inuksuk maple caramels

June 29, 2011 § 1 Comment

In two days, Canada will celebrate its 144th birthday.  I whipped up a quick hands-on Canadian treat in honor of our holiday.  This is a fun cooking and crafting project for you and your little ones to enjoy — miniature inuksuks constructed out of homemade maple caramels.

In the west and Arctic regions of Canada, inuksuks stand aplenty.  You may have seen them before.  They are native manmade stone structures mostly used as markers for travel or for orientation.

You may probably know this: in Canada, we are mad about maple.  On our flag we bear the emblematic maple leaf.  In most urban places, you cannot pass a kilometer’s stretch of road without spotting the maple leaf somehow, typically adorning shop signs and windows.  Even our hockey team in Toronto is aptly named the Maple Leafs.  Without surprise, we are the globe’s biggest producer of sweet maple syrup, on whose sole existence the pancake depends.

These delicious caramels are made of pure maple syrup and are very simple to make — no need to invest in a candy thermometer.  They’re that simple!  I used salted butter for that salted caramel flavor, and evaporated milk for that maple fudge taste (I’ve seen the best maple fudge stores flaunting cans of Carnation).

To make these caramels, you will need:

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

1 tbsp salted butter

1/2 cup evaporated milk

1. Over medium heat, melt butter in maple syrup.  Allow to boil for five minutes.

2. Add evaporated milk.  Stir continuously and allow to boil further for fifteen to twenty minutes until the mixture is slightly thickened and turns a deep golden amber.  The lighter amber has a soft chew.  The darker amber turns into a hard caramel candy.  The choice is up to you!

3. On parchment, very quickly spoon small pebble mounds of caramel and some long, narrow ledge shapes.

4. Allow caramels to sit until they are cool to touch, but warm enough that they will stick to each other as you construct.  Stack the caramels to create inukshuks.

You will notice the taller inuksuk has slightly lighter caramels.  Those caramels are chewy and have some slack when constructed.  The shorter inuksuk has darker caramels, and are hard candies, and perhaps stand better as inukshuks.  Both are equally yummy!



woven crop top

June 25, 2011 § 7 Comments

Here’s a DIY-fashion kickoff to the first weekend of summer!  Now, if I may say, the last time crop tops were this explosive was in 1991, twenty years ago.  Yes, I have full recollection, considering I was already in sixth grade.  Now, if I must add (if you can add the numbers) — I really couldn’t, wouldn’t, shouldn’t wear a crop top now at my age.  Or…not at least without layering a tank underneath?  I do not have the guts to wear the top alone, the irony of which is needless to say, my gut itself.

I’m sure you’re catching on, I am really loving the basket weave.  I baked that gigantic basket-weave cornucopia cracker, crafted those eco basket-weave vases from milk and juice cartons, so why not basket-weave my clothes, too?

For this project, you will need two identical t-shirts, a rotary blade and cutting mat, or fabric scissors.  Conveniently, when I started planning to make this tee two weeks ago, Michaels had their shirts on sale, 2 for $6.

1. On one shirt, cut a boat neck.

2. On the same shirt, trim the sleeves to your preference.

3. On the same shirt, cut equal vertical strips (I did 3/4″) from the left of center, starting from the bust all the way to the bottom of the shirt.  Make sure there is a centered strip.  When you get to the end, trim off the last strip  — this will provide the horizontal gaps on the sides.

4. Repeat from right of center, until your entire shirt has vertical strips across.  Trim off the last strip, as above.

5. Take your second shirt, cut equal horizontal strips from the bust all the way to the bottom of the shirt.

6. Start weaving.  The easiest way is to fold back alternating vertical strips on the front and back of the shirt, then sliding one horizontal strip through.

7. Take your folded strips and bring on top of the horizontal strip, on the front and back.

8. Repeat the weaving by folding back alternating vertical strips on the front and back of the shirt, then sliding one horizontal strip through. Take your folded strips and bring on top of the horizontal strip, on the front and back.

