Pumpkin – Baking with Seasonal Flavor

Pumpkins
Old Man Winter has us firmly in his grasp. The growing season is over, but there’s still time to stock up on canned pumpkin, before the stores sell out of this seasonal favorite. There’s nothing like the delicious aromas of homemade cookies and pastries, straight from the oven. It may be a long cold winter, but you can warm hearts and bellies with a lot of love and few easy recipes. Below are several pumpkin items to inspire you.

Iced Pumpkin Donuts
Iced Donuts
To save you time and ensure success, the baking section of your local craft store has a large selection of pans, including bundt cake, cupcakes, muffins, jelly roll, etc. One of the more unusual pans is for baking donuts. Since no deep fryer is required, anyone can bake donuts at home, and the same pan can be used to make bagels too.

Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Vanilla Frosting
Bundt Cake
A fluted pan is the secret to the bundt cake. This photo shows the standard version of a bundt cake with icing drizzled over the top. If you really want to impress your guests, prepare an unexpected surprise by adding filling. To do this, pour half the batter into the pan. Spread the filling around the pan, ensuring it does not touch the inner or outer edges of the pan. Pour the remaining batter on top and bake. When the cake is sliced, the unusual profile of the slice will be enhanced by a colorful creamy center.

Homemade Pumpkin Bread
Pumpkin Bread
Pumpkin bread needs to cool before slicing. By refrigerating the loaf, the bread becomes moist like a cake. Toasted pumpkin bread is delicious with melted peanut butter. Metal pans are fine, but for baking bread I prefer a ceramic loaf pan. I don’t know about you, but the sound of metal scraping makes my skin crawl. Ceramic cleans up easier too.

Spiced Pumpkin Roll with Orange Cream Cheese Icing
Pumpkin Roll
A spiral design is the hallmark of this impressive dessert, but it’s easy to make, and will melt in your mouth. Bake the cake in a jellyroll pan lined with parchment paper. After baking, lay the cake face down on a towel. If necessary, trim any ragged edges. Starting with a long side, roll the cake in the towel and cool completely on a wire rack. Unroll and remove the towel, and lay cake flat. Spread the filling over the top within 1/2” of the edges. Suggested fillings include whipped cream, pie filling, and pudding. Carefully roll the cake and place it with the seam side down on a platter. Garnish as desired.

Pumpkin Muffins
Pumpkin Muffins
Pumpkin muffins are delicious as is, or shake a little powdered sugar over the top. Sometimes the simplest version is the best.

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Whipped Cream & Graham Cracker Crust
Pumpkin Cheesecake
Cheesecake is a dessert menu staple. The only bad thing about pumpkin cheesecake is that it’s only available from October through January, or February if you’re lucky. Beyond that you’ll have to wait until the next pumpkin season.

Walnut Pumpkin Pie with Whipped Cream
Walnut Pumpkin Pie
A pastry bag and fresh whipped cream will dress up any baked goods, but it’s just as easy to use a can of whipped cream. For best results, practice a few floral shapes first before tackling the final product.

Traditional Pumpkin Pie with Homemade Crust
Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkin pie typically has a delicious flaky crust. This baker created a pretty undulating pattern with the crust and garnished the top with a leaf cut from the same pastry crust. There are some really cool baking tools, such as fluted piecrust cutters for edging, and spring-loaded piecrust cutters to create cutouts or appliqués, like the leaf shown in the photo above.

Chocolate Drizzled Pumpkin Pie with Chocolate Crust
Pumpkin Tart
This contemporary pumpkin pie has a chocolate graham cracker bottom crust, and a pumpkin cream cheese filling. For a no-bake version, buy a ready-to-use crust.

Savory Pumpkin Soup
Pumpkin Soup
Like butternut squash, pumpkin soup gets its savory flavor from rich heavy cream and just the right amount of seasoning from ginger, cinnamon, onion and celery.

Pumpkin Pancakes
Pumpkin Pancakes
Do you love pancakes but are bored with the same old taste? Boost the flavor and your taste buds by adding 1/2 cup of canned pumpkin for every 2 cups of batter.

Homemade Pumpkin Pudding
Pumpkin Pudding
Deep-dish pumpkin pudding tastes delicious while still warm from the oven, or chilled and served with fresh whipped cream. If you’ve never had it, the top and edges have a cake-like texture, but the rest is creamy pudding with that awesome pumpkin flavor. If your favorite part of a pumpkin pie is the filling, this pudding will be your new go-to dessert.

Baking is a fun and rewarding activity to be shared with the whole family. Enjoy the process and remember you can always eat your mistakes.

Happy Crafting!

Creative Holiday Gift Wrapping

Whats in the Box?It’s the night before Christmas, and little feet tiptoe toward the tree for a sneak peek at the presents. We may not have done this, but we thought about it a lot. It’s human nature to wonder -What’s inside the box?

Whether you are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc., you’re going to give gifts to lots of people, and those gifts need to be boxed, bagged, or wrapped in an attractive fashion.

Last Minute Checking All the Details

Colors & PatternsIf your name is Mrs. Claus, you probably don’t need help wrapping gifts.

Santa’s Secret Gift Stash

All Wrapped UpIn fact, Mrs. Claus probably has a gift-giving closet that looks like this one. For the rest of us, there’s still a lot of shopping to be done and presents to be wrapped. Department stores typically offer gift wrap, but it can be pricey. Many retailers have eliminated this service and the gift boxes as well. Shopping malls offer gift wrapping, but the lines can be very long. Fortunately there are lots of solutions to make your gifts look beautiful.

