Friday, April 28, 2017

Blueberry Shrub

Time to catch up with what's been going on with the fifth graders! The same day we made Hasty Pudding, we did the prep work for our next historical recipe, Blueberry Shrub.


Shrub dates back to colonial times. It was one of many ways that people could preserve fresh fruit in the days before refrigeration. To make a shrub, combine equal amounts of fruit and sugar. (It's a lot of sugar, but trust me.) We used blueberries, but you can use other fruit. Let this sit at room temperature for 2 days. Stir once or twice. The sugar won't entirely dissolve, but most of it will. 


At this point, you can proceed with making your shrub. I'm only in the classroom once a week, so I popped it into the refrigerator until my next teaching session. 

Strain the liquid from the fruit, pressing down to get as much syrup extracted as you can. (You don't need the fruit for this recipe, but don't throw it away. It is amazing on Greek yogurt.) Add an equal amount of apple cider vinegar to the syrup. You can sip it at this point. It is quite tart, but very tasty. If you have time, let it mellow in the fridge for a few days, weeks, or even months. It will become much less harsh. If it is still a bit too harsh for your taste, or if you want to guzzle rather than sip, add water. (Sparkling water is fun.) 

Cheers!


Here's the 'recipe' in picture form. It really is ridiculously easy.  


Enjoy! I'm going to be trying this with other fruits, starting with rhubarb. It's been awhile since I've fed my obsession

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Scrabble Key Ring

I am crazy about Scrabble and naturally assume everyone else is, too. But even those who don't love Scrabble would probably love this monogram key ring. 


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Scrabble Key Ring


Materials:


  • Scrabble tile
  • Diamond Glaze
  • gold bail
  • E-6000
  • lanyard clip
  • split ring

Steps: 


Choose a Scrabble tile and lay it face up on a flat surface. Without shaking, carefully invert the Diamond Glaze and hold it upside down. Gently squeeze on scrap paper to make sure there are no bubbles. Squeeze the Diamond Glaze onto the Scrabble tile slowly but steadily, continuing until it reaches the edges of the tile (without going over the sides) and forms a dome. Leave the tile undisturbed for at least 24 hours. 

When the Diamond Glaze is completely dry, attach a gold bail to the back of the tile using E-6000. Allow that to dry.

Attach a lanyard clip to the bail and a split ring to the lanyard clip. 



I made this trio of keychains for my Snap roommates and Secret Sister.


 
 


Here are some other Scrabble-themed tutorials you might enjoy:


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Unicorn Horn Headband

This post contains affiliate links. 

In the wrap-up about Snap Conference, I included a photo of me, my roommates, and two men dressed as unicorns. Unicorns served as the mascot for this year's conference. The highlight of our last night was a unicorn-themed dance party where we were encouraged to dress up as unicorns. 

I do not own a unicorn costume, nor did I want to dedicate precious luggage space to bringing something big. So I made a unicorn headband. Paired with the official conference t-shirt by Cents of Style ("better than sparkles and unicorns combined"), it was perfect for the party. 

    

Here's how it looks when I'm not wearing it. 



Unicorn Headband


Materials: 

Steps:


Roll the felt into a cone shape that is the height you want. Trim the extra material and use hot glue to secure the cone. 

Stuff the cone with polyfil, being sure to push it all the way to the tip of the horn. Glue a scrap of felt to the bottom of the cone to hold the polyfil in place, then trim it even with the cone. Use the hot glue gun helpers kit to protect your tabletop and your fingers. That thing is a godsend. 

Glue a piece of embroidery floss to the tip of the horn. Wind it down the horn to make a spiral, pulling tight to get the shape you want. Secure it with glue at the bottom. Set the horn aside.

Cut two matching triangles from the felt scraps to make ears. Dab them with pink ink in the centers. Set them aside. 


Glue the horn to the headband. Add a scrap of felt underneath to trap the headband securely. Then glue the metal juice lid to the underside of the horn, making sure to put glue on the entire surface. This is what will stabilize the horn and prevent it from tipping or wobbling. I chose to paint mine, but that was completely unnecessary, as it ends up hidden. 


