Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

February 25, 2016

Bathroom Update: Kohler Purist Faucets + Crisis Averted

Aqua Kohler Sink

The bathroom is done!

Kidding (sorry, that was cruel).

But when you can use the toilet, bathe, AND brush your teeth in the same room (the same room!), you start to wonder what else could possibly be done to make this bathroom feel more complete...

Bathroom Renovation Progress // Home Decor Blogger

Oh right, a few things - the dangling wires, for one, aren't an art installation.

But I can see the light at the end of the tunnel!  The shower curtain rod was a special order and it just came in.  We're planning a shower curtain hack, so I'll be doing some late night sewing I'm sure.  The custom mirror was measured and ordered - the standard, in stock length is 72" and ours needs to be 72 3/4" so we were 3/4 of an inch away from having it immediately.  I had to laugh, but it's getting installed Friday (yay!) so I didn't have to wait long at all.  I picked up the replacement cabinet drawer fronts but I'm too nervous to unwrap them, so I stashed them under the vanity - which is ridiculous, I know.  Meanwhile, Hubby and I skipped ahead a few steps and even hung up some artwork.  Accessorizing this space - finally - makes me feels triumphant!


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February 22, 2016

Sculptural DIY Ribbon Rose Brooch

Ribbon rose brooch

This winter has been bizarrely (and beautifully) mild for us - the lake never fully froze, so a warm day plus a windy night usually means we wake up to open water, which is a magical sight in the winter!  I'm feeling pretty confident that winter won't drag on because I swear that I can smell spring in the air.

To celebrate spring's imminent return, my Mom and I spent a sunny afternoon crafting and made a bunch of sculptural ribbon rose brooches.  They have me dreaming about gardening and I'm thinking that I might finally do a little landscaping this year to bring our sad lawn in order!  I hope it's as easy as making these faux blooms...

If you'd like to make your own, statement-making ribbon rose brooch, here's how!

Supplies:

Crafts with ribbon

You can make these ribbon roses with or without the stamens - they look cute either way.  It's easier to make one without, so I'd recommend trying one with just ribbon and then once you have the hang of it, make another with the stamens. 

Red stamens for crafting

How to Make Ribbon Roses:

If you're going to add the stamens, bunch them together loosely and then loop the thread and needle through, like so:

How to affix faux stamens

Cut a length of wire edged ribbon.  The length will determine how lush the finished rose is; we used about 50 inches of ribbon.  Similarly, the width can vary; ours range from 1.5-2" wide.  If it's a variegated ribbon, decided which shade will be the inside/outside of the rose.  For the pale aqua one shown below, the white forms the inside of the rose. 

Fold the end of the ribbon over, toward you, so that it over hangs by about 1/2 an inch:

How to make a ribbon rose tutorial

Anchor the stamens by sewing them onto this folded over edge, like so:

DIY ribbon rose steps

Then fold the folded portion of the ribbon in half again, and then once again again, starting to roll toward the left:

Large faux ribbon rose tutorial

Here's a look at these first steps again, without the stamens, so you can see more clearly:

How to make a ribbon rose

Rolling the ribbon this way will form the center of the rose, and hide the tail end.  Once you've started the roll, anchor it onto a strip of buckram with a few stitches.  You can secure with a straight pin to keep it in place while you hand stitch the ribbon.

Uses for buckram
How to make a flower out of ribbon

Tuck the tail of the ribbon underneath and make a few more stitches to start the rose shape:

DIY ribbon flower

With the center of the rose secured, it's time to start shaping the rose.  The first step is to gather the wire so the ribbon becomes ruffly.  This takes some coaxing and you have to work gently.  Pull the wire out from the inside edge of the ribbon and start to push the fabric back along the wire, toward the center of the rose.

Things to make with wire edge ribbon

When you're done, the wire will look like this:

Wire edge ribbon crafts

Now coax the gathered wire around the center of the rose, shaping a loose flower.  Fiddle with the arrangement a bit, until it looks perfect (or perfectly imperfect).  You can make some folds here and there to mimic petals.

DIY ribbon rose

Then simply stitch the ribbon onto the buckram to hold the rose shape in place.  Don't worry about messy stitches - they will get hidden at the end:

Ribbon rose sewn in buckram

When you're done, trim the buckram:

Back of ribbon rose

The finished rose should look like this!

DIY faux rose brooch

To make the back prettier, we've got a plan involving some fancy brass discs but you can also just stitch on some felt and sew on a pin backing.

DIY brooch

And it's that easy!  There are so many different varieties of ribbon roses - and other flowers and leaves - but this is my favorite method because it looks so sculptural.  Obviously I love the aqua, and the tiny pop of red stamens makes it look so retro.  I can't wait to wear this with a summery white dress.  I can't wait for summer, period.

