One of my most favorite things to do is to repurpose something fun, whimsical, or FREE into a planter. Give me an old bathtub, some used drawers, or in this case a bird cage and in a few weeks it will be dripping with stunning verdigris.
I found this old antique bird cage on Craigslist and thought it had too much character to continue its life as a bird cage. Next I went to Buchanan’s Native Plants. Buchanan’s specializes in attracting specific varieties of butterfly and bird to certain indigenous plants. Isn’t it a wonderful metaphor for life to grow something that will attract the specimen that would normally have been captive inside? I like that idea.
Check out the video. I intend to get another larger one to accompany this one as a pairing. Wish me luck. In the meantime, make your own! The whimsy is just too much!
Friends, you know I am cheap. This video – our first upholstery rehab video – shows you how to rehabilitate a pair of old but well made chairs to make them seamlessly fit into an existing design scheme.
The project turned out to be a little more ambitious than originally anticipated due to extra steps that I added on myself, but the chairs turned out nonetheless exquisite and momma was VERY happy!
Does it seem I make a disproportionate amount of sweets? I think it’s my genetic legacy; my Granny never skips dessert. And when we have family gatherings there’s always a “sampler” – multiple choices. It’s a wonder we’re not all obese.
But holidays and occasions, like Wednesdays or laundry day, warrant special treats, and that’s what I am going to deliver.
I am sure you’re familiar with those plastic containers of sweet, sweet pillowy cookies in the bakery at the market. Well, why not take that idea and improve upon it? I am also going to offer you two icing options: one that will set up and harden, and one that will be smoother and creamier. The choice is yours.
The secret here is the sour cream. It established the light textural component that give this cookie its signature bite.
I had a little kitchen helper during my test run. This is my 2 year old nephew, Tyce. Making cookies with family always makes it more fun.
So let’s get going!
What you need:
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup butter flavor Crisco
2 cups white sugar (vanilla sugar would be especially nice*)
2 large eggs
3 tsp vanilla
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
5 1/2 cups flour
Turn your oven on to 375 and allow to preheat. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, cream butter, Crisco, and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla. A teaspoon of almond extract would also be nice here if you like that flavor.
Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Add a cup at a time to the bowl with the mixer on low. Mix ONLY until combined.
Working in batches, roll onto a floured surface, 1/4 to 1/3 inch thickness. Yes, that is on the thick side for a sugar cookie. Just trust me here.
Use your favorite cookie cutter and stamp out shapes. Now, given the consistency of this dough, intricate forms are going to really frustrate you. Stick with basics.
Put the cut dough on the parchment lined sheets, and slide them into the preheated oven.
Watch them like a hawk! You will want to pull them when they are still very pale and NOT browned. I pulled mine at only 6 minutes (using a convection oven) and they were perfect. Really, timing is crucial.
Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before frosting.
And now the fun begins!
Royal icing dries hard, which is best for intricate decorating. Here’s how you make that:
What you need:
3 cups 10x powdered sugar
3 egg whites
vanilla or almond extract
possibly a few drops of water
In a very clean electric mixer bowl, using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until they get white-ish. Sift the powdered sugar and add it to the eggs. Add your favorite flavoring component.
Beat until everything is combined. Depending on your needs, determine whether you need a drop or two of water. Remember, you are one frosting these things, so get it to the consistency that you need. Add colors, etc, and use your creativity!
Option #2 is a stiff buttercream that actually tastes better than royal icing, but doesn’t set up super hard.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine softened butter and sifted powdered sugar. Allow to combine, add flavorings. Eyeball the milk quantity; start with 2 tablespoons. If you want it a little looser add a third.
Frost to your heart’s content!
I hope this brings your taste buds and tummies holiday happiness.
Ok, people. It’s a week out from Christmas and we ain’t got a second to waste. I am going to spit this one at you so fast your head will spin.
This is part one of a two-parter. The complete idea is a holiday window spray with custom candles and pine boughs. However, you can make these candles as gifts and things. They are very pretty and not labor intensive.
Let’s do this.
What you need:
pillar candle (wax, not soy)
iPad or other device or a printer
tissue paper that matches your candle
piece of holiday ribbon that sheds glitter like crazy or actual glitter (the thinking behind this being that if you use the glitter from your ribbon it will match the ribbon in the spray exactly. This will make more sense in part 2.)
There are a plethora of sites that allow you to create a monogram in different fonts. Find a combination you like. Size it to scale for your candle. There isn’t a right and wrong here. Use your eyeballs and your noodle.
Either print a copy or just lay a piece of printer paper on a mobile device and trace.
