Sep 18, 2013

School Logo Graduation Cake

My allegiance lies with my university (Texas A&M), but I have acquired a certain fondness for Stanford over the last six years. My husband went to Stanford (along with half his family) and we live just down the street from its amazingly beautiful campus. I'm not quite sure how the students study when it is always 70 degrees and sunny with palm trees blowing in the wind. I had always assumed that Stanford people were either super nerdy or incredibly pretentious. It turns out they are this great mix of smart, adventurous, and chill in a very Northern California way.

My brother-in-law graduated from Stanford this year. I had just finished my fondant cake decorating class and I got excited to make a Stanford graduation cake for his party. I free-hand cut a simplified Stanford logo out of red and green fondant, trimmed the bottom with a thin red band and called it a day.  I can't decide if this cake looks modern or retro. Maybe both? 

Washing Cloth Diapers in a Front Loader HE Machine

I started cloth diapering while owning a top loader washing machine. The washing procedure in my Cloth Diapering 101 post worked perfectly. Everything was peachy and then...we moved. During the move we decided to upgrade our washer and dryer. There is something so 'adult' about buying a new washer and dryer. We (read: my husband) did the research and we bought a brand new gorgeous front loader high efficiency set. We love it. There was just one problem: we had to figure out a new cloth diaper washing routine. I think I was a little exhausted from the move, so I made this out to be a much bigger deal than it really was. With a little more research (again, husband to the rescue) we have a new procedure to share with you!

The main issue with washing cloth diapers in a high efficiency machine is the amount of water used and the absorbency of the diapers and inserts. Diapers don't weigh much so the machine runs with a small amount of water. The absorbent inserts soak up this water, leaving very little for sudsing and the actual washing. Solution: Wet the diapers first. Run a simple prewash or rinse cycle with no detergent prior to washing. A lot of modern machines have a maximum fill setting that can be used to increase the amount of water during the hot wash cycle (with detergent) as well. You will need to use a detergent that is made for HE machines. We have used Country Save and Rockin' Green detergent. Pay attention to the instructions for your detergent regarding how much to use for HE machines. After washing, do a fresh rinse with spin (optional). And that is it.

Looking back at my top loader instructions, they look identical. The key differences - using the 'max fill' setting and using the appropriate amount of detergent for HE machines. 

Here it is in a step by step format:

  1. When removing the diaper, take out the insert and put it in the hanging pail. If the shell is poopy then shake the poop into the toilet if possible and spray off any residue into the toilet with the diaper sprayer. Put the shell in the hanging pail. 
  2. When ready to wash, first do a prewash cycle with no detergent. 
  3. Then do a normal hot cycle with detergent. I would use a 'max fill' setting here if available. Add another rinse at the end to get all the soap out. 
  4. We want our diapers to last through a few kids so we have decided to be extra cautious and air dry the shells and the wet bags. When possible I will dry the shells in the sun to help keep them white. Sunning diapers is a great way to dry them and can help bleach them back to white if you have any discoloration (I have never had any problems). We do machine dry the inserts (with Wool Dryer Balls). 

IMPORTANT: Do not use any fabric softeners in the dryer or washer with the diapers.  It can cause repelling and leaking. Also don’t use diaper rash creams for the same reason. I have seen some rash creams advertised as cloth diaper safe if you really need them (like CJs butter), but I have no personal experience here. 

Sep 11, 2013

Mason Jar Caramel Crust No Bake Cheesecakes

I made these little cuties for a baby shower this year and have been craving them ever since. And did I mention the best part...they are ‘no bake’! In these tiny mason jars they are perfect for party favors, dinner parties, or just looking adorable. They are so simple I almost hate to give away my secret:). I’ve been making this cheesecake for years (since college actually), but just recently had the idea to mix a little caramel in with the crust. I think this may have been one of my few brilliant ideas in life. 

