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!!

~Lisa

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:

https://www.ilovevegan.com/perfect-vegan-gingerbread-cookies/

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!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_2ezIH28z4

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:

http://wallflowerkitchen.com/vegan-eggless-royal-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!

Carla

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!

~Debbie

 

 

 

NAILED-IT Challenge #3 – Christmas!

Welcome to challenge#3 - the Christmas edition!! Although November is a lovely month, we passed over a monthly challenge and headed straight into the holidays - YAY! Lucky me, because I was able to choose something that I have wanted to do for a long time, and haven't taken the time to try - a GINGERBREAD HOUSE!!

Now, I sent my pick to the ladies at the beginning of November so that they would have time to tackle this gem and they have accepted my request. (although I'm finally doing this post in December. Oops!)

I also gave a few guidelines on the matter:
1. It needs to look as much like the picture as possible.
2. It does not have to be made of gingerbread or edible at all!
3. It cannot be made of cardboard (sorry Carla).

This may seam a bit overwhelming when we get into it, but trust me, it's tame compared to some of gingerbread mansions I was drawn to while searching!

Good luck ladies, and may the ginger-strength be with you!!

Lisa

Carla’s Challenge #2 Results

Well ... not a fail!! [I don't think, anyways]

I haven't seen Deb and Lisa's results yet, but I think mine turned out alright! Yahoo! I have to admit that my confidence was mightily shaken after the last challenge. I can't quite rid myself of this nagging feeling that I am likely to come out in these challenges as the underdog. I could blame it on the fact that I have to do my challenges late into the night after the little ones are in bed, but the truth is, I'm just really, really impatient. Especially when things aren't working out and then I tend to say screw it, good enough. WRONG ATTITUDE! I think these public challenges are going to be a nice little life lesson for me.

Anyways, this project was a lot of fun. I felt pretty confident with my material of choice in terms of it's forgiving texture, but I really felt horrible when I looked at the name of the product after the fact. It was called Plastilina. I thought, oh great, here I am trying to radically reduce my use of plastic, and I've gone and bought a whole brick of the stuff. It's bad enough that it was encased in plastic packaging. I was in a rush, and it looked like the perfect material, so I bought it. I'm going to have to be a little less impulsive and more aware when I buy going forward. On a happier note, turns out that I'm not so sure what Plastilina is after all. According to the internet, it's made of wax, oil and clay flour. Is it compostable? I'm not sure. I hope so.

So, I started out really strong. I didn't have enough to make this a large project, which I came to regret as I tried to paint it. C'est la vie. I loved the result of the unpainted sculpture and it helped that family members kept saying it looked awesome!

The painting was the tricky part, especially with such a small surface. I tried using my husband's acrylic paints, but I'm so clumsy with the delicate writing via tiny paintbrush and the paints were dried out a bit and difficult to use. I switched half-way to a permanent marker. It was a lot easier to use, but by the time I was done, it looked amateurish and I was frustrated. My daughter came to the rescue! She agreed that it didn't look that great with the marker. A bit of honesty is refreshing sometimes, even when you are frustrated because -- dammit -- I was not going to fail again!

So I carefully scraped all the lettering off, grateful that I was using clay! I smoothed it out as best I could and started again. But it was about 10:45pm and I was freakin' tired! Gracie brought me some of her paints and  we experimented not only with the paint dilution but also with its application.

Turns out the Wilton fondant tool came in handy again! I used the needle end like a fountain pen. It took awhile, but it was much better in the end. Finished it off with a coat of my daughter's clear top coat nail polish, and voila! I didn't get to bed till nearly midnight, but I went to sleep with my pride intact!

So without further ado ... here is my offering!

 

 

Until next time!

Carla

 

 

Addendum...

 

Oh for the LOVE OF GOD!!! NOT AGAIN!! Debbie and Lisa's look so AWESOME! Huge sigh. I see now what I need to do...less literal, more interpretive. Okay, okay. Apparently I'm a slow learner.

Until next time then. The Game is afoot...

Lisa’s Challenge#2 Results

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!!!

