Pillowcase Dress

I made this pillowcase dress for my daughter with a few scraps of coordinating fabric and about a yard of ribbon in under a half hour!  It will be perfect for her in the hot summer months.  Not only is the dress simple to make, but it is made with French seams.  This technique creates a beautiful, professional look and doesn’t leave any raw edges.

The pattern is available here: http://craftygemini.blogspot.com/2010/05/pillowcase-dresses.html.  For $3 you get a PDF with complete instructions on how to create pillowcase dresses for children of any age and size.  Crafty Gemini also has several tutorial videos online at: http://www.youtube.com/TheCraftyGemini#p/u/16/DjFzaN969YY.   While the videos are incredibly helpful, they do not give you all the information you need to create a dress – sizes and measurements are available in the pattern. 

I am quite pleased with the results of this pattern.  The pattern and instructions is well worth the $3 she asks for.

Posted in Hobbies Galore | Leave a comment

French Cream Frosting! Oh yeah, and cake.

Every once in a while (okay, so it’s probably more often than that . . . ) I get a craving for cake.  Gotta have it!  There is nothing I like better than a nice chocolate cake with mountains of my mom’s French Cream Frosting piled on top.  I’m not going to waste a lot of time talking about the cake part – it’s a boxed mix.  And besides, what is cake, really?  As far as I’m concerned, it’s just a vessel to hold the frosting . . . LOTS of frosting!  I can pretty much guarantee that if you try this recipe once, you will never want to buy a can of frosting again!  This is my dad’s favorite frosting because it’s not overly sweet.  Its texture is smooth and light and it has just the right amount of sweetness.


1/2 cup margarine or butter

1/2 cup shortening

1 cup granulated sugar

6 Tbsp flour

1/2 cup warm milk – I can not stress the “warm” part of this enough.  Do NOT use hot milk.  If the milk is too hot, it will melt the shortening and butter and there is no way to recover the frosting from this.  I usually put the milk in a microwave-safe dish and heat it 10 to 15 seconds at a time until it’s room temperature.  You really just need to take the chill off the milk.

1 tsp vanilla – if you use a brown-colored vanilla, your finished frosting will have a slightly antique white color.  If you want a pure-white color, use a clear vanilla extract.  Wilton makes a nice one.


1.  Cream together shortening, sugar, butter, and flour.

2.  Add milk and vanilla.  Beat until creamy and light (10 minutes).  DO NOT UNDERBEAT!!  I like to use my KitchenAid stand mixer for this because I can walk away and do other things while it’s mixing.

*NOTE*  After adding the milk and vanilla, you may want to put your bowl in the sink for the first few seconds of beating or use a spatter shield – until the milk gets mixed in it tends to spatter.

*NOTE*  This frosting is a superb alternative to the marshmallow-based filling used in whoopie pies!

Posted in What's For Dessert? | 2 Comments

Baby Shoes Shadowbox

What does one do with a pair of bronzed baby shoes?  That was my dilemma.  I wanted to preserve Julia’s first pair of shoes, but I wanted to do it in a way that wouldn’t actually destroy the shoes.  Sure, bronzing them would preserve them forever, but it would also take away the color and some of the details in the shoes that make them special.

I decided to mount Julia’s first pair of shoes in a shadowbox.  This way, the shoes are not only preserved, but also could be worn again by her child if she so chooses . . . plus, they make a fairly attractive display item that we can enjoy every day.

First, I gathered my supplies:

1 shadowbox with a 12×16 interior space

1 can of black spray paint

1 piece of mat board

1 sheet of handmade 20×30 paper

chipboard letters to spell out Julia’s name

1 sheet of 20×20 black cardstock

Julia’s baby shoes

1.  Finding an appropriate shadowbox turned out to be quite an adventure.  It had to be large enough to hold Julia’s shoes in length and width, but also in-depth.  After measuring the height of one of the shoes, I figured I needed a shadowbox that is 2 1/2″ deep.  I also preferred a wooden frame in black so that it would match the rest of the frames in our house.  I was unable to find a shadowbox that fit all my criteria.  So, I improvised!  I found one that had all the right dimensions, but was silver (this is where the spray paint comes in!).  I took the glass off the shadowbox and removed the back and then spray painted everything black – including the small strips of wood that hold the glass in place from behind.

