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241  JEWELRY AND TRINKETS / Trinkets and Jewelry: Completed Projects: General / The Potions Master Bracelet Version 2.0 on: January 14, 2011 01:44:08 PM
A while back I created a Potions Master Charm Bracelet for SevsOnlyGirl in the Loaded Charm Bracelet Swap.  I was really happy with how it came out, not to mention psyched to be so inspired by my awesome partner, Sevs. 

But in the year since making that one, I've refined my technique quite a bit, and started using a different style of chain as my base, which I think wears much nicer and is more comfortable.  I decided I wanted to go back to that bracelet and try it again, with a "what I know now" kind of approach.  Here's the result:

Charms include:
~Evil eye, used to protect oneself from malicious spells
~Snake, symbol of Slytherin House
~Lightening bolt, for the Boy Who Lived
~Silver star
~Phial of lavender, to promote love, protection, courage & strength
~Inkwell & quill, for grading all those rolls of parchment
~Locket to stash a picture of your true love
~Silver Doe, Snape's Patronus Charm
~Phial of rue, symbol of sorrow & repentance; renowned as an antidote to poisons; carried to guard the bearer from poisons, werewolves and all manner of dangers
~Owl, to bear your messages
~Beazor, a stone taken from the belly of a goat which will guard against most poisons
~Spell books & an apple for studying
~Phial of sage, for longevity & increasing wisdom
~Wand, from Ollivander's
~Crescent moon
~Wire wrapped skull, like the Death Eater's masks
~Goblet in which to serve your most potent potions

I hope you all enjoy!
242  QUILTING / Quilting: Completed Projects / 3 Mug Rugs ~ Celtic, Woodland & Owls on: January 14, 2011 10:50:04 AM
While wandering the swap boards the other day, I discovered the Mug Rug Swap.  How did I not know about these before?!?!  

For those of you who haven't seen them either, a Mug Rug is somewhere between an over-sized coaster and a mini-placemat.   Or as my husband noted,  somewhere between a doll quilt and a saucer!  The idea is that you should be able to fit a mug full of your favorite beverage and a small snack on it.  I clearly joined the swap about 2.6 seconds after discovering it.  As we are still in the Sign-Up stage, we don't have partners yet.  But here I am itching to make some anyways!  What's a girl to do?  How about some practice Mug Rugs?

This was my first.  I busted out some metallic threads and fancy stitches on my sewing machine.  I actually think it matches my work mug rather well.  

This is my second one.  I found a single fat quarter of the red Celtic knots a few years ago, and could never quite decide what to make with it.  I'm pretty pleased with this one.  I think I'll start using it in my office at work, since my office is starting to become pirate themed, with lots of black and red around the room.  (My office also doubles as the student office, supply room, and general visiting area for the Theatre Department.)

Note:  This mug is HUGE.  It holds like 20 oz of liquid.  Below is a picture of it with my normal sized mug.

This last one has to be my favorite though.  I just really love how it came out.  The fabrics were rescued from the scrap bin, and was originally from two student's pajama pants, and another student's shirt project.  
It's hard to tell in the photo, but the quilting thread matches the color of the little green owl.  

And the back:

Note:  The cookies in the photograph are Magic Peanut Butter Middles and were made by my wonderful husband.   Cheesy
243  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / Ginger-Mustard Ham with Steamed Broccoli & Jasmine Rice on: January 12, 2011 12:16:58 PM

I've been following along on the Five-Dollar-Dinner Cookalong lately.  (Husband just quit his rather terrible job, so I'm supporting us both and trying to be extra creative and frugal with our grocery budget, while still serving healthy meals.  Thank goodness for Aldi!)  Here's one of my favorites so far.

