DIY Gold Leaf Painted Acorns

DIY Gold Acorns - victoriaallison.wordpress.com

Here in the Bay Area we’ve been experiencing disgustingly hot weather almost every day for weeks. I took advantage of the first day with temperatures in the 70s to cross my fingers that Fall might finally be on the way, and tackled a quick and easy craft project – gold leaf painted acorns!

For this project you’ll need:

  • Gold Leaf Paint (I bought mine at Michael’s craft store.)
  • Small paintbrush (foam ones work best, though I didn’t have any on hand and used a soft bristled brush.)
  • Acorn caps
  • Acorn nuts – either acorn nuts already attached .. or able to be re-attached to the caps, or polymer clay to make your own acorn nuts.
  • Protective gloves
  • Respirator mask (strongly recommended! The gold leaf paint is pretty potent, and even the bottle label is loaded with warnings about adequate ventilation.)
  • Something to cover your work surface, preferably plastic wrap or aluminum foil.
  • Glue (to make sure your acorn nuts stay attached to the caps. I used two part epoxy because that’s what I had handy.)

This project is so easy that it probably doesn’t even need visuals, but if you’re anything like me, photos are always encouraged!

DIY Gold Acorns - victoriaallison.wordpress.com If you already have acorns with the cap and the nut attached, you can skip this part. The first thing I did was to make faux acorn nuts with polymer clay, as I’d only collected these cute little caps while out for a walk.

I used the Sculpey “lightweight” clay since it’s really soft easy to mold for this type of project. I baked the clay acorns according to the package directions and let them cool before moving forward.

DIY Gold Acorns - victoriaallison.wordpress.comOnce cooled, I fitted a clay nut to each cap, to make sure I had a match for each one. They’re pretty cute as is, aren’t they? I debated leaving some white, but I can always  make more later if I feel the need to change up the decor.

DIY Gold Acorns - victoriaallison.wordpress.com

Once I’d matched the nuts to the caps, I separated them – but kept the nut close to each cap – and then I got to work painting! I found it was easiest to start at the bottom of the clay nut, and then sort of “stick” it to the plastic while I painted the rest of it – from the bottom/widest part up towards the small point at the top. You can see here why the gloves are necessary for this! Some of them required a second coat/touch up after the first layer was dry.

If you have real acorns, make sure you’ve properly dried them out before using them for any craft projects. Acorns fresh off the ground will get moldy, and could also be harboring insects.

DIY Gold Acorns - victoriaallison.wordpress.com

Here’s the group of painted clay acorns drying! They dry fairly quickly in low humidity. You could also paint and leave them outside to dry if you don’t have proper indoor ventilation.

Once the paint was dry, I mixed up my two-part epoxy glue and re-attached each cap. As mentioned earlier, you could use other types of glue, whatever your preference is. I like the epoxy because it has a really strong bond with most any material.

DIY Gold Acorns - victoriaallison.wordpress.com

So pretty, and so very easy!

DIY Gold Acorns - victoriaallison.wordpress.com

I haven’t yet decided what I’ll do with them, but I’m sure they’ll make a nice accent to my other Fall decor.

Happy Crafting!

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Homemade Vanilla Extract Wedding Favors Doubled as Place Cards

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I’ve realized I’m very far behind in adding the DIY/tutorials posts from our wedding, so I’m going to try to get some of those up for anyone working on their late spring/summer weddings!

One of the fun and easy projects we created combined two tasks in one – favors for our wedding guests and name cards/place cards (sometimes known as “escort cards”,) to help our guests find their seats. Many of our guests enjoy cooking and baking – or live with someone who does! – so we decided to make a big batch of vanilla extract and divide it among our guests as favors. We dispensed it into adorable little glass bottles, adorned with sticker labels indicating the guests’ names and seats. We also had children attending our wedding, so we filled their bottles with miniature M&M’s candies.

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Homemade vanilla extract wedding favor

I designed the sticker labels to match our wedding invitations, which was a fun and easy way to tie in the existing design elements and color scheme. Each label had the guest’s name, followed by the table number they were to be seated at.  As a little extra, I made the simple little ‘chalkboard’ style sign in front.  Since I added this piece at the last minute, we didn’t have time to find any small chalkboards. I made a quick little 4×6″ graphic and inserted it into a photo frame from Michael’s craft store.

vanilla-extract-favors-seating-signIf you’d like to make the same favors/seating guide for your guests, feel free to use the sign! I took our initials out of the heart, so you may download the image, or download the file as a .pdf to print it at a higher resolution, available here:

Favors-Sign

For the bottles, I purchased the clear glass 1oz size from Container & Packaging Supply:

You can find those here. I used the corresponding small silver bottle tops to go with them, but I do believe they also have white, and possibly black, in the same size. When you view the product page, it shows you the other items that fit with the bottle.