Gift Bags & Boxes

Gift BagsGift bags are probably one of the best inventions of all time. They’re sold just about everywhere, including the food stores, so when you’re running around last minute a gift bag is easily on hand.

Accessorized Cloth Gift Bags

Cloth Gift BagsThese burlap bags are dressed up with the addition of berries and glitzy red ornaments.

Red & White Fabric Gift Bag

Cloth Gift BagThis red and white gift bag has a built-in drawstring.

Fabric Gift Bags with Metallic Polka Dot Patterns

Amazon Gift BagsAmazon provided these festive gift bags, which my family passes back and forth for various occasions all year long. Unfortunately there’s no way of knowing which color you might receive, and some items are wrapped in paper instead of a bag.

Velvet-Lined Metal Box

Metal BoxA metal box is an intriguing way to package a gift.

Collectible Porcelain Box

Porcelain BoxPorcelain boxes come in a variety of shapes and colors for every occasion. These are perfect for jewelry or other small items, and can also be used to conceal a cash gift.

Glass Jar Adorned with Silver Heart

Glass JarFor the baker in the family, this fluted glass jar and lid will hold your gift now, and will be perfect for holding baking ingredients in the future. It could also be used as cookie jar.

Bath & Body Gift Basket

Gift BasketGift baskets filled with the recipient’s favorites is always a welcome surprise. You can purchase a roll of colored cellophane wrap or use regular plastic wrap to cover the entire basket, and tie a bow on top.

Gift Box Tower

Stacking Printed BoxesSome stores provide colorfully printed boxes, which are suitable for gifts any time of year, and can be stacked and tied with a pretty ribbon.

Gift Boxes – Lids Wrapped Separately

Wrapped LidsWhen using standard wrapping paper, you can always wrap the lid separately. By doing so, the box can be reused for years to come.

Accessorized Gold Box

Floral StemA floral pine cone stem and some ribbon were all that was needed to complete this package.

Matching Gift Tags

Gift TagsDon’t forget to add a gift tag. Some people save the pictures, from last year’s holiday cards, and use them as gift tags on this year’s presents.

Dress up Gift Wrap with Ornaments

Ornaments
Standard green wrapping paper perks up with the addition of bright red ribbon and two adorable ornaments.

Recycled Paper with Greens from the Backyard

Pine Cone GreensFor an all-natural look, recycled paper can be used, with twine instead of ribbon, some evergreen and a pine cone from your backyard.

Fancy Metallic Paper & Coordinating Ribbon

Silver BowA silver bow makes a statement on this aqua and silver wrapped gift.

Fanciful Paper with a Statement Bow

Big BowA glittering gold bow makes the perfect topper for this dancing reindeer package.

Metallic Paper with a Pom Pom Bow

Specialty BowsA 3-dimensional snowflake has sprung to life from this pretty wrapping paper.

Glittering Paper, Ribbon & Bow

BlingFor a glamorous look, combine sparkling red paper, gold studded ribbon, and a shiny gold bow.

Coordinated Paper & Ribbon

Matching Ribbon & PaperThis perfectly coordinated metallic ribbon and paper is suitable for gifts any time of year.

Pretty Paper with Flower-Shaped Bow

Floral Paper & BowSometimes a really great topper steals the show. A bow like this one will be appreciated for sure, with its petal-like layers in full bloom and wisps of green ribbon leaves peeking out beneath. There’s a very interesting pattern of wildlife, holly sprigs, and guitars intertwined among the curvilinear vines.

As they say, it’s the thought that counts. With a few creative choices, gift wrapping can be a pleasure, instead of a chore.

Happy Holidays & Happy Crafting!

Baking for the Holidays

Cookie Cutters & Dough
As the weather turns colder, my thoughts turn to baking. The scent of home baked cookies wafting through the air is sure to be followed by the thumping footfalls of my family as they bound down the stairs in search of something sweet from the oven. I have to admit I love it too and have sampled more than a few of my own creations.

In addition to satisfying your family, baked goods make great gifts for guests, neighbors, co-workers, and friends. Below are several ideas for inspiration.

Gingerbread Cookies
Gingerbread Cookies
These charming gingerbread cookies are served on an equally adorable pinwheel candy plate. They’re easy to make, or you can buy plain ones and apply your own colorful candy and icing decorations.

Gingerbread Houses
Gingerbread Houses
Everyone loves home baked goods. How about baked goods that require no baking at all (at least on your part)? Gingerbread kits come in a number of varieties, such as cookies, houses, and villages, and include all the necessary candies, icing, and yes the baked gingerbread too. The whole family will enjoy building and eating their creations.

Traditional Christmas Cookies
Decorated Christmas Cookies
Decked out in green, red and white icing, these cookies celebrate Christmas in the sweetest possible way.  If you have a long list of people to bake for, get the whole family involved with the decorating to speed up the process in this fun activity.

Assorted Butter Cookies
Gourmet Butter Cookies
Butter cookies are finger licking good. If you are pressed for time, many bakeries offer ready-made cookie platters to share with your friends and family or give as gifts.

Fancy Cookie Cut Outs
Fancy Jelly Filled Cookie
This elegant cookie looks professionally made, but it’s actually quite easy to make yourself. All you need are two cookie cutters – one large round with scalloped edges, and the second in the shape of a swan or any design you prefer. Layer two large cookies on top of each other, with strawberry or raspberry filling, to make this sandwich cookie. The bottom cookie is solid, while the top cookie has a swan cut out in the center. Shake powdered sugar on top for a beautiful bakery finish.

