Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Make Carrot Cake

Make this carrot cake! Why? Because it's delicious, and also... it's National Carrot Cake Day. {As though we need another excuse!}

Lemon thyme and geranium blossoms on our carrot cake.

This cake fulfills one of my resolutions for the new year: Bake a pretty cake. In recent years I've lost my cake decorating mojo, and I've documented many of the occasions when a cake has been remarkably ugly, yet delicious. Ugly Delicious is the name of my imaginary bakery, by the way. I owe my success to a new aesthetic, a bohemian nod, a minimalist's touch. My recipe was enough for three small rounds, but I knew better than to risk a towering cake catastrophe! Henceforth, I will turn to my garden for the pretty touches, and otherwise keep it simple.

{My other New Year resolution: Make a rice pudding that I deem my favorite rice pudding. Yes, it's true, I have really challenged myself to some grueling, life-altering resolutions. I am sure I will be a better person for it.}


ChickenBlogger Carrot Cake

3 1/2 cups grated carrots... we love the colorful ones... purple, yellow, orange!
2 cups sugar
1.25 cups of oil
4 eggs

Stir these ingredients together.

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup of pecans
1 cup of oatmeal (I like the old fashioned kind)

Sift the dry ingredients together and then mix in the nuts, and oatmeal. I love oatmeal. Start adding the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir 'em up. I did this by hand, since I did not want to over-mix the batter.

Choose a favorite cake pan, and I lightly oiled mine, and bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. A cook time would be helpful, I know, but I don't have one. Expect it to take more than half an hour... it will smell good and an inserted knife will come out clean... you'll know when it's done.

Frosting
I am not capable of following directions... I just made it up.

8 oz of cream cheese + a healthy scoop of some leftover whipped cream cheese we had leftover from breakfast.
A largish, perhaps 2, teaspoons of vanilla.
Powdered sugar... more than you want to admit, less than a box... I did not make it very sweet.
Whip it. Whip it good.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

What Makers Do

Makers can do incredible things, not only with what they make, but with how they share their creations. Even the smallest gestures can build community, touch hearts, inspire more thoughtful acts. To see an uplifting story about making believe, and healing, please follow this link:
A Firefly Forest~

Monday, December 7, 2015

Make PaperClay Mushrooms


Two years ago Maria and I started playing with paper clay, making tiny mushrooms. Those first creations were planted in tiny pots, and made into gifts. Maria and I made little houses, trees, and gnomes, too. The next year I made larger mushrooms, with doors, and smoking chimneys. Paper clay is easy to work with. It dries quickly, paints easily, and even when parts come apart, a little white glue fixes everything. This holiday season we've moved into new themes, adding our mushroom collection to terrariums, and miniature potted gardens. With natural moss, twigs, and lichen, they add whimsy, charm. We gave so many away, I was eager to replenish the stash.

These mushrooms, gnomes, trees, and houses are easy to make, fun, too. There are very few supplies to gather. It only takes some time and a bit of patience to make tiny garden accessories. Maria and I have seen a lot of fairy garden pieces in gift shops and nurseries, but we still think these homemade ones are the most charming! We hope you will give this craft a try, and share your results with us!

Supply List

1. PaperClay... we found ours in a craft shop. After it's open, it will dry out easily, so keep it in an airtight bag. Also, one package is plenty, when making these little crafts; I've never run out.

2. Straight pins. I had an old box, found in a thrift shop goody bag of sewing supplies.

3. Elmer's white glue

4. Acrylic craft paints... satin and glossy are nice.

5. A bottle of gloss glaze, to seal the painted project.

6. Small tipped paint brushes.

7. Foam to hold the mushrooms while they dry.

8. Tooth picks.

The straight pin, and a pinch of paper clay. I lay the pin on top of the clay... think of the pin as a sausage on a bun, and the clay is the bun. With my palm open and flat, I gently roll the pin back and forth, until it is wrapped in the paper clay.

This needs just a bit more rolling, so the head of the pin is covered, too.

It can also be rolled between finger and thumb. Make it pleasing, but there's no need to be overly obsessed with the details, since it will be handled more, and the soft clay will keep changing with handling until it's finally dry and hard.

Next roll a small ball of paper clay for the mushroom cap.

You can flatten the ball of paper clay, to make an umbrella shaped mushroom cap.

Or turn and pinch the ball of paper clay to create a dome, or rounded chocolate chip shape.

Now, stick the pin-head mushroom stem into the underside of your mushroom cap. You want to blend the two pieces together, so they dry as one piece. If the clay is cracking, then your hands are too dry... dampen your hands. It also helps to smooth out the piece with a barely wet paint brush. I also use the wet brush to gently unite the stem with the cap. A toothpick works well for this part too. In tiny strokes, drag the clay from the cap around the stem, then you can use the wet brush to smooth any lines.

Play around with the shapes, and sizes... you'll soon find a look you like, and see how easy the paper clay is to work with. And remember: Do-overs are always an option!

We had such a cold, dry night, these mushrooms were dry the next day. Larger pieces take more time, and I wouldn't paint anything until it's as dry as possible, to discourage mold from ruining the pieces.