Cut a thin strip from the felt scraps and use it to hide the edge of the juice lid. Mine could have been neater, but I was in a hurry trying to get it done before the trip. (I made it just in time!) 

Finally, glue one ear on each side of the horn, making sure that the pink fronts are on the opposite side of the horn's seam.


Perfect for any unicorn-themed occasion!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Snap Conference 2017 - Overview

I'm back from a whirlwind trip to Snap! I have so much to share with you and am overwhelmed by everything I learned and experienced.


So what is Snap? It's a 3-day conference for creative bloggers, held in Salt Lake City. There were over 400 bloggers attending (99% women, most age 25-50 with 2+ kids) representing all sorts of creative fields, including: edible art, home renovation, home decor, kids' crafts, paper crafts, travel, lifestyle, and much more. Some attendees earn 6-figure incomes and support their families with their blogs, while others make a little bit of spending money. Some have been blogging for a decade or more and others for a year or less. Part of what makes this conference special is that bloggers of all sizes and experience levels are welcomed, encouraged, and supported. This year's theme was 'Believe.'


(Before I continue, I should mention that I took all of these photos on my iPhone rather than my camera so that I could share to my Facebook page during the trip. The lighting conditions inside the hotel were terrible. Why is it that the places where my photos matter most always have the worst lighting?!)

Preparation for Snap began well in advance of the conference itself. The Snap team created a Facebook group for newbies and did multiple Facebook Live sessions to answer all our questions. I found roommates through the general Facebook group and signed up for Secret Sisters. I crafted for the theme event and made gifts for my roommates and Secret Sister.

On Wednesday 4/19, I flew from Sacramento to Salt Lake City where I met up with my roommate, Renae of Benzie Designs. We navigated the light rail (Trax), checked into the hotel (Little America) and walked to Temple Square to eat at the Lion House Pantry.


Registration started Thursday morning. Renae and I met our third roommate, Ali, from Home Crafts By Ali and Ali's Book Nook

 

From Thursday afternoon through Saturday afternoon, we had many opportunities to take classes (both hands-on and lecture), listen to speakers, do make-and-takes, and talk with sponsors. There were around 45 sponsors representing a wide variety of products and services. 


I did a mix of craft-related classes and business/blogging classes. Both were very valuable. I hesitate to pick a favorite of each because all my classes were fantastic, but if forced to choose, I would say that the iPhone photography class (taught by Chaitra Radhakrishna of PinkPot) was the most useful and the Wilton cake decorating was the most fun. 

 

If I had to describe Snap in one word, I would say fun. The organizers and sponsors made sure Snap was entertaining from start to finish. From meeting the Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Man (who smells like marshmallows!) to celebrating at the unicorn-themed dance party, Snap was fun, fun, fun!


 

Time will tell whether attending Snap was worth it financially. Between the ticket, airfare, shared hotel room, and gifts for my roommates and Secret Sister, I spent about $1000, which is no small sum for me. I hope I'll be able to earn that back through the new brand relationships I developed.

But even if I don't see the results in my bank account, I think Snap was worth it overall. I learned about creating e-books and e-courses (something I've been seriously considering) from the fabulous Hilary Erickson of Pulling Curls. I finally learned how to use my iPhone camera with some level of proficiency. I tried a new-to-me craft (crochet) and had a cake decorating lesson from one of Wilton's test kitchen chefs. I met a LEGO Master Builder. I stepped out of my comfort zone and experienced a lot of new things. And I brought home 34 lbs. of craft supplies, treats, gifts, sponsor samples, and completed projects. (It would have been 35 lbs. but I didn't know that TSA prohibits spray paint even in checked luggage. Lesson learned.)


Is Snap 2018 in my future? I'm not sure, but I am so grateful to have been a part of Snap 2017. Thanks, as always, to Steve and Trevor who are 100% supportive of everything I do. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Snap Conference

I started attending the annual trade show of the Association for Creative Industries (formerly Craft and Hobby Association) in January 2011 and began blogging in April of that same year. I have learned a lot in six years of blogging, but it feels like I've only learned enough to discover how much I still don't know. Friends convinced me that I could really benefit by attending a blogging conference. There are many, but choosing the right one for my first time was easy.


