still tell they’re supposed to be roses…or at least some sort of flower or naturey-thing.  Once again, you use a rose tip (uh…duh, right?).  I used #104.  You start with a flower nail and a piece of wax paper affixed to it with a dab of frosting.  You’ll squeeze a mound of frosting in the middle and pipe petals around that.  Go ahead and click on that link because I will never be able to explain it as well as she does.

 

 

 

Icing on the Cake

Confession:  The title of my blog post is incredibly corny.  You see, this post is entirely about icing…and the cake it is on.  Literally. 

Since I (obviously) “mastered” creating leaves and flowers with Royal Icing, I felt the next logical step was actually decorating a cake.  Gotta start sometime, eh?  All I needed was an event to bring the cake to.  There is no freaking way I could have an ENTIRE cake just sitting around my house.  I would blimp out in mere milliseconds…  One of my good friends recently accepted a job offer that meant he would be moving to another state.  Going-away-party cake?  Yes.please. 

There were two things I wanted to try out for this (my very first) attempt at cake decorating:  homemade frosting and fondant.

Homemade Frosting
In case you didn’t know, homemade frosting is utterly delicious.  Whoa…Nelly.  Though, I don’t even want to guess how many calories this frosting has.  For the sake of our sanity I am going to forgo figuring it out.  Making this frosting is actually pretty easy.  Add all ingredients together and mix.  That’s it. 
Ingredients:
1/2 c clear crisco
1/2 c butter
1 tsp vanilla
4 c powdered sugar
2 tbsp milk

Fondant
I don’t know about you, but fondant scared the undies right off me.  The things professionals do with fondant is so amazing!  I needed something simple, just to get my feet wet.  Polka dots.  I purchased some Wilton Fondant to minimize the scariness of fondant.  It seemed smart to start with a fondant that someone else made so I know what it is supposed to be like.  I also have a fondant roller and some fondant cutters.  This was another one of those things that baffled me.  It was so simple!  I opened the package of fondant, put a little powdered sugar down, and rolled out the fondant like playdough.  Seriously, that’s it.  After that I just took the circle fondant cutters and cut them out like cookies.  I would change one thing I did, though.  I had rolled out the fondant to about 1/4 inch thick, but I would actually go much thinner than that.

The Cake
I cheated on the cake and totally used a box mix.  I made two 9 inch round cakes and stacked them with a layer of frosting between them.  Spreading the frosting on the cakes isn’t very easy.  I have to read up on it a little bit, but I definitley managed.  After frosting the cake I used a decorating comb around the outside and then stuck the fondant circles on it.  Then I was able to write on my message and complete the outside with a star tip.  Piece.of.cake.  Oh come on…I had to. ;)

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