Iced Snowman Cookies
Iced Snowman Cookies
Snowmen are seasonal favorites. These individually wrapped cookies would make great party favors for your guests. If you have extra, they’re popular items at the school bake sales. Of course that assumes your family doesn’t finish them off first. (lol)

Holiday Cookie & Candy Platter
Holiday Cookie & Candy Platter
Homemade cookies & candy go hand in hand. This creative assortment tantalizes the taste buds. Should I have a cookie first or dive into the chocolates? There are plenty of candy mold designs suitable for any occasion, and new flavors in candy melts will please the most adventuresome candy aficionados.

Assorted Homemade Breads
Assorted Homemade Breads
Breads are delicious any time of year. With so many recipes and the ease of baking, anyone can make homemade bread in less than an hour. Crafter Tip: Many types of bread need to be fully cooled, and sometimes refrigerated before slicing. To prevent crumbling, be sure to follow the recipe instructions.

Christmas Petits Fours
Christmas Petit Fours
Petits Fours are the perfect marriage of cake and candy. Fondant icing is actually candy used to cover bite size cubes of yellow, sponge or pound cake. While the fondant is still wet, decorations can be applied using piped icing, or a sprinkling of either candy or nuts. As an added burst of flavor, jelly or butter cream can be spread over the cake prior to applying the fondant.

Snowman Cupcakes
Snowman Cupcakes
These snowman and snowlady cupcakes are almost too cute to eat. The bodies are standard size cupcakes, and the heads are mini cupcakes. Coconut is the perfect substitute for snow. Oreos become top hats for the gentlemen, and piped icing details create all the smiling faces and earmuffs for the ladies.

Hanukkah Donuts
Hanukkah Donuts
It wouldn’t be Hanukkah without deep-fried jelly donuts sprinkled with granulated sugar.

Cranberry Rhubarb Pie
Cranberry Rhubarb Pie
Cranberries play a large part in many holidays. There’s cranberry sauce as a side item with your meal, cranberry garlands and sprigs as decorative touches, and cranberry muffins and pies.

Whether you bake everything from scratch, or supplement your desserts with store-bought items, the holidays are a time of sharing, especially at mealtime. Enjoying the seasonal flavors with loved ones is something we all have in common.

Happy Holidays & Happy Crafting!

How to Make a Painted Wooden Snowman

Snowman Closeup Photo
Fall hasn’t officially come to a close, and yet we’ve already had record-breaking cold temperatures, and an unexpected snowstorm. Why not build a snowman that will never melt? This is a simple, inexpensive project for the whole family. I made two snowmen to display in my living room windows.

Unfinished Wood
It all starts with unfinished wood snowmen, purchased at AC Moore.

Snowmen Painted White
Spray paint all sides, edges and base with white paint.

Painted Details
With an artist’s paintbrush, add the details (buttons, eyes, and a smile) with black paint.  Instead of painting the details, you could hot glue round and square plastic buttons, and draw the smile with a Sharpie marker.

Hats Scarves & Carrots
Accessorize with hats and scarves. If you enjoy crocheting, you can quickly create this fashionable look with whatever color yarn you have on hand. Bright red is a great seasonal color, and reads well from a distance. If needlework is not your thing, craft stores have snowman building kits and accessories. For the nose, I created the look of a carrot by squeezing a foam, packing peanut into the correct shape, and painting it with bright orange acrylic paint.  Use hot glue to attach carrot nose.

Stick Arms
Making the arms is as easy as collecting a few sticks from your yard, and attaching them to the sides. You could glue them in place. I decided to use self-stick Velcro instead, because I wanted the arms to be removable for easy storage.

White Lights
I’m sure by now you’ve been wondering about those pre-drilled holes around the perimeter. They were made to hold a strand of twenty white lights, also available at AC Moore. Crafter Tip: The lights can only be pushed through from one side of the wood frame. You may need to secure the last light at the bottom with a piece of tape to keep it from pulling out from the weight of the electrical cord.

Lights at night
I turned off the flash on my camera to give you an idea of how these cute little snowmen look when lit at night. When the holidays are over, these snowmen can remain on display throughout the winter to bring a little whimsy to your home’s decor.

As an additional aside, I made these snowmen two-sided. Because they are standing on a windowsill, they can be seen from inside and outside. The lights can only be seen from one side, but seeing that smiling face when I walk by the window makes me smile too.

Happy Crafting!

Decorating for the Holidays

Hand Painted Glass Ornaments
It’s that time again when we deck the halls, shop ‘til we drop, and dream of snowflakes and gingerbread fresh from the oven. Decorating your home can be stressful. There are so many styles and colors to choose. Where to begin? Let’s review several options to pique your interest.

Mood Lighting
Dining Room Ambiance
The festive contemporary vibe in this dining room is created solely through the clever use of lighting. Round white lights adorn the table and trendy letters upon the back wall, which is bathed in soft lavender light and soft blue accent lights.

Traditional Candle Wreath Centerpiece
Candle Centerpiece
The traditional red and green Christmas color scheme is accented with nuts and pinecones in this evergreen centerpiece. The aromatic scents of the great outdoors will last for weeks. To convert this to an Advent wreath, replace the red candles with three purple and one pink.

Contemporary Candle Centerpiece
Candle Centerpiece
Create a contemporary candle centerpiece, without the wreath, by using a silver tray, beads and small metallic stars. For another look, substitute blue candles in place of the red. The cool blue would be a nice complement for the shiny silver accents.

