Monthly Archives: February 2013

Tutorial: Melamine Plate Cupcake Stand

Willow Grove Photography

My husband and I chose to serve cupcakes at our wedding.  The theme of our informal outdoor reception was Peggy Sue Got Married and Threw a Tiki Party, so logistically cupcakes were easier to manage.  And everyone knows that blondes cupcakes have more fun.

The problem, I quickly learned, was to find a cupcake stand large enough to hold all six dozen cupcakes which: 1. wasn’t too expensive; 2. wasn’t too cheap looking; and 3. fit into our theme.  I DIY’ed many projects for our wedding, so I knew that I could come up with a better solution on my own.  (I promise that I will also be sharing future tutorial posts on our vintage brooch wedding flowers and the guest table runners that I crafted.  That’s a peek at my bouquet in the background of the picture above.)

While shopping for wedding supplies at Hobby Lobby, I found these melamine plates.  By a happy accident, the colors and patterns coordinated perfectly with the fabrics I was using to make the guest table runners.  You may be able to see that the fabric of the pompom-edged table square in the shot above matches the top and one of the middle plates in the picture below.

The melamine was relatively lightweight, and I was confident that I could make these varied plates and platters into my dream cupcake stand.  But how to separate the plates?  My husband had elaborate visions of drilling holes into the plates and using some sort of rod or dowel system that he would design.  I hoped for something a little less power-tool-oriented and time-consuming.  Whatever I chose, however, needed to be tall enough to allow room for cupcakes between the tiers, but not too tall.  I’m not great at physics, but I recognized that longer separators may make the entire structure less stable. Something to do with force…or pressure..?  Plus is just wouldn’t look good.

Ever the budget-minded bride, I found these candlesticks at Dollar Tree.  They were the perfect height at 4 inches tall.  But the problem was that the 3 1/4 inch diameter base of the candlesticks hogged too much cupcake space.  The solution?  Turn them upside down.

To put the pieces of my cupcake stand together, I relied on my old friend silicone caulk.  I turned each plate over so that the bottom was facing up.  I then measured the center of each plate and marked it.  I next applied a small bead of caulk to the bottom of a candlestick, and I lightly placed it on the face-down plate so that it was centered over the marked spot.  I immediately removed the candlestick leaving a silicone caulk ring outline on the bottom of the plate.  I then applied more caulk to the bottom of the plate, using the ring outline as my guide.  If necessary, I also applied more caulk to the bottom of the candlestick.  Allowing the caulk to ‘cure’ for about 30 seconds, I again placed the bottom of the candlestick on the bottom of the plate using gentle pressure.  I repeated this process for the top five tiers, so that I ended up with five upside-down plates with five upright candlesticks glued to them.  I allowed the glue to dry overnight.

The next day, I started to build units from my individual plates.  I placed the bottom platter right-side up and again measured and marked the center.  I then took the platter that would be the second tier from the bottom and turned it right-side up (the candlestick glued to the bottom stayed put…whew).  I repeated the process of applying the silicone caulk, making the caulk impression on the bottom plate, removing and applying more caulk, and gluing.  To support the top-heavy plate (remember that the candlestick is now upside-down, so that smaller top side is now being glued to a plate), I used a couple of lightweight styrofoam blocks that were about 4 inches tall as supports between tier five and six.  I repeated this process with the the third and fourth tier.  This time I not only used supports between the plates, but I also used additional stryrofoam supports to hold up the fourth tier.  I didn’t trust balancing on the small end of the upside-down candlestick that was glued to the bottom of this plate.  I repeated the steps for the first and second tier, and I again allowed everything to dry for a couple days.

Over the course of a week, I repeated the steps above.  I glued the middle unit (plates 3 & 4) to the bottom unit (plates 5 & 6) and allowed it to dry.  I then glued the top unit (plates 1 & 2) to the middle/bottom structure and allowed it to dry.  Here is how it looked when complete.

And here it is again loaded up with the good stuff at the best wedding reception ever. (I may be a little biased.)

Willow Grove Photography

While I wouldn’t pick it up and swing it around over my head, I can tell you that this stand has been strong and sturdy for the three years following our reception.  When not loaded up with sweets or other party foods, I use it as a display in my craft room.  I can pick the whole stand up with one hand and not worry about it falling apart.  I don’t think that Hobby Lobby still carries these particular melamine plates, but I have seen other collections in the store.