Ginger-Mustard Ham with Steamed Broccoli & Jasmine Rice

1 ham steak                        2.10 (@ Aldi)
1/2 can ginger ale               .25 (Free for me - left by my friends)
3-5 T Brown sugar              .20
2-3 T Spicy Mustard            .20
Grated frozen ginger           .05
Dash of sesame oil             .05
Sprinkle of ground ginger    .05
Sprinkle of cloves               .05
Sprinkle of allspice             .05
1 crown of broccoli             1.00
1 cup jasmine rice              .75   (cheaper if you use white rice)     

Total:                                4.75

Here's the recipe:
Place the ham steak in a large baking dish.  Squeeze on some dollops of mustard, then sprinkle on the brown sugar.  Use the back of a spoon to smear it around on the steak, forming a paste.  If its too dry, add more mustard.  Too liquidy, add more sugar.  You want a nice even coating over the whole steak.  Next sprinkle on the ground ginger, cloves & allspice.  (I had tons of spices left over from holiday baking, so I'm trying to use them up before they loose their flavor.) 

Grate on a little fresh ginger.  (I keep a ginger root in my freezer, and just grate some of it on while frozen.  And just FYI a piece of whole ginger will last just about forever in there.)  Pour the ginger ale into the pan, around the edges of the ham steak.  You want it to come about halfway or so up the side of the steak.  About 1/4"-1/2" deep.  Add on a dash of sesame oil for fragrance while cooking.

Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes, or until the ginger ale is mostly simmered away.  Meanwhile, steam a cup of rice and a crown of broccoli.  I actually grated a little ginger onto my broccoli too, just before steaming.  I used Jasmine rice, because it's what I had on hand, but you could also use white or brown rice too.

244  JEWELRY AND TRINKETS / Trinkets and Jewelry: Completed Projects: General / Dragonfly In the Sky ~ Bracelet & Necklace Set on: January 09, 2011 07:25:42 AM
I've been making mad piles of jewelry this week, before I head back to work post-holiday.  This set came about accidentally.  A friend asked if I could make a dragonfly themed piece, and I only had a few minutes to come up with something.  

The bracelet: a bronze dragonfly charm and three sizes of fire-polished aquamarine glass beads.

Dragonfly in the Sky Pendant

Detail shot of pendant:

(Note: The dragonfly itself came to me as a single earring in the Steampunk Charm Swap.  I loved it, but it was too big to be used on the charm bracelet I had planned, so I removed it's earring post and added it to the blue capiz shell.)

245  JEWELRY AND TRINKETS / Trinkets and Jewelry: Completed Projects: General / Plethora of Earrings (including Harry Potter, Twilight, Celtic, etc.) on: January 09, 2011 07:15:08 AM
I've been taking the last week to make a whole lot of jewelry before heading back to work after the holidays.  Here are some of the results, a plethora of earrings!

Heart of a Slytherin

Expecto Patronum - Silver Stags

Always - The Silver Doe

Almond Drops on filigree bails

Celtic Knots and Shell

Leaves of Glass

Busy Bees

Breaking Dawn (Chess Pieces & Crystal Hearts)
246  CLOTHING / Clothing: Completed Projects: General / Matching Aprons & Chef Hats for Nana & Niece on: January 01, 2011 07:30:05 AM
My mom called me shortly before Christmas to ask me to make an apron for my beautiful niece Ari, who likes to help her Nana bake cookies in the kitchen.  (Evidently Ari doesn't like playing with toys as much as she likes doing things with grownups.)  After thinking on it for a few minutes, I realized that Ari totally needed a tiny chef's hat to go with her little apron.  Then I thought that perhaps what would really make my mom's day was if she and Ari had matching aprons and hats.

I spent part of a day of finals week whipping these up in the Costume Shop, while DH was taking his last two exams.

Both sets for size comparison:

Mom's hat and apron:

Ari's hat and apron:

And finally mom and Ari after opening them on Christmas Eve:

I wish I had more time to work on them, because I really would have loved to add "Ari" and "Nana" to them somewhere.  Perhaps embroidered on the pockets.  But I really wanted to make sure the package got there by Christmas, so I just went ahead and sent them out.  Though she looks a bit sad in this picture, I'm told she was quite excited by her hat.