Contemporary Candle & Glass Ornament Centerpiece
Contemporary Candle & Glass Ornament Centerpiece
Christmas balls can be glued together to form a wreath, which is great as a centerpiece, or you can hang it on the wall for a colorful, reflective focal point.

Sophisticated Gold & Brown Centerpiece
Sophisticated Gold & Brown Centerpiece
This unusual gold and brown combo brings to mind boxes of Godiva chocolate. The rich colors and just the right amount of glitter make this an elegant, eye-catching choice.

Traditional Style Meets Contemporary Flair
Traditional Style Meets Contemporary Flair
Red & green are traditional, but here we have a glass bowl filled with natural elements, such as moss, apples, and pinecones, mixed with glass and carved wood ornaments, and metal spheres. The candlelight is supplemented with flower shaped mini lights tucked among the greens like little blooms.

Red & Green Glowing Glass Centerpiece
Red & Green Glowing Glass Centerpiece
What sets this display apart is the lighting hidden inside the fluted glass bowl. This inner glow reflects off the tabletop and twinkles upon the glass ornaments.

Fresh Cut Flowers Centerpiece
Fresh Cut Flowers Centerpiece
Floral centerpieces can be quite expensive. As an alternative, make your own with evergreens, pinecones, and berries from your yard, and add a few exotic looking fresh cut flowers for maximum impact.

Colorful Foil Garlands
Colorful Foil Garlands
Many trees are decorated with silver or gold garland, but there are many other colors and styles available.

Red Beaded Garland
Red Beaded Garland
If you look at historical photos of decorated trees, you may notice beautiful beaded garlands. Originally they were made from glass, but today plastic beads provide the same old-fashioned look without the added expense and fragility of glass.

Popcorn Garland
Popcorn Garland
Another old-fashioned choice is popcorn garland, which is easy and inexpensive to make. For a dash of color, alternate popcorn with cranberries.

Semi-Homemade Ornaments
Semi-Homemade Ornaments
Transform store-bought ornaments with a little personalization. This crafter started with purple glass ornaments. A glitter paint pen was used to draw vertical line, and then gold rhinestones were randomly glued along the stripes for a regal appearance.

Christmas Ornament Kits
Christmas Ornament Kits
Due to the small sequin size and intricate sewing, the two ornaments shown above would be for the more advanced crafters, but there are plenty of options for beginners and kids.

Festive décor varies based upon the holiday being celebrated and your personal style. Below are several different theme ideas to inspire and consider for your next holiday.

Blue & Gold
Blue & Gold Tree
For some, it’s all about the lights. Here we have blue lights and fancy gold ribbon taking center stage.

Blue, Silver, & Gold with Purple Accents
Blue, Silver, & Gold with Purple Accents
On this tree, ornaments are the main focus, accented by silver snowflakes and gold poinsettias.

Red & Silver
Red & Silver Tree
Glitz and glamour are achieved with mirror-finished ornaments, pinpoint white lights, and last but certainly not least, a sparkling reindeer.

Red, Purple & Gold
Red, Purple & Gold
Colorful ornaments and two shades of garland vie for your attention in this beautifully coordinated tree.

Turquoise & Silver
Turquoise & Silver
This tree is exotic in so many ways. The combination of turquoise and silver is as rare as the color of the tree, which is brown! The silver ornaments vary in textures, shapes and materials. It is truly a one of a kind.

Mother Nature’s Tree
Mother Nature’s Tree
For nature lovers, decorate with pinecones, berries and cute little birds. Animal themed trees have been very popular for the last few years. Whatever strikes your fancy – owls, lighthouses, sea horses, etc. – decorations can be found or made to make your vision a reality.

Our Furry Companions
Our Furry Companions
Let’s not forget an ornament or two for those lovable family pets. In case you didn’t know, tree skirts are very popular places for afternoon naps.

A Room with a Fabulous View
A Room with a Fabulous View
Curl up with a good book by the fire, or find a cozy spot overlooking a winter wonderland. The holidays are a wonderful time to decorate our homes and celebrate the season with family and friends. May your holiday dreams be happy, filled with peace and love.

Happy Holidays & Happy Crafting!

Thanksgiving Décor Made Easy

Colors of the Season
Fall Leaves
Just about every family in the United States celebrates Thanksgiving. When you are the host of this annual feast, a lot of planning and preparation is required to ensure it will be a delicious and enjoyable occasion for all. The party starts upon arrival and ends when the last hugs are exchanged and tearful waving as the cars pull away with promises to come back again next year.

What kind of atmosphere do you want to create for this celebration? A few decorative items can really set the stage for your family feast. Let autumn’s colors, red, orange, green, and yellow, inspire your Thanksgiving décor.

Outdoor Decorations
Outdoor Fall Display
Seasonal gourds, corn and apples can be artfully arranged by the front door, or in a corner of your deck or patio. To ensure longevity, be sure to keep produce out of direct sun and away from fire pits.

Autumn’s Bountiful Harvest
Autumn’s Bountiful Harvest
Give those left over Halloween pumpkins new life in a Thanksgiving display. Mother Nature provides the fallen leaves, or substitute with handfuls of straw for a festive look.

A Colorful Welcoming Entrance
Outdoor Decor
Don’t miss an opportunity to create a festive entryway to your home. Decorate an existing bench or cozy front porch with attractive pots or baskets of chrysanthemums, pumpkins, and cabbage plants.

Seasonal Fall Wreath
Fall Wreath
Greet your guests at the door with a lovely fall wreath. To make one, start with a grapevine wreath base. Tie or glue on gourds, pinecones and berries. As an added burst of color, glue red and green silk leaves on poster board and secure it to the back of the wreath.

