NAILED-IT Challenge #4: Blue Monday

Happy New Year!

Well, ladies. This is a late challenge, so I am going to keep it very simple. It's mid-winter, post-Christmas, and, in this house at least, hot on the heels of a couple weeks solid of a nasty cold doing its rounds. In fact, in honour of Blue Monday on January 21st – aka The Most Depressing Day of the Year – I figured it was time for a little luxury!

My challenge to you is the perfect cup of Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate. My challenge to you, Lisa, is to make it vegan.

Here is an example from the blog 'Lifted Dish':

Image result for vegan salted caramel hot chocolate

Since we won't be able to try each others creations, this challenge is going to weigh heavily on presentations to make the other participants drool!

Good Luck and Have fun!


Lisa’s Challenge #3 Results!

Well holy crap, that was a doozy!
My purpose in choosing this project was to end up with a gingerbread ‘looking’ house that I was going to be able to enjoy for many years to come and fondly remember the year I created this amazing beauty.

We are going to re-title this project:  ‘Looks are Deceiving’.

My original plan, which I somewhat followed, was to create a masterpiece from homemade dough art.  I wasn’t going to wing it on the pieces, so I started by measuring and cutting all my tracing pieces and stencils out of cardboard.   Although this took an evening of my time, it did save me heartache on the shape and size of things as I went along.

Following a dough art recipe I found online (4 cups flour, 1 cup salt, 1.5 cups water) I modified it to create a more ‘gingerbread’ look by adding a half cup cocoa and another half cup water.   I was pretty impressed by myself at this point, things were looking good!  And after listening to how proud Deb was of her creation, I knew I had to crush her – in a loving sisterly sort of way of course! lol

I spent two days doughing, cutting, baking and re-baking pieces that needed twice the average cook time.  Even after that, the pieces are still half soft and not lying flat.  I remember making dough art ornaments as kids, and those things could have held up a house or at least chipped a tooth if you bit into one!   Maybe the cocoa and extra water were the factors here, but there was no stopping me now!!

I decided to go with classic sugar glass for the windows (another medium I hadn’t tried on my own before).  To contain the glass in my window cut outs, I used a heavy duty masking tape on the backside.  This would contain the contents and I could just peal it off later.  After a failed first attempt at sugar glass (since I hadn’t read the instructions properly the first time) and a very sticky cleanup, I waited a few hours, did my research and tried again.  It says 1 hour stir time on the cooktop.  Truth was, an hour and a half of standing and stirring later...I had beautiful stained glass to pour into my little windows, but that’s an hour and a half of my life I’ll never get back.  Time for sleep.

Upon return the next morning, the glass was looking good.  Hard on the front, but a bit unset on the back after removing the tape.  I stood up the pieces on the counter to let them air out – both glass and structure pieces.  A few hours later, I was ready to start the next phase but was disheartened when I discovered that the sugar was now slowly running out of the windows!!  Action must be taken.  I tried sealing them with spray paint, coated the fronts with an acrylic resin and also used clear packing tape on the backsides to stop spreading all the sticky around.  What a mess.   Oh well, moving on...

After much inner debate on what was going to be the best icing trim to use over the house details, I decided to try royal icing.  At this point I already knew that this wasn’t going to be the everlasting house I wanted at the start, so I mind as well make the icing authentic right!?!  Great thought...and then there goes my hand mixer, nearly set on fire at the final round of mixing.

Who’s idea was this to make this project???....oh right, MINE! Arggg.

<Personal inner dialog:  So let’s pipe on this fricking icing. Guess I’ll go buy a new mixer after Christmas when all the sales are on.  Frigg, why won’t the icing come out of the piping bag?!  Maybe I should just invest in a KitchenAid Stand mixer so I don’t set my house on fire next time I mix something.  Come on icing.  Maybe I’ll try using another tip.  How much is a stand mixer anyway?  I’ll check a flyer next week, there are going to be a million of them in my mailbox.  Ok there it comes, but why is it not staying on the surface!? FRICK.>

Ultimately, I put the royal icing in the fridge and walked away.   Moved on to white school glue mixed with white paint and then onto white 3D fabric paint after a trip to the store.  Tada, just like that it was done (hahaha, so, so many hours later).   One thing I did do which turned out to be very helpful, was to outline where I wanted my ‘icing’ to go with a white pencil crayon first.

The rest is glue and tape!  HAHAHA- snort.  Finished off with the royal icing and the largest piping tip I own to cover up all the hot glue it took to hold my pieces in place!

I did a bit of fun color to the backside and placed some mini lights inside so I can enjoy the window while they last (that’s right, they are still slowly melting down the sides as I type).

Ok, from a distance now it looks pretty great.

And maybe with a bit of time I’ll forget about the frustration.  But talk about a time investment in something that I will most likely toss and try again with different materials.   For now, I’ll enjoy the view and wait for the appliance flyers!!

Happy Holidays everyone!!


Carla’s Challenge #3 Results!

Hello and a belated Merry Christmas!