Target also has a great selection of seasonal plate collections which would be fun to use.  Wouldn’t the Leaf Collection plates and platters be super cute with these Radical Patter Collection plates?  Or with St. Patrick’s Day and Easter on the way, maybe some of the cute holiday plates?  What would you do?

Melamine Leaf Collection | Target14296341_121207103000



Vintage Valentine’s Day

I thought that you would
like to know
That some one’s thoughts go
where you go;
That some one never can forget
The hours we spent since
first we met.
That life is richer, sweeter far
For such a sweetheart as you are.
And now my constant prayer
will be
That God may keep you
safe for me.

Rockin’ It Out Like Betty Crocker: Valentine’s Day

I read cookbooks with the same enthusiasm that most folks reserve for reading a novels.  I adore them!  Especially vintage cookbooks.

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43/365 Betty Crocker #365project #14daysofvalentine

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With pictures.  Even better when the pictures are illustrations like those by Anne and Harlow Rockwell in Betty Crocker’s Party Book (first edition, 1960).  (Totally-unrelated-to-this-post-trivia: Did you know that Anne and Harlow were husband and wife, and that they illustrated many books together?  Their daughter Lizzy Rockwell is also an illustrator.  And now back to our programming.)

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Valentine's Day circa 1960

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I must confess, however, that I read many more recipes than I actually cook.  It’s like pinning more than actually doing.  At least with blogging, I have to DO something to keep it interesting for myself and my readers.  By the way, YAY, I love you!  Thank you, thank you, thank you for the follows!

With this need to do something in mind, I cracked open the Betty Crocker’s Party Book with the intent to actually plan a menu.  Here is what Betty recommends for A Valentine Buffet Supper:

Lobster Newburg
Heart Croustades
Baked Canadian Ham
Buttered Peas with Mushrooms
Pink Grapefruit-Avocado Salad
Hot Rolls
Heart-shaped White Coconut Cake

Only recipes for the Heart Croustades and Heart-shaped White Coconut Cake are included in the book.

HEART CROUSTADES (from Betty Crocker’s Party Book, 1960)
Heat oven to 375 degrees (quick mod.).  Slice bread 2″ thick.  Remove crusts; cut into heart shapes.  Cut out center, leaving 1/4″ thick walls on bottom and sides.  Brush with melted butter.  Bake until golden, 12 to 15 min.

I think it is up to you, home cook, to whip up your best Lobster Newburg recipe and serve it alongside the simple Pink Grapefruit-Avocado Salad.  What!?!  These are the recipes in which I am most interested.  At least the grapefruit are seasonal in February (and the avocados just finished in January).  I still have some that are ripening.  But does anyone know what makes a ham Canadian?

Since it is 1960, and a General Mills cookbook, the recipe for the Heart-shaped White Coconut Cake is essentially: 1. bake a white cake in a heart-shaped pan; 2. put the cake together with lemon filling; 3. frost with fluffy white canned frosting; 4. sprinkle cake with shredded coconut.  Easy peasy, right?  Thanks to cake mix, one of the first convenience foods, it can be.  Modern convenience was in vogue.  It’s no wonder that some of our grandmothers are scratching their heads at our whole-food-ingredients-this and local-seasonal-produce-that food trends today.

Betty also has some recommendations for decorating your table: “If you own a beautiful lace tablecloth, this Valentine buffet dinner is the time to bring it out.  Use lace or cut work mats for the smaller dining (card) tables or put them on individual trays.  For a larger, more formal party, you may want to use a floor length cloth with a flounce of ruffled net (p. 37) for the buffet table.  A washable pink floral design fabric could be used for cloths on the card tables for dining.  Pin matching bows of the same floral fabric to corners of the buffet table.” (Betty Crocker’s Party Book, 1960)

Umm, yeah.  I’m going to make dinner for my husband this Thursday, because he is taking me out for our REAL Valentine’s Day celebration dinner at Late Harvest Kitchen this weekend.  I’m not sure that I will get down with the ruffled net flounces and pink floral bows, but I will definitely take pictures if I do.

Speaking of my husband, I’m going to commit blogger sin #672 and take a moment to brag.  Every day from February 1st through today, my darling has surprised me with a Valentine’s Day themed gift.  The conversation hearts in this picture?  They are actually erasers.  I squealed when I found them lying next to the spilled contents of my purse this morning.

