Saturday, March 13, 2010

DIY biodegradable Easter grass

Easter grass is one of the marvels of our society. While it's a cheery holiday decoration, it's abhorrent that the plastic strips of "grass" do nothing but cushion candy and precious eggs.

I still remember growing up and finding strands sucked up and stuck to our vacuum roller and even poking out of pet vomit and dookie. I even have a friend who lists Easter grass as one of her worst fears.

Anyway, don't buy any more of it. Ever. Instead, create your own with your household paper shredder!

Use scraps of wrapping paper, card stock or other papers and send it through the shredder. If you don't care about looks, recycle your newspaper or store ads.

Can you imagine if pipe cleaners actually cleaned pipes?

You really got to give Martha Stewart mad props — she is quite amazing.

I found these super cute pipe cleaner Easter baskets in last year's Easter issue of her Living magazine. The only cost is the $2 pastel pipe cleaner pack (100 pieces) I got at the crafts store.

To start, take four pieces of pipe cleaner and create eight spokes. You can use whole pieces for a larger basket, or halve the pieces for a smaller basket. Cut another piece to add a ninth spoke and attach by bending it into the others.

Starting from the middle, weave another pipe cleaner over and under the spokes. When you come to the end of the pipe cleaner, twist another one onto the end and keep weaving.

Once you get a sizeable base (think three or four pipe cleaner weavings), bend the spokes upward to form the sides of the basket.

When you've reached your preferred height of the sides, twist the end of the open pipe cleaner into the basket. Cut the tips of the spokes down to where about 1/4 inch remains, leaving two on opposite sides to help secure the handle. Fold the tips down, alternating on the inside and outside, to secure the top layer of basket.

Twist two more pipe cleaners together to make the handle, molding it into a handle-like curve. Using the two leftover spokes, twist the ends around the handle.

Variations: Use brown pipe cleaners to make a decorative spring nest for birds. While weaving the sides of the basket, add beads to give it some razzle dazzle.

Easy votive gift favors

I'm not exactly sure where I saw this idea, but it's fairly basic in terms of crafting ability.

And looking at these now, these votives would have made perfect favors at any wedding (I went with sparklers and personalized matches at ours).

The supplies are super easy: glass votive jars, thin-width ribbon and cupcake liners.

I found these perfect red liners on clearance after Valentine's Day at Hobby Lobby. I paid about a quarter. The ribbon was also on sale for $1. The votives I believe were $1 each.

Before tying the liner on, mold it to the top of the votive, spreading out the preformed fold for the bottom to fit your slightly larger votive mouth.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Strawberry Cake Fiasco

As March begins, there still hasn't been much crafty time in my life. The crafty-est I've gotten lately is making a cake for our church's birthday dinner, where we set up 12 tables, one for each month of the year, decorated them according to month, and made everyone sit at the table of their birth.


I decide my contribution is not crafty table decorations. Oh no, that would be too easy. I decide to make a cake. Which then turns into a disaster, one step at a time.

Upon planning, I realized I had never made a cake before. Not a real one anyway. I have made scads of cupcakes, a sheet cake once or twice and a Happy Birthday Husband Bundt cake (he thinks its funny to ask for a bundt cake when I ask what he might want for dinner). But I had never made a layer cake.

Yes, that would be a cake virgin.

To add insult to injury, I didn't even own cake pans. They had somehow escaped my wedding registry, so I bought two and a white cake mix and went to work.

My first goal was if it didn't taste good, at least it would look good. Which promptly went to hell (or heck to any church folks reading about my church contribution to my church function) when I brought out the perfectly baked cake from my unlevel oven.

Apparently, we are the first users of our oven at our rental duplex. Apparently, leveling your oven unit is crucial to baking. Apparently.

This doesn't quite sink in to me when I place the first layer on my cake dish and slather it with strawberry preserves — my choice filling. It does sink in once the second layer went on top and didn't quite make ends meet.

After consulting with the husband, whose grandmother is the cake-baking extraordinare and regularly ships either a sheet cake or three-layer chocolate cake eight hours with the hubs' parents on visits to us, I decide the massive gaps on the sides can just be filled with icing.

Keep in mind, none of my "cake baking" is truly from scratch. If the cake isn't from a box, I can't imagine why you would want to make it.... but anyway, my icing choice was a cream cheese frosting off the store shelf. Smart idea or not (I decide later on "not smart") I make the cake and ice it on Friday night, which is when I had the most free time since I work on Saturdays. I ice away.

Here is where the true catastrophes start in. Coming home Saturday, I find a gigantic Grand Canyon-sized crack in the top of my cake. I immediately blame the hubs, who swears he didn't even sniff at it. Apparently (great word) gravity sank onto my cake, pulling the heavy top layer down to rest on the uneven bottom layer, splitting the top. I have no pictures because I was too distraught at the time to chronicle my fate.

Another consultation with the hubs, and I decide to fill the canyon with icing.

At this point, my goal changes to if it won't look good, at least it will taste good. And this was quite an event at cake meant a huge let-down. And I refused to buy a store-bought cake, more than anything fearing Wal-Mart simply wouldn't have one once I got there, and then where would I be?

Sunday morning, the day of the event, I get up early to really put the razzle dazzle into the cake using strawberry art. I sliced several strawberries into the thinnest pieces possible, separating the end pieces from the insides. Then I went to work.

Beautiful, right? At this moment, I'm obviously so proud of my maiden cake voyage that I actually carry it into the living room for an impromptu photo shoot in natural light.

By the time I get it to church, though, half the strawberries have fallen off the cake and are oozing all over the plate and the cake. My shepherding elder lady friends tell me to put it in the freezer to firm up during church.

I'd like to say that was the end of the tragedy. Almost. Everyone who ate the cake loved it and raved about it. Still, there was a little left over so I put it back into the cake transporter and went back home.

As I got it out of the car and juggled my other belongings, the contents of my arms, including the cake, fell to the ground. Cake smashed. Cake plate slightly cracked.

And no, I never got a single bite of my own first cake.

And that's my crafty February.