Caramel Sauce - The best and easiest caramel sauce you will ever have (no candy thermometer needed) from the Pioneer Woman
Mini Caramel Crust Cheesecakes

Caramel Sauce
5 Graham Crackers
12 4 oz mason jars
1 8 oz bar cream cheese, softened
8 oz sour cream
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp Mexican Vanilla
cool whip - approximately 1/3 of a small tub (add to taste and desired consistency)

Make the caramel sauce first. Crush 5 graham crackers into small chunks and spread evenly between the 12 jars (you may not use all the crumbs). Drip the caramel sauce over the graham cracker crumbs until saturated. Set these in the fridge to cool and ‘harden’. Meanwhile, make the cheesecake filling. Cream the softened cream cheese and sugar in a mixer. Mix in the sour cream and vanilla until smooth. Fold in the cool whip until incorporated. When the caramel crusts have chilled, add the cheesecake filling to each jar. Put on the lids and chill overnight. Serve chilled. 

These little jars can be dressed up, kept classic, or anything in between. I like simple decorations with just a little ribbon or washi tape. Or my favorite is probably the chalkboard top mason jars in my Etsy shop. Just have fun with it!  

DIY Burlap Monogram Art

At the risk of offending some of my friends, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I’ve been giving wedding gifts that cost me a total of $3. A whopping $20.00 if you include the frame. 
That might sound shocking or stingy, but let me explain...

In this season of life where it seems every weekend is a bridal shower, a wedding, or a baby shower, I have struggled to find personal and meaningful gifts that don’t break the budget. The inspiration for this burlap art came from Etsy (just search for 'personalized burlap art').  My inner southern girl loves a good monogram and what new bride doesn’t like to slap her new initials on everything? (Well...assuming she is actually changing her name...might want to check first!) I felt a little guilty as I always try to support other Etsy sellers, but as I mentioned, we were trying to keep this on a tight budget. With a little trial and error, I was able to make a DIY version. This has now become my ‘go-to’ wedding gift and I even made some as Christmas gifts last year. So far it has been a big hit! 
Here is what you need...

Scotch Tape
Black Craft Paint 
Paint Brush (foam brush is fine)
8.5 x 11 Piece of Paper (cardstock works great) 
Pen or Marker
Paper Bag/Disposable Table Covering 

Frame - I got my frame at Michaels and used a 40% off coupon. I love the double mat. 

Burlap - Burlap is inexpensive and you can buy burlap at Joann’s or other fabric stores. Check the remnant bins - I found mine for 50% off!

Letter Stencils - Finding the appropriate stencil is probably the most difficult part of this project. There are several options. The easiest option is if you have a paper-cutter like a Cricut or a Silhouette to custom make your letter stencils in your choice font. I have a Silhouette Cameo  so I was able to lay it all out on the computer using any of my computer fonts and cut my stencil as one piece (about as easy as it gets!). Before getting my Cameo, I also had used a Cricut to do the same project. With a Cricut you aren’t able to lay out designs on the computer so this took a little more trial and error, but still fairly simple. If you don’t have this equipment, there are still options, they just may be a little more time consuming. You can purchase different sized letter stencils at craft stores. It is just important to know what size letters you need for the space available and length of the name. If you use individual letter stencils, use a ruler or masking tape to help align the letters so they won’t be crooked. 

  1. Iron burlap to get the creases out as necessary using a low setting. Beware that burlap smells gross when heated up so don’t do this before a dinner party:).   
  2. Place the 8.5” x 11” paper on top of the burlap and trace around the paper. Cut out the traced area. This will give you a piece of burlap sized for an 8” x 10” finished product and extra margin for attaching to the mat in the frame. 
  3. Place your stencil or stencils centered on the burlap and tape in place to prevent shifting. If you have small inner pieces to letters or numbers (as in ‘O’ or 'R'), I use a small piece of scotch tape rolled up on the back of the letter insert and tape to the burlap in place. 
  4. Paint will seep through the holes in the burlap during painting, so place it on the disposable table covering. Paint carefully within the stencil. Do not over-saturate with paint to prevent the paint from seeping and ruining your clean lines. Be careful not to shift the stencil.
  5. Let dry. Remove the stencil. 

Now it is ready for framing! Center the artwork within the frame opening and use scotch tape to adhere the burlap in several locations to the back of the mat. You will want the burlap to be fairly taut, but be careful not to distort in any one direction. Note that as you can see through the holes in the burlap you will need a backing in the frame. I just used a simple piece of white paper. And that is it! 

And the possibilities are endless. You can always get creative with your stencils - do a true three letter monogram, add some flourishes, or just a ‘Mr and Mrs’ is always cute. 

Check out how adorable this monogram art looks as part of the party decorations at this engagement party