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43/365 Betty Crocker #365project #14daysofvalentine

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Yes, you read that correctly.  I had dumped everything out of my purse last night and left it lying on the floor of the foyer, and my husband STILL GAVE ME A PRESENT.  I don’t have his grace, but I’m sure glad he does.  I might even share these with him (Day 10).

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DeBrand chocolates #14daysofvalentine

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DeBrand Chocolates are a favorite!  Check them out here to see what I mean.  And if you want to be my Valentine, you can also follow me on Twitter, FacebookInstagram, or Pinterest.

Blueberry Goat Cheese Pineapple Upside-Down Cake (Gluten and Refined Sugar-Free)

Life is busy.  Because life is busy, we began to have produce and groceries delivered weekly to our home through Green B.E.A.N. Delivery.  But because life is busy, it can be a challenge for us to eat all the produce each week before a new delivery arrives.  I admit, I can be lazy.  And sometimes it’s just so much easier to get carry-out.  And so worth it!  (I’m looking at you Punch Burger.)  This week I had some lovely blueberries and a pineapple from the previous delivery that needed to make-way for the newest produce arrivals.

Now, my husband will tell you that I have very specific cravings.  I tell you this, because I considered using the blueberries in a smoothie or making a fruit salad (I also have some mango and kiwi; wouldn’t that be good?)  But I couldn’t get my mind off cake.  And the cake I was craving was a rich yellow butter cake.  Like a cousin to an ooey, gooey butter cake.

Before I go on, there is something else about me that you should know.  I am gluten-sensitive.  Which basically means that I feel a lot better when I avoid wheat and wheat products.  I also do better when I skip the refined sugars.  If I don’t, I can get sick and/or have allergy rashes.  To be honest, it’s the rashes that scare me the most, because they usually occur ON MY FACE.  Blech!

The problem with my cake craving is that I had only baked one other gluten-free cake.  These Paleo Chocolate Cupcakes from Elana’s Pantry.  Ooey gooey butter cake it is not.  A quick internet search turned up this Vanilla Blueberry Butter Cake from The Joy of Caking.  I decided to stop worrying so much and just try to follow Eileen’s recipe with substitutions for the flour and sugar.  Because the liquid stevia that I had on hand was vanilla-flavored, I also decided to skip adding more vanilla to the recipe.

But then what about that pineapple?  The more I thought about it, I realized that the buttery yellow cake I craved would also be good as a pineapple upside down cake.  But pineapple AND blueberry?  Sure, why not?  So I used palm sugar — my go-to replacement for brown sugar — and coconut spread to reproduce that yummy golden glaze you have with an upside-down cake.  I already had so much butter in the cake, and I like to use coconut oil whenever I can, so again I figured….why not?

As I measured and mixed, my mind wandered to other groceries that were teetering on the edge between going in my belly and going in the garbage.  One of these was the container of goat cheese crumbles from last week’s Super Bowl fun food celebration.  Why couldn’t I add goat cheese to my cake batter.  As I said a couple of times before, why not?  I adore blueberries with goat cheese in the Blueberry Goat Cheese Pie at 3 Sisters Cafe.

I have to admit that I was a little scared.  Even though I know that gluten-free cakes don’t rise the same as conventional cakes, I feared that my cake would spill over the edges of the pan.  It was pretty full after the layers of pineapple, palm sugar, cake batter, and blueberries stacked up.  I decided to put a baking sheet in the oven to catch any potential spills.  I also feared that the coconut spread wouldn’t work well with the butter, or that the stevia would have a noticeable aftertaste.  I knew that the cake might not have a good ‘crumb’, but that would be okay if I wanted to achieve that ooey gooey texture.  But would I be able to test when the cake was ‘done’ without over baking it?

My fears were unfounded.  It’s good that I put that pan in the oven, because there was a little overflow from the palm sugar/coconut spread mixture.  Additionally, the stevia aftertaste wasn’t an issue.  All-in-all I am pretty proud of this first attempt to convert a recipe using gluten-free and refined sugar-free ingredients.  And I highly recommend eating the cake warm.  That way, who cares about the crumb?  (My number-one taste tester, my husband, agrees.)

