Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween 2011: A Primer in Fame

Since we have been married, my husband and I have never dressed up for Halloween. Until this year. I saw the idea for this costume on Martha Stewart dot com and knew this was the one. I knew these costumes would serve us for years to come. You can read more about how I made the costumes here.

Fast forward to last Friday night. We have a Halloween tradition of going to the annual Boo at the Zoo event at the local zoo. This was our first public outing as a complete Yip Yip family. From the moment we stepped out of the car, we were stared at, gawked at, pointed at, photographed and approached. You could hear parents whisper to children and people shouting at us from afar. Children laughed and children cried. We stopped just short of signing autographs.

So, once we warmed up to the idea of all the attention, we started to have a little fun with it. I have to give a shout out to my kids who stayed in character, only answering "Yip yip yip..." when asked a question.

There were a lot of people who recognized us but couldn't quite remember what we were. Our answer was simply, "Yip yip yip yip." This was almost always followed by, "Oh, yeah! I remember those guys!" Little kids didn't know who we were, but were either fascinated or afraid. I "yipped" at more than one curious little kid who then started to cry. We were even stalked by one woman who was just dying to take our photograph. And she wasn't the only one.

Near the end of our stay, we participated in the family/group costume contest. We won second place, but I am convinced it was because our first place win would have been too obvious. A radio DJ guy interviewed us on stage to ask what we were (I don't think he was old enough to know). In turn, we each answered, "Yip yip yip yip." He never did figure out quite what we were. Oh, what did we win? A bag of candy.

So what was it like to be famous? Well, with the added advantage of complete anonymity, it was fun for a couple of hours. Although I can't imagine having to live my life like this, I sure do look forward to doing it again next year!

Just for fun!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Happy Holly-days Card (and a botany lesson)

I can't resist a little botany lesson if I find it applicable.  But first, as always, take a minute to admire the holly Christmas card.  

These cards feature holly leaves accented with red rhinestone holly berries. A punched, white lace border and khaki brown twill tape accent the bright red card and green polka dot paper. Happy Holidays has been hand-stamped on the bottom right corner of each card. 

A set of four of these cards is currently available for sale in my Etsy shop.  

Finished card size is 4 1/4"x5 1/2"
American holly (Ilex opaca) is indigenous to the southeastern part of the United States, although native populations can be found as far north as Maine and as far west as Texas (1).  One common plant that is often mistaken for holly is Oregon grape (Mahonia sp.) which is commonly found in the western US.  Oregon grape has similar leaves and, although purple, clusters of fruit
American holly with red fruit (davesgarden.com)
Oregon grape with purple fruit (davesgarden.com)
American holly is most commonly used in Christmas and holiday decor, but also serves as a food source for white tail deer and 18 species of birds (1).

If you are interested in the history of why holly is associated with Christmastime, I found this link interesting http://www.christmasholly.net/.  I cannot verify any of the historical accuracy of the information on this site. 


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Simple and oh so Sweet!

If you are thinking about making your own Christmas or holiday cards this season, the best thing you can do is pick a simple design that is easy to replicate.  You can make this card in just a few simple steps with just a few basic paper crafting supplies.   You could use this pattern with a number of different colors, patterns, stickers and sentiments. 

A set of 5 green peppermint cards and a set of 5 red peppermint cards are currently available for sale in my Etsy shop.
Finished card size is 4 1/4"x5 1/2"
Supplies:
Kraft cardstock, white cardstock, patterned paper, stickers, stamp, adhesive.

Instructions
Make card from cardstock.
Cut strips of patterned paper and adhere.
Cut white panels and round corners. 
Stamp sentiment and adhere sticker.
Adhere white panel. 
Done!

With that you should be able to crank out 50 or more of these for your Christmas or holiday cards!

(The idea for this card came from Paper Crafts magazine.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I'm Dreaming of a White (and Black) Christmas (and why snowflakes have 6 points)

Take a minute to admire the structurally accurate snowflakes on this black and white Christmas card before you read on. This card currently for sale in my Etsy shop. 
Finished card size is 4 1/4"x5 1/2"
One of my biggest pet peeves during the holiday season, or any time of year really, are snowflakes with more than 6 points.  In nature this does not occur.  Ever.  If you looked hard you would never see a snowflake with 8 points.  Or 4 or 5.  Maybe 3 or 12, but never anything else.  Some snowflakes are cylindrical in appearance, but you can be sure that they are triangular or hexagonal in cross-section.  