Just for fun, I also included some felt play food for Ari, even though she's a bit young for it.  You can see it here:  First Shot at Felt Food for my Niece
247  TOYS, DOLLS AND PLAYTHINGS / Toys, Dolls and Playthings: Completed Projects / First Shot at Felt Food for my Niece on: January 01, 2011 07:29:43 AM
My mom called me shortly before Christmas to ask me to make an apron for my beautiful niece Ari, who likes to help her Nana bake cookies in the kitchen.  I ended up making Ari and her Nana matching aprons and hats, which can be seen here:  

Just for fun, I also included some felt play food for Ari, even though she's a bit young for it.  You can see it here:  Matching Aprons & Chef Hats for Nana & Niece

At the last minute I decided that Ari clearly needed some felt play food to go with her new hat and apron, so I whipped up these all up in a single evening!

Breakfast goodies including pancakes with butter and syrup, sausages, bacon, and eggs over easy:

And since I had a bunch of purple and orange felt too, an eggplant and some carrots.  (Which Ari will probably help mom grow in the garden this year too!)

When I told my brother I knew that Ari might be too young for the felt food he said she actually seemed to understand immedietly that it was NOT supposed to go into her mouth.  Instead she holds it up and says "Nom, nom, nom", then holds it up for Nana, and is not satified until Nana "noms" on it too.  She evidently also likes to put it in her new toy grocery cart and push it around.  I'm clearly going to need to make more of these things...

Oh, and a big thanks goes out to Pinkleo for giving me all that felt last year in Craftster's 12 Days of Christmas Swap!  It was a life saver to have so much of it around when doing this at the last minute!
248  QUILTING / Quilting: Completed Projects / Quilted Potholders for All! on: December 31, 2010 06:56:29 PM
This year I made tons of quilted potholders as Christmas presents.  I made them for just about everyone, but sadly I forgot to get pictures of some of them.  Here are the ones I did get shots of...

These were for friends who just got married.  I'm hoping to finish a small wall quilt for them too...

This set was for my sister in law, Emily:

For my co-worker, Shura:

For my mother in law, Kay:

Sadly I missed pictures on those for my other sisters in law, Heather & Jennifer.  I'll have to email to see if they can take some for me.  They were all made with scrap quilting fabrics, leftover batting, and some insul-brite.  Really economical presents considering the insul-brite is only $2.49 a yard, and I get about 8 out of each yard!

249  TOYS, DOLLS AND PLAYTHINGS / Toys, Dolls and Playthings: Completed Projects / Woodburned Piecepack Game Set on: November 27, 2010 07:50:11 AM
I just completed organizing the Decked Out for Deathly Hallows Swap with Ex_Gratia & Pinkleo in preparation for the release of Part I.  The swap required 1 wearable item to don for the premier, 1 game, toy or accessory to play with while waiting in line, and 1 edible item to enjoy during the film. 

My wonderful partner Andromeda007 wanted a game she and her husband could play together or with friends.  My husband Jim loves playing games while I do not, and he pointed out that a kitschy HP themed game would just gather dust.   He also pointed out that to get a game that was fun to play, you would have to test it a lot to make sure it didn't go on for hours, or be over in 5 minutes.  That it should be easy to learn but still pleasurably challenging to play, etc.  In the end, he proposed the idea of a Piecepack.  A Piecepack is the board game equivalent of a deck of cards.  It is a set of pieces that can be arranged in nearly limitless configurations, and allows users to create their own games with it, just like you can play poker, eucher, hearts, bridge, etc with a single deck of cards.

I wanted my game to feel old, in that way that many things in the world of Harry Potter are timeless.  I settled on making all the pieces out of wood.  I was able to pick up most of them at the craft store, but the 3" wooden tiles needed to be ordered offline.  I got mine at Craftparts.com.  I created the images for the coins and tiles in Photoshop, then flipped them over digitally and printed them on a laser printer. 

I used the transfer tip on the wood burning tool to transfer them to the pieces.  Most of the pieces were then woodburned with a detail tip, though the tiny suits in the corners of the tiles were just too small to burn. I traced them with a black art pen that doesn't bleed when used on wood.  All the pieces were painted with a thick coat of watercolor, so the wood grain would show through.  Then the empty areas were stained with Chartpak wood stain markers which I freakin' love.  (They are available in tons of colors at Michael's).  I also gave them all a few coats of a clear acrylic to protect them.   