Blueberry Goat Cheese Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

4 tablespoons coconut spread
3/4 cup palm sugar
5 fresh pineapple ring slices, each approximately 1/4-inch thick
1 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla stevia
2 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces goat cheese crumbles
1 cup fresh blueberries

Place a baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven and pre-heat to 350 degrees F.

Place the coconut spread in small microwave-safe bowl and microwave until melted, about 30-45 seconds.  Once melted, Use some of the coconut spread to grease the bottom of a 9-inch square pan.  Next, evenly space the five pineapple ring slices in the greased pan so that there is one ring in each corner and one in the center.  Add the palm sugar to the bowl with the remaining melted coconut spread and combine.  Pour this mixture over the pineapple rings in the pan; spread the mixture evenly over the pineapple if needed.

Place the softened butter into bowl of an electric mixer, and whip the butter using the whisk attachment for 30-45 seconds or until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, sour cream, milk, and stevia, and then combine until well blended.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and combine until well blended.  Next, add the goat cheese crumbles and mix until the goat cheese is just incorporated into the batter.

Pour half of the batter over the pineapple in the pan, and then add the blueberries in a single layer over the top.  Pour the remaining batter over the berries.

Place the cake pan on the pre-heated baking sheet in the oven.  Bake for approximately 35-40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Allow cake to cool in the pan on a cooling rack for 10 minutes.  Place a serving plate over the cooled cake and invert so that the pan is on top.  Remove the pan, carefully lifting from one side first and wiggling slightly until the cake comes loose from the pan.  Allow to cool for at least 10-15 more minutes and slice.

Makes 9 servings.

The Geisha and Her Artist

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27/365 watercolors by Miss McKersie #365project

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A couple years ago, I found this pair of watercolors on the online Goodwill auction.  I think I won the auction for less than $5 for the pair.  Since our foursquare-style house has some Craftsman architectural influence, I like to bring some Asian decor into our eclectic mix.

Once the framed watercolors arrived, I noticed some small details that I couldn’t see in the online pictures.  Each watercolor is signed A. McKersie, and it appears that the framing isn’t a professional job.  The scalloped, faded pink mats look as if they are cut by hand from paper.  These details make me love the watercolors even more.

I like to imagine a young art student named Annette painted this geisha and her musician lover in a pretty pink bedroom in her parents’ suburban home.  It’s 1964, and Annette is conflicted between her desire to marry her high school sweetheart, Tom, and her dreams to be an artist in the city.  The empowered geisha symbolizes her desire to be more than a traditional wife and mother, yet the musician is representative of her own love for a man that won’t necessarily lead her to fame.

I have plans to gold-leaf these frames soon, but I wouldn’t change another thing about them.  I feel like I have been given the honor of preserving Miss McKersie’s artistic expression.  And telling her “story”.

Tutorial: Hand-Painted Tribal Print Foot Stool

Yesterday I wrote about the inspiration behind the vintage foot stool that I painted with tribal patterns this weekend.  It all began with this beauty-is-in-the-eye-of-the-beholder stool that I bought at a church rummage sale.

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30/365 $1.50 #365project

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Once I had decided to go for the hand-painted tribal pattern, I headed to Jo-Ann Fabric & Craft with coupons in hand to pick up my supplies.  Because I wanted the pattern to look hand-drawn, I picked out some white Sharpie paint pens.  While in the craft paint aisle, the Martha Stewart Metallic Acrylic Craft Paint caught my eye.  What project couldn’t be improved by a little bling?  So I picked out a small bottle in gold.  (The ruler and craft paint brush are from my stash.)

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32/365 the supplies #365project

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To begin painting, I measured the height and width of one side of my stool.  I played around with these measurements until I came up with an arrangement that I liked.  I knew that I wanted to incorporate the stitching on the sides as part of the “pattern”, so I made sure to take that into account.  Once I had my spacing figured out, I used the ruler to draw lines on one side with the paint pen.

From that point, I just started drawing.  With each “row”, I doodled on a notebook to arrive at the design I wanted to use.  I then used my width measurements to decide how I wanted to space the pattern for each row.