Holiday décor differs based upon many factors: geographic location – beachside versus mountaintop; venue – urban loft apartment versus rural farmhouse; your personal style: traditional versus contemporary or something in between, etc. Below are several design ideas to spark your creativity.

Traditional Thanksgiving Cornucopia Centerpiece
Traditional Thanksgiving Cornucopia Centerpiece
A few candles and a set of mini lights add sparkle and ambiance to this festive centerpiece. If burning candles makes you nervous, you can opt for the flameless variety. New technological advances have produced a very realistic appearance of flickering flames. Many are made with scented wax, have been molded with lines of “dripping” wax down the sides, and operate via remote control.

Farmhouse Chic Centerpiece
Farmhouse Chic Centerpiece
This display creates a more casual atmosphere. The wicker basket and two hammered metal tankards set amongst a mixture of fruit and veggies are the focal point on a picnic table with plenty of room for the extended family and friends.

Fruitful Harvest
Fruitful Harvest
A sculptural glass bowl of fruit serves as an artful centerpiece and it’s edible.

Elegant Traditional Place Setting
Elegant Traditional Place Setting
Place settings can impress even the most discriminating family members. If you have a metallic gold sharpie marker, you could write each person’s name on the tiny white pumpkins, which become party favors for your guests to take home after enjoying a delicious meal.

Chargers, such as the gold one shown in the photo above, are decorative plates typically used as colorful accents for laying dishes. There are two types of chargers sold at craft stores. The first tends to be round plates in solid colors, metallic finishes, or vintage prints. The second type is very decorative, including embellishments such as rhinestones and hammered metal finishes. Food Safety Tip: Chargers are for decorative use only – they are Not Food Safe.

From Vineyard to Table Decor
From Vineyard to Table Decor
If being non traditional is more your style, choose a different color scheme to celebrate the bounty of the season. How about blues, purples, and greens from the vineyard? Wine is typically a part of every big celebration. Why not use it as the inspiration for your holiday décor? Knock tradition off its feet with this colorful twist.

Contemporary Urban Glam
Contemporary Urban Glam
Are you passionate about having a lot of bling in your holiday decor? How about this sequined tablecloth, deep orchid napkins, silver plates, and bejeweled napkin rings? The table cover could be an expensive item, but a trip to the fabric store will save you a bundle. Little details make such a difference. Embellish plain napkin rings with rhinestones, beads, berries or flowers. If time is short, Pier 1 has a large selection of ornate napkin rings.

Exotic Blue Peacock
Exotic Blue Peacock Place Setting
Using peacock feathers for inspiration, this table setting features a matching runner and chair sashes. If you are comfortable with sewing, both items can be easily made for use with an existing white tablecloth and dining chairs. The sashes are tied to the seat backs in simple bows, turning standard folding chairs into fashionable seating. Brown wicker chargers beautifully offset the bright blue napkins. Green glassware and a few well-placed peacock feathers complete the design.

Combining Old & New
Combining Old & New
Transitional is a blending of traditional elements, such as the floral arrangement and orange-rimmed dishes, with a contemporary flair – maroon napkins creatively folded to create an exotic flower and wrapped in gold leaf-shaped napkin rings; matching placemats; and coordinating gold and maroon glass beads scattered upon the table.

Beachside Centerpiece
Beach Centerpiece
If you live at the beach, the bountiful harvest focuses upon the ocean, and your celebration may look something like this. Fire and water is always a mesmerizing combo. Place floating candles in clear glass containers with attractive pebbles or sea glass in the bottom. Set in a tray with sand and a few seashells for a lovely seaside centerpiece.

Traditional Thanksgiving Table with Wine & Flowers
Traditional Thanksgiving Table with Wine & Flowers
Regardless of how you choose to celebrate Thanksgiving, may it bring you and yours a very happy, and love filled holiday to be remembered fondly for years to come.

Happy Thanksgiving & Happy Crafting!

Chocolate – How Sweet It Is

I have a confession to make – researching this article made my mouth water, and I realized it should probably contain a warning, so here it is: If you don’t have a craving for chocolate right now, you will by the time you finish reading this post. You might want to have some chocolate on hand before you continue reading. Grab some Hershey’s kisses, or break open a bag of chocolate chips – anything will do – just in case!

Assorted Chocolates
Assorted Chocolates
Chocolate is a worldwide obsession. Everybody has a favorite. The purists prefer their chocolate free of any added ingredients. Some crave nuts, caramel, or coconut with chocolate, but others passionately insist peanut butter and chocolate make the ultimate combo. While the debate continues, candy makers tantalize the chocolate-loving public with their latest creations. It all starts with a seed…

Seeds Growing upon Cacao Trees
Cacao
Turning cacao seeds into the delicious chocolate treats, we have come to adore, is time consuming. For the DIY candy makers, manufacturers have simplified the process by creating small chocolate wafers called candy melts, which are available in milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate, and assorted flavors, such as peppermint and strawberry.

Milk Chocolate Candy Melts
Milk Chocolate Candy Melts

Melted Milk Chocolate
Melted Milk Chocolate
Chocolate is melted in a double boiler. When it reaches a smooth, creamy consistency, it can be poured into molds similar to the one shown below.

Milk Chocolate Hearts
Milk Chocolate Hearts
After refrigeration, the chocolates are unmolded and ready to eat. The solid milk chocolate hearts in the above photo are the easiest, beginner-level of chocolate candy making.

