Life: Childhood Memories

Tonight while cleaning out several boxes I hauled home from a recent trip to my parent’s house,  I found this little guy.

I plan to take him to work with me on Monday so that when I get a bit stressed out I can have him run across my desk and munch down on those stress aliens.  🙂

Anyone else get the cleaning bug this weekend?  And if so, what did you discover you had previously forgotten you had?

DIY: Batty Cupcake & Food Flags

Well hello there! I’ve missed you guys while I’ve been toiling away on a huge work project that I wish I was able to share. It ended up being almost 100% DIY and has really tested my abilities to be both crafty, economical, and yet still extremely professional. Now I’m creatively tired. Does that make sense?

So, today lets talk about Halloween and how bats can be cute.
DPPbatstraw17Ready to make some of your very own?

Supplies Needed:

  • Black Paper or Cardstock
  • Glue or Glue Stick
  • Toothpicks
  • Bat Punch (or die cuts from your favorite machine)

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Instructions:

  1. Punch out your bats. I used a punch I picked up at JoAnn’s with a 50% off coupon. You could also cut them using your favorite die cut machine. You will need two bats for each flag you want to make. (Hint: with this punch I could get roughly 20 individual bats from one 8.5×11 piece of cardstock).DPPbatpicks-2
  2. Using your glue cover the back of one bat. I use a glue stick when I want to whip these up really quickly, but choose to use paper glue for the ones I sell in my store).DPPbatpicks-4
  3. Place your toothpick on the glued bat.
  4. DPPbatpicks-5

  5. Carefully layer the second bat onto the first, taking care to line up the edges all the way around. Make sure you press to seal the pieces together around the toothpick.
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  7. Repeat & Add to Cupcakes or Other Spooky Snacks
  8. DPPbatstraw15

Want to jazz up your Halloween party a bit more? Repeat this process using straws to use when you serve up your “witches brew”.

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Total Cost: $1 and up

See quick, easy…and cute! How will you decorate for your Halloween festivities this year? And, after you finish a big DIY project do you too find yourself creatively fried?

(Like these but have no time to make your own? Check out my shop for limited quantities available for sale!)


Life: Look Mom, I baked!!

So today I’m going to deviate from craftiness for a bit and it might be a bit longer than usual…I hope that’s ok.

Most of you might know my lovely online friend Jess of Jesstagirl and Her Officer, and if so you know she is hosting a cupcake Bake-N-Blog today.  What most of you may not know…is that I really dislike cooking.  To the point that while single I mostly lived off of sandwiches, fruits, and cereal (with vanilla soy milk).  I can cook, I just get very little enjoyment out of it…especially since that means I have to clean it all up later.   Armed with that knowledge it probably makes sense that I’ve never…ever…baked anything from scratch.   Then… I met a boy.  A boy who L.O.V.E.S baked goods, especially those made fresh from quality ingredients.  Thankfully the boy actually enjoys cooking so he typically is the one to whip up fresh muffins or things of that nature.  I always have big plans to bake him a nice birthday or anniversary cake but it seems something always comes up that keeps it from happening.  So, when Jess posted her plans for the Bake N Blog I decided I would use the long holiday weekend (one when we had guests coming in from out of town) to try my luck at baking from scratch. When  I told the hubs of this plan he looked puzzled, and maybe even slightly concerned! 😉

We were to pick a cupcake option from the amazing looking options from Ming Makes Cupcakes, bake ’em, and post about them.  So here we go!

My one warning is I’m not going to post a correct “food blogger” type post, because me baking is a comedy of errors. 😉

and I chose…


On Friday I printed off the recipe, checked over the list and left work just a bit early to pick up all the ingredients.  I made it home and took everything out ready to hit the ground running, only to realize I had forgotten butter… and crushed pineapple. We went out for margaritas instead.  They were yummy!  *random question* Does it seem odd to anyone else there is crushed pineapple in carrot cake?

On Saturday morning we got up, quickly finished preparing the house for guests, and then ran down to the perimeter area really quickly.  We needed to meet up with Jess & Kenny (who were in town that weekend) to pick up something we were buying from them and to pass off the Cupcake Flags that one of her lucky participants will win!  Guess what?  We still forgot to pick up butter but did get the crushed pineapple (and yes I still found it an odd ingredient and asked several people if they agreed…they just thought I was odd).

On Saturday afternoon I finally decided I had put off baking for too long, I mean I’d already talked up the fact I was baking us dessert….from scratch.  There was no backing down at this point,  so I drove down the road and came back with butter.  Smart Balance butter that is.  There was some general concern this might not be baked good worthy, but oh well.  I pressed on!

