Friday, December 23, 2011

Blessed Beyond Measure

Sometimes I really do sit and ask myself, how lucky am I to have Belinda and Kimber as my best friends.  They are both so talented and NICE!!  I mean, they are both the definition of grace and kindness, as for me, I am just happy that they allow me to stumble along in their wake.  I am also quite blessed that they put up with me!

Wednesday was our annual Christmas get together, we met for lunch at Mimi's.  Luckily they seated us in a corner booth, as we were loaded down with bags and ready to settle in and homestead awhile.  By the way, I had an awesome bleu cheese burger and sweet potato fries, and order the dessert trio, its so bad, so bad for your diet!

After we finished nomming down on dessert, we started opening our gifts.  We started with Kimber's presents.  Kimber is an extremely talented free lance writer, she writes quite a bit for Meredith, Better Homes and Garden, and you will also see her in Victoria magazine.  She edits quite a few quilting books, and a new magazine, Primitive Quilts and Projects.  She is a very busy busy lady!!  But she has extremely good taste, when we go antique shopping with her, we follow her wherever she goes because she finds all the cool stuff!  That's probably why she is always asked to style the shoots in the books she edits. Anyway, not long ago, she found an adorable vintage wooden grocery list, and I lusted after it mightily, I was so pleased to find one of my own in my present.  She also gave me a wonderful community cookbook, because she knows I collect them, what she didn't realize this time was, I was born in Virginia, in the Portsmouth area, and this cookbook is from the Muscarelle Museum of Art, from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA.  This cookbook is so very near and dear to my heart!  She also gave me an adorable set of mini halloween cookie cutters, some vintage thread spools, which both Belinda and I drooled over, a cute set of Christmas trims,  my mind was already thinking of ways to use them along with the kitchen stamp.  I am anxious to read this cute book, Knit Knacks, Much Ado About Knitting, its full of humorous stories and is illustrated in vintage 1940-1950 pictures, which I love!   Also included was an adorable little handmade Christmas book, perfect for recording my Christmas memories, starting with this one!  Lastly, on one of her travels, she picked up this cute primitive bird pincushion, perfect for setting by my chair to hold my scissors and pins, so my husband doesn't keep finding them with his feet.  My little bird came complete with vintage rick rack, I tell you, Kimber finds the most awesome things!!  After opening all her wonderful gifts, my heart was quite full of happiness, and my mind was full of projects and ideas!

Next I opened Belinda's gifts.  Belinda is a very talented needlework artist and designer.  She is also an extremely good teacher, much in demand on the cross stitch retreat circuit.  Ladies, she sets the bar of what you should expect from your teachers, both with her kits, teaching materials, and attention and technique that you should receive from a needlework instructor.  If you ever have the chance to attend a retreat with her, take it!  You won't regret it!

Since Belinda teaches at all these retreats, she gets to go to really nifty needlework shops, like Elegant Stitch,  and  ABC Stitch Therapy, and she picks up the neatest gifts for us wherever she goes!  One cool thing was a Just Nan stick pin.  Just Nan only makes a limited number of these, and at market for the needlework shops, they go fast!  I never ever had a chance to get any for my shop because by the time I could fight my way in the door, they were snapped up!  So it was quite a coup that Belinda gave me one!  She made me a wonderful, awesome and so very needed knitting needle roll.  I really do love this, I have needed one, its perfect!  See, I already filled it!
It also has a zippered pocket which is perfect for my stitch markers, cable needles and all the small little whatnots that tend to get misplaced.  In the same fabric line, Madeira from Black Bird Designs, she also made a nifty lined gathered bag, which is perfect for toting my knitting projects to and from my knitting group.  A neat pair of scissors and 3 inch ruler,(because if you are a stitcher, three inch rulers are pretty handy), a cute primitive notebook, because she knows I like that!  When she was teaching at Elegant Stitch this fall, she found in their shop a French General Scissor case, which is also a pretty awesome coup!  I love French General fabrics, and their accessories, although adorable, are so hard to find, they are always sold out, even on their website!  And we decided I could use this case for my circular needles.  (I think she wants me to keep my knitting organized to I can knit her more socks!)  A little bag of Hershey mint kisses, and lastly this gorgeous cookbook (do my friends know me or what!) Bon Appetit Fast, Easy French.  I have been slowly going through this book, and my mind is overloaded with recipes I want to try. 

Everyone should have such kind, talented and generous friends, and I count myself very lucky that I do.  I don't know what I did to deserve them, I suspect that I don't, but God has blessed me in spite of myself.

If you want to see what I made them, go to their blog posts, Belinda and Kimber

I hope all of you have very Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year!!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Shrinky Dink Pins

Remember Shrinky Dinks?  Remember how bad you wanted some but your parents were not going to waste money on something like that?  Well, you are a grown up now, go to Michael's and get a pack, cause this is fun stuff!

