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Friday, January 29, 2010

Cinnamon Rolls Recipe with Review

My friend Tamara asked me a couple weeks ago if I knew of a good cinnamon roll recipe.  She'd been craving them and had had some trouble with recipes in the past.  I told her I was in the boat, and never seemed to be able to find a good recipe or make them successfully.  Either I can't get them to rise correctly or they are too dry or just don't taste great.  So I told her I would do some research and try to find a killer recipe that is fool proof. 

The recipe I decided to try tonight comes from My Kitchen Cafe.  I've had a lot of luck with the recipes that Melanie posts so I thought I'd try out her "tried-and-true" cinnamon roll recipe. They're called Vanilla Pudding Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting. Doesn't the name of the recipe just make your mouth water?

Since I'm more of a visual learner I love it when a recipe provides pictures of some of the steps along the way.  Cinnamon Rolls are just tricky enough that I think pictures can really help.  So I took a few pictures of my journey with these rolls and hopefully they (along with my tips) will help you out if you ever decide to make them.

Vanilla Pudding Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frostingfrom Melanie (My Kitchen Cafe) and A. Marilyn

Rolls:
½ cup warm water
2 tablespoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
3 ½ ounce package instant vanilla pudding
½ cup butter, melted
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
6+ cups flour

Filling:
1 cup butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups brown sugar
4 teaspoons cinnamon

Frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese
½ cup butter, softened to room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
2-3 tablespoons milk

In a small bowl combine water, yeast and sugar. Stir until dissolved. Set aside. In large bowl, take pudding mix and prepare according to package directions. Add butter, eggs and salt. Mix well. Then add yeast mixture. Blend. Gradually add flour; knead until smooth. Do not overflour the dough! It should be very soft but not sticky. Place in a greased bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled. Then roll out on floured board to 34 X 21 inches in size. Take 1 cup soft butter and spread over surface. In bowl, mix 2 cups brown sugar and 4 teaspoons cinnamon. Sprinkle over the top. Roll up very tightly. With knife put a notch every 1 1/2 inches. Cut with thread or serrated knife. Place on lightly greased cookie sheet 1 inch apart. Cover and let rise until double again. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Remove when they start to turn golden (don’t overbake). Frost warm rolls with cream cheese frosting (combine butter and cream cheese and mix well, then add vanilla and sugar and mix again, then add milk for desired consistency). Makes about 24 very large rolls.

I forgot to take a picture of the dough making steps.  The only tips from that phase is that I used about 6 3/4 cups of flour and it still felt a bit sticky, but I didn't want to overflour like the recipe warned. 
I started to flour my counter top in preparation for rolling out the dough and THEN read the part about the size of the dough.  34 x 21 inches is HUGE!  Be sure to use your largest possible counter space (I should've used my island) or your kitchen table if needed.  This sucker is big!

One cup of butter and two cups of brown sugar sounds like a lot, but you need all of it to cover the super huge rectangle of dough.  I stirred up my room temp butter in a bowl so it was nice and smooth (like frosting), which made it easy to spread.  Smelled so good already!

 
Rolling the dough tightly like the recipe called for was kind of tricky.  I wouldn't even say that my log was "tight", but I did the best I could.  And I took this picture to show that my dough log was at the very back of my counter top, completely inconvenient for cutting.  But I wasn't about to move it, for fear of it unraveling on me, so I just craned my neck and arms and made it work back there.

To slice the rolls off of the log I used a big serrated knife and coated it with some of the butter "scraps" that was used to spread on the dough.  I reapplied the butter to the knife every couple of cuts and that kept me from smashing or tearing the dough.

 
I was so worried they wouldn't rise the second go around, but they did beautifully.

 
I cooked mine for 15 minutes and they were done.  Don't they look so pretty!
So how do they taste?

AMAZING. I have found a winner on my first try!  They are super soft, not too sweet and have a great flavor.  I'm so excited to have found such a great recipe.  A HUGE thanks to Melanie at My Kitchen Cafe!!!  Another spot on recipe from her archives.

Give them a try, I promise you won't be disappointed!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Laptop Sleeves

A couple of weeks ago my sister Kahly asked me if I would do her a favor and help her make some laptop sleeves for her and her boyfriend Jason.  I'm always up for something new in the sewing world, so I did some research on tutorials out there and found this one on Sew Mama Sew.  It looked a bit tricky since I don't have a walking foot (and the fabric would get really thick towards the end of the project), but I figured we'd give it a try anyway.
 