DPPcarrotcupcake4

To get started I needed to clean and grate 2 cups worth of carrots. We recently purchased a set of new micro-plane graters, and threw out the larger one we hated.  This might have been a mistake.

DPPcarrotcupcake9(No clue why I focused in on the patent number of the grater…but in case you were ever curious it’s 5100506)

Maybe this is where my lack of baking comes into play…but I totally under-estimated how many carrots that would take.  OMG!  I felt like I cleaned and grated a thousand carrots, and apparently I have no idea what I’m doing because there were pieces of carrot all over my kitchen by the time I finished.  I even found one on top of the dog’s head an hour or so later.    Then I measured out the flour and added it to the bowl with my beloved little carrot shreds

DPPcarrotcupcake10
At this point, I was getting a little cocky.  I was thinking, this is a piece of cake *pun intended*.  This was misguided thinking…because it was at this point I realized we didn’t have a full 1/2 cup of canola oil.  So….I made an executive chef decision.  I would use a bit of vegetable oil to round out the 1/2 cup necessary for the recipe.    This is the point my husband rolled his eyes and headed down into the basement.  I often tell people just how smart my hubby is, and while I am typically referring to his ability to process complex equations in his head…this was one of those moments where he decided it was best to say nothing.  Good job B!  So, I mixed everything together…and thought it looked NASTY!

DPPcarrotcupcake12

However my little dollar bin Paula Deen cupcake wrappers were all kinds of cute!

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So, I setup my cupcake pan with the liners, and then popped these bad boys in the oven.  Honestly, I was fully expecting them to explode while baking! 🙂

DPPcarrotcupcake14DPPcarrotcupcake15(See that mess in the bottom of our oven?…I’d like to point out I had nothing to do with creating that!!)

So, they baked in the oven without incident and actually looked like they might be halfway decent.  I mean they weren’t “pretty” but they didn’t look deadly either.  I set them out to cool on a cooling rack and started on the cream cheese icing.

This is where I was all confident in my abilities… Another bit of random trivia is that my mom decorated wedding cakes throughout my childhood.  I’m talking about those HUGE 80’s cakes, with 500 layers and columns.  So, while the oven might not be my friend…cake icing and I go way back.  You won’t be able to tell in these photos but I can actually do a decent job with the decorative icing when I practice a bit and have the right tools.  Sadly, I did not practice and the right tools are still eluding me after my move into the house (2 years ago).  I also have no photos of this process because by this point my FIL had arrived and was watching me with great amusement and much heckling (but that’s what makes him my favorite FIL. EVER).

Long story short, I mixed up the icing and it tasted wonderful!  Then because all I could find was the tip of the decorating set, I used a large ziplock bag instead.  I just snipped the tip from it and added my decorating tip inside and filled it up with icing.  The tip started to move around so I had to hold it in place while icing at the same time. Not my decorative crowing moment for sure…but icing ended up on top of the cupcakes so I call that a success!

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Then the moment of truth…how would they taste?  Remember I had mixed two types of oil, used smart balance 50/50 blend butter, and ended up with some really runny batter.

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The Verdict:

AMAZING!  Even the resident food snob agreed, this recipe was a keeper!  He’s even looked over Ming’s options and placed his order for the next cupcake baking attempt.

My Thoughts Looking Back:

  • I would actually check what I have on hand before making my list instead of just guessing.
  • I would have filled the cups with a little less batter so they ended up more rounded and less flat.
  • I would have doubled the icing recipe.  I felt like I cheated some of the cupcakes in the icing department because I was running out…although we love cream cheese icing so we might be the only ones who feel more icing is better.
  • Once refrigerated they tend to get a bit “sticky”…they are still yummy though.  I wonder if this has anything to do with my oil mixture?
  • I’m glad I gave baking a try and maybe I’ll do it again later.

The question now might be…did you enjoy it?  I wasn’t miserable, and I did get cracked up at myself a few times.  However, I still wouldn’t say I had “fun”.  I loved the outcome, but you don’t have to worry about this becoming a food blog!  Crafting is still 99% more enjoyable to me than baking 😉

Am I the only one out there that doesn’t enjoy cooking?  Please tell me I’m not alone? Also tell me which cupcake we should attempt the next time I’m feeling like battling it out with my oven!

Semi-DIY: Creating Coasters – Part 2

So yesterday you saw our first re-purposed item coaster attempt, today I”ll show you the latest additions and how they came about.

Back in June, the boy and I celebrated one glorious year of marriage with a fun little trip to Asheville, NC.  We took a couple days off from work, and the hubs planned out the where/when/how and kept it as a surprise destination until the morning we left.  He chose Asheville because 1)I had never been 2) it offered plenty of outdoor activities (which we both enjoy) 3) it offered nice lodging & dining options and 4) being at a high elevation that Atlanta it would be a nice relief from the oppressive heat that has plagued the Atlanta area this summer.

