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!!
Wow, what an interesting challenge!! Thanks Deb....hahaha
I think I spent about three times the time thinking about how to attempt this and making a plan, than the actual time spent creating it! Oooh what fun 😀 My only regret is that I didn’t have more time to spend on this little beauty – but I’m pretty proud of it none the less. I know Deb thinks she’s won this round, so I can’t wait to see what the girls have come up with!!
Thankfully I had most of the supplies on hand for this, and only needed to buy some air dry clay to do the pages on the book (total cost about $10).
I started by doing something that may seem a bit bizarre, I drilled a hole in the book pages on each side and screwed in some screws to hold the pages down – not wanting to glue down the every page for strength – time saver!!. Then I went outside and spray painted the book and the tree twig from my backyard white for an extra added feature ;D
Using polymer clay for the bones on the fingers with a wire stem for strength, I made each finger individually. I laughed a lot during this process! Baking them separately (not wanting to put the book in the oven) created its own challenges. They turned out to be almost all the same length...just like real fingers, right?!? Why do I keep having trouble with fingers, or things that look like fingers? LOL ‘Well, they’ll just have to work’ I told myself and set them aside!
After rolling out the air dry clay on wax paper and cutting the edges square to match the book, I pulled out my grand stash of rubber stamps and ink, and started my super spells!! That really was the most fun. Part truth, part inside joke, those were fun to create!! I set them over the pages of the actual book to dry overnight so they would have the right curve to them. The next day, I set out to assemble the parts and add a few extra touches. I used some sparkly nail polish to add some highlights to the page impressions, and hot glue fixed the clay pages, fingers and twig in place.
I signed my piece with one of my blackberry onyx spiders and called it a day!! One last feature is only visible in the dark...my piece de resistance!! NAILED-IT!!
Bring it on ladies!!!
So here we go...the results of our first challenge!!
So, as I said in the prior posting, I had my sites and expectations set pretty high for myself before this attempt. Let’s just say it, WOW...cake and icing is hard to work with! I did a little research beforehand knowing that fondant or some sort of modeling substance was going to be needed here for the tree and leaves. It mostly came down to money and time for me and so making fondant was out. I found a recipe for a simple (or so I thought) Marshmallow Fondant that requires very few ingredients and one for Butter cream Frosting (recipes and links below) for between the layers and the outside the cake.
I began with a shopping trip to the store, and purchased two French vanilla cake mixes (my fav ;D) and a few extra ingredients that I didn’t have at home, like icing sugar and marshmallows.
I had also mentioned that I didn’t own any round cake pans, so I dug around my cupboard and brilliantly (if I do say so myself) greased up some individual Corning ware casserole dishes stashed away in the back! The small rounds measure 5.5” diameter, and the larger one is 8”. The cakes baked up beautifully, although because I was short on pans and simply impatient, removed every single one of them warm. In so doing, broke nearly everyone in half! That’s a problem icing can fix, right?! I set the cakes aside and let them rest overnight. That was day 1. It all started out so innocently...
Day 2 – Decorate. The Butter cream icing turned out quite delicious, although it required a bit of tweaking, and the colors weren’t great to match - I used liquid food coloring, where a food coloring gel would have made a difference. I applied a generous layer of icing between my 5 crumbling cakes, and secured them together with wooden kabob skewers.
I wasn’t taking any chances with the outer layer of icing glory, so I did a light coating of icing to act as glue and popped this bad boy in the freezer for three hours before attempting the final colored coating. Being cold definitely helped with this part of the process. I methodically slapped on the layers of color and tried to smooth out all layers of color at once to get that gradient blended look which as you can see is identical to the original...lol!!
Time to move onto the Marshmallow fondant...yikes! This was hard stuff to work with, and I only used about a quarter of the batch which felt like a waste, but oh well, lesson learned. My hands were coated in bright red, then a dark brown.
It took time and patience to get what details I did do, and I had to re-paint the leaves red a second time to get them to be red, not soft pink lol. And when all was said and done, the tree turned out more like a log of $#&% giving the middle finger!! Yep, count it, four fingers and a thumb, and the middle one is raised loud and proud!! Hahaha not on purpose I assure you! Needless to say, I won’t be going into the cake decorating business anytime soon.
Yep - Nailed-It!!!!
