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1651  Cheap/Easy Wall Art - Framed Ribbon Weavings (or What I did Last Night) in Interior Decorating: Completed Projects by Mistress Jennie on: January 07, 2009 10:11:44 AM
Hi Guys,
Since I finally got myself a new craft table in December, I've been working on setting up my craft space in a pretty AND functional manner.  Two nights ago I started hanging things on the walls over my table as inspiration.... this led me to hanging prints that have been sitting in my basement since we moved in (in August) around the rest of my house.  I have a lot of prints, some I've bought, some people have given me, and while I like them all for different reasons, most of them don't *feel* right for our strange little house, or maybe it's that they don't feel like *me* anymore.  So last night I decided I needed to come up with some home dec solutions... 

I spent a while on the web trying to be inspired; looking at fabric and curtains and random wall art from places like Target, Ikea, and World Market, but nothing was quite right either.  I ended up pulling out random scraps of paper, ribbon, and trim, and came up with these.  They are sort of a take on ribbon weaving, some with more "weaving" than others.  Basically I just took strips of ribbon or trim, laid them out in an order I liked, and wrapped them around cardboard, using tape to secure the ends.  After I covered the boards in one direction, I went back with a few strands in the opposite direction to break up the lines.  The frames were all ones I had laying around, so the projects cost me nothing. 

First one I did.  A small 5" x 7" piece in shades of emerald, olive, sage, and forest green. Made of grosgrain, woven, and satin ribbon.

A large 11" x 15" piece, in shades of burgundy, red, rust, tan, gold, and sage. Made of grosgrain and satin ribbon, crochet lace, woven metallic trim, and bias tape.

Another small 5" x 7" piece in shades of rose, tan, mauve, olive, and cream. Made from grosgrain, woven, and satin ribbon, crochet lace, and woven trim.

The small green one is now in a *TINY* space in my hall, between two doors, and the large red one is in my living room.  Don't know what I'm going to do with the small rose/cream one yet... 
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1652  Re: Twilight Swap Rd. 5 in ARCHIVE OF SWAPS THAT ARE TOTALLY FINISHED by Mistress Jennie on: January 02, 2009 11:33:35 PM
Hi Swap Friends.  I've been having so much fun Twilight crafting, but I felt like I needed a tiny bit more inspiration...  So I made myself a new desktop background.  Yay Cullens!  If anyone here wants a copy of it, just PM me, and I'll send it along.  :-)  Happy crafting everyone!   

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1653  Cheapest/Easiest Last min gift ever-Chocolate Toffee Pieces; "Christmas Crack!" in Dessert by Mistress Jennie on: December 22, 2008 07:31:03 PM
11/13/11 Note:  Over the years since I posted this, there has been lots of talk on the thread.  I've gone through and tried to add in as many alternatives & suggestions as possible, as well as answer some candy trouble-shooting questions down below at the bottom of the post!

I know there are probably lot of you out there who either need a really simple last minute gift, or who with the terrible economy want to make INEXPENSIVE gifts this year.  This is one of the easiest, cheapest, and yet most impressive gourmet-ish gifts I've ever found.  The friend who gave me the recipe called it Christmas Crack because it is addictive, it contains crackers, and you 'crack' it apart, but I've found this doesn't tell people much about it, so call it whatever you wish.  It's basically chocolate covered toffee pieces, and it's made with things that are probably already in your kitchen.  

1 sleeve saltine crackers
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter (salted)
1 11.5 oz. package chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and line a 10" x 15" cookie sheet with foil (the kind of sheet that has raised edges!).  Spray with Pam, or grease VERY lightly with butter.  Cover the cookie sheet with a single layer of saltines.  Bring butter and brown sugar to a boil.  Boil for 3 minutes, stirring with a whisk.  Pour over the saltines, and try to spread it as evenly as possible.  Place in the oven and bake for 5 minutes.  When you remove it, the caramel mixture will be molten and boiling; allow to cool about 3 min, or until you can see the crackers distinctly, which will have shifted while baking.  Push them back into order with a fork or knife.  

Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the toffee and let sit for about 5 minutes to melt.  Once melted spread chocolate evenly.  If desired, sprinkle on pecans and press lightly into the chocolate.*  Let cool a bit and then transfer to fridge to harden.**  

*Note #1 from edelC: "I tend to sprinkle some big salt crystals on top, to oomph up the saltiness..."  Good one edel!  I'll have to try that this year!

**Note#2: Sometimes if it's really cold outside, I just put it on the table on my front porch for 20 minutes!  

Once hard, break the candy into small pieces and place in air tight containers.  Store in the fridge until ready to enjoy.  

I warn you, this is addictive to MAKE and to EAT, but go easy on it, as it is literally butter + sugar.  I give it as gifts in tins to people I'm attempting to impress (in-laws, boss, etc), and in gladware to everyone else who has already been impressed and is now just awaiting their yearly fix.

Edit 11/13/11:
There have been lots of great notes and suggestions in this thread since I first posted it.  I've tried to collect most of the suggestions and add them in here for you.