Everyone I know who has attended Snap has come away gushing about how much they learned, how great the sponsors were, and how much fun they had. So I made the leap. I bought a ticket, scheduled my flight to Salt Lake City, booked a tower room at the Little America Hotel, and found some roommates. I set my schedule, signed up for a Secret Sister, and prepped my accessory for the theme party. I fly out tomorrow and return home on Sunday. It's going to be awesome.

I will not be running blog posts while I'm traveling. However, I will share every little detail via the My Creative Life Facebook page, so be sure to follow me there! And, of course, I'll blog all about it when I return. Snap, here I come!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Hasty Pudding

The fifth graders and I are continuing our study of the American Revolution. We learned about key battles in the war and did some activities related to the song Yankee Doodle. We made Hasty Pudding, which is referenced in the American version of the song. 


Hasty Pudding

(36 small servings)


                                 3 cups cornmeal                                         9 cups boiling water
                                 3 cups cold water                                       1 tsp. salt

Combine the cornmeal and cold water. Set aside. In a heavy saucepan, bring 9 cups water and salt to a boil. Carefully pour in the cornmeal mixture, stirring constantly to make sure it doesn't lump. Turn the heat to low and stir frequently until the mixture is very thick (10-15 minutes). Spoon into bowls. Serve with a pat of butter, maple syrup, brown sugar, molasses, or cream. (We used brown sugar and cream.)


  

On to the Declaration of Independence!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Diamond Dotz

One of the coolest things about being a craft blogger is that random craft supplies occasionally show up at my house unexpectedly. Such was the case with the 'Christmas Kitten Glow' Diamond Dotz kit


I wasn't crazy about the cat design (we're rabbit people), but I was really excited to try a larger Diamond Dotz kit. You may recall that I blogged about their starter kit back in February, after discovering Diamond Dotz at the Creativation show. It's a neat product and lots of fun. 

The kit came with the printed design, a stylus, a wax caddy, a tray, and twenty packages of Diamond Dotz, each labeled with a number. There were also zip-top baggies to hold any extra Dotz.


Creating the design is just a matter of looking at the key and putting the appropriate color of Diamond Dotz on the canvas. We worked one color at a time. The stylus works like a charm to pick up the Dotz. You simply touch it to the canvas and the strong adhesive holds it in place. So easy!

We set up the project on a card table in our family room. Whenever we had a few minutes, we'd add Dotz to the canvas. Almost everyone who visited our house over a 2-week span gave it a try. Boys and girls, kids and adults - the consensus was that Diamond Dotz is an addictive craft, fun, and so easy. 

  

Like I said, it took about two weeks of working on it a few minutes at a time before we completed the design. I popped it in a gold 8" x 10" frame for photos. 


Unfortunately, photos do not do it justice. The whole thing sparkles and shines from every angle. As you walk by it, hundreds of little points of light catch your eye. This was the best I could do to try to capture that in a photo.


So would I recommend Diamond Dotz? Absolutely! This is a great product for adults, but it is equally excellent for kids around 8 and up. It's easy and fun and the finished product looks amazing. Like I said, I don't love the cat design, but there are some other designs that I absolutely love. Check these out:

  
 

Aren't they gorgeous? I can't decide which one I like the best. I want them all. 

As of now, Diamond Dotz are only sold through their website. They don't have an affiliate program (yet), but I hope they add one because this is such a cool product and I know you all will enjoy it. If you buy something through their website, please let them know in the "Order Notes" that Cindy deRosier referred you! Thanks, and happy Dotting!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Third Annual(ish) deRosier-Salomone Cookie Bake-off

A triple batch of cookie dough divided into eight equal portions can mean only one thing...



The Salomone family has grown and now includes Joe and his kids, Kai and Tragar. Steve joined as a contestant for the first time, bringing the total to eight. Nancy's mom, Sherry, joined as a judge. Once again, I served as Tim Gunn, mentor to the contestants. 

