Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy Halloween! And a big Thank YOU!

 First off, HAPPY HALLOWEEN!  I can not believe October is already gone (well, almost) and now I have to start getting ready for Christmas.  Where has the time gone?  I am definitely not ready to give up fall just yet -but I must admit that I am all set for a relaxing (as relaxing as it can be) Christmas this year... by which I mean one involving no major surgeries or long hospitals stays like last year.  That's not too much to ask, is it?  And I have some great ideas of crafts and food to make this holiday season, so hang on to your hats!  Now I just have to find some free time... 

And secondly, I have been totally BLOWN AWAY by the growth of The Crafty Conundrum over the past couple of months!  And that, my dear readers, is all thanks to YOU!  I have appreciated all of your comments and I love each one.  Thank you Thank you Thank you!  I am now up to 23 followers -thanks, ladies!  I know in the blogging world, that is just peanuts, but to me it is AWESOME and AMAZING.  I love being able to form a little community here with other people who love to create beautiful things too.  It has been an honor getting to know some of you and participating in all the weekly link parties that you host!

And what I have been dying to share with you is that in October alone my page views have been more than DOUBLE the page views from any other month (including my all time record, which I was ecstatic about).  I can't believe it!  Seriously, I thought I would have a heart attack.  So... THANK YOU -again.  I am truly grateful -and excited for the future... where ever it leads. 

Until next time, friends.  Goodnight

Friday, October 28, 2011

Foodie Friday #12

Aaaahh!!  I am so excited to share this recipe I found on Pinterest with y'all today!  It is Crockpot Barbecue Chicken.... and oh, yum, it is delicious.  And, easy, obviously... which is why I love it so much.  It is definitely a keeper... as in, I am basically writing it out to put in my recipe box as we speak -you know, just in case Pinterest is slow the next time I am dying to make it.... haha.

You can find the recipe here and get ready to make it -like right now if you want!  Seriously it is super easy -and you can throw the chicken breasts in the crockpot FROZEN if you want (I did) and it works great.
Here is the photo from their site because it looks so much better than my photos.

And here are my photos

 Ok, stop comparing and snickering....

 And here is the photo of Carter's with the chicken all cut up and mixed in... but he was feeling left out because I was taking pictures of my food and not his.  Hehe.

I HIGHLY recommend this one, people!  REALLY!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Salt Dough Creations

The kids and I had fun making salt dough creations to decorate.  Some of them ended up being kind of Christmas-y but most were just made using a donut cutter my son wanted to use.... guess they could be wreaths?

 Just roll your salt dough flat (about a 1/4 - 1/2 inch) and cut with cookie cutters.  Then put on a baking sheet and cook at 325 F for 40-50 minutes (that's what the recipe said anyway... my oven cooked them faster,so I took them out and let them dry some more overnight because I didn't want them to brown).

 And add some paint... like this lovely purple and pink candy cane.

Chloe LOVES to paint now.... she just kept layering on more colors and more paint so she didn't have to stop.  I tried to get her to paint some paper too, but she kind of glared and rolled her eyes (she's a total pro at it) so that was the end of that idea.

Signing off now.  See you all later!

Halloween Birthday Party

My baby girl has been ONE (wow, can't believe it) for one month now and we just finally had her birthday party (just with family) on the 23rd of October.  

Remember my little pumpkin pinatas?  Here they are -all my hard work, being smashed to bits!!  Gotta love it.
 And... we have the stop-making-me-look-at-you-so-I-can-smash-the-heck-out-of-this-thing-already look of death going on right there... haha

 My little one year old finally getting the hang of crawling (and attempting the stairs...tsk tsk).

The LOOT, baby!

And here are my cute pumpkin cupcakes.  You can tell I put a lot of effort into them (wink wink)... They are so EASY. 
 Just did a swirl around them using my Wilton cupcake icer tip and used a regular star (I think a #16) to make a stem.  Added a leaf with my leaf tip... and DONE!  Easy Peasy.

Oooh... what do we have here?

Are you seriously going to let me eat this little piece of heaven?  Isn't this forbidden or something?

Oooh yeah!

It was  pretty low key, relaxed birthday, but after the year we've had, I think it was called for.  The cousins and siblings all had fun throwing their pinatas on the floor, sitting on them, smashing them, etc... it was worth it!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Check Out My Latest Libray Find!

I recently borrowed a book called "Papier-Mache Monsters: Turn Trinkets and Trash Into Magnificent Monstrosities" by Dan Reeder from the library.

Ok, can I just say how AWESOME it is!! I LOVE it! I think I am going to put it on my Christmas list for future reference in making pinatas and other neat creations. The pictures are INCREDIBLE and the techniques are FANTASTIC.... and, as an added bonus, the author's "voice" and writing style absolutely crack me up -he has a great sense of humor. Now I want to go to town and make a crazy monster or dragon to display in my house. I probably won't have time before Halloween, or I would do that. He has a cool section just with Halloween things (a bust of Frankenstein's monster, creepy pumpkin, Dracula, etc.).  I started hoarding all our newspapers and flyers (much to hubby's shagrin...) but haven't had the chance to dive in and attempt one of these babies -YET! 