For the labels on the bottle, I went with a 1-1/2 x 1-1/2″ square sticker labels. There are plenty of additional sizes as well as round labels if you prefer, but I liked the look of the square to go with our theme/designs. These are the ones I used:

You can find those here. One pack comes with a total of 600 square labels, which is a LOT! Plenty of extras for trial & error when you’re testing out your prints.

Last but not least, making your own vanilla extract is incredibly easy! This is the general guidelines I use, as follows:

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Ingredients for 8 oz of extract:

1 cup vodka

4-5 whole vanilla beans

glass jar with lid

Instructions:

Slice the vanilla beans open lengthwise with a sharp knife. Add the vanilla beans (the whole bean,) and vodka to the clear glass container. Give it a good shake, and store it in a cool dark place for at least 3 months. Every week or two, shake the container again. You’ll notice the little vanilla seed flecks floating around – this is perfectly fine, they are the bulk of the flavor!

Optional: Once the mixture has steeped and is a nice rich brown color (the darker the better,) remove the pods from the jar and pour the liquid into a separate vessel, if you so desire. Some people like to strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve, but I personally don’t do that. It’s entirely at your discretion.

A great source for vanilla beans is Vanilla Products on ebay. I’ve been buying from them for years.

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Even if you aren’t getting married, vanilla extract makes a great gift for your fellow bakers! Be sure to start steeping it well ahead of your event for gifting.

The wedding photographs in this post were taken by Sarah Jayne Photography.

Homemade Peppermint Marshmallows and a Gift Packaging Template

It’s that time of year – peppermint season!

Okay..peppermint can be enjoyed year-round, but I personally associate it with wintertime. I’ve been so busy with work (for which I am grateful!) that I haven’t had much time to enjoy many holiday festivities, baking and candy making included.

The very first thing on my to-make list when I had a spare moment was marshmallows. Not just any marshmallows – peppermint marshmallows!

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If you haven’t tried your hand at homemade marshmallows, have no fear; they’re incredibly easy to make. The hardest part is the waiting! Last year I made regular vanilla marshmallows, and thought I would switch it up with peppermint. (Oh – I also made some pumpkin ones in October! Those were equally amazing!) I made a batch of these peppermint ones the other day, and shipped most of them off to various parts of the country as part of my Christmas packages to family and friends, but did keep a few to enjoy here at home.

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.. and as expected, they’re absolutely delicious in hot chocolate!

For whatever reason, inspiration struck when I was packaging these for gifts. I made some labels for the packages, and found some adorable red and white striped ribbon in my supply stash.

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It’s not too late to whip up a batch of these yourself for some last minute holiday gifts! To save some time, I thought that you might like to use these labels too..

PeppermintMarshmallowsLabel

You can right-click and save the above image (a .jpg) and print it as you wish, but I also made a high-res .pdf file that you can download and print (it has 6 labels per page.) Click the link to view and save or print the file: https://victoriaallison.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/peppermintmarshmallows-printout.pdf

And last but not least, here’s the recipe I used:

Homemade Marshmallows

Bon Appétit  | July 2008

by Molly Wizenberg

Ingredients:

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1 cup cold water, divided
  • 3 1/4-ounce envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (for the peppermint version, I used 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1 tsp peppermint extract.)
  • * Optional: 2-3 drops red food coloring
  • 1/2 cup potato starch**
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar**
** I use cornstarch.. I also use about 1/4 cup cornstarch and 1/4 cup powdered sugar. It’s PLENTY!
Directions:

Line 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan with foil.

Coat foil lightly with nonstick spray. Pour 1/2 cup cold water into bowl of heavy-duty mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Sprinkle gelatin over water. Let stand until gelatin softens and absorbs water, at least 15 minutes.

Combine 2 cups sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup cold water in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over mediumlow heat until sugar dissolves, brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush. Attach candy thermometer to side of pan. Increase heat and bring syrup to boil. Boil, without stirring, until syrup reaches 240°F, about 8 minutes.

With mixer running at low speed, slowly pour hot syrup into gelatin mixture in thin stream down side of bowl (avoid pouring syrup onto whisk, as it may splash). Gradually increase speed to high and beat until mixture is very thick and stiff, about 15 minutes. Add vanilla and beat to blend, about 30 seconds longer.

*Optional: I added a couple of drops of red food coloring and gently stirred it into the marshmallows to create a light pink ‘swirl’ effect.

Scrape marshmallow mixture into prepared pan. Smooth top with wet spatula. Let stand uncovered at room temperature until firm, about 4 hours.