The really neat part about it is that it is in the public domain, so anyone can create games for it, and most get added to the games page at www.Piecepack.org, and sites like it.  The game set already had 4 suits, which I felt were *mostly* already HP themed, and just needed a tiny bit of tweaking. 

The firey red sun for Gryffindor. 
A majestic blue moon, for the Ravenclaws. 
The green crown for the ambitious Slytherins. 
And the suggested fleur-de-lis traded out for a yellow leaf for the earthy Hufflepuffs.

The suits each have 6 tiles, 6 coins, and a die, each numbered Ace, zero, 2, 3, 4 & 5.

Each piecepack is supposed to have 4 pawns, which I made out of the smaller wooden people I found at Hobby Lobby.  But when I ordered the wooden tiles online for the board pieces, I saw the "2.5" tall girls", which are the larger set of pawns.  I thought they were so cute, and looked like they could be figures in robes, so I made an extra set of pawns. 

Some of the piecepack games require a set of game pieces called an "Icehouse Set", which are 4 sided pyramids, made of plastic.  I didn't want to order the sometimes expensive pieces, plus I didn't think they being plastic would fit with the feel of the wooden game pieces I had already created.  So I used wooden flower pots, with a gouge mark burned into them.  When you stack them with the gouges all facing the same way, you get which way your player is facing in the game.  Purists might not like my plan (Jim didn't).  But I think it's a good compromise to the pretty wooden set. 

Here are some detail shots of the coins and dice:

Since the games are all in the public domain, it's also okay to tweak them as desired.  Jim found me a "Wizard's Dueling Game", which I felt was practically written with Harry Potter in mind.  I retyped the rules, changing a few names & terms to suit the theme, and ended up with a game I called "Dumbledore's Army", which allows you to practice Stunning, Disarming & Shield Spells in the Room of Requirement.   Wink

I knew I needed to make a container for all the parts and pieces to the game.  DH suggested a drawstring pouch, but since he had just bought me a new wood burning tool, I opted for a wooden box, that I burned then stained with Chartpak woodstain markers.

If you're interested in games, be sure to check out www.Piecepack.org for various games, printable pieces, and more.  (I'm in no way affiliated with them, I just found their site very helpful!)
250  COOKING / Dessert / Ice Mice Candy Making Tutorial (White Chocolate Peppermint HP themed Candies) on: November 27, 2010 06:46:27 AM
I just finished organizing the Decked Out for Deathly Hallows Swap (Round 1) with Ex_Gratia & Pinkleo.  The swap required 1 wearable item to don for the film, 1 game, toy or accessory to play with while waiting in line, and 1 edible item to enjoy during the film.  We had an awesome time, and can't wait to do Round 2 for Part 2.  Since Ex_Gratia and I live in the same town and work together, we made all our candies together.  We made mountains of treats, including: Raspberry Almond Marshmallows, Peanut Butter Gryffindors with Truffle Centers, Chocoballs (Bourbon Balls), Chocolate Frogs, Dark Chocolate Rasberry Truffles & Raspberry Creams, Dark Chocolate Wands, and Ice Mice. 

Today I'm going to post our tutorial for making Ice Mice.


Almond Bark or White Chocolate Candy Melts, available at grocery or craft stores
Peppermint Candy Oil (I used Lorann Gourmet)
Blue Candy Coloring (note, you CANNOT use regular food coloring here)
Buttercream Candy Filling (I picked up the Make & Mold variety at Hobby Lobby)

Mouse Candy Mold (I got mine from Cake and Candy on Ebay)
microwave safe container for melting candy
cutting board & a sharp chef's knife
clean (brand new) nylon paintbrushes
various toothpicks, spoons & stirrers
a small bowl

Begin by clearing a clean work surface.  Open up your package of almond bark or candy melts.  If using almond bark, break off a few squares of the candy, and then chop them into small chunks.  (Somewhat smaller than Hershey's kisses, and larger than chocolate chips.)

Place the candy in a microwave safe dish, and begin microwaving for 30 seconds.  Stir.  It will still be rather solid.  Continue for another 30 seconds.  Stir.  You should see it begining to melt.  Continue microwaving and stirring for 20 second bursts of time.  As it is nearly all melted, reduce time to 10 seconds.  Stir until all the candy is smooth.  After the candy is all melted, add a few drops of Peppermint Candy Oil.  This stuff is 4 times more concentrated than flavoring extracts and you will not need a lot.  I went with about 4 drops.  Stir well and taste.   