Assorted Gourmet Chocolates
Assorted Gourmet Chocolates
With practice and a little creativity, you can graduate to the next level.

Chocolate Truffles
Chocolate Truffles
Do you have a gourmet sweet tooth? Chocolatiers, such as Lindt, and Godiva, are excellent choices, but can be expensive. Making these decadent truffles takes a little more effort, but it’s still an easy process. Instead of filling the mold all at once, it is done in layers. The first layer forms the outer chocolate shell. Coat the mold with chocolate. Next the filling is added. Popular favorites are hazelnuts, butter cream, peanut butter, caramels, chocolate liqueurs and cream fillings. A piping bag can be used to make filling easier. Refrigerate the mold to allow the filling and chocolate to solidify. The last step is adding another layer of chocolate to fill any remaining voids and seal the top of the mold. Refrigerate and carefully un-mold. Your candy making skills will be the envy of all your friends and family.

If gourmet chocolate isn’t your style, there are simpler options…

Chocolate & Vanilla Fudge
Chocolate & Vanilla Fudge

Assorted Chocolate Barks
Assorted Chocolate Barks

Crispy Chocolate Caramel Bar
Crispy Chocolate Caramel Bar
Have you ever eaten a 100Grand candy bar? It’s a delicious combination of crispy chocolate with a gooey caramel center. Making your own is simple: Melt milk chocolate wafers and stir in Rice Krispies. Spread half the mixture in an 8×8 pan. Pour caramel sauce over the top, and then cover with the remaining chocolate mixture. Refrigerate to harden the chocolate and cut into bars. Don’t be surprised if the pan magically empties.

Chocolate Covered Cookie
Chocolate Covered Cookie

Chocolate Covered Marshmallows
Chocolate Marshmallow

Chocolate Covered Cake Pops
Chocolate Covered Cake Pops
Undecided whether to have chocolate or cake? Have both with chocolate cake pops.

Chocolate Covered Apples
Chocolate Covered Apples
If soft, gooey, caramel and decadent chocolate were people, they would be best friends. For gourmet apples, dip fruit in caramel first, followed by chocolate, and roll in sprinkles, crushed nuts, or anything else your taste buds desire.

Chocolate Caramel Popcorn
Chocolate Caramel Popcorn
What more do you need on movie night?

Hot Chocolate & Red Velvet Cake
Hot Chocolate & Red Velvet Cake
Perhaps beverages are more to your liking? There’s no need to wait for cold weather. Crank up the air conditioner, we’re having hot chocolate!

Chocolate Fudge Pie
Chocolate Fudge Pie

Chocolate Mousse
Chocolate Mousse
Who could resist the rich, creamy taste of chocolate mousse?

Brownie a la Mode
Brownie a la Mode

Solid Chocolate Cell Phone
Solid Chocolate Cell Phone
No phone plan is needed here. Hold all my calls! This is going to take a while.

Happy Crafting!!

Who’s Behind The Mask?

Red Feathered MaskIt’s hard to believe the month of October is half over. Thoughts of my favorite time of year, Halloween, come to mind. I suppose I’m just a big kid at heart. Dressing up was so much fun. Deciding what to be for Halloween was a major accomplishment. Sometimes the costume was store bought (e.g. Snow White, Peter Pan), while other times we made our own (e.g. Gypsy, Witch).

Purple & Gold Mardi Gras Mask
Purple Gold MaskAll you really need is a great mask. Craft stores sell a variety of white masks to decorate any way you please. In terms of comfort, the quarter masks are an easy solution, as opposed to latex masks, sold in Halloween stores, which can be very hot to wear.

Red Sequined Mask and White Floral Mask
 Red & White MasksMasks can be decorated with a particular theme in mind or for holiday celebrations, such as Carnival, Mardi Gras, New Year’s Eve, and the Chinese New Year. Each finished mask is a beautiful work of wearable art.

Turquoise & Gold Feathered Mask
Turquoise & Gold Feathered MaskI look at this mask and think of Aqua Man, the Marvel Comic’s super hero. It is also reminiscent of the Philadelphia Mummer’s Parade. The rich details and vibrant colors are real showstoppers.

Red, Black & Gold Long Nose Joker Mask
Red, Black & Gold Long Nose Joker MaskThis mask has a devilish quality about it. Practical jokes are sure to follow.

Black & Gold Opera/Theater Masks
Black & Gold Opera/Theater MasksMusical notes and gold braided trim adorn these fanciful masks.

Antiqued Cat Mask
Antiqued Cat MaskPerky ears and delicate patterns make this mask a favorite among cat lovers.

Blue & Gold Asian Mask
Blue & Gold Asian MaskA lovely combination of two arts – mask making and fan decorating.

Assorted Feathered & Bejeweled Masks
Assorted Feathered & Bejeweled MasksThis assortment of masks is ready to be worn in celebration or displayed as artwork and party decor.

Black & Gold and All White Feathered Masks
Black & Gold and All White Feathered MasksFeathered masks tend to be the most flamboyant.

Red & Black Harlequin Mask
Red & Black Harlequin MaskThe visual impact of this red, black and gold mask is enhanced with light catching glitter and thick gold trim. A few faux gemstones are the perfect finishing touch.

Ornate Venetian Masks
Ornate Venetian MasksMasks made to celebrate the Carnival of Venice are among the most elaborately decorated with lavish brocade fabrics, ribbons, crystals, intricately hand painted designs, and touches of gold or silver leaf. This centuries old technique has influenced artists world wide, and is highly valued among collectors.

For a more practical, down-to-earth approach, below are the instructions to complete your own decorated mask.