Lisa

Debbie’s Challenge #2 Results

VICTORY! Double fist pumps to the Max!! Turns out that having a plan and taking your time actually creates a better result…who knew?!?
I started this Challenge by purchasing a $4 hardcover book from Dollarama and a $3 block of DAS clay..everything else I had in the Craft and Nail Tech boxes in my basement.
I wanted to create a Spellbook that had spooky Witches Fingers instead of skeletons (can they read with no eyeballs? I don’t think so) and a Hallowe’en-flavoured spell. After a search on Pinterest, I found this well-known poem and thought it was perfect!
This project took me quite a while to make because of drying time – which broke up the project into do-able 1-hour creating chunks, exactly how I like to operate!
Creating the fingers was a little tricky for me, taking more time to shape in a way that would ‘hold’ the book but not interfere with reading the words. I used my hands as a template for size, forming crude fingers from wire as a base for the clay and then shaping. Once they were formed and dry, I painted them greyish with touches of brown and a watered-down green wash.
I created the nails with tips and gel nail colours and hot-glued them to each finger.
Dipping the hardcover book into a pan with very strong tea and then curling up the pages created the ‘old and used’ look that I had in mind. Fortunately, there were empty pages at the back of the book that, once dry, I could trace the poem in the font that I liked and then glue them into place. A few spider stickers and it was done!
Creating this Spellbook for Hallowe’en inspired me to keep going - I made two more signs and ‘poisoned’ apples to work with my Witch’s House theme. At the start of this project I was seriously doubting my creative skills, (the Autumn Cake from Challenge 1 kicked my butt!!) however….I think I have redeemed myself ☺ Here's my Spellbook set up!

Happy Hallowe'en and a Blessed Samhain to All !

~Debbie

NAILED IT Challenge #2 : Hallowe’en

Hello Friends! I am so excited for this next challenge...I am feeling the need to redeem myself after my disastrous Challenge #1 !!

I found this Halloween decor in HomeSense and loved it so much that I almost bought it! But...then I thought 'Wouldn't this make for a Great NAILED IT Challenge #2?'

Carla and Lisa are on board...So I invite you to create with us ~ share your Spell Book in the comments section below (whether it's a Victory or a 'we'll just put this in the basement' Creation, we want to see it!) 

Happy Hallowe'en and Blessed Samhain to you all!

~Debbie

Lisa’s challenge#1

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!!!!

Debbie’s Challenge #1

In a word…FAIL

My refined sugar-free cake started out with High Hopes, however the recipe was not a great white cake recipe to begin with and I think that was the beginning of my trouble. I used coconut sugar to replace the white sugar and added 1 tbsp of Pumpkin Pie Spice. The flavor of the cake was nice but, in my son’s words, “No offense..” (which guarantees that I will be offended!) “…it’s more like a pound cake than a white cake”. Ouch! And yet, he was absolutely correct.  *sigh

I used an Avocado Chocolate Ganache for the filling, which was absolutely delicious! I used the ganache to create the tree on a piece of parchment paper and chilled in the freezer – it worked! Unfortunately, the flavour didn’t really go well with the pumpkin pie spice.

The icing was a bigger challenge than I expected! I started out with using a flax seed egg recipe to create a meringue. It used white icing sugar though, so I used maple syrup..that didn’t work. I don’t know what I did wrong, but it didn’t fluff up at all. Second try was a recipe for Buttercream Icing from Martha Stewart’s website..the flax seed egg fluffed up beautifully! That is, until I added the maple syrup and butter.

Third try was an Aquafaba meringue creation…and I gave up on the maple syrup and just used icing sugar. But only ½ cup, so much less than a regular icing! I coloured it with Wilton colouring and just went for it!

The flavor of the meringue icing was actually pretty good, very light! Unfortunately, the combination of ganache, pumpkin pie spice and foam was NOT a winner.

I think the Final Creation picture actually looks better than it did in real life.  It was tasted by everyone and the kids took a piece in their lunches for school the next day…when the foam icing had dissolved in a puddle at the base of the cake. All I can do is laugh…

Until Challenge #2...

~Debbie