All I can say about reason #4 is HA!   Mother Nature definitely didn’t get that memo, and instead it was a sweltering mess of high temperatures mixed with humidity from the depths of places known for fiery torture.  Any of your familiar with Weddingbee might remember that Mrs. Snow was getting married in Asheville in June…yes, it was the same weekend and she blogged about the crazy weather swing as well.  So, we rearranged several of the things the boy had in his plans so we didn’t melt away in the oppressive heat…and in the midst of wandering around we realized that weekend was also the River District Artists Studio Stroll.

So we drove over and wandered around through several of the studio’s, not really looking for anything in particular.  Then right before turning around to make our way back to the car (and out of the heat) we walked into Michael Hofman’s Studio.  Michael makes beautiful pieces of porcelain pottery using antique lace to make impressions into his pieces.  Some of the lace he uses is centuries old, from things like christening gowns & wedding dresses.  It was quite interesting to meet him, and see part of his process in action.  He was even telling us about someone who brought in their grandmothers wedding dress to use to create their wedding china (incidentally the dress was not harmed in the process).  So we looked around thinking we might pick up a serving platter, but then the boy picked up these small square plates and said “hum? think they could be coasters?”

So, we picked up two of the square tapas plates.  Once home, we again brought out some felt pads from the local dollar store (the thinner of the selection this time) and added one to each corner of the plate.

Instant coasters, that once again provide a useful reminder of our anniversary trip!  Look at the lace details up close…aren’t they stunning?  Those lace details also provide a place for beverage sweat to pool, gotta love it when something is both beautiful and useful. 🙂

Can you tell we tend to purchase only mementos that have an actual use around our house?  We tend to buy art or handmade pieces to commemorate special trips or events…that and I buy magnets (which I still need to figure out what to do with since I’ve picked up magnets from my travels my entire life).  What do you pick up as mementos of special occasions or trips?

Semi-DIY: Creating Coasters – Part 1

We don’t like coasters.   There…I’ve said it out loud.  That’s not to say that we prefer to place our sweating beverage glasses or bottles directly onto surfaces, I’m just saying  we haven’t found any that we BOTH found aesthetically pleasing.  Then something happened…we stopped shopping for them and instead focused on things we could make into them.  This is the story about how we used these little guys from the local dollar store to solve our coaster dilemmas.

dollar store felt floor protectors

Last year while on a bit of a family vacation with the boy’s family we noticed this fun piece of flattened pottery on a deck side table in the house we were staying in.  It was the perfect size for a couple of glasses and still appealed to both our senses of design.  Interestingly enough we already owned a bowl in a similar pattern from the same pottery studio that the boy uses on his bedside table to store the contents of his pockets each night.  Do you see where I’m going with this?  Yep, we looked around the shops that weekend in search of a plate to use as a coaster on our living room end table. We ended up choosing the small triangular plate from The Good Earth Pottery, their stuff is great in not only is it appealing to the eye, it is also dishwasher and oven safe as well.

Then to keep our fun new find from scratching up our tables we just added one of the little felt pads to each corner.


Instant extra large coaster!  What’s really nice is when I am lazy and fill up a Nalgene bottle with water…it fits on the coaster with no worries as well.  As do ice cream bowls, large coffee mugs…you get the picture. You can see in the next photo how the colors in the plate match our rug, but sadly what you can’t tell is how nice it looks on our end table.

Overall, I’m really pleased with how our initial attempts to use something not originally intended as a coaster worked out.  The benefit we never considered when we initially picked this piece was how any sweat from glasses placed on top would pool in the small groves of the pattern , this means the bottom of the glass stays drier than if the piece were a completely flat surface.  Plus, the coaster also serves as a very useful reminder of our trip to Highlands, NC. 

Come back tomorrow and I’ll show you round 2 of our coaster experiment! 🙂

How have you re-purposed items to create the “thing” that seemed to elude you otherwise?  Was it a success?

Life: Halloween & Etsy

Well hello there!  I’ve missed you the past week or so…but things have been busy in the Pickled household.  In the midst of everything I finally managed to get the Dill Pickle Picnic Etsy shop open!  Yay!  Right now it’s looking a bit sparse but I’m hoping to fill it up a bit more over the weekend.  So when you have a minute check it and let me know what you think!