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As you can see from each of these photos, I made mistakes.  The beauty of this project, though, is that mistakes added to the hand-drawn look that I wanted to achieve.  Before you think “Yeah, right!”, let me assure you that I am usually a card-carrying color-between-the-lines kind of girl.  What was so awesome about this project, is that I was able to let my left brain and right brain play well together.  There was measuring and math, but there was also scribbling and oops, how do I fix that creative design.

Because I wanted the top of the stool to look good from any perspective, I decided to use a god eye pattern.  (Take that evil eye!)  After drawing the lines, I started to wonder what the stool would have looked like if I had drawn modern linear designs on each side instead.  That took about two seconds, and then I remember that I have plenty of mod going on in my living room.  What I need is more sexy 1970s ethnic texture.

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God's eye

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 Happily, the paint from the paint pens dried quickly; it was dry to the touch within minutes.  With each row, I was careful not to paint more heavily in one area than another.  I wanted the paint to allow some of the background color through to provide shading.  At times, I would get a big dot of paint at the border of a row.  To resolve this issue, I would trace back over the entire line to give the row a clean edge.  Once the white paint was completely dry on each side, I went back over some select shapes with the metallic gold acrylic paint.  For the gold, I used a stiff brush with a straight edge, and I applied light coats.  Again, I wanted some of the white to show through the gold paint.

I did not apply a protective coating over the paint when I was finished.  I want the pattern to wear a little as I use it, to give it more texture.  If I get to the point where it is “worn” enough, I will investigate a clear coat that will protect the paint on the vinyl surface.  Any suggestions?

Here is the little guy in place in my living room.  I think of him as the Little Stool That Could.

Also, a note regarding the 365 Project.  When I decided to begin blogging as a product of participating in the 365 Project with Elsie from A Beautiful Mess, I decided to use Instagram as my sole source of photographs.  Some of you may have noticed that the photos in this post do not all use the same filter.  I posted many of these as part of my daily 365 Project snapshots, and I forgot from one day to the next which filter I used.  Next time I will remember to write down what I used, so that I can be more consistent.  Lesson learned.

Also, if you are visiting from The Inspiration Board link party spotlight~89~, the Brooklyn Berry Designs blog featureCreative Reader Projects No. 186Liz Marie Blog, Nest Design Studio, Give Me the Goods {features #4}Love It & List It {link party #9}, or Dandelion Wishes Wednesday #2, WELCOME!  I love comments, visitors, and followers.  You can also find me on TwitterFacebookInstagram, and Pinterest.

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Inspiration: Hand-Drawn Tribal Prints

Over the weekend I worked on a project that I’m really excited about.  It all started with this foot stool that I picked up for $1.50 at a church rummage sale during the 2012 Irvington Halloween Festival.

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30/365 $1.50 #365project

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After bringing it home, the stool sat (in the way) in various rooms of our house while I ignored it tried to decide what to do with its ugly, brown vinyl self.  Flipping through my Pinterest boards one day, I noticed that I’m pinning more and more tribal pattern projects.  Here are some of my favorites:

Vintage Revivals Tribal Triangle Wall
Hand-stamped tribal triangle wall on Vintage Revivals – I adore everything that Mandi does.  Her mottled stamp pattern gives the wall a worn vintage look that I want to achieve.  That girl is so clever and a true sweetheart too!  By the way, aren’t the floors also incredible?

Herringbone Wall featured on Apartment Therapy – This chevron wall is from a contestant in the 2011 Small/Cool Contest.  Amazeballs!  The beauty of this wall reminds me that sometimes things are better when they are not evenly spaced.

ABM | Hand-Printed Runner
Hand-printed Table Runner on A Beautiful Mess – It’s no secret that I am a big fan of Elsie and Emma.  Without the 365 Project, I may never have started blogging.  What drew my eye to this table runner was the impact of the negative space with just the simple border for pattern.

Screen-printed Pillow on Bromeliad – The Pendleton-inspired pillow that Samantha made combines multiple patterns to create one great look.  Since I have a hard time picking just one design, could I do something like this to achieve a design reminiscent of a kilim rug?  Yes.

What, I thought, if I hand-painted a pattern on my foot stool?  If I left the background brown, it would ground some of the lighter and brighter colors I have in that room.  Plus, if i made a mistake, it would look that much more ‘hand-crafted”.  Bonus!  So I went for it, and here is how the little guy turned out.

Tomorrow I will post a tutorial on how I achieved the look.  I’m so excited!