Lay the tissue paper on top of the design. Tape the edges to avoid slippage. Trace the design again.**
**For a VERY refined design, you can get an 8.5″x11″ piece of card stock and tape a piece of tissue paper on that and run it through your printer. I think it’s fun to do the work by hand. Machines are clinical. Beyond that, you could do ANY design this way with a printer, including photos. For now I am doing a monogram.
Cut the design out very close to its edges.
Center it on the pillar candle. Be certain it is straight.
Pull enough wax paper off the roll to cover the circumference of the pillar. Tape tightly into place. VERY tight.
Put your blow dryer on high heat. Hold the dryer very close to the candle, allow the two surfaces to bind together. You’ll see ripples in the wax paper as the wax melts. If you don’t see ripples, it’s not hot enough.
Peel away the wax paper. The design should be firmly stuck to the candle.
Embellishment time! Get another piece of wax paper. With your hands, simply rub the glitter off the ribbon you’ve selected and allow it to deposit into the waiting wax paper.
Roll the candle up in the glitter paper tightly. Repeat the hair dryer step. This should leave your candle all glitter-ized.
Now give it as a gift or enjoy yourself.
And don’t forget, Santa is watching, you bad children.
Now don’t misunderstand, I am more than accustomed to emptying my wallet for a pair of $1000 sneakers or a ridiculously overpriced backpack, but if I can save money on something, I will. Someone I was very close to used to say, “Austin, you will drive across town to save a nickel on an orange.” Accurate! What can I say? It’s my legacy. My great-grandmother was a Scot, like, off the boat immigrant. Scots are cheap. Ahem, frugal.
So when it came time to decorate for Christmas this year, I was confronted with two realities. If you invest in artificial pine things you have to STORE THEM. If you buy real throw away pine things, you still pay an arm and a leg and then you chuck it in the bin on January 2. Both of those options seemed unacceptable.
I live next to a Whole Foods. Like there would be no asking my neighbor for a cup of sugar because my neighbor is Whole Foods. I noticed they had put up a makeshift Christmas tree lot and the guys who worked there were trimming branches off the trees and putting them in the trash. Hmm…
So I decided to ask them for branches. Worst thing they could do is say no. But they didn’t, so up to my apartment I trekked, loaded down with two great arms full of aromatic fresh pine boughs. I got out a 5 gallon bucket and put some water in it. I put the ends of the branches in the water until I was ready to work with them to keep them nice and verdant.
As pretty as my pine branches were, I wanted to amend with some other varieties of plant. Cypress, juniper, boxwoods. You’d be surprised how many overgrown shrubs you see when you are thinking about gathering branches. So I started asking people: May I trim your shrubs? An odd request, I admit. But it worked and I came home with a sack full of cypress, juniper, and boxwood. If I had been in Texas, I would have used those waxy leaves from magnolia trees. That would be gorgeous. Maybe next year.
Now to construct a foundation. I just used three layers of stiff cardboard. I turned a round table upside down and traced a big circle. I then found a mixing bowl and traced the internal circle. I had about 3 inches of width to work with.
I hot glued the layers together. I brushed on some acrylic paint, but I mixed white and dark green together as I brushed so that it had dimension.
We have arrived at the Dollar General portion of this project. So far we have spent about zero dollars, especially if you have old paints available.
Your dollar store is going to have everything else you need. Fine gauge wire, a couple feet of ribbon and a handful of ornaments.
Now let’s build. I would advise that you either do this outdoors, in your garage, or put down a plastic sheet or something. This project is messy.
Lay your foundation on a flat surface. Cut about 8-10 inches of branch and just start layering, working backward. Branch, wire, branch, wire. At first you are probably going to think Wow, this looks like some kind of shitty 3rd grade arts and crafts project. Keep at it. Fill it out as you go. If you make the circumference of the wreath and it looks anemic, get more branches and keep shoving. You can continue shoving supplemental branches in existing wire. Do that until you reach the desire fullness.
Embellishment time. I cut 10-inch segments of ribbon and hot glued the ends to the back of the wreath on opposing sides. Then I wired clusters of ornaments together and wired them into the greenery. It’s basically like decorating a tree. Be creative.
In all honesty, I almost pulled all the ornaments off after I put them on because the simple greenery itself was really stunning. You be the judge. Sometimes less is more.
Time to hang. I had a hole available on my door that I could easily put a wire through. You might need a 3M hook or something like that. I am sure you can figure it out.
Here we are at the end. I spent about $4. Not bad indeed.
Now get to work! Send me photos of your endeavors!