The Question of Crackers
Saltines (or soda crackers to our friends overseas), are the standard option, but this can be made with other things too.  Some favorites are matzoh, club crackers, rice crackers (gluten free!) or graham crackers.  For those of you overseas wondering what the heck a saltine is, check out this wikipedia article on them.  Also, acording to edelC, you can find a good saltine substitute at Aldi.  Delser mini crackers come in plain, salted & whole wheat.  Go with the salted ones.

Nuts and Alternate Toppings
This is also wonderful topped with almonds or walnuts!  Or you can skip the nuts and top them with festive colored sprinkles!  And be sure to try orange sprinkles at Halloween.  Other topping options include crushed candy canes or marshmallows. Smiley

The Question of Butter
Some people have asked if margarine or vegan butter substitutes can work for this.  I do not believe they will work the same way because the water to fat ratio in margarine is different than in butter.  Besides, margarine is full of lots of not-so-good-for-you stuff.  Don't believe me?  Then check out noted food-scientist Alton Brown's thoughts on the subject in A Case for Butter.  (Transcript can be found here: The Case for Butter)  Be sure to check out the internet & your grocery store flyer for coupons for the butter.  You'll find lots of them this time of year.  And if you do find a good deal on it, stock up!  Butter can be frozen until you're ready to use it!  And finally, for those who have been taught to fear butter, remember, it is a "sometimes-food".  Use the real thing, and enjoy it as a treat, not as its own food group.

*Oh, and don't try "whipped" butter, which has lots of air incorporated into it.  The recipe calls for butter in stick form.

Toffee Troubleshooting
Over the years I've had a few people say that their batch of Crack came out soft & chewy instead of crunchy.  I've never really had that problem happen, but just in case, here are a few notes others have posted in the thread since I originally put up the recipe.

The Question of Stirring
You must stir continuously while making toffee.  This helps the candy to heat more evenly and also reduces the chance of the butter separating or sugar crystals forming.  Stirring doesn't need to be vigorous stirring, just slow and steady should do.

Gritty Toffee?
Toffee gets gritty because the sugar has crystallized. Crystallization usually happens because you either let the temperature get too hot, or sugar crystals formed on the sides of the pan while you were cooking and then spread through the candy mixture like a chain reaction.  While stirring your toffee mixture, stir steady and gently, trying not to splash the mixture up the sides of the pan. If some does get up there (it usually happens), just take a pastry brush and dip it in hot water, washing the sugar back down into the rest of the mixture.

If Your Butter is Separating Out
If your butter and sugar are separating, there could be a few reasons.  Some of them are listed below:
-You didn't stir enough. Most toffee recipes call for constant stirring. If you don't keep the mixture moving, it can get too hot and the butter tends to separate.
-You stirred too quickly.  (Not necessarily too much, just too fast.)  
-Too hot and humid in the kitchen. If it's a hot and humid day, it's really not a good time for candy making.
-Rapid temperature changes. Start out melting your butter and sugar at a low/medium temperature. Don't raise the temperature abruptly. Using a heavy saucepan is safer because it conducts the heat better and more evenly than thin pan.
-Use salted butter, rather than unsalted. If you use unsalted butter, add 1/4 tsp. of salt to help stabilize the mixture.
-If your butter starts to separate while cooking, remove it from the heat and stir it continually until it blends back together again. Don't stir too fast. You may splash yourself with hot butter, and it can also cause more separation. Gradually return to heat, stirring constantly.

There are alternate versions of the recipe that call for 1 cup butter, 1 cup packed DARK brown sugar, 1 sleeve of saltines, 1 11 oz. bag chocolate chips & 1/2 cup chopped pecans.    In small saucepan, place butter and brown sugar, heat to boil 4 minutes. Spread evenly over crackers. Bake at 375 degrees for 5 minutes.

Still have questions?  Check out this post on Cooking for Engineers
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1654  Giant pile of Rapunzel Scarves for Christmas in Completed Projects by Mistress Jennie on: December 22, 2008 12:04:37 PM
I managed to whip up a bunch of these in the past two months, to put away as gifts.  I was able to use up about half of my yarn supply, and the additional yarn I bought was all from Dollar Tree, so they were pretty inexpensive. 
This one my be my favorite.  I made two of them last night out of some Homespun, Moonlight Mohair, and Crochetable/knitable Ribbon

The rest of the pile made earlier in the month:  I made jewelry to complement most of the ones that are going to family so that their presents will be sort of themed.  I wish the colors came out better on this picture, but c'est la vie.

P.S.  If this post is on the wrong board, I apologize.  :-(
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1655  Scrap/Memory Calendar in Sepia in Paper Crafts: Completed Projects: General by Mistress Jennie on: December 22, 2008 11:57:23 AM
So, I'm working on making my parents a memory quilt for Christmas, but I knew it wouldn't be done quite in time, and still wanted to send them something.  I had all these pictures photoshopped into sepia tones for the quilt, so I printed a set out and whipped up this calendar with the tons of cardstock I had laying around.  I tried to make each month centered around a family event, ie, if there's a birthday that month, then that person's picture is on that month.  It worked out pretty well, except for September which is both my birthday and my brother's wedding anniversary.  I gave him and his wife the month and put myself in November, since nothing was going on there. 