Mushroom house... single story, fireplace, cozy. I'm using the toothpick to blend the chimney clay with the mushroom cap roof. I make the door by denting an entry at the base of the mushroom with the end of the paint brush.

Here's an experiment: Bigger mushrooms, on toothpicks! I want to see if I can create food-safe cake decorations, by building the mushrooms on toothpicks, instead of tiny, sharp pins. I like pinching the clay at the base of the stem, so when we stick it into a cake, it will look like a wide, planted base.

Here's a larger mushroom. I want to scrunch up the base of that stem. If you look through Pinterest for red-capped mushrooms, you will find all kinds of inspiring shapes and colors for painting your mushrooms.

I add the white dots using the blunt end of a toothpick. Just a dip in the paint, then tap the red cap!

Easy Peasy Repairs!


After drying, some caps fall right off, and it's so easy to fix, I wonder why I bother assembling them while they're wet. A dab of Elmer's glue and a little more drying time is all it takes. Here's one that came apart after painting; I'll fix it with the acrylic gloss. It dries very quickly!

I paint the entire cap, and be sure to get some gloss in the hole where the stem will attach. (I have no particular attachment to this brand of gloss... it's just the one that was on sale. It goes on a bit heavy, dries fast, and shiny. It's nice.)

I glossed the stem, too, then set it into the cap. It will be dry in minutes. I like to have scraps of upholstery foam to hold the pieces while they dry. I'm sure a piece of styrofoam would work as well.

Make a Banquet!


I am sure you've figured out, you can make so much more than mushrooms! These carrots and lettuce are paper clay!

These loaves of bread and baguette are paper clay, too!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Fullmetal Alchemist

Hello, BOoM is looking for anyone who has a recipe for any or all of the following alloys:

1. Britannia Metal
2. English Pewter
3. Field's Metal
4. Any other non-toxic fusible alloys.

And by "recipe" I mean a description of the process for making the alloy (temperatures, times, etc.) The proportions are readily available on the Interwebs, but detailed descriptions of the processes are surprisingly hard to find.

An alloying anecdote:

I was searching for recipes and kept coming across the term "Regulus of Antimony" in old mettallurgy books. Well I know what Antimony is, but had no idea what a Regulus of Antimony is. So I Googled it, of course, and found some fascinating history...

"Regulus of Antimony" is actually a term from alchemy that carried over into modern metallurgy. "Regulus" refers to the star Regulus in the constellation Leo. Under certain conditions, when molten, slightly impure, Antimony metal cools slowly, it forms a star shaped crystalline pattern on the surface of the metal.




And guess who was the Fullmetal Alchemist of his age and was trying to use Regulus of Antimony to produce the philosopher's stone... Isaac Newton. That's right: Isaac Frickin' Newton, target of falling apples, inventor of the Calculus, and all-around genius.

Further refinements would create crystalline "rays" on the surface of the metallic antimony, hence it was called the star-regulus of antimony. Starkey then fused the star-regulus with silver or copper, which allowed him to amalgamate the antimony with quicksilver. Eventually, he produced a "sophic mercury" in which gold could be made to dissolve and "vegetate"—forming tree-like growths. Starkey, and Newton, believed this "vegetation" was evidence that sophic mercury was a key to producing the ultimate agent of transmutation—the philosophers' stone.

From "Newton's Alchemy," by Bill Newman




Saturday, October 10, 2015

Make Halloween & Cosplay Fun

Halloween is just around the corner.

PaNiC!? Nope. Taking my own advice, because Halloween and dressing up, don't have to cause panic.

A dress-up holiday? A DIY extravaganza? Yes, and yes! We love to Cosplay... for Comic-Con, for Burning Man, for parties, for Monday-got-nothing-beter-to-do... make-believe and make-up can be fun all year, but Halloween is special.

This post is chock full of links to Ol'Halloweens Past and other dress-up occasions, lots of pictures and a few reminders to myself: Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best~

Of course not all simple ideas are simple to execute: Like being a bale of straw, for example. A box, some paint and glue, and straw. Even with spray adhesive, getting all of that straw to stick to the box was more difficult than expected. However... it did work, and would have been less traumatic if we weren't scrambling at the last minute to complete this costume.

In the end this was an excellent costume for a shy guy.

He could pop in and out of the scene at will. We added fallen leaves to the top, where he was wearing the cut out for his head as a hat. Arm hole flaps... and voila! Straw Bale.

The same year Max was a bale of straw, and Maria was a Pumpkin Princess, Alex was Dex, a character from a favorite movie. It's all about the goggles and the ray-gun. Accessories are everything when it comes to making a costume. And the shirt? Thrift shop. Anyone looking to fill out their costume and prop shop absolutely must haunt their local thrift stores. Start early, be open-minded. You never know when that weird shirt, or huge dress is going to be the perfect thing for your next costume.