The eight contestants drew numbers to determine their baking order. Each would add up to 1/2 cup of mix-ins to their dough. There can be an advantage to going first, as it's possible that someone else might use up the ingredients later contestants were planning to incorporate. Fortunately, there were plenty of options for mix-ins. I like to include expected items, like chocolate chips or nuts, but I throw in plenty of non-traditional cookie ingredients. I did not expect anyone to use cheddar cheese popcorn or ground pepper in their cookies, but both were used!


It took a couple of hours, but finally all the cookies were ready.


Kai (age 16) was the first contestant. He made a simple cookie with Andes Mints, Rice Krispies and chopped pretzels. He topped each with a Whopper. (I was curious to see how a Whopper would behave in the oven. It turns out that they deflate and get a bit chewy.) Kai did not name his cookie.


Kai's brother, Tragar (age 12), went next. While Kai opted for simplicity, Tragar's philosophy was that if a few mix-ins are good, then a ton of mix-ins must be a lot better. He added kettle corn, wafer cookies, Andes Mints, fortune cookies, crushed candy canes, Tropical Punch Kool-Aid, and lemon juice to his cookies. He made a T of Hershey's on each cookie, then sprinkled lemon zest on top. He named his cookie "Don't Worry. It's Edible." 


Next was Julia (age 9). She has made a mint cookie every year and it's served her well, having won the very first contest. She named this year's cookie "Non-Winter Mint." It featured red and green M&Ms, Andes Mints, crushed candy cane, and a little bit of Tropical Punch Kool-Aid.


Joe (age 40-something) packed his cookies with Fritos, pretzels, M&Ms, peanut butter, and peanuts. He named his "Alava Nutter." Clever!


Trevor (age 10) was the one who went for the cheddar cheese popcorn. (!) He also added kettle corn, zebra popcorn, lemon juice and cinnamon. (Tim Gunn was apprehensive.) His cookie was named "Pucker Popcorn."


Marco (age 11) made "A Whopper of a Cookie." His cookies included Andes Mints, chunks of Hershey bar, M&Ms and butterscotch chips. Each was topped with two Whoppers. I should mention that each contestant did not know what mix-ins the others used. By this point, Tim Gunn knew that the Whoppers were going to deflate and develop an odd texture, but it wouldn't have been fair to Kai to warn Marco about this. 


Next up was Nancy (age 44), the defending champion. Like Julia (the other former champion), Nancy made a cookie that was quite similar to her winning cookie. This year's cookie was named "It's Bigly Delicious and I Always Knew I'd Win" and it contained butterscotch chips, white chocolate chips, cashews, lemon zest and grated ginger.


Steve (age 41) was the final baker. His cookie was named "Spicy" and contained cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg and pepper. 


Everyone was very excited when it came time for judging. To keep the cookies anonymous and the judging unbiased, Tim Gunn introduced each cookie and its ingredients. Each person (the 8 contestants, plus Sherry and me) then gave it a score from 1-10. After all the cookies were judged, I dropped the highest and the lowest scores and totaled the rest. 

I have to say, there wasn't a bad cookie in the bunch. There were great cookies and good cookies. I would happily eat any of them again, even the ones that seemed a bit odd. When I tallied up the votes, I noticed a distinct difference in how the kids rated the cookies vs. how the adults did. The kids gave consistently high scores to anything with candy, while the adults gave much higher scores to the spice cookie than the kids did. Another very interesting result: Nancy and Julia, the two previous winners who made cookies similar to their winning cookies, placed as the top two, despite the fact that we had four judges who were completely new to our competition. 

I wish I had a cloche so that I could dramatically reveal the winner, but I don't. (Someone buy me a cloche, please.) So I had to resort to whipping a towel off of the winning plate. And the winner is.... Nancy, with her aptly named "It's Bigly Delicious and I Always Knew I'd Win" cookie!


Congrats to Nancy and all the contestants for their fabulous creations. I'm already looking forward to our next competition!