Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fall Wreath Making

So, a few months ago, some down-the-street neighbors were cleaning out their house and we saw a perfectly good grape vine wreath just being thrown out with the trash - we snagged it.  It has been sitting in our living room waiting to be decorated and I finally took the time to do it today!  I love fall decorating... any excuse to decorate really.  Especially for holidays.  This year, though, I'm really trying to find ways to do a lot of DIY decorating with things we already have or cheap items that can be made into something fun.  I was able to make this just by using scraps from my craft/scrap booking supply!

I had seen a really cute wreath with felt rolled flowers that I really wanted to try but since I didn't have any felt and was trying to be as thrifty as possible, I decided to try a similar idea with paper instead.  

So here's how it goes:  

To make the flowers, first cut a square of scrap-booking paper and make it into a circle.  Then make the starting point on the edge.  I forgot to take a picture of the paper flower post-swirl cutting, so here is what it looks like in burlap.  (Don't try these flowers with burlap.  It did not turn out well.  There are some really cute flowers that can be made with burlap, these are not them.)  

 Then from the loose end to the center, begin to roll pretty loosely, until the whole swirl is rolled. 
On the left is what it looks like after rolling and then releasing.  If you roll them too tight they don't fluff out like this one and then they don't really look very flowery.  I also think less is more with these flowers.  The more swirls on each flowers, the less it looks like a flowers. 

 Here are the first three flowers I did.  A 5x5  inch square will make the largest one.  Then I just  threaded some burlap through the wreath.  To attach them to the wreath I tried a lot of different methods. Many of them not seeming stable enough to really hold.  For these ones though I spiraled a paper clip and attached one end to the flower and then twisted it into the branches.  I think this is a good starting point but I later went back and added a little hot glue to ensure the hold.  I'm hoping to reuse this wreath many many times for different seasons so I used minimal hot glue for easy disassembling.  
 The green flower looks different in person than in this picture but it was made basically with the same technique. The difference for this one is you have to leave much thicker area when you cut the swirl past the first inch or so, in order to have enough height to cut the petals.  

Before putting the flowers on the wreath I finally decided  it worked better to use a hot glue gun and put glue on the top of the bottom swirl and  then press the rest of the flower into it.  It seemed to keep the whole thing from springing out when I put it on the wreath.  Also, I was going for stability so it could withstand the opening and closing of the door and hopefully winds.  

Well here's the finished product.  I hope those steps weren't too few.  It was more or less repetition and deciding where to place everything. Simon put it up with some brown ribbon we had lying around the house.  I just looped the ribbon through the wreath and tied a knot/bow at the end which we hung on a nail that we put at the very top of the inside of the door.  I like how it all turned out.  I flattened down the big green one a little more after this picture and I think it looks better that way; not so spiky.  
Happy DIY decorating!!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Chocolate Chip Muffins

Thursday Nights are my nights to do my own thing because this is the one conflicting work night between Simon and I.  Usually I'll have some girls over or go out for coffee with a friend but this night I was in the mood to bake something.  Conveniently, chocolate chips were just on sale, and I had stocked up.  It's dangerous, apparently, to have chocolate chips lying around with no intention for them. 
I feel like I always am baking cookies so I wanted to do something else.  Besides, when we have cookies lying around the house we always end up eating them way to late at night and that's never good.  So at least with muffins we can eat them for breakfast and not feel quite as bad about it...

1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sour cream

1/4 cup milk
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla

1/4 cup melted butter, cooled slightly
6 oz. semisweet chocolate chips

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Line muffin tray with 12 regular size baking cups.
3. In a medium bowl, stir flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together with a wire whisk until combined.
4. In a large bowl, stir sour cream, milk, eggs, vanilla and melted butter. Stir until combined.
6. Gradually mix dry ingredient mixture into liquid mixture
7. Stir in chocolate chunks and divide batter into baking cups.
8. Bake for about 18-20 minutes or until done.
Makes 12 regular or 9 larger muffins. 

The dry ingredients- flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together with a wire whisk

The original recipe said to put the dry ingredients in a med bowl and the liquids into a small but i think it should have been the other way around because this way seemed to be barely enough space once i combined everything together.

I added a few more chocolate chips than it called for

This batter was thinker than most muffins i've made and it filled the tins almost full.  I realized last minute I only had 5 muffin cups so i did most of them just in the pan with cooking spray.

The muffins without the lining came out better than the ones in the lining! 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Latte Crock Pot Style!

I found a recipe on a blog: A Year of Slow Cooking for Pumpkin Spice Lattes made in a Crock-Pot.  It is definitely one of my favorite fall/winter time drinks at coffee shops so it caught my attention.  The recipe ingredients looked a little too pricy to make just for my husband and I so I waited until I had a group of friends over to splurge and try it out.  

The recipe was simple enough but as I said, there is an initial investment of purchasing the ingredients that, while they will last you a few batches, are not cheap.  

2 cups milk 
2 Tbsp canned pumpkin
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup brewed espresso or 3/4 cup strong brewed coffee

1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/8 tsp cloves, 1/8 tsp nutmeg, and a pinch of ground ginger
Garnish with whipped cream (optional)
I also added some cinnamon atop the whipped cream

You just whisk everything together in a Crock Pot and let it simmer for about 2 hours on high.  
These amounts make enough for two people to each have 2 servings in an average size coffee cup. 

 I know that's kind of vague serving size but that is more or less what the original recipe said.  
I used the coffee version rather than the espresso because that can be expensive and I didn't have any espresso on hand- i just added a couple extra scoops to my normal coffee preference.  Also, when I was budgeting for the ingredients I didn't take into account the fact that, because it isn't November, Wal Mart only had one size in the pumpkin.  So I bought over 20oz of pumpkin for 6 Tbsp but I just threw the rest in a Pyrex in the freezer to pull out next time I want to make a batch.  The next time around it will be a lot less expensive because I now have the spices and the pumpkin.
As I said, I had 3 people over so I tripled the recipe because I knew everyone would probably want seconds and that worked out well for us each to have 2 servings with about a 1/2c (measuring cup) remaining.   


By the time I remembered to take a picture my whip cream was already droopy, but here is, more or less, how mine turned out.
It was a big hit with the girls and it was just right for the nice cool weather we've been getting. 
Next time I think I will add more spice to the brew just to add a little more flavor.