Structurally inaccurate snowflakes are common in design and crafting.  They are even common in elementary school.  It drives me crazy when my kids come home with snowflake cutouts that have 8 points.  If using snowflakes in my card design, I am very careful to select punches, stickers, stamps, etc., with snowflakes that have only 6 points.  I won't even wear holiday socks with "wrong" snowflakes. The punch I used to create the black snowflakes above were created using a Martha Stewart punch.  Martha does her research.
WRONG!
Why 3 or 6 or 12 points?  Simply put, a water molecule is triangular in shape.  When frozen, water molecules line up forming a hexagonal lattice structure.  This is why the typical snowflake has 6 points.  
Ice lattice structure

You can learn more about snowflake structure and formation at http://www.its.caltech.edu/~atomic/snowcrystals/class/class.htm.  I HIGHLY recommend checking out this link because it is as amazing as it is informative.  There are several incredible micrographs of snowflakes like the one below.  
RIGHT!
Here's wishing you a holiday season filled with structurally accurate snowflake decor!

(All images are from http://www.its.caltech.edu/~atomic/snowcrystals/primer/primer.htm)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

DIY Yip Yip Costume Tutorial (Yip yip yip yip, uh huh, uh huh)


These guys were some of my favorites from my Sesame Street watching days.  Call them martians, aliens, Yip-Yips, whatever.  A while ago I saw these guys done up as Halloween costumes on Martha Stewart dot com.  I immediately fell in love with the idea of these as costumes for me and my husband.  I figured talking my 7 y.o. son and 5 y.o. daughter would be futile, so I didn't even try.  However, after watching the video several times, they became enamored by the Yip-Yips and wanted to dress up as them for Halloween, too.  So, 13 yards of fleece fabric and several foam eyeballs later, I had all of the stuff for 4 DIY Yip Yip costumes.  Average approx. cost per costume is $25. 

A couple of days ago I began making one of the costumes.  Surprisingly, I finished the first one in a couple of hours.  I used a Yip-Yip costume tutorial I found at http://twindragonflydesigns.blogspot.com/2010/10/yip-yip-costumes-and-free-pattern.html

DIY Yip Yip Costume


I downloaded the child and adult patterns.  The instructions were descriptive and simple enough, but I would not recommend for a novice sewer.  While I am no sewing pro, I have worked with patterns before so I was able to make little adjustments here-and-there so the costume would fit my daughter.   Now that I have made one, making the other three should be fairly straight forward. 
Pink Yip Yip modeled by my 5 year old daughter.
The biggest change I made was adding Velcro to the top of the mouth.  While you can see through the black knit fabric during the day or in a well-lit room, it does dim and blur your vision a bit.  I figured this would be (1) dangerous at night and (2) likely to cause a headache after a while.   Though not as cute, it sure beats tripping up concrete steps or stepping off a curb. I also cut slits in the side of the costume so, that when needed, we could use our hands. 
Stay tuned for the Yip Yip family photo!

Happy Halloween!

Amanda

Supplies used:

Friday, October 14, 2011

Busted! Common Poinsettia Myths (plus a Poinsettia Christmas card)

The arrival of poinsettia plants in stores is a sure sign that the holidays are coming!  While festive and beautiful, poinsettias are often misunderstood.  Before I bust two of the most common myths, let me show you a delightful holiday card with a big, sparkly poinsettia "flower". 
Finished card size is 4 1/4"x5 1/2"
This card is available as part of a set that is currently for sale in my Etsy shop. 
Myth #1: Poinsettias are poisonous
The most common myth about poinsettias is that they are poisonous.  At one point we have all been advised to keep our pets and children away from them.  If broken, poinsettias ooze a milky sap which is common among plants in the Euphorbiaceae family (1).  This sap may cause skin irritation, but is not deadly poisonous (2), unless you plan on eating a truck full.

Myth #2:  Poinsettia flowers are red
The red and white "flowers" that are common among holiday poinsettias are actually bracts, which is a modified leaf that often subtends a flower.  Poinsettia flowers are small and yellow. 
Poinsettia flowers (3)
May thy home be filled with holiday poinsettia!
Resources: 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pinterest: I Tried It! Thick, Soft Sugar Cookies (with bonus recipe!)

I am a sucker for a thick, soft, rolled out sugar cookie.  Along the way I have made several attempts using several different recipes and am still on the lookout for the perfect cutout sugar cookie.  Sure, there have been some really good ones along the way, but none that were just right.   I very much dislike crunchy cookies.  Soft is the only way to go.  So this morning, with my 5 year-old daughter, we set out to make the best soft sugar cookie ever (according to claims on Pinterest).  

(Side note: I have found the perfect sugar cookie to just eat plain.  I will include the recipe below.)

I am not a huge fan of recipe reviews where the cook changes a gazillion things.  For this recipe, I used reduced fat sour cream because it was all that I had, and I initially chilled the dough because the texture was still a bit sticky, but ended up leaving it in the fridge overnight because I never got around to making them the same day. 

RECIPE for Thick, Soft Sugar Cookies (from peppermintplum.blogspot.com)
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
3 tsp. vanilla
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
5 1/2 cups flour

In mixer, cream butter and sugar, and then add eggs and vanilla. Add sour cream. Combine salt, soda, and flour, and add to mixture.

Roll out on floured surface to about 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick. Really.