They both turned out awesome!  It was so fun to go shopping at the fabric store with Kahly and find the perfect "look" for their bags.  We spent all Saturday night cutting, pinning and sewing and finished Jason's bag at about 12:15 am.  Once you get going you just can't stop!  And then Kahly came back over tonight to finish up hers, which only took a couple of hours since all the prep work had been done Saturday.  It was a strange feeling to be teaching her how to sew, when I myself have only been doing it for 3 months. Student turned teacher prematurely! 

I love trying something new and having such great success at it.  And I get to add laptop sleeves to my sewing repertoire now!  Actually, the concept could be extended to any type of electronic device, big or small, that you wanted to protect.  It's a great multipurpose kind of pattern.

She'll be showing it off at work tomorrow and we'll see what kind of response it gets.  My guess is that they'll be asking her to make them one too. :)


Kahly's Fabric (it has a cream and olive green undertone that you can't see in the pictueres)


Jason's Fabric (Seahawks colors)


 





They turned out so great!  And I love the fabric that we chose for Kahly.  I want an arm chair or pillow made out of it now. :)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Great Giveaway over at Make It and Love It

Go check out this camera strap giveaway over at Make It and Love It!

I can already think of a few people who would love one of these super cute straps (one of them being me).

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Gathered Accent Pillow - What Was I Thinking?

I went on a hunt about a week ago for the perfect curtain material for our family room and since Hancock Fabric was having a 40% off upholstery and drapery sale I wanted to get fabric for accent pillows as well. After a LOT of browsing and putting fabric bolts in and out of my cart, I settled on three fabrics for pillows (1 main solid color and 2 accent colors) and found the perfect curtain fabric as well.  And through some crazy fluke in their pricing system, I got the 5 1/2 yards of dupioni silk fabric for my curtains at .50 cents a yard.  Yes, you read that correctly, I bought my curtains for $2.75!  I'm still in shock.

My main fabric for the pillows is a soft faux suede/corduroy mix.  One of the other fabrics is a lightweight, shimmery sort of rayon type of material.  The lady at Hancocks warned me that it might be tricky to sew.  Yeah sure, whatever lady...

Now what to do with these pillow fabrics? Over at Make It and Love It, Ashley provided a tutorial for a gathered pillow that I thought was the perfect solution for my shimmery (slippery) fabric.  Her pillow turned out so dang cute and I wanted that look for my couch.  So I dove in.

Things I've learned from this sewing project: 
#1. Listen to the ladies at the fabric stores, they know what they're talking about. 
#2. Don't make the most complex pillow out there as your first pillow (especially when you've never sewn a gathering stitch in your life). 
#3. Patience is a virtue.
#4. Shimmery, lightweight fabric is not ideal for gathered pillows and can cause excessive mumbled swear words on more than one occasion.
#5. I like to take on more than should - Wait, I already knew this... that one doesn't count.
#6. I still am psyched about sewing and trying new things, despite my frustrated efforts at a gathered pillow!

Here are some pictures of my work along the way and then the final result.


Look how pretty it shines in the lights!  HA! (grumble grumble)


I've sewn all the gather seems here and pinned the top.


Here I'm half way through sewing the gather seems to the lining.  This was the most tricky part of the whole project and took the longest.


All the seams are sewn to the lining now... almost there.






Couple of angles from the front.  And then a shot of the back which doesn't look nearly as pretty. And then one last shot close up of the gathers.  Hopefully no one looks too closely at this pillow because my stitches are all over the place!




Didn't turn out quite as cute as Ashley's but I still like it and think it will help tie all the other fabrics in the room together.  SO GLAD I'm done with this one.  Probably won't be attempting it again anytime soon.  But one things for sure, I'm a pro at gathering now and it won't be intimidated by cute gathered skirts for Addison any longer!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Tutorial - Simple Bag Kites for Kids

My very first tutorial, YEAH!

I made these kites with my kids when it was my turn to host their pre-preschool.  We were "studying" the letter K, so I wanted them to be able to make their own kites.  Making a kite that will actually fly with 3 year olds isn't as easy as it sounds.  Most kite tutorials out there require dowels and pretty specific measurements.  I wanted something they could use do on their own and add as much creativity to it as they wanted. So I came up with a bag kite.