How To Make Your Own Mask
Your project starts with a visit to the craft store. The mask you choose will be the most important decision because it determines the range of decorating possibilities.

Plain White Quarter Mask – Ready for Decorating
Plain White Quarter Mask – Ready for DecoratingMost craft stores have several style options. Because this was a first attempt at decorating a mask, this simple white quarter mask was chosen.

Mask – Painted Blue and Outlined with Rhinestones
Mask - Painted Blue and Outlined with RhinestonesThe mask was spray-painted royal blue. Fabric stores have beaded and rhinestone trims perfect for mask decorating. The rhinestones twinkle in the light, calling attention to the wearer’s face with an emphasis on the eyes. As shown, the mask is ready to wear, but let’s take it to the next level.

Black Feathers on a Foam Backer
Black Feathers on a Foam BackerThis mask was made as a wall decoration, so the back will not be seen. (If you plan to wear your mask, simply glue the feathers directly onto the back of the mask, and line it with felt for comfort.) To make the wall art, trace the mask onto a sheet of black foam, which is used as mask liner to hold and support the feathers. The eyes and lower shape of the mask are cut out using an Exacto knife.

The Opposite Side of the Foam Backer
The Opposite Side of the Foam BackerThis photo shows the wrong side of the foam sheet used as a liner or backer board for the feathers. The bottom of the foam and eye openings line up perfectly with the blue mask, but the upper portion of the foam extends upward like a crown to support the feathers.

The Finished Black Feather Mask
The Finished Black Feather MaskLuxurious black feathers and sparkling rhinestones stand in sharp contrast to the rich royal blue on this completed mask.

Take a walk on the wild side. Dress up, stay in character, and most importantly have fun. Mask making isn’t just for kids. It’s for the child within all of us!

Happy Crafting!

Halloween Magic – How to Make a Bewitching Centerpiece

Witch Flying Across Full Moon
The movie Hocus Pocus is celebrating its 25th Anniversary, inspiring witch themed costumes and decorations. Whether you’re having a Halloween party or simply decorating for the fun of it, a centerpiece is a must for the coffee or dining tables. Below are step-by-step instructions and photos for building your own, one piece at a time.

Close Up: Witch Boots
The Inspiration – As with all creative projects, the first requirement is a source of inspiration. This pair of witch’s boots is sold at Michaels. Although smaller than expected, it still has a spooky vibe. The style varies slightly, but all are black with a silver spider painted on each side. Having a pair of boots is nice, however it’s one piece and can’t be separated. If you prefer a more humorous impression, many stores sell individual witch boots painted in bright, fanciful colors and patterns.

Witch Boots
Step 1. Witch’s Boots – Centered upon this coffee table, these boots look quite sparse, but we’ve only just begun.

Boots with Floral Stems & Owl
Step 2. Floral Stems & Owl – For color and texture, the key to this design is choosing strange looking plants in autumn, Halloween colors. Here we have added leafy vines with plush mini pumpkins, and orange lanterns. Bend the stems as needed to adjust the height. Crafter Tips: Do not cut the stems because you may need to adjust the height at the end when the arrangement is complete. (You may not need to cut them at all, simply conceal the bent stems inside the boots). The owl, made from twigs, was already mounted on a long stick for easy placement.

Boots & Pumpkin
Step 3. Jack-O-Lantern – Orange and black – the perfect color combo for Halloween. This resin pumpkin includes optional lighting. High contrast and a brilliant punch of color lend visual interest to this asymmetrical composition. Instead of a pumpkin, you could use a round platter or globe, resembling the full moon, or a light color witch’s broom to contrast with the dark boots.

Boots, Pumpkin & Owl
Step 4. Ceramic Owl – Contemporary details with an eerie presence make this owl a perfect addition by contributing color, light, and texture. Moss green and tan coordinate with the autumn vines and leaves. Feather-like half moon slits in the body of the owl allow light to pass through and the opportunity to insert mini lights inside with the battery pack underneath, wrapped in black fabric. Crafter Tip: Ensure the battery pack’s on/off switch remains accessible.

Witch's Potions Decanter
Step 5. Decanter – No witch-themed display would be complete without a few unknown potions brewed with magical spells. The clear glass decanter, with four separate chambers and claw-like stoppers, provides much needed height and color on the left end of the display. A little food coloring and water becomes a scary cocktail of witch’s potions. The green color was chosen to coordinate with the other green elements. Alternatives: You could create a grouping of different size bottles or apothecary jars with strange contents inside; or add a book of “spells” and candles to capture the spooky aura. Crafter Tip: Experiment with various objects and colors, being sure to balance the composition.

Rat & Snake
Step 6. Rat & Snake – Now we need a few creepy crawlers to stir up our primal fears. A rat on top of the pumpkin seems like a natural choice, and the snake has the added bonus of implying movement, as it appears to slither along the tabletop among the objects in the centerpiece. A trip to a Halloween or craft store is sure to have plenty of options, including spiders, worms, skeleton bones, and the like. A few spider webs might kick up the spooky factor another notch.

Orange Candle
Step 7 Orange Candle & Metal Candleholder – To add height and a pop of color on the left end of the centerpiece, add an orange candlestick in a dark metal candleholder. Although the base of the holder is plain, it provides an opportunity which we will take advantage of in the next step. The candle had been stuck in a box for years, which caused the wax to curve. This works great in a Halloween project, where crooked lines are more desirable than straight ones.