Well, my attempt to record our first Coffee Chat wherein we introduce both ourselves and our first Nailed-it Challenge was a fail. I listened to it days later and only my voice was recorded, which meant an awful lot of silence pierced randomly by my horrifyingly loud laughter. It made sense in the chat! Really! Sigh. Back to the drawing board.
In the meantime, I hope you will enjoy our first challenge. I found it on Pinterest, sent the link to Debbie and Lisa, and they accepted so ... here it is!
My original pick was um, quite a bit more complicated but after Henry's Batman Cake Fiasco a couple weeks ago, I lost my confidence entirely. This looked sufficiently complicated, but with less tiers and fondant sculpturing!
Debbie? What do you think?
Wow!! It is a Gorgeous cake!! Very fitting for Autumn....I hope to do it justice - with a few tweaks! I am going to attempt to recreate this masterpiece REFINED SUGAR FREE 😀 I think I've got the icing part figured out in my head but not really sure how I'm going to do the leaves and tree portion..can you mold coconut cream into that shape???
How about you, Lisa?
First off...agreed, it is gorgeous! I think I may have unrealistically high expectations of our creative ability so I can't wait to attempt this and see the reality!! I can foresee the first obstacle in my way is the shape...I don't have any conventional round pans hahaha. I'm going to have to improvise there. Due to time constraints, I may cheat and use a boxed cake for this challenge and focus all the attention to the decoration. Can't wait to see your Progress and After photos ladies!!! Good luck all 😀
Off for my morning walk.
The air is crisp and the leaves are changing their glorious colors. I still call this mid-september even in the later half of the month, holding onto the last shreds of summer when clearly it’s...gulp...fall.
I’ve never been the greatest fan of fall. Change is hard, and for me, many difficult life events have occurred around this time in previous years, so adjusting my perspective of this season is a work in progress. I have often thought of how nice it would be to skip from summer straight into winter and the holidays (for which I’m sure many people would want to slap me).
Today I got my wish as I headed out in search of my morning coffee. The clouds cooled and the snowflakes began to fall, slowly at first, so peaceful. Dreamy even. Like everything was standing still for me in this perfect haze of whiteness. I might normally have just looked out my front window and though of the extra work this could potentially cause us all and how hectic this time of year can be. But instead, I was reminded to just enjoy this moment of purity, and how lucky we are to have the change of seasons. To get something of a fresh start a few times a year is a gift and there is always something to look forward to. I invite you to embrace a fall snowy day the next time you get the opportunity. Take a moment. Take a stroll and let it clear your mind and refresh your soul.
Entry #1: AirMiles
‘I am one step away from being rich, all I need now is the money!’
After many years living on a tight budget, sometimes uncomfortably tight, I have managed to hone in on that extra sense of ‘thrifty’ not listed in the body’s nervous system. And let’s face it, when money is tight, there is plenty of nervous to go around. Saving money and earning perks can became a fun challenge as both a necessity at times and frivolity in others. Saving has become a bit of a game for me...and this is a game I have come to WIN!!
Now I pride myself on being an avid collector of points, and saver of all things possible. I would love to impart as much ‘saving wisdom’ I’ve learned on to you! Most of the specifics I have to offer here in my series will be for residents of Canada, so my tips may tend to benefit Canadians more than others. If you live elsewhere, I hope some of these ideas can help guide your search in similar fashion.
When I’m in the checkout line at a store to which I am earning great rewards, it’s painful...and very hard not to say something to the person in front of me when they don’t have whatever savings, points or punch cards that store offers. I have been known to work harder than the stores employees to get other customers to join up Hahaha. And I’ll admit, it’s even harder to resist the urge to ask them to use my loyalties if they weren’t savvy enough to join up themselves prior. Shouldn’t someone benefit from the rewards??
OK, so on to the important stuff...
Step One: Joining AirMiles
One of my top five points systems around is AirMiles. They have been in Canada since 1992, and when consistently used, have the potential to earn you many reward options from worldwide flights to kitchen appliances to gift cards. Even if you live in a small northern town without local business participation, there are many online shopping options to earn these rewards. You may already be shopping with these stores, but not tapping into the reward potential - Yet. AirMiles is regularly adding new partners online, so that is where we are going to begin.