Aqua ribbon rose
Turquoise DIY ribbon rose

We made a teal version too, with black stamens, which is actually pretty wearable even with winter attire (although my coat crushes it a bit and it requires a bit of re-shaping).  The moodier teal pairs well with my predominantly grey, black, and camel winter wardrobe.

Teal ombre ribbon rose
DIY sculptural ribbon rose brooch
Sculptural DIY Brooch
Sculptural brooch DIY

Although you can use any wire edge ribbon, I think it looks prettiest with variegated colours - the ombre ribbons just add more depth, but that's a purely personal preference.

I quite obviously chose the colours for the two above, despite making a concerted effort to choose something that wasn't aqua.  My Mom has an impressive ribbon stash and I definitely considered some pretty pinks but in the end I succumbed to my turquoise-loving ways.  There was a lot to choose from and I panicked...

If these flowers seem familiar, it might be because my Mom made some to adorn the fabric covered box I made to collect cards on our wedding day.  My Mom made a cluster of ribbon flowers to jazz it up.  My Mom has also topped special gifts with these ribbon flowers, for a thoughtful touch.  She is incredibly talented at making a parcel or gift look beautiful.

DIY flower
DIY Rose

I'm trying to convince my Mom to make these for sale in our Etsy shop because they would be so pretty pinned to bridesmaid's dresses or prom dresses.  We could make smaller flowers as barrettes for little girls.  I even have some super modern home decor ideas for these blooms...  

How to make a ribbon rose
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February 18, 2016

Naturally Green Matcha Tea Shortbread Cookies

Green Four Leaf Clover Cookies

When I was in University there was intense pressure to wear green on St. Patrick's Day - I remember getting razzed many times for showing up to class sans green.  Frankly, showing up on time and dressed, period, was difficult for me because I spread myself a little too thin going to school full-time, working multiple jobs, and volunteering a lot of my time to not-for-profits.  I drove Charlie at the time, so I convinced my peers that cruising around in my lime green hatchback was sufficient cheer.  This year I will surely forget to don that all important colour again, but at least I'm prepared with a fun green shortbread recipe.  The secret ingredient?  Matcha tea!  The recipe is simple, but these cookies don't taste like traditional shortbread: they're smoother (thanks to the icing sugar), deliciously sweet, and naturally green - with a delicate hint of tea flavoring.  They are seriously addictive, I'm warning you now.

St. Patrick's Day Cookie Idea

Did I mention that my Mom and I painstakingly created four leaf clover shaped cookies with this green shortbread dough?  Don't worry, there's an easy option too:

Matcha Shortbread Cookie Recipe

Ingredients:
 Baking with Butterprint Pyrex

My Mom and I have both worked at (different) locally owned tea shops and we're pretty passionate about tea, although my once extensive knowledge about tea has been filed deep in the dusty corners of my brain.  What I do remember is that "tea" is often incorrectly used to refer to steeped beverages that are actually infusions or tisanes - like "peppermint tea".  Technically, only leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant make tea.  Matcha is a special kind of tea because the way in which the leaves and grown and processed is unique: the leaves are grown in shade for a period of time before being harvested and once harvested, the stems and veins are removed.  It's then ground into a fine powder and traditionally used in tea ceremonies.

Matcha supposedly boasts many health benefits because it is chock full of antioxidants (10x what a normal cup of green tea offers), fiber and vitamins.  To drink it, you simply whisk the powder into nearly boiled water and enjoy.  To bake with it, you can easily add it in any recipes that call for dry ingredients - I just substituted some flour from my original shortbread recipe with matcha.  

You can find matcha at most tea shops so check local first, but if you can't track it down you can click this link to snag some on Amazon - there are many different grades and price points, but I picked out something reasonable.  Ceremony grade matcha is more expensive, so keep your eyes peeled for culinary grade which still provides a great flavor and colour, without a steep price.

How to bake with Match tea

How to Make Match Shortbread:

I think everyone knows how to make shortbread!  Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy.  My Mom is convinced that doing it by hand - without an electric mixer - is the key to making these cookies perfect.  Slowly add the flour and mix well.  Then add the matcha, making sure to break up any balls of powder so it blends well.

To make the classic "squashed with a fork balls," form the dough into 1 inch balls with your hands, place on a baking sheet (I lined mine with parchment paper) and, you guessed it, squash with a fork.  This style of cookie always reminds me of my Mummu - she does her peanut butter cookies this way.

Baking Temps and Times:

The fork smush style is baked at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-22 minutes.