It’s finally starting to feel like Fall in Georgia, and it makes me so happy!  I love fall, it means pumpkins, college football, Halloween, and deep colored clothing.  We will once again attend a Halloween party hosted by a family member and since he has me lead the decorating charge I’ve been checking out all the latest Halloween decorations.  And I found these fun little guys…

{image source: PB}

Which reminded me quite a bit of these little guys I whipped up for his party last year:

Check out this post from last year to learn how to whip up your own pumpkin lanterns using a few dollar bin items!

What about you guys?  What are you decorating plans for Halloween?  Any fun, yet cheap suggestions to share?

DIY: Stamped Plant Marker

This is one of my final “envelope of doom“ projects, but it’s one you could use for many other things.  I’ve been wanting to try my luck at stamping metal objects with my letter punches I picked up a while back with a 50%  off coupon and this gave me the perfect excuse.  I think I still need to work on the pressure I “stamp” or hammer each letter with…but overall I was happy with how it turned out.  Since these items were intended to be gifts, I included this little guy in a SwapBot package (visit this post for more info on swapping).

Project 4 - Stamped Plant MarkersAnd yes, I realize that isn’t Basil.  My basil plant just died so this was my indoor option. 🙂

Supplies Needed:

Project 4 - Stamped Plant Markers

  • Letter Punches, I have the Making Memories Stamping Die Set
  • Metal item to use as plant marker
  • Large piece of floral wire (not pictured)
  • Hammer
  • Solid surface (in my case our sidewalk)
  • Black permanent marker or paint
  • Glue (like E6000) – optional depending on your item

Instructions:

1. Gather your metal item to stamp.  I’m using a metal pendant from my envelope of doom, but metal washers or even flattened spoons also look fun!  Use your imagination.

2. Find a solid surface that won’t scar, but also won’t give when you hammer the letter into the metal.  If you are worried about concrete marring the opposite side of the item and your set didn’t come with the little mat like mine did, you could always put down a thin layer of fabric to protect the item.

3. Measure to determine if your word will fit on the item

4. Start from the top, pick the first letter and align on the item.  Hit with hammer.  (sidebar: I was a bit frustrated with something the afternoon I attempted this project so it was great stress relief to hammer on something…although it might have caused to hit a few letters too hard.

5. Repeat with the letters down the length of the item.  You’ll get the hang of how much pressure you need after a few letters so having a test piece to work on first would be helpful to some.
Project 4 - Stamped Plant Markers

6. Next it’s time to make those stamped letters stand out a bit more.  Using a black permanent marker or paint quickly color in the first letter and then wipe the excess off so that only the groves are painted. Repeat for each of the letters.

Project 4 - Stamped Plant Markers

7. Now it’s time to attach your metal tag to the wire.  If you are using a flattened spoon, you can skip this step since you already have a stake on your tag!  This is also where your version will differ from mine…I had a loop on the top and two pieces on the bottom of each side. So I was able to bend each of these pieces towards the back of my piece.

8. This is also where your version will differ from mine…I had a loop on the top and two pieces on the bottom of each side. So I was able to bend each of these pieces towards the back of my piece.

9. Fold your wire in half and start to attach it to the back of your metal piece.  For a washer open the wire up much like I have below to form an inverted “V” and then glue to the back of the washer.  I was able to feed the wire up through the top loop and then secure it to the back by bending the sides down on top of it.

Project 4 - Stamped Plant Markers

10. Let glue dry, add to plant and enjoy 🙂

Project 4 - Stamped Plant Markers

Do you label your garden plant? We didn’t do such a great job of that this year, but next year I plan to create DIY plant markers.  If you’ve created your own please share your favorite garden marker project links.

PS.  I hope each of you has a wonderful Labor Day Weekend & War Eagle!

Challenge: Craft it Forward Reveal Part 2

In the last post you saw the fun Craft-it-Forward apron that made it’s way to Lisa (visit this post confused by what Craft-it-Forward is all about).  Today’s post picks up with participant #2’s crafty treat.

Becky is a fun internet friend I “met” while planning our wedding, and she and her mister will tie the knot in a few weeks.  After glancing over Becky’s blog it is apparent she is a fan of  sunflowers…so I decided she needed something with a sunflower on it and intended to make her an apron with a sunflower pin as well.  Until… I was watching Glee one evening and had a fun idea for her based on my girl Emma’s necklace.

(source: Polyvore)

So I decided to attempt to create something similar for Becky, and set off to several local thrift stores in search of the perfect flower.  I found something similar and then posed the following question to her via twitter, “Painted or Gold”…she choose painted and so I painted the gold-tone brooch to be the bright colors of a sunflower.  I then paired the sunflower brooch with three strands of green glass beads to get this:

And finally to help get her started on her own Craft-it-Forward projects I included a little bag of crafty items from my ever growing stash:

I had a blast putting together these two fun Craft-it-Forward packages and I hope they enjoyed receiving them.  Now, tell me…am I the only person obsessed with Emma on Glee?  I wish whoever styles her character would come make-over my wardrobe!  Want your own Emma inspired necklace?  Check back next week for the opening of the Dill Pickle Picnic Shop!!