Orange & Black Spider
Step 8. Orange & Black Spider – I never thought I would say these words, but this spider is actually quite beautiful. The camera flash tends to wash out the brilliant colored stripes upon the spider’s body, which is covered in tiny orange and black glass beads. The large size and imposing ready-to-strike posture are just what this display needed.

Witch's Hat
Step 9. Witch’s Hat – The pumpkin’s toothy grin becomes the witch’s face by the simple addition of a classic black hat, which frames the pumpkin’s face, adds character, and ties all pieces together into a unified Halloween theme.

Illuminated Pumpkin & Owl
Step 10. Illumination – This is the finished centerpiece with optional lights turned on inside the owl and pumpkin. It’s spooky fun just like the movie, Hocus Pocus.

Designing a Halloween centerpiece is an enjoyable process for stretching your creative muscles. Start with one piece as an inspiration and decorative items you may already own. Find different ways to use existing items by looking at things in a whole new way with your theme in mind.

Happy Halloween and Happy Crafting!

Halloween Decorating Tips

Pumpkins by CandlelightOne of my favorite holidays is Halloween. It brings back such happy memories of dressing up as a child, and the excitement has continued as an adult. Apparently many people agree, because Halloween has become the second biggest holiday of the year. Decorating your home is a fun activity for the whole family. Here are a few ideas for inspiration:

Halloween Wreath
Halloween WreathGreet your guests at the front door with a boldly decorated Halloween wreath. The humorous witch’s legs were the inspiration for the purple and black color scheme with accents of orange and white. The wire wreath frame was wrapped first with tissue paper to add bulk, and then fabric for color and texture. The witch’s legs came mounted on a dowel, which was secured to the frame. A metallic garland conceals the dowel and an owl was tied in the center using matching ribbon. The witch’s hat, ghosts, pumpkins, and spiders complete the design.

Spider Web Placemat
Spider Web Placemat

Pumpkin Placemat
Pumpkin PlacematSetting a Spooky Table – Whether you are having a Halloween party, or want to spice up your breakfast table, an inexpensive solution is layering placemats. Laser cutting technology has produced beautifully detailed, lace-like products with both style and durability. A Spider Web placemat (from Wegmans) was layered with a Metallic Finish Pumpkin placemat (from AC Moore) to create this lively place setting. The blue tablecloth peeks out from underneath like a midnight sky and creates great contrast to the orange and black. As alternatives, you could use a yellow tablecloth (think full moon) or green tablecloth (think forest).

Arachnophobia? No Problem with this tablecloth.
Spider Table CoverHalloween themed tablecloths can be difficult to find and pricey, especially for large dining room tables. There’s an easy alternative. Measure your table, and go to a fabric store, such as Jo Ann Crafts. It’s amazing to see some of the scary patterns that have been developed over the last several years. The semi-sheer fabric in the photo above is layered over a gold tablecloth I already had. If you prefer an opaque table cover, there are ghosts, skeletons and witches. Oh My! Some fabrics have entire haunted scenes emblazoned across the surface suitable for covering tables, or as wall hangings. There’s no need to hem the edges. It’s Halloween – a few ragged edges only adds to the haunted house vibe.

Inside Out Pumpkin
JackolanternGlowing Illusion Pumpkin – We are all accustomed to seeing the typical orange pumpkin with an interior that is either candlelit or dark & shadowy. That color scheme has been turned inside out by painting the outside black and the inside fluorescent orange. When placed near any light source (lamp, ceiling light, or sunlight), the result is a scary glowing pumpkin without the need for electricity or batteries. I can’t tell you how many times well-meaning co-workers have warned me about the company’s strict no candle burning policy, until they see for themselves that it’s completely empty. It’s easy to fool the eye with this illusion.

Pumpkins for All Seasons
Craft PumpkinCraft Pumpkins – If you have ever decorated your yard with live pumpkins, you probably lost a few, if not all, to squirrels, slugs or other hungry critters. Craft pumpkins look like the real thing, but are made of foam or resin, which is not on the menu for wildlife. These pumpkins are ready to display as is, or they can be carved or painted with exterior paint. Craft pumpkins are for indoor and outdoor use, inexpensive, will last years, and are nice for Thanksgiving too.

To the Bat Cave! (which in this case is a Chandelier)
Bats & OwlBats – A cluster of bats hanging over your table will surprise and delight party guests. The faux fur bodies are a simple tube shape with a slightly larger, rounded end and ears for the head. The owl in the center is from Pier 1, and the pumpkin garland is from AC Moore.

Bat Making Instructions:
Supplies:
Brown or black faux fur (from Jo Ann Crafts)
Shiny black fabric (for wings)
Fishing tackle
Sewing needle and black thread
Foam filler or batting
Cardboard (for pattern making)

Bat Wing & Body Patterns
Bat PatternsMake patterns for the body and wings as follows:
Draw a thick capital letter “T” on cardboard – vertically 6” x 2”; top of “T” is 4”x 1” thick.
Carefully cut it out. This will be the pattern for the bat’s body.
Draw a bat wing on cardboard, approximately 9”x4. Cut out wing. Now flip it over, trace onto cardboard, and cut it out for the other wing.

Finished Bat
Finished BatUsing the body pattern, cut out two pieces of faux fur for the front and back of each bat.
Sew the fur by hand, leaving the bottom open for filling later.
Trace each bat wing pattern onto shiny black fabric and cut out both wings.
Hand-sew the wings on either side of the body; fill it with foam or batting and stitch closed.
Remember bats hang upside down, so add fishing tackle on the bottom of each bat for hanging from a chandelier or wall sconce.

Happy Halloween & Happy Crafting!