Stir potato starch and powdered sugar in small bowl to blend. Sift generous dusting of starch-sugar mixture onto work surface, forming rectangle slightly larger than 13×9 inches. Turn marshmallow slab out onto starch-sugar mixture; peel off foil. Sift more starch-sugar mixture over marshmallow slab. Coat large sharp knife (or cookie cutters) with nonstick spray. Cut marshmallows into squares or other shapes. Toss each in remaining starch-sugar mixture to coat. Transfer marshmallows to rack, shaking off excess mixture.

 

Enjoy!

Butters in his Professor Chaos dog costume

I’ve never been good at coming up with names for pets. My first cat’s name was Shadow. She was all black. (Really original, no?) Most other animals in my life have been named by friends or other family members.

When we adopted our dog, we were told that his name was Butters, and he’d had brothers (already adopted) named Kyle and Stan. Having watched many episodes of South Park since it’s inception, we knew that we had to keep the name! Well, come to find out, the name really is quite fitting for this dog. Akin to South Park’s Butters, he really is the sweetest dog, albeit sort of naive, but goodhearted and always eager to please.

Anyway, one day Butters (from the show) grew tired of being a people-pleaser, always doing the right thing, helping everybody.. thus one night, his alter ego was born: Professor Chaos. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Professor_Chaos and/or http://www.southparkstudios.com/clips/153471/professor-chaos-is-born) Complete with a tin-foil hat and gloves, and a green cape made from an old t-shirt, he vowed to rein chaos on every path he crossed!

I decided that our Butters needed a new Halloween costume, and Professor Chaos was the obvious choice.

 

 

Yup, he knows he’s adorable.

This outfit has really been a work in progress for the past few weeks. I made the helmet in September. It’s formed out of paperboard, covered in masking tape (scrunched up to look wrinkled) and then spray painted silver. There’s a thin clear elastic underneath to help hold it in place on his head, but it is still pretty loose.

I draped fabric over him and marked it to make a general template (a dog bodice pattern, if you will..) He’s kind of an awkwardly shaped dog.. large rib cage, short stubby legs! The armholes are actually a bit too big on the shirt, but you don’t notice when the outfit is all together. His blue top is jersey knit fabric. I sewed his cape out of dark green flannel, and it closes with a large piece of velcro along the side of the neck.  I sewed his booties out of plain gray cotton woven fabric, added more masking tape to the front, and then spray painted the front. I didn’t want to make it too thick or all the way around the foot, otherwise he couldn’t bend them to walk!

The button/chain detail was pretty fun to make.  I made the large gray buttons out of polymer clay, and affixed a pin back to each one. I also included a hole/connecting piece on the back of each one, to attach the silver chain. This piece actually came in handy, because I was able to pin the top edge of the shirt and the bottom edge of the cape together, so they would stay in place!

When all is said and done, I suppose I could have used aluminum foil for the helmet, but I was worried about it being too heavy – and quite frankly, I just didn’t want it that shiny!

Here’s a comparison of the two. What do you think?

Butters got some treats during the photoshoot for his excellent behavior, and a rawhide chew as a reward when we were through. He’s such a good dog!

Mother’s Day Edible Flower Lollipops

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Sometimes an introduction is best done with a photo rather than words, and this is one of those times!

I recently made these edible flower lollipops for my mom for Mother’s Day, as my mom has a green thumb and loves flowers! She lives 3,000 miles away, but thankfully with modern day technology I was able to watch her open them via video chat. Needless to say, they were a hit!

The recipe I used came from this blog post at Sprinkle Bakes. Since this recipe is so quick to put together (the candy heats quickly and the candy cools just as quickly!) I wasn’t able to get any tutorial photos of my own.. thankfully she has a step by step photo tutorial on her blog already, and I highly recommend it!

If you have someone to assist you in making these, I’d recommend it – FYI, this isn’t really a kid friendly recipe due to the high temperature of the candy, but feel free to invite a crafty friend to come help! I encountered a little bit of trouble making these..

I think my first problem is that I was using a kitchen thermometer instead of a candy thermometer (my candy one kicked the bucket) and I accidentally let the mixture heat up to a couple of degrees hotter than it needed to be.. My candy mixture ended up cooling REALLY quickly! I’m pretty sure that it cooled faster than it would have, had I heated it to the correct lower temperature to begin with. Hotter heat = quicker cool down? Possibly. I’m not sure. I might try these again sometime and heat them to the correct temperature and see how much longer I can work with the candy before it hardens. I only was able to make 8 before the mixture hardened around my spoon!

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The other problem, as you can see, is the air bubbles. When I stirred in my flavor oil and food coloring, the air bubbles did not all dissipate as the candy settled. I have a sneaky feeling that this was also due to the temperature of the mixture!

All things aside, I kind of prefer the organic shape of these pops versus a perfectly round circle, especially with the flower center.