Supplies you will need:
Large plastic bag
Craft stick (popsicle stick)
Yarn
Scotch and Masking Tape
Hole Punch
Stickers
Colored Crepe Paper/Streamers

You can use any kind of lightweight plastic bag.  A grocery bag will work if you're on a budget, but I wanted to give them something that was a little more appealing then a grocery bag so I found clear gift basket bags at Michaels Craft that were perfect.  These are the kind of bags that you'd wrap around a gift basket of food or gifts, not the bags that you'd put gifts into.  They come in small, medium and large sizes and I opted for the large.



The first thing you need to do before turning your kids loose on the kites is secure holes for the yarn to feed through.  Lay your plastic bag out flat on a table and find the bottom right and left corners of the bag at the opening end.  Using your masking tape, cover the inside and outside of the corners with a small piece of tape (about 2 inches long).  Then punch a hole in each taped corner.





Now you're ready for your creative genius' to take over.  Let the kids cover their bags, front and back side, with a variety of fun stickers. This is a picture of my very boring adult kite, with two boring stickers on it.



While the kids are covering their bags in stickers, cut off a piece of yarn between 5 and 15 feet long.  The length is up to you depending on how high you want their kite to fly in the sky.  Tape one end of the yarn to a craft stick with a piece of masking tape.  Then thread the other end of the yarn through the two holes on the bag and tie it off.



Have each child wind the yarn around their craft stick until there is only a foot or two of yarn left.  I was worried that this would be too difficult for my young 3 year olds, but they proved me wrong and did a great job winding.

 

The last step is to give the kites a tail (or tails in our case).  I let the kids pick out a couple colors of crepe paper and tore off a couple of feet of each.  Then I put a piece of scotch tape on one end and had them tape it to the opening end of their kites.



The great thing about bag kites is that it doesn't have to be windy to use them.  The bags catch air from just running with it, which is perfect for younger kids with too much pent up energy (the faster they run, the higher the kite goes).  All 5 preschoolers ran around my house with their bag kites and had a blast.  Here are the final masterpieces that my kids produced.




Now if it would just stop raining long enough for us to give them a test run outside...


Friday, January 15, 2010

No Sew Cape/Poncho

I made this no sew cape (more like a poncho with arm holes) using this tutorial from Ruffles and Stuff and gave it to Addison for Christmas.  She absolutely loves it and so do I.  It's super simple to make and since it's no sew, there's no excuse for not making one.  Anyone can do it.  Watch for fleece to go on sale at your local fabric store and then buy it and make it!  I want to make one for myself now... although I don't know if I could pull it off as cutely as Addison does. :)


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Jean Skirt for Addison

I have a goal to re-purpose all of the clothes that no longer fit me into something else.  I've got a tote full of shirts, skirts, sweaters and other odds and ends that I have grand ideas for.  Thanks to the countless blogs out there that have tutorials for this very purpose, I've already made several "new" things.  I plan to post about each of them in time.

One of the items I really wanted to repurpose was a jean skirt of mine that had a busted zipper.  Fixing the zipper would have been next to impossible (for me), so I decided to make it into a skirt for Addison.  Without any pattern or tutorial to go from, I was flying solo for the first time.  It was a bit nerve-racking, and I had a couple of bumps along the way, but I am so excited about how the final product turned out.

I left the skirt out on the couch last night, right where I knew Addison would see it in the morning and sure enough, she came bounding upstairs this morning, already wearing it over her PJ's and told me that she loved it.  What better reward can a Mom ask for?





 The jean material is really soft and has some stretch to it.  I did a simple elastic waist and made the length of the skirt to hit just above her ankles.
  
I made a flower pattern out of paper and then pinned and cut 3 flowers and three circles out of some left over jean material.  I zigzag stitched the flower on with the wrong side out and the circle with the right side out to give it some contrast and then hand sewed a pink ball bead to the center. Super cute in my opinion!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Decorating My House - Getting Motivated

I really struggle with interior decorating.  My house is SO bland that it can sometimes get depressing.  I just really don't have a knack for coming up with cute ideas and can never seem to find the right things at the stores around here.  But I'm committing right here and now to start trying.  Some of this new found motivation is thanks to Ashley over at Make It and Love It.  She is starting a new Decorate My Home series and I'm going to use as many ideas of hers as I can.  She's got really cute ideas and always has great tutorials.