I needed bee pins for some presents I made.  I looked for bee buttons and beads, but nothing seemed to be quite right.  Either the looks was off, or too big or small, nothing seemed hand made or quirky enough to go with my beehive tape measures. 

I had tried to make some shrinky dink pins before, but my ink was too thick and it took forever to dry, so it had gotten abandoned.  I decided to resurrect that project and apply some thought.  I used a different ink pad, but of course, didn't have the right bee stamp.  I love Ebay, I find most of my hard to find items on Ebay, and this stamp was just right.

So to begin, get your sheet of shrinky dink plastic, I chose to use the frosted, as opposed to clear, and black ink.  Stamp carefully, my ink was still a bit thick, so be careful you don't smudge.

I let it dry a bit, then cut out my bee, and didn't worry about cutting perfectly on the lines, as it shrinks ALOT.  I hammered in my pins, making sure that the pin head was against the shiny side of the plastic.

Heat your oven or toaster oven to 325 degrees.  Place your pins on a piece of brown paper bag, I used a piece of lunch bag, and place in the oven.  It only takes about 1 minute and some change for these to be finished, so keep an eye on them.  I love using the toaster oven, way easier that way.  When shrunken, and flattened out, remove, let cool a bit, then admire the heck out of these little cuties!

You can use an alcohol based ink pad,  and alcohol markers to color these in before baking.  Even though the pigment pads are thicker and take longer to dry, if you use a light hand when inking your stamp, I do like the color intensity better.  But experiement and see what you like better.

Homemade Butterfinger Bites

This recipe is all over the internet, and it is easy to make and surprisingly, does taste somewhat like a Butterfinger candy bar.  You can cover it with chocolate any way you choose, dipping each piece, or just covering it while inside a candy cup, which is what I did.  Its not pretty, but it was simple, and a sprinkle of crumbs ( of which you will have alot) covered up a few really ugly ones. 

Homemade Butterfinger Bites

1 lb candy corn
1 16 oz jar peanut butter (I used Smuckers Natural)
Chocolate candy coating

Melt the candy corn in the microwave, for 1 minute, then in 30 second intervals after that, stirring after each one.  When completely melted, stir in peanut butter.  I had to knead it with my hands, but wait until its cool enough to handle.  Be sure to incorporate the ingredients well, its important to the texture of the final product.  Press into an 8 x 8 or 11 x 7 parchment paper lined pan, and chill completely.

Lift out of pan, and slice into bars, then slice as big or small as you would like.  This will have lots of crumbs, to use a delicate hand when cutting, and just expect it to crumble.

Melt your candy coating, then dip or cover with chocolate as you choose.  If they are less than perfect, sprinkle a few crumbs on top and call it a day.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Have you ever...

just worked over and over in your mind, how to bring a concept to life?  You know it can be done, you've seen variations of it, but you wonder, can "I" do it?

I have finally finished one set of gifts for my friends.  It is a needle felted beehive pincushion.  I have seen something like these done, but I didn't really care for what I had seen, and couldn't find any instructions on them anyway.  So, DIY it was!  I didn't know how to needle felt, but I can pretty much teach myself anything, so I jumped in with both feet and vowed not to stop until I completed something to my satisfaction.  I will have you know I did several months of "mind construction" before I ever laid a hand to felt or wool, sometimes that's good, sometimes its just an excuse not to start.

But the funny part?  Once you start needle felting something with details, its hard to put it down.  Everytime you look at it, there is another place to smooth down, or fix etc.  I wasn't very happy with how it looked at the very beginning, basically it looked like a pile of yellow dog poop on top of a pincushion.  But after I needled it, and stitched a bit on it, then agonized half a day over the pull tab, voila! 

My picture is crappy, but I like to tell myself its much cuter in person.

I made the pins with Shrinky Dink plastic and a rubber stamp, very fun stuff that is!  I keep looking over my stamps and wondering if they would look good shrinky-dinked!  The pull-tab is two Just Another Button Company Buttons.  I know many of you are thinking, why didn't I just make a little bee?  I did, several iterations of bees, none of them looked right.  So after taking my irritation out on the dog and husband, I went prowling through my work room and decided that the buttons would do.

Its not perfect, but I like it, and I think my buddies will find it amusing.  I decided  it was safe to post this one as my friends might not be able to guess who this one is for.  As for the other gifts, well, they will be way too easy to guess!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I have been terrible!!  I haven't updated in quite a while, and there is a reason for that.  I am working on Christmas gifts, and all the recipients read my blog!!  The gifts would not be a surprise because they would all know EXACTLY who was getting what!  So, I promise, after I deliver these gifts, I will have quite a few posts detailing them, as most, if not all my gifts this year are hand-made.

So, Travis, here you go, an update!