Take a small amount of the white chocolate, maybe a tablespoon or two, and put it in a smaller bowl.  Dip a toothpick in your candy coloring, and stir into the white chocolate.  You are looking to make a nice light blue, and should only need a little coloring.  Too much and it will change the texture of the candy.  Continue coloring and stirring till you reach the desired color.

Now, take your clean new paintbrush, and dip it in the blue candy coating.  Paint the noses and the tails of the mice mold with the blue chocolate.  Be sure to paint it on thick, especially at the tails.  Allow to set in the fridge for a moment, while you check on your white chocolate, and reheat a few seconds if necessary.

Pour about 2 Tablespoons of the white chocolate into each mold.   

Use a new clean paintbrush to spread the coating around the rest of the mold, being sure to get plenty of candy into the tiny crevices, like the ears. 

 Once you think the mold is all set, hold it up to the light, and make sure you don't have any air bubbles or thin spots.  Don't worry about a few stray drips of chocolate on the mold.  We'll fix that later.  Place the mold in the fridge for a few minutes. 

Now that your molds are full of their first round of candy, it's time to prepare the buttercream filling.  Start with a small amount of the filling in a bowl.  A few Tablespoons at most.  (I used about 1/4 of the package at a time.)  Use a toothpick to add a small amount of the blue candy coloring.

Stir in the coloring thoroughly.  It may look like a different shade of blue than your chocolate did, because the buttercream has a naturally yellow tone to it.

Add more coloring if necessary to get your desired color.  We are going for a light blue again.  Anything too dark with show through the white chocolate, which would ruin the surprise to come when your friends bite into them.  Once you get a color you like, add a drop or two of the Peppermint Candy Oil.  Stir well and taste.  It should be pepperminty, but not overpowering.

Next, you will be making small logs out of the buttercream to fill your mice.  The buttercream is a little firm on it's own, and we will be using that to our advantage.  Take a small chunk out, about a Tablespoon.  Roll it gently and quickly into a small log.  You don't want to over-handle the buttercream, or it will become too soft and sticky due to your body temperature.

Now look back at your mold.  Will the log you made fit inside one of the mice, with room to cover in a second layer of white chocolate?  Adjust as necessary.

Place a log of buttercream into each mouse, and use your clean fingers to press the cream into the mold, making it nice and flat, and leaving about 1/4" of room at the top of the mold for more chocolate.

Check on your white chocolate, and re-heat if necessary, in 15 second bursts of time.  Stir till smooth.  Top each of the mice with enough white chocolate to fill the remaining space in the mold.  It should be about a Tablespoon or two.  Spread the chocolate evenly with a paintbrush or a stirrer, and make sure not to miss any spots.  Be especially careful to get some more of the white chocolate on top of the blue chocolate tails.  If the tails are too thin, or not properly attached to the bodies, they will break when you remove them from the mold.

Place your mold in the fridge for about 20 minutes, till the mice set up.  The chocolate should be completely firm to the touch.  If in doubt, hold the mold up to the light again.  If the chocolates have a slightly frosted appearance, and the candy seems to be separate from the mold, they are done.  If they appear to be slightly wet, they are not set up enough.  When they are done, turn the molds upside down over the table or a plate, and pop the mice right out.

Grace and I packaged ours in blue and white airtight containers from the dollar store.  I placed some blue tissue paper in each box, then a small square of wax paper to protect the candies, and to keep the tissue from getting oil spots.  Here's one broken open, to see the filling.

After mailing tons of treats to our swap partners, Grace and I made some more for the Deathly Hallows Premier party we hosted, and brought the extras to the theatre, where we handed them out to other excited fans.  One girl even made her friends take a picture of her with her Ice Mice and Chocolate Frogs.  It made me so happy to see how much enjoyment everyone got out of our candies.

Enjoy the candy making tutorial, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I.  I can't wait to go see Part II! 
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