2.  Since the inside of the shadowbox is not a standard mat size, I was unable to find a pre-cut one.  So, I bought a sheet of artist’s board, cut it to size, and then cut an opening in the center of it.  The finished mat is 2″ wide on all sides. 

3.  To give the mat a nicer finish, I decided to wrap it in handmade paper.  The design in the paper doesn’t show up well in the photo, but it’s a cream-colored paper with little silver silk threads running through it.  I found this paper at Hobby Lobby in the pre-cut mat section – it’s actually intended for wrapping mats.  I taped the mat I had made to the wrong side of the paper and then cut slits in the paper from one corner to its opposite, making an “X” inside the mat opening.  Then, I pulled the paper tight around the mat and held it in place using double-sided tape.  Essentially, I wrapped the mat the same way you would upholster a seat cushion or wrap a present.

4.  To create more depth in the shadow box, I then cut strips of black foam core (the kind that is black in the center as well) and adhered them around the outside perimeter on the backside of the wrapped mat.  This way, once the mat was adhered to the back of the shadowbox, it would look as if it is suspended above the backing.

5  Next, I covered the backing of the shadowbox with the black cardstock using double-sided tape.

6.  At this point, all that was left was to adhere the letters of Julia’s name and her shoes to the backing of the shadowbox.  I used double-sided tape to hold the letters on and since the shoes are relatively heavy, I used a double-sided foam tape to hold those on.  Then I just popped the glass back in the frame, slid the backing into position, and it was ready to be hung or sit handsomely on a shelf.

Posted in Hobbies Galore | 1 Comment

Good Luck Cake

For the past two years I have been in charge of dessert at a little New Year’s Eve get together we have with friends.  In order to make the evening just a little extra special, I whip up a decorated cake.  This year’s cake was horseshoe-shaped and had a good luck message for the party guests.

The cake is a regular boxed cake mix.  Betty Crocker Butter Recipe, of course.  This is not a carved cake – it’s a shaped pan by Wilton.  You can get one here: 


The pan takes one standard cake mix but be careful while it bakes because it can overflow!  Once the horseshoe is baked and cooled, you can decorate it in a number of ways.

Here’s what I did:  First, I mixed up a batch of my mom’s decorator frosting.  This is a stiff frosting that will hold its shape and harden as it is exposed to the air.  This allows you to create fairly intricate designs that will stand up for days (except in extreme humidity!)


2 lbs confectioner’s sugar

1 cup shortening

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup water


1.  Mix all ingredients until smooth.  Use immediately or store in an air-tight container at room temperature – this frosting lasts a LONG time.  Basically, it’s good until the shortening goes rancid and that stuff lasts almost forever!

I tinted about half of the frosting light brown using Wilton’s Brown Icing Color 610-507.  This is a gel-type food coloring that will not thin out your frosting the way the liquid food coloring you can get at the grocery store will.

Using a knife, I coated the top of surface of the horseshoe with white frosting.  By dipping my spatula in hot water and gently running it along the surface of the frosting, I was able to smooth out and totally flatten the icing on the cake.  This is a great technique if you want to do any writing on the cake.

Then, using the light brown frosting, I piped the sides of the cake with a star-shaped tip (Wilton tip #18) and a 10″ Featherweight Decorating Bag.

To finish off the edge where the flat, white frosting met the star-shaped, tan frosting, I piped shells using white frosting and Wilton tip #32.

I then darkened the remaining light brown frosting with a little more of the Brown Icing Color and piped the words on the cake using Wilton tip #3.

All of the above mentioned Wilton products can be found here:


Posted in What's For Dessert? | Leave a comment

Apple Chutney

Each year for Christmas, I make some canned item in large quantities for Larry to give to his choir members at church.  In the past I’ve done jams and jellies, but this year I wanted to try something a little different.  This chutney is a tasty treat that is incredibly versatile and makes a great, simple appetizer for parties.
1 lb Cooking apples
 1 lb Onion, chopped
2 Garlic cloves, crushed
3/4 c Golden raisins
2 ts Salt
1 1/2 c Sugar
2 1/2 c Malt vinegar
1/4 ts Cayenne pepper
1/4 ts Ground cumin
1/4 ts Ground ginger
1 t Mustard seeds
1/4 ts Dry mustard
1 tb Tomato paste


1.  Peel, core and coarsely chop apples.

2.  Put apples, onions, garlic and raisins into a saucepan. Add salt, sugar, vinegar and spices and mix well. Heat gently, stirring to dissolve sugar.