Since I didn't want to put holes in the pages, I put them back to back in scrapbook sheet protectors, and attached them to one another with round metal clips.  Each page is able to be taken apart so that my parents can keep the photographs even after the calendar has outlived it's year.  The first pic is bad because it was impossible to get a pic of it put together without some sort of glare, but the rest are detail shots of some of my favorites. 

January, My grandfather and mom with my brother and I.

May, My wedding.

July, My brother's birthday.

October, My parents wedding

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1656  Decoupaged World of Warcraft Coasters in Paper Crafts: Completed Projects: General by Mistress Jennie on: December 22, 2008 01:21:12 AM
I whipped these up for my brother for Christmas.  Giant Wow dork...  I love him.  Sorry the pictures aren't great, but the coasters have lots of layers of acrylic over them...
The group:


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1657  Bracelet and Earring sets - some inspired by Twilight in Trinkets and Jewelry: Completed Projects: General by Mistress Jennie on: December 22, 2008 01:16:15 AM
I've been feeling a bit inspired by the Twilight series that I just finished reading, and wanted to craft something to coordinate with the author's descriptions of the Cullen's eyes.  "Liquid topaz" when quenched/Onyx when thirsty.  Then this morning I saw these (https://www.craftster.org/forum/index.php?topic=283634.0) made by bellalupina, and it got my butt in gear enough to whip these out this afternoon.   

Inspired by Edward's eyes, made from amber flecked glass, hematite, and silver:

Esme Cullen, the heart of the family, made from gold glass, acrylic, and silver:

A pink pearl, silver, and swarovski crystal set for my sister in law:

A green leaf set for my other sister in law, glass and silver:

Green glass and silver leaf earrings:

Cyan and purple glass drop earrings:
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1658  Re: ~*Harry Potter Holiday*~ in The Swap Gallery by Mistress Jennie on: December 18, 2008 09:50:33 AM
P.S.  Because I'm pretty proud of how they came out, here are two more pics of Karin's goodies.  One of the recipes from Molly Weasley, and the reverse side of the Christmas stocking. 

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1659  Harry Potter Snitch Christmas Ornament with Tutorial in Winter Holidays by Mistress Jennie on: December 17, 2008 03:03:15 PM
I just had a great time working on a Harry Potter Holiday swap and got the chance to make something I've been thinking about for a while.  Ive been trying to come up with a simple snitch ornament that was 3-D and not made of fabric.  So I have had my eyes peeled at all craft stores, etc, for materials.  I loved how cute they turned out, so I thought Id share with all of you.

You will need the following:
Wing charms ( I used Explorers by Traditions which came with 4 each of silver, gold, bronze, and copper.  $4 for the set at Hobby Lobby)
PLASTIC ball ornaments about 1 in diameter (Also from Hobby Lobby, in the A Tree for Me section of mini-tree trimmings.  Trust me, plastic, not glass)
Hot glue
Gold paint & brush
Wire cutters

Start by removing the wire and crown from the top of the ornament. This should pop out easily.

Take the awl and make a hole in the middle.  Push the awl slowly through to the other side and start the next hole.  Pull out and put the awl back into the new hole from the outside.  (NOTE: You really do need these to be plastic to do it in this method.  Glass will just shatter in your hands at this point.)

Trim the excess plastic from the edges of the holes with the wire cutters.  Place a small drop of hot glue on the end of the charm and pop it into the hole and hold the wing in place until the glue dries.  Make sure you like the angle the wing is at when you do this so you dont have a sad droopy wing like the one below.  If your glue is visible outside, then just hide it with a dab of gold paint or a sprinkle of glitter.  I actually really like the glitter on these, even though I was looking for plain gold balls.  It makes them extra festive and hides imperfections well.

Pop the wire and crown back onto the top and enjoy your new ornament!
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1660  HP & Nightmare Before Xmas Thread Racks in Completed Projects by Mistress Jennie on: December 16, 2008 10:57:52 AM
Hi Everyone,
I should say upfront that I did NOT build these myself, but they were built for the costume shop that I run, and I thought you all would get a kick out of them.  These were done by a student who works in the scene shop as an independent study.  He knows that the student workers and myself have a love of both Nightmare Before Christmas and Harry Potter, so while the racks simply needed to be able to support thread on wooden dowels, he decided to wood burn them for some added fun.  The detail is amazing, especially on the scales of the snake and the texture of the hill.  (Our old racks were bent rusty nails sticking out of a chunk of wood at many different angles... in other words, a death trap or an eye gouging waiting to happen.)  The racks are each 4' tall, and are intended to sit at an angle against the wall, so the dowels actually angle down, but while leaning they are horizontal.  They're just so awesome, I don't even want to cover them with thread! 

Both racks together:

Jack and Sally on the hill:

The Dark Mark with the words "The Dark Mark" and "His Mark" gouged into them:

Detail of the Skull:

Detail of the snake, where you get a sense of the scales in the woodburn:
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