I think the winter is a great time to focus on decorating and any remodeling projects because usually January through May is a slower time, no vacations, too cold to go outside, etc.  If you decide to jump on the bandwagon and do some interior decorating yourself I'd love to hear about it!

With that being said, I'm going to tackle some curtains for the rooms in the downstairs part of my house.  Stay tuned for pictures of new curtains with, hopefully, semi-straight hem lines.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Perfect Cheese Ball Recipe

Anyone who has been to one of my parties has probably sampled my cheese ball.  It's requested at almost all family gatherings and is gone by the end of the party.  It's one of our favorite recipes and even my kids love it.  And the best part is how easy it is to make. 5 minutes, tops.  Give it a try at your next party or pot luck and it's sure to be a hit.

Anissa's Cheese Ball

2 (8 oz) packages of cream cheese
3 green onions, sliced thinly
1 tsp Bon Appetit Seasoning Salt (this is easier to find around the holidays, but can be found year round at grocery stores with a larger spice section)
Paprika

Mix the cream cheese, sliced green onions and Bon Appetit Seasoning Salt in a medium bowl.  The best way to do this is with your hands.  Thoroughly mix everything together and form into a ball, smoothing the outside with your hands.  Set the ball onto a serving plate and dust the top and sides with paprika.  Serve with Wheat Thins or your favorite cracker.

Enjoy!

UPDATE:  Here is a picture of the glorious cheese ball, all ready for consumption.
 

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Vintage Lounge Pants

Vintage Lounge Pants is just a fancy way of saying PJ Pants!

I got the idea to use vintage bed sheets as fabric for PJ pants from Ducky House.  Used sheets make awesome lounge pants because they are already super soft and are really inexpensive.  I made two pairs of adult pants for $4.00.  The best part was not having to hem the bottom of the pants when using a flat sheet.  But I admit that it was tough to find cute vintage sheets so I ended up used a couple of fitted sheets for the pants and had to go ahead and hem the bottoms.  Not too big of deal when the sheet fabric is so dang cute.

I used several different blogs to come up with the perfect pattern and method for making the pants.  Over the month of December I sewed TEN pairs of PJ pants.  Definitely a pro at PJ pants now!  I'll post some of the non-vintage pairs in a separate post.

The pictures of these white pants really don't do them justice.  They are so cute and so lightweight and soft.  And I used orange thread to highlight the orange in some of the flower print.  And I love the thick hem at the bottom of pants from the natural hem in the sheets.




I'll have to try and get a better picture of the other pairs.  I made both Kahly and my Mom's pants out of this same yellow sheet.  And I made the scarf she is wearing too, from this tutorial on Make It and Love It.

Wellness Bag

I made my Mom a Wellness Bag for Christmas. It included a Heat Therapy Bag, a Cold Therapy Bag and an Eye Pillow.  I put all three bags into a drawstring bag I made as well.  I partially used the tutorial from Sew, Mama, Sew! for the therapy bags, except that I didn't use rice or flax or any of the fillings that she recommended.

I did quite a bit of research on what the best fillings were to put into heat therapy bags and found this site to have the best information.  So I went with corn feed for the filling and I was very happy with how it turned out. I also added some dried rose petals, dried lavender and dried eucalyptus into the bags.  I avoided the essential oils based on the information the site above gave about potential hazzards when microwaving.

The hardest part about this project for me was stuffing the bags with the filler.  If I make more of these in the future I'm going to think that part through a little more and come up with a better method.  I had corn and dried flowers everywhere when I was done and it took way too long.

The "Ahh" Bag and the "BooBoo" bag both have washable covers, so you can see the inserts in the last picture below.  I made tags for each of the bags as well. If anyone ever wants the templates I can make them available.

What made this project kind of neat was that I used fabrics my Mom gave me that she had been hanging onto for years.  She bought them way back when and never found a use for them.  When she opened the gift she was so excited that I had put them to use.  I think I'm going to make some of the cold "BooBoo" bags for my kids when they get owies.  Much cleaner and easier to pull one of them out of the freezer instead of getting a ziplock bag of ice.