Oh, and by the way, you can buy it here and it's only about $12!  Score!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Foodie Friday #11

Tried out this recipe for Orange Chicken in the crockpot.  I found the recipe at The Pursuit of Happiness and put it straight to my recipes on Pinterest (which is way too addicting, by the way).  I changed it up a bit, though, by throwing in some broccoli the last little while because I wanted broccoli with it and was too lazy to get another pot dirty and make it on the stove.  It turned out pretty well, but I think next time I will tweak it a bit.  I think I will cook the broccoli separately next time (though it pains me so...) and maybe add a bit of a "kick" since the hubby thought it needed some more power.

 Looks good, huh?  Mmm!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"Deadly" Halloween Wreath Tutorial: Part 3

**Updated -also check out Part 1 and Part 2**

Ready for part 3?  Great!  Let's dive right in.
Get out your bones and lay them out to find a way you like them.... Maybe I should have planned this out while I was making them.... Nah!  where's the challenge in that?

Then, using your jewelry cord, tie them on (tightly!) to the frame.
 My cord didn't hold them on tight enough, so I added some hot glue where needed.

Almost done!
Then pick some fun Halloweeny (is that really a word) ribbon and wrap it around like a normal wreath.  I added a bow at the top too.  I used hot glue to attach the bow and the loose ends of the ribbon.  And, Michael's had their Halloween ribbon on sale for $1 a spool!  Can't go wrong with that!

I love the B&W stripe ribbon -it reminds me of the Wicked Witch in Wizard of Oz.  

 All I think it needs is a spider in that web.... Thoughts?

Happy Haunting!

Monday, October 17, 2011

"Deadly" Halloween Wreath Tutorial: Part 2

 **Updated -also check out Part 1 and Part 3**

So here is how to make the bones.  I made them out of salt dough -you know, the stuff you probably made some cute Christmas ornaments out of as a kid.  I actually had lots of fun experimenting with this -I felt like a kid playing with Play Doh... makes me miss my sculpture class and playing with clay.... but I digress.

The problem was that there are so many recipes for salt dough out there.  This is the one I used:

Dissolve 1 cup salt in 1 cup warm water.  Stir in 3 cups flour (one cup at a time).

It's kind of a combination of a recipe I found in a Better Homes and Gardens Bird Buddies (kid crafts) book and one I found online.  The BH&G book said to bake at 325 F for 40-50 minutes, but another one said to do it at 250 F.  I opted for the lower temp just because I didn't want them to bubble or brown.  I think I ended up baking them for 80-90 minutes and turning them every 15 minutes (yes, I am a little paranoid sometimes...don't judge).

Here's the dough.  It was a little softer and had a nicer texture than other salt dough I have worked with.  I like dissolving the salt in the water first, rather than mixing dry ingredients first and then adding water. 

So, first take a chunk and roll it into a "snake".

Cut pieces your desired length.

Now comes the experimenting.  I made the bones 3 different ways.  I will show you the two I did NOT like as well first and then the way I found best.

Method #1:

Roll a small ball.

And a second one...

then squish them together a bit and onto the "snake".  I found it hard to get rid of the cracks and make it look good.

Method #2:

Roll out a ball.  Pinch it in the middle a bit and fold up the ends (it will look kind of heart shaped).

Attach it to the "snake".

Method #3: The Winner

Roll out a ball.  Then roll the middle section back and forth with your finger.

Fold the ends up to make a heart shape.

Then make a hole in the bottom of the "heart".  I used a piece of spaghetti. 

Poke it into the bottom (about a 1/4 inch) and wiggle it back and forth to make kind of a pocket.

Like the picture above.

Make the end of the "snake" pointed, like this.

Get a small paintbrush and some water.  Use the brush to put some water (not TOO much) on the end of the "snake" and in the "pocket".

Put the end of the "snake" into the "pocket" and push the heart shaped part onto the snake.  Smooth out the edges/cracks.  You can use a bit more water if that helps. 

Repeat for the other side of the bone.

I poked a hole all the way through on the sides right below the base of the knobby parts of the bone using spaghetti again.  Some of these worked to tie them onto the wreath, but some closed up while baking.  Not a big deal though, using the clear jewelry cord you don't notice it too much if you have to tie around the bones either.

Or try making different shapes too.

 And expect your hands to look severely dehydrated and crusty after -ick!  Can you say moisturizer?

Bake your creations on a cookie sheet until dry and hard.  Or you could try leaving them to dry (it would take a long time though).

 Then paint them white or off white.  I used gesso... mostly because it dries quickly and I am impatient and don't like to sit around waiting forever for the first coat to dry before I can do a second coat.  And also I thought it might help to seal them a bit to protect them.

 Now on to Part 3... After I catch my breath (was that a long winded post?  Or does it just seem that way to me?)