Naturally Green Shortbread Cookies
Matcha green tea cookie recipe
Naturally dye baked goods green with matcha
Natural food dye alternatives

To make a leaf shape, the trickiest part is tracking down a four leaf clover cookie cutter.  I found one in a vintage set of cookie cutters, but you can easily buy them from Amazon.  This four leaf clover shaped cookie cutter looks a lot like mine (good price, too).

Four leaf clover cookie cutter

I rolled out the dough on a floured surface and cut out the leaf shapes, placing them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Now comes the fun part!

Make four leaf clover shaped cookies

To get the veining, my Mom and I lightly scored the design onto the raw dough, careful not to cut through or score too deep.  This was piddly work, but wouldn't you know the fancy ones were more delicious ;)

Create realistic leaf cookies

These cookies were thinner, so they were baked at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for only 10-12 minutes.

I intensified the green by adding more matcha.  The first batch had 1 tablespoon but for the second half of the dough, I added about a half tablespoon more.  Look how adorable they turned out!  I lured my Mom into helping with a few blog projects and we enjoyed a really lovely afternoon baking these - it was kind of meditative to work on the leaf-shaped ones and the process has made me want to try some really beautiful desserts instead of the usual, slap-dash, I need sugar now company's due in an hour things I used to bake.  I'm still cutting back sugar in a big way, but a little treat every now and then is nice.

St. Patty's Cookies
Easy green bake sale cookie idea
Green cookie recipe

You can barely taste any tea flavor in the lighter batch - they're just buttery and sweet.  The darker batch has a slight tea flavor but it's still light and sweet.  If you try baking with matcha, experiment with different quantities.  Too much matcha can produce a bitter cookie, so if you're aiming for a darker green, try adding a little bit at a time and then pinching off a bit of dough to taste.

St Patrick's Day Baking Idea // Green Shortbread

I love that these aren't coloured with artificial food dye. Behind the scenes I've been experimenting a bit with natural food dye alternatives.  I'm mulling over whether I want to attempt something pretty insane for my birthday cake this year...

Matcha shortbread recipe
Grinch cookies // Green cookies for Christmas
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February 5, 2016

DIY Dolly Mix Valentine's Day Card + Treat Bag in One

DIY Valentine Card and Goody Bag

In elementary school, I was the weird kid who brought homemade Valentine's Day cards to school while everyone else doled out Ninja Turtle emblazoned missives.  Frankly, I don't remember much about those years, but I do remember sitting at the kitchen table with my Mom, making those cards.  Hubby and I both have such strange work schedules that days of the week, and especially special occasions, often pass us in a blur, but this year I remembered about Valentine's Day and whipped up something cute for our niece and nephew:  homemade Valentine's Day cards + goody bags in one!

Candy Stuffed Valentine Card
Handmade Valentine Card

Adorable right?  These easy Valentine's Day card come stuffed with candy so I'm sure they will be a hit!  I don't think a tutorial is really necessary, but I'll outline the steps and supplies below just in case - you're at least going to want to know about the insanely cute, pint-sized Dolly Mix I used...

Supplies:

DIY Valentine Goody Bag

First I cut some paper to the same width as the bags with my paper cutter.  I folded it in half and then wrote a little message across the top with a gold pen (I also signed our names and "xoxo" on the back).  Then I added a row of hand-painted hearts and set the cards aside to dry.  It took quite a bit of practice on scrap paper to achieve the effortlessly perfect swoopy heart.

While I waited, I filled two treat bags with Dolly mix.  I went to the bulk store in search of heart shaped candies but stumbled across this British confection instead.  Apparently it's been around since the 1920s and I love that it (the Waterbridge brand, at least) uses completely natural flavors and colours. 

Dolly Mix

Look how teeny!

Dolly Mix Size

Sure, this treat packs a lot of sugar (and I feel guilty about that), but the pieces are small and made to scale for tiny little hands.  My hope is that they'll devour it more slowly!

DIY Candy Treat Bag
DIY Valentine Craft Ideas

Once the cards were dry, I slid a folded card over the top of each treat bag and stapled it near the bottom in two places.

Sweet Goody Bag

I threaded a length of ribbon through the card and then wrapped it front to back before tying it in a bow at the front - the ribbon hides the staples.

Valentine Cards Kids Can Make
DIY Valentine Card for Kids
Valentine Card and Goody Bag in One
Easy Valentine Craft Ideas

Easy peasy!  A cute homemade card and sack of sugar in one!  Now I need to make sure that:

A. I remember to actually bring these treats to the kiddos on Valentine's Day
B. I don't crack open each sack, inhale the Dolly Mix, and pretend that I forgot V-Day again this year

Valentine Craft with Kids
Handmade Valentine Card Idea
DIY Valentine Treat Bag
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