Once you have become a member (you’ll find many more details about the program at www.airmiles.ca than I’m going to list out) you will receive your collector card by mail. You will need to use your points number and pin code for logging in online – and then you are set to check your points balance and save some miles! You can set your reward preferences to Dream Miles (to use online for items like travel rewards, gift cards etc.) or Cash Miles (which lets you redeem your miles as a cash substitute at participating stores in person). You can also allocate your split on both (ex. 80% Dream / 20% Cash). I myself have kept them as Dream rewards – I find it easier to save for big things like flights when I’m not tempted to spend it on toilet paper and groceries in Safeway.
Step Two: Shopping with AirMiles Online Participants
Let’s now move on the shopping side of AirMiles to collect regular points and bonus points (which are offered frequently), at you guessed it... www.airmilesshops.ca!
You will need to login to your account separately there, but your login information will be the same. Have some fun, flip through the pages and see all the stores that are participanting there. It might surprise you how many businesses are members. As you go through, you can ‘favorite’ your favs, and make returning to them simple. One important tip here, is that you need to go through airmilesshops.ca and link through the ‘Shop Now’ buttons – if you go directly to the store (ex. straight to amazon.ca) without going through airmilesshops first, you will not receive the regular or bonus points offered. Also, if you close the participants (ex. amazon.ca) browser window, you will need to go back through airmilesshops.ca and link through or you won’t get those points. Trust me, it’s worth the extra couple of steps, they can add up fast!! Several times a year they also offer Mega Miles in which you can earn thousands of miles from your online and in-person purchases.
So join up, log in and start collecting all those miles just waiting for a savvy customer like you!! Either that, or turn to the person in line behind you and offer up your points to them. You may very well make someone’s day 😀
Entry Two coming soon.... Spoiler alert!!...Hotel bookings to the max!
Liquid gold: You may call me VINEGAR!
When you find an easy, accessible and inexpensive household product that does so much, it’s hard not to sing its praises! Today, I am raving about white VINEGAR and how it's changed my life!!
Now as a child, I hated being asked to wash windows, because all we had was watered down vinegar with newspaper, and at the time, my only thought was 'This stuff stinks. Why can't we buy the blue stuff my friends’ use?'.
I have a feeling my sisters are going to read this and say, ‘We could have told you how great it was if you had just been listening!’ hahaha
Ok, ok...Now I get it, this stuff rocks!!
Let’s learn a little more about VINEGAR before we use it all about house:
Vinegar is a liquid consisting of about 5–20% acetic acid (CH3COOH), water, and other trace chemicals, which may include flavorings. The acetic acid is produced by the fermentation of ethanol by acetic acid bacteria. Historically it has had a great variety of industrial, medical, and domestic uses. (this has been paraphrased from Wikipedia. To read more follow this link - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vinegar)
My house is hooked up to city water, and while it has less scale residue than hard well water can cause, I still get buildup in visible areas. One place that absolutely drives me nuts, is the upper edge of my stainless sink in the kitchen where I constantly battle with dried water rings. These are the kind that you can’t just wipe up, or scrub with your dishcloth of soap and water to remove.
The first thought I had was to go buy stainless steel polish to really buff up the shine. Although after some research, and reading other reviews, I was worried that some of those options might be more abrasive to the finish of my new steel. I knew it was time to find an alternative, so I did a quick search online, and found the solution (don’t mind the pun)
For the area that I was looking to deal with (the kitchen sink), using an undiluted concentration of vinegar for 5 or 10 minutes did the trick. I simply soaked a paper towel and placed it over the trouble spots. Once it had the time to soak, all it needed was a wipe to see the ring-free shine!! After that I was hooked, and started searching the house for other places that needed a direct hit from my new friend.
And there were. Namely in the bathrooms, which I felt deserved a little TLC anyhow. The edge in the bathroom shower was in much need of help. I actually thought the finish had been worn off on the shower ledge, because no matter how much I soaked it in cleaner, or scrubbed it with my toughest sponge, there seemed to be no change. So, I took my VINEGAR to the bathroom, and I was amazed...again! (ok, it clearly doesn’t take much to amaze this gal, but I’m ok with that 😉 It had even removed a hair dye stain that I had been looking at with despise for a couple years – YAY!
If you are looking for a more calm solution for around the house, let’s say for glass and mirror cleaning, use a 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water solution, poured into a spray bottle, spray, wipe and done!