3.  Bring to a boil and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomato paste and continue cooking 7-8 minutes longer or until mixture is of a thick consistency with very little free liquid, stirring frequently. Meanwhile, wash 3 pint jars in hot soapy water; rinse. Keep hot until needed. Prepare lids as manufacturer directs.

4.  Ladle chutney into 1 hot jar at a time, leaving 1/4″ headspace. Release trapped air. Wipe rim of jar with a clean damp cloth. Attach lid and place in canner. Fill and close remaining jars. Process 10 minutes in a boiling-water bath.

Makes about 3 pint jars.

NOTE: This chutney improves if stored at least 3 weeksbefore serving. Garnish with an Italian parsley sprig, if desired, and serve as an accompaniment to curries or with crust bread and cheese.  My favorite way to serve this chutney is poured over a block of cream cheese and spread on buttery crackers.

Posted in Canning/Preserving, Christmas | Leave a comment

Butterfly Barrett Holder

As Julia gets older she seems to accumulate more and more barretts.  In fact, she got 10 new barretts for Christmas that are made out of folded ribbon and are crafted to look like Disney princesses and fairies.  Storing all her barretts has gotten to be a bit tricky.  Until today.

I made her a barrett holder out of a wooden butterfly, paint, some beads, floral wire, googly eyes, spray gloss, alligator tooth picture hanger, and a ribbon.

Here’s what I did:

1.  I picked up all my supplies at Michaels – I had the paint, wire, clear spray gloss, eyes, and picture hanger already.  I purchased the butterfly cut-out in their unfinished wood section for $o.99.  The beads were a couple of dollars and the spool of ribbon was $1.99 on clearance.  So, this whole project cost me less than $5.00.

2.  I painted the butterfly with colors that matched the ribbon – and also her room.  After it was dry, I gave it two good coats of clear spray gloss, just to give it a little shine and to protect the wood a bit.

3.  To make the antennae,  I threaded the beads on to the ends of a 6 inch length of floral wire, bent the wire in half and attached it to the back of the butterfly using a staple gun.  

4.  Then I cut the ribbon to the length I wanted.  I cut the “loose” end into a “V” shape and carefully melted both ends of the ribbon with a lighter so that they would not continue to fray.  Again, I used the staple gun to attach the ribbon to the back of the butterfly.

5.  Next, I attached the picture hanger to the back of the butterfly using the small nails that come with the hangers.

6.  The last step was to glue the googly eyes on using tacky glue.

Now Julia can clip all her barretts on to the butterfly’s ribbon and we’ll always know where they are!

Posted in Hobbies Galore | 2 Comments

Bourbon Balls

*WARNING* These bourbon balls are not for the faint of heart!  They will put hair on your chest!

Bourbon balls are a new holiday favorite of mine.  Larry’s Kentucky heritage makes him somewhat of a bourbon connoisseur – mint juleps and Derby Pie during the Kentucky Derby, Woodford Reserve, etc.  It’s a southern thing, I think.

I am less of a bourbon enthusiast.     I don’t like mint juleps, and I would never be so bold as to drink bourbon on the rocks.  I just don’t care for its intense alcohol burn.

These bourbon balls, however, are simply splendid!  Even though they have a bit of a kick to them, the creamy centers, the rich chocolate coating, and the crunchy pecans, make these an absolute treat! 

If you’ve never tried bourbon, don’t like it, or simply aren’t sold on the idea of a bourbon ball . . . trust me, take my advice, and try them.  You will be pleasantly surprised!


1/4 cup bourbon

1 cup ground pecans (I pulse them in my food processor until they’re like a cornmeal consistency)

1 lb confectioner’s sugar

1 stick margarine or butter

2 bags chocolate dipping wafers (these are available at most craft stores and can be found in the cake baking/candy making aisle)


1.  Mix bourbon and pecans in a small bowl, cover, and soak overnight.

2.  Combine nut mixture with sugar and margarine and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

3.  Form 1 inch balls from chilled mixture and place on waxed paper – refrigerate until stiff.

4.  Melt dipping chocolate wafers in microwave or in a double boiler and then dip balls in mixture.  Top each bourbon ball with a pecan half.

5.  Refrigerate until you’re ready to serve them.

Posted in Christmas, What's For Dessert? | Leave a comment