I think you can tell from my title's exclamation mark that this Challenge was a SUCCESS!!

Before I launch into my Challenge, I have to say to Debbie, OMIGOSH! Kudos!! That is so fricking adorable! I had no idea you were going to KNIT it! What a great idea!

Honestly, if I had looked at Deb's before finishing mine, my heart would have quailed. As it was, I procrastinated on this one even though it was given to us so early, and then I was swept up in Christmas preparations and before I knew it, I had no time. I can't do any big projects during the day with the little boys, and evenings were eaten up by other Christmasy things.

And another reason I probably procrastinated in the first place was sheer fear about this one. Why? Because years ago when I was probably about 11 or 12, my Pioneer Girl's Pal [Pioneer Girls was like Girl Guides, but church based] and I attempted to make a Gingerbread House and it was a lesson in frustration. I loved spending time with Myrna -- a wonderful, sweet and loving woman who was also my mom's friend -- so I still had a ton of fun that day. But my overall impression of Gingerbread houses was that they were impossibly hard to put together.

So anyways, I finally got the nerve to start this project this week. I made the dough and put it into the fridge to chill, and then used cardboard to make myself a pattern. I used tape to keep the pieces in place so that I could get a good idea of how the finished house would look.

Here's the recipe I used for the gingerbread:

The next day, I put chickpeas in the crock pot in preparation for making the Aquafaba Royal Icing. [Omigosh, Aquafaba is amazing!]

Then I went to YouTube to consult the experts! I needed all the help I could get for this one.

And who's video should I find, but the Queen of Good Things herself ... Martha Stewart.

Wow, what a game-changer! Now I knew what we had done wrong all those years ago!

So I'm happy to say that the pieces turned out perfectly!!!

When I finally got a chance to work on it  after supper, I whipped up an awesome batch of icing:

I added at least a cup more icing sugar to make it thicker and I probably could have added even a bit more, but it worked!

Now for the super tricky part. Thanks to Martha Stewart, I realized that I should decorate the pieces FIRST, and THEN put the house together. Brilliant!

I had completely forgotten about the windows on the roof, so I had to improvise with a bit of cardboard. And it worked! Yay, yay, yay!

I TOOK MY TIME this go around ... wow. What a difference that makes after all. I waited till the icing hardened each time, built the front porch thingy and the chimney separately so they were solid.

Oh, also, I didn't have Smarties [which I just found out are vegan!] so I added more icing sugar to the icing along with red food colouring [Wilton gel], and rolled it into little pseudo-candies.

I didn't have any greenery, so I used a bit of parsley from my window herb garden.

I was running out of icing, so I used the yellow for the base of the house and what I could spare of the white to fill in the yard, then used coconut for snow. I think the yellow under the windows looks a little bit like light spilling out from the windows ... what do you think?

I borrowed some ornaments from the tree and voila!

Without further ado, here it is!!

Happy New Years!


Debbie’s Challenge #3 Results

Challenge #3 – Gingerbread House

I was very greatful that Lisa gave us our Christmas/Holiday Challenge early November because we had booked a family holiday in December to celebrate our son’s upcoming High School Graduation. With the general crazy-busy holiday festivities before and after our trip, I knew my time to create was limited. It was a good thing too - this project took up many evening hours!!

When Lisa sent me the picture of the Gingerbread House, with the ‘Edible or Non-Edible, but NO CARDBOARD’ parameters, I rubbed my hands together gleefully – “Non-Edible It Is!”

Maintaining our white sugar-free lifestyle is monstrously hard at the Holidays. The abundance of sweets from school, gatherings, generous friends and family is part of the fun of the Holidays and I relax my rules quite a bit. However, I try not to add any more sugar than necessary!

So what could I use to create the Gingerbread House? I thought of felt, which I had already, but I just didn’t feel like that would be special enough. I wanted a project that I would feel happy to bring out year after year.  I decided on KNITTING…a skill I learned this year! So far, I had only produced dishcloths with varying degrees of success…

But the Challenge was Accepted and I was determined to make this House cute!

I used an online Gingerbread Cookie pattern and printed it out to what I hoped was the right size. Then I just started knitting! I had to create all the pieces and simply eye-balled as I was going to make sure they would match up. I’m sure there are plenty of knitting patterns online, but I don’t actually know how to properly read them (the dishcloth one was confusing enough!) so I just went for it!

I found the perfect Gingerbread coloured yarn from Michael’s, embroidery thread, green yarn and beads from previous projects, and Red Buttons from Wal-Mart. Polyester filling and a piece of Styrofoam packaging from an appliance recently purchased created a soft but sturdy House. Trying to keep the House true to the picture that Lisa sent was not as simple as I thought – those dormer windows weren’t easy to get right!

Overall, I think I did pretty good, although I totally underestimated the amount of time it would take to knit and put together!! I’m sure the Sisters did a beautiful job on their Gingerbread Houses….but if there’s a prize for Time Spent Creating – I’m the Winner!