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The flowers I used came from my grocery store. They had a small selection of edible flowers near the fresh herbs. I chose to use all pansies for these, but you can use any flower that’s edible and pesticide free. Some of the flowers were a little bit too squished to use whole, so I used some of the petals in a couple of the pops. I think they’re just as pretty!

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I packaged up the lollipops in tissue paper to match the card I was sending, and tied them up with one of the same purple ribbons used on the pops wrapping. The flower on top is a cardboard die-cut that I affixed with double stick tape. Pretty, no?

One of the great things about this recipe is that it all comes together fairly quickly, so you can make these in an afternoon and have them ready for gift-giving the next day! (Their cooling/hardening time will vary based on your climate. Mine were ready to handle within a few hours.)

Happy Mother’s Day!

DIY Easter Chick Necklace

Victoria Camp Designs - Easter Chick Tutorial

Now that Valentine’s Day is over, Easter inspiration will be popping up everywhere you look. I’ve decided to join in on the fun and offer a DIY tutorial on how to make your very own Easter chick necklace! The original little marshmallow treat these are inspired by are quite popular here in the United States – typically most people either love them or hate them. If you’re in the “love” group, you’re sure to enjoy the following tutorial! These instructions are for a necklace, but you can create the chick for any use (bracelet, earrings, or just to put on your desk!)

DIY Easter Chick Tutorial

Materials needed:

– Yellow Polymer Clay

-Brown Polymer Clay

– Flat end head pin

– Finished necklace chain

– Pliers (round nose and flat nose recommended)

– Waxed paper (for keeping your work surface clean)

– Aluminum foil (for baking the clay in the oven)

Victoria Camp Designs

Step 1: Gather your materials (listed above.) As you can see, I like the Sculpey brand clay. I think it’s softer to work with than some of the other brands, but any brand of polymer clay will work!

Victoria Camp Designs

Step 2: Break off a small piece of yellow polymer clay, and begin to knead and soften the clay. This is called “conditioning” the clay.

Victoria Camp Designs

Step 3: Once the clay has been conditioned, roll it into a ball.

Victoria Camp Designs

Step 4: Hold the clay in one hand, and use your other hand to gently make an “edge” around the entire perimeter of the bottom of the ball.

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Step 5: You can see the “edge” along the bottom of the ball here. Make the edge a little longer on one end of the ball. This will be the “tail” of the chick.

Victoria Camp Designs

Step 6: Working on the longer end of the edge, pinch the clay together to form a soft point. (The “tail”.)

Victoria Camp Designs

Step 7: Working towards the tail end, gently pinch the clay upward from the round dome/top section (this will be the head.)

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Step 8: Working with the head area you just formed, gently pinch the tip of it and fold it towards the front of the chick (to form the beak.)

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Step 9: Keep pinching the “beak” section until it has formed a small point. You can then gently push the beak downward a little bit, if you so desire.

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Step 10: Now it’s time for the eyeballs! Using a pin (or the pointed end of the headpin) press a small dot onto each side of the head where you’ll be placing the eyes.

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Step 11: Using a VERY small piece of brown clay (smaller than you think you’ll need! Smaller than showing here!) make a teeny tiny round dot of clay for each eyeball.

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Step 12: This is where the eyeball placement comes in handy. Gently press the tiny piece of brown clay eyeball into each side of the head. You can use your fingers, or the tip of the headpin to put the clay in place. Gently press down on the clay with your finger to set it in place and flatten it slightly.

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Close-up of the completed chick (with eyes!)

Victoria Camp Designs

Step 13: Starting from the underside of the chick, gently push the headpin through the clay, making sure the flat part is on the bottom. I like to angle the pin so it exits out behind the chick’s head, although you can certainly angle it any way you choose.

Victoria Camp Designs

Step 14: Bake the clay in your oven according to package instructions. (Mine went in for 15 minutes at 275F. Your temp/times will vary based on the brand of clay and size of your chick.)

Victoria Camp Designs

Step 15: Once the clay has baked and cooled, you’ll want to form a wire wrapped loop with the end of the head pin. Here’s an easy tutorial from Artbeads if you aren’t sure how to do that part already: http://www.artbeads.com/howtomawrlo.html

Victoria Camp Designs

Step 16: Attach the chick onto your necklace chain/ribbon/etc. (I had pre-made my chain already. You can make your own chain, or buy a pre-made chain. You could also slip the charm onto a ribbon.)

Victoria Camp Designs

Ta-da! Here’s the finished necklace!

Victoria Camp Designs

You can make these in any color of clay you choose, and for any type of jewelry. This photo is an example of various colors I had made for earrings.

Hope you enjoyed the tutorial! I’ve been working with polymer clay for over 15 years. It’s really very fun, and those with any level of skill can create something! You can browse some of my other clay creations in my Etsy shop, Victoria Camp Designs.