To be Young Indiana Jones Max added an old binocular case, and a lantern. The safari hat was already on hand. The pumpkin costume? I made that for William's first Halloween, so that means it's been through 17 Halloweens by the time we see Maria wearing it, again. Children aren't always too particular, and I never feel disappointed when they ask to be a skeleton four years in a row.

This DIY costume reminds me of all kinds of essential ideas for Halloween success:

1. Let children follow through on their own ideas. Maybe you can do it "better," but Alex's expression has as much to do with his own accomplishments, as the prize basket he won for Scariest Costume at Legoland! He made his paper mâché armor, and painted his sweatshirt.
He's the Scorpion Knight, by the way.

2. Freezer Paper! If you don't have Alex's confidence for painting your own clothes, then look for Freezer Paper. You can achieve great stencil painting results with this crafting, and sewing, wonder resource. It sticks to fabric, and it peels right off. I use it to make pattern pieces, and for painting on fabric, it's indispensable.

You will love what you can do with Freezer Paper!

These blank masks are everywhere. Clear the dining table, lay down some newspaper, bring out paints and glue and glitter, and bolts?? Sure, why not.

Acrylic craft paints are affordable (always print or clip a coupon before heading to Michael's or Joann's) and easy to use... these same paints work on clothes, and even rocks... ooh! I am thinking of the fun Halloween themes we could paint on rocks. They make glow-in-the-dark acrylic paints, too!

Painting masks is a fun party theme, too.

On our way to a party, and I had nothing to wear. My go-to costume is a hat and dramatic make-up... glam it up! Maria was tickled about her ensemble... tulle skirt (off the rack, of course) a hat, and her cat mask.

Hats, hats, hats... they're always making an appearance. A top hat, a bowler, and the witch's hat. All off the shelf, and easy to find. And there are those goggles, again. Alex added a flour sack to his regular, everyday attire, but with those black gloves, and the creepy puckers of the flour sack... he's scared up a great costume. No one will recognize Max the Gentleman Ghost. I never pass on white sheets when I see them in the secondhand shops. 2-4 dollars, and endless possibilities. Max's face was drawn on with a Sharpie pen, and holes cut out for his eyes.

A little soft focus around the edges, and the effect is completely haunting!

It's more than dressing up... the fun is in the play. Be sure to take pictures, look for props, and think about lighting... just before sunset is nice, because they aren't blinded by bright light, or lost in a mix of light and shadows.

Of course, dramatic lighting has its own effects! Mood, lighting, the natural seasonal touches of fall, any of these can make a costume more interesting.

When taking photographs, I try to keep my subject in mind. Mostly, this means: Ignore the background! Don't try to get the whole forest in the picture, if it means losing sight of your fairy! If I don't have a blank wall, then I at least try to be sure and get in close, and focus on the child.


You can sew without knowing much about sewing, or even without a machine. This was a dress I bought in 1998! Stretchy top and gauze skirt, and perfect for repurposing! I cut the short sleeves out, then tacked down tulle all around the neckline, with ribbon. Then I took apart flowers, and stitched them all over... just a needle pulling a thread! Around the waist is a wide ribbon with more tulle stitched to it... it ties, like an apron. Maria is wearing it with a head lei from the party store. It would work very nicely with a floral wreath, too, and this link will show you how to make one, easily!

Another way to top your fairy costume is with a flower cap. I made this one by taking a plain cap from a yardage store and then hot gluing rows of flower petals around... start at the bottom edge, and go to the top, so the petals overlap, then I covered a twist of wire in florist tape, to make a curling stem at the top. Any old hat can be refashioned with flowers, tulle, spiders, birds...

This vision was Maria's scheme... a seemingly innocent and frothy princess, but in her hat?

A murder of crows!

And her smile, all fangs! Chilling.

And easy... all thrift shop finds, and borrowed bits from the dress-up drawer. No sewing required!

Borrowing is a Halloween save! Max got his hands on a plague doctor's mask, and he punched in the point of the witch's hat, but the lovely, dark cloak was loaned to him by Lucas, who does know how to sew!

I've been trying to make all of this costuming and making look easy and stress-free, but sometimes we cannot help ourselves, and we go all out. Certainly William raised the bar when he introduced his reverently made gravestones.

And sometimes classic jack-o-lanterns deserve star treatment!

This post-link includes a few of our more ambitious Halloween getups, and it may not be tame enough for impressionable ones (like me). Suki made herself up as a zipper-faced beauty pageant contestant, Alex made himself a Clive Barker character. Elaborate and spooky, and very inspiring.

When it comes to costume success, it doesn't have to be complicated or expensive to be special. We love thrift shops, repurposing, sharing and borrowing, altering, dramatic make-up, a unique hat, and making. It's even more fun to let your kids rummage through odds and ends and make their own character, rather than just laying down cash for something store-bought... and hey, the year Alex wanted to be Scooby-Do, we went for it! Scooby-Do has enjoyed repeated use over the years, so no regrets.

And sometimes a carved pumpkin on your head is all it takes to make Halloween fun!

And by all means, do get together with friends... themes are fun, company is fun!

If you can't think what to be, maybe you'd rather think about your other decorations...