Oh…and congrats to Becky & her mister as they spend the next few weeks wrapping up their wedding plans and celebrating their marriage!

Challenge: Craft it Forward Reveal Part 1

Ages ago you might have seen several posts about a fun little crafting challenge/giveaway I participated in called “Craft it Forward”.  If not, check out this post for all the details.  I ended having a really hard time getting in touch with the 5 winners (who knew it would be so hard to give something away) and I ended up with only 2 participants.    Hopefully my next challenge/giveaway will be a bit more successful (hint, hint…there might be something coming up in September).

Today, it’s time to show off the goodies that the the lovely Lisa M found in her mailbox earlier this summer.  Using that large bolt of fabric I picked up at Goodwill for $2.00, I created this little apron for her:

And since the flower could get a bit dusty with all that baking, there is an extra flower pin to switch it up with from time to time:

And finally to help get her started on her own Craft-it-Forward projects I included a little bag of crafty items from my ever growing stash:

It was really fun getting back into sewing (this was the first project I had sewn start to finish in a long time) and it was especially fun to just sit down without a pattern and see what I could come up with.  Lisa, I hope you are enjoying your apron and have as much fun as I did when you do your crafts to pass along.

Check back on Monday to see the second project from my crafting it forward.  Have you ever participated in a crafting challenge?  And if so, did you have problems getting your winners to respond so they could collect their prizes?

Review: If you craft, you should swap!

Do you Swap-Bot?  No, that isn’t some sort of robot comic…it’s a super-fun swap site that brings together crafters (and non-crafters) from all over to participate in item swaps through the good old fashioned mail.  This description from the site sums it up pretty well:

What is Swap-bot?

Do you like sending and receiving snail mail? Do you like writing letters, making crafts, or putting together fun packages? You should try swapping! Swap-bot is a online service that organizes group swaps and a community of creative individuals. Swap-bot takes the hassle out of participating in group swaps by organizing all of the participant information and doing all of the partner assignments. On Swap-bot, you can host swaps, join swaps, and chat with other swappers from all over the world. Give it a try!
Click here to read more about the Swap-Bot

I originally happened upon Swap-Bot during the Weddingbee Valentine Swap in February (click here to see my post on that swap).   Once I had completed the Valentine exchange and saw how easily  I was intrigued about this swapping community and how it worked.  My problem is I enjoy making things but often don’t have a reason to do so…and swapping might give me an outlet to experiment with new techniques and methods!   After a couple more simple swaps (postcards and handmade envelopes) I was hooked.

Through Swap-Bot I’ve been able to swap different things with people all over the US, and a few other countries as well.  While I’m sure every group has it’s problem children, I have yet to encounter a less than wonderful person on Swap-Bot.  I’ve found a group of people that love crafting as much as I do, and go out of their way to cheer a fellow swapper when they are down.  The other fun thing for me is the great variety and range of crafters involved.  In one swap I might receive an item from someone who is just learning to sew and my next swap might be an old pro.  Each swap is hosted by another member and comes with a set of rules/suggestions to follow for that particular swap.  One example might be to only use recycled materials, or only spend $1…all things that make it a bit of a challenge to master!  I’ve swapped aprons, thrift store finds, postcards, craft stash items, stickers, handmade envelopes, embellished tote bags, and all sorts of other things.  Sometimes I might not necessarily be able to use what I receive (and it’s ok to re-gift later) and other times I LOVE them…and that’s all part of the fun.

Check out a few of the fun items I’ve either sent or received through Swap-Bot:

These are a few photos of a book of photos put together as part of a photography scavenger hunt I received from a wonderful new blog friend in France!
Would you have guessed the cover collage was a single shot of glass beads?  Pretty fun huh?

And here are a few shots of handmade envelopes I’ve sent to people in Florida and England:

Cons:  Can be addictive & if you aren’t careful with the swaps you choose could add up to more $$ than you think

Pros:  Too many to list!! 🙂

I love swapping and I think you might as well!  Do you Swap?  If so share the sites you use and what you think?  And if you don’t check out Swap-Bot and see if it’s for you.

Hope to swap ya soon!

**Note** I do not work for nor do I receive any support or benefit from my recommendation of any products, websites, or corporations.  These are purely my options based on my experiences with these products, websites, and corporations.