Use a spatula to carefully slide under each cookie and place onto greased (with Pam) parchment-lined cookie sheets. Bake at 375 for 7-8 minutes.
THEY WILL NOT LOOK DONE!
But don't give in to your temptation to cook "just a little bit longer" or you will get crunchy cookies instead of soft, pillow-like cookies.

REVIEW:
First, you cannot have a good cookie without a good dough.  The dough was excellent!  Perfect for not cooking at all. The chilled dough balled up and rolled out very easily.  Even my 5 year old could do it.

I rolled out the cookies and baked as directed but some of them were still doughy in the middle.  The ones that were baked all the way through were wonderful!  Soft and thick, just as the recipe says.  The recipe yielded about 18-20 large cookies (5") and several small ones.  This was with the dough rolled very thick. 

I was really lazy with the frosting.  No color, no decor.  I used a jar of cream cheese frosting that I had in the pantry and frosted the tops.  The result: A yummy batch of pumpkin shaped sugar cookies!

RECOMMENDATIONS:
I should have looked at the entire recipe first.  I would have halved the recipe.  I now have more cookies than I know what to do with!  Also, you may want to cook them just a bit longer so they do not remain doughy.  I love doughy cookies, but not doughy sugar cookie cutouts.  It just doesn't work with the frosting.  If cooked longer, they would be perfect for frosting at Christmas time!  I definitely plan on using this recipe again!

Click on the link below for the original Thick, Soft Sugar Cookie recipe I used.

BONUS RECIPE! Tammy's Sugar Cookies

½ c butter
½ c shortening
1 c powdered sugar
½ c baker’s sugar or regular sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp almond extract

Cream butter, shortening, and sugars together until smooth. Add eggs, vanilla, and almond extract, mix until just blended.

 
Mix together:
3 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt

Add to wet mixture and mix until smooth. Chill. Roll to about ¼” thick and cut out shapes, or roll into 1.5" balls and flatten slightly. Bake at 350º for 9 minutes (less time for smaller/thinner cookies).


P.S. They are not going to look done after 9 minutes, and you can bake them for a bit longer, but by the time they look done, they'll be too done. At least in my book.


REVIEW: 
It is the almond extract that makes these cookies so awesome.  Do not omit!  I prefer these cookies rolled into a ball and cooked like a chocolate chip cookie.  You won't regret it!

Friday, October 7, 2011

We Have Chemistry (*gag)

One of my biggest pet peeves when watching reality TV shows is the overuse of the word 'chemistry' to describe raging hormones.  Admittedly, in the past, I have watched what my husband and I refer to as "smut TV", namely The Bachelor.  Frequently, contestants refer to their lust for the bachelor as chemistry.  For example, after making-out with the bachelor, a contestant may exclaim, "Bob and I have chemistry."  Well, biologically speaking, most people would have 'chemistry' after making out with Bob.  Thus, my utter dislike for the overused and meaningless phrase, "we have chemistry."

Despite my distaste for 'chemistry', I immediately liked the fun and modern design of the card when I saw it in Paper Crafts magazine.  I am more fond of the Erlenmeyer flask than the sentiment.  (FYI: Erlenmeyer flasks are triangle shaped in profile and have a long neck.)  Both my husband and I are biologists and the floral center pieces at our wedding reception were in Erlenmeyer flasks.  :)  This card would make a fun and funky love note for your sig. other.

I downloaded the pattern for the Erlenmeyer flask from Paper Crafts and adhered it to the card.  I added the sentiment and stitched a zig zag accent with orange embroidery floss.  Lastly, I added brads to the bubbling brew.  

Finished card size is 4 1/4x5 1/2"
This card is for sale in my Etsy shop. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Give Thanks

Even though Halloween is only a couple of weeks away, many of us are already thinking about Thanksgiving.  What's not to love about a day where you can stuff yourself silly with turkey and refined carbohydrates?  The rest of it is just details.  :)  What do you look forward to at Thanksgiving?

I designed this Thanksgiving card using fall colors as my inspiration.  The trees and stems are die cut and adhered to a colorful diamond background.  The card is finished with wide grosgrain ribbon and a Happy Thanksgiving banner.

Finished card size is 4 1/4x5 1/2"
This card is currently for sale in my Etsy shop. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Back on the Blogging Wagon: A Christmas Card

After taking a few days from blogging, I am back with new designs!  Normally I wouldn't start on my Christmas cards until Dec. 17, but since I am trying to sell cards on Etsy, I have induced the Christmas spirit into my home a bit early this year. 

For a while now, I have seen cards like this all over Pinterest so I thought I would give them a try.  I like the simplicity and the clean lines, yet somehow it still screams Christmas.  I inked the edges of the door, window panes and wreath scallops with brown ink to give them some dimension and add a rustic feel.  I think my favorite part is the little door knob.  I used two .1/2" brown circles and mounted the top one with foam tape.  It just finishes the overall look.  Oh yeah, and don't forget to add a bow. 
 
Finished card size is 4 1/4x5 1/2"
A set of 4 of these cards is available for sale in my Etsy store