I’m including a great link to Readers Digest as an incredible source for many uses of Vinegar around the house - from carpet stain cleanup, removing candle wax to purging bugs from your pantry....Freaking Amazing!!
The next thing I’m going to try is unclogging and deodorizing the drains, so wish me luck and please comment your wonderful VINEGAR tips below if you have some to share...
Single is a loaded word, especially when you’ve past your mid thirties and you haven’t quite ‘settled down’ yet. It's packed with judgement, pity and plenty of questions! And that’s just between me and myself!
What must other people be thinking?
I imagine it goes something like this... ‘What’s wrong with you, and why, after all these years haven’t found a suitable match!?! Is it a personal choice? Or is something so wrong with you that I shouldn’t set you up with my cousin?’
Ok, maybe those aren't such crazy questions. And if you're at the same place in your life as I am, you’ve probably asked those and many more questions of yourself in the wee hours of the night while clutching your pillow tight with your whole body waiting for the crack of dawn.
Singledom can be a scary place, notably when your biological clock keeps ticking and it’s a little more atomic and a little less digital than you’d like! You might still want a few domestic things in your life, and it won't just happen by wishing.
From early on, I had expected my life to take a path I had been raised to believe it would. And if you are a woman of comparable age, then perhaps you were raised to think something very similar... grow up, get married, make babies and live ever after (happily or unhappily). But, that’s simply not the case for all of us, and certainly hasn’t been for me.
I often look back and laugh at a cluster of memories in my teen years. I was about thirteen or so when one of my uncles pulled me aside and said “Lisa, you be picky, make sure you pick a boy that treats you right. I still open the door for your Auntie, and you should have the same, so be picky”. I smiled and said “ok”. His words were sweet and I found his concern endearing, although dating was still a few years off for this gal.
I then reached my mid-teens, the same concerned uncle said “Lisa, you stay picky. There are lots of great young men out there, you just have to watch for them”. I smiled and said “ok” as I kept my eye out for all these amazing young men that I figured were going to be placed before me to sort through to get the very best.
It wasn’t more than a couple years after that (almost into my twenties and still single - if you can imagine!) when his tune had changed and he looked at me slightly strained “Lisa, don’t be too picky”.
Geesh, give a girl a chance!! And why the rush to marry me off?! Well I sure showed him – no early settling for this woman!
I’ve been lucky in love, and not so lucky in love. I have loved deeply, and also not so much (in the best possible ways... if you know what mean ;D )
One thing I have figured out thus far, when you truly like and love yourself, all things 'single' seem bearable. It's also an important lesson to learn, since you might be enjoying a fair amount of your own company!!
Single and thriving continues, so on with the hunt!...even if I have to kiss a few toads along the way!!
Growing up in a home with a mother who could seemingly grow anything - whether from seed or snipping, was an amazing thing. And her mother had clearly passed down her talent, because her apartment balcony was filled to the brim (and blooming over) with bright colored flowers and deliciously fresh aromas. Long since passed, there is nothing that brings me back to grandmas tight hugs, big kisses and soft cheeks quicker than a walk past a full summer garden.
This must mean that growing flowers and gardens is genetic right? Wrong! Oh so wrong (insert hanging head emoji here). Turns out this is a lifelong journey for me with a 'win some, lose some' sort of battle.
I was once cruelly mocked for saying "...I tried to keep the plant alive, but I don't have green fingers!!"
What chance do you have when you can't even get the saying right?!? I guess if you're a naturally gifted grower like my mom and grandma, you only need a thumb that's green!
Slowly, and with lots of practice, I hope to someday reach the level of grace in growing that I wish I had simply inherited from my maternal side.
Last summer, I spent a great amount of time outside with a plan to give the front walkway a much needed face lift. I cut down large hedges, re-configured the area layout, built planters and finally set about growing the most beautiful annuals and perennials from the discount bin of the local garden center.
But, as most Northern growers have experienced, the harsh winters and unpredictable frosts can have an effect on your most brilliant attempts. With spring now in the air and the snow slowly melting away, my small plants are re-emerging in the most glorious shades of dead brown.
As I wait and hope they are just sleeping...and will return to the glorious greens I remember so dearly in the pictures on which I reflect upon...I'll prepare my backup plan of hitting up the local garden center once more and try again this year.
I'll be adding new phases to this journey as they come to pass and
you watch, these hands will turn green yet!!