9. Continue weaving until you have used all of your horizontal strips.

10. Tug on each strip to stretch it out.

11. Knot each vertical strip to the last horizontal strip.  You can play with the distances of the vertical strips to create various gaps.  I knotted about half of vertical strips close to center to be as close as possible to each other.  Then I knotted the remaining strips on the side at about 1″ apart.  Patterns can differ greatly from where these knots are tied.

Now wear it and bare it!!

father’s day golf card

June 17, 2011 § 4 Comments

I was in the rough for a while.  Finally mustered up the drive to get a grip, break out of my rut, get my head out of the sand, repair the chip off my shoulder, and here fore present you this last minute idea for Father’s Day.  Yes.  I’m back and unafraid to use a score of puns.

Here’s to the golfer dads in our lives — an accordion-folding, flag-raising, puntastic golf-themed greeting card — designed so you can tell him in a fair way:

DAD, you’re below par…

on the green

BUT, you’re above all else

You will need cardstock, bamboo skewers, double-sided tape, mounting tape/foam adhesive, and 1/4″ hole punch.

Without much fuss, you can very quickly design a card using none other than your word processor.  I made simple arrows and chevrons to create a design, as well as diamond-shapes to create flags.  It’s not apparent — I printed blue ink on light green cardstock and green ink on light blue cardstock.  The front and back panels are 3-3/4″ x 9-1/2″, to perfectly fit a size-10 envelope.  The inner green panel is scored such that there would be three 3-3/4″ squares, plus 1/2″ on each end for adhesive.  Each “hole” is made of randomly-shaped green cardstock, punched with a hole.

Now let’s putt it all together:

1. Using double-sided tape, affix your front and back panels to the inner panel to form an accordion-folding card.

2. Using double-sided tape, affix one flag to the end of a bamboo skewer.

3. Trim the skewers in different heights, ensuring they are not longer than the length of the front and back panels of the card.

4. Take your “on” flag and feed the skewer through the hole and secure on the back with double-sided tape.  Affix mounting tape.

5. Tape down the skewer and the hole on one panel of the green.

6. Continue with the “the” and “green” flags to complete your card.

There it is, a father’s day card, crafted to a tee.  Now if I’ve missed other golfing lingo, please feel free to gimme!

Happy Father’s Day!

wedding woes

June 12, 2011 § 21 Comments

I will say it.  I think I have the blues.  I spent an entire Saturday afternoon wallowing in bed.  Forty-two days into engagement, most women are thrust by mystical powers into planning their fantastical, magical day.  Nope.  Not I.  I wallow in bed.  The big question is why.  And here’s a very itty bitty, whispered, modicum of an answer that no one wants to hear — I just want to elope.  Plainly, simply, I do.  No amount of crafting can cure this ailment.

One very distressing reality is becoming more apparent as the days progress — having any type of wedding would cause a lot of people to feel excluded.  So, if I cannot choose who to include, I want to exclude everyone (I’m an all-or-nothing type of gal).

This is the obstacle we face — the important people in our life are spread across the globe.  I am in Toronto.  He is in California.  My parents are in Michigan.  His parents are in Istanbul.  Only a handful of my relatives are in Toronto, less than 20% in Michigan and scattered across the US, the majority in Manila.  100% of his relatives are in Istanbul.  All of the friends I’ve made over the past two decades are in Toronto.  His friends are across Turkey and a small handful in the US.

It is a logistical nightmare.  Where in the world would be fair?  How do we choose to have a wedding in Istanbul only to have the bulk of my relatives feel excluded, or a wedding in Toronto or the US or Manila and in turn make his feel excluded?  How do I oblige anyone, family or friend, to travel across the globe (including all neutral ground) merely to watch us get hitched?  The request is so unwarranted.  And that is precisely why I don’t want to do any inviting, and why I have spent the entirety of a Saturday afternoon feeling decidedly miserable.

No matter the contrary, almost all weddings are a people-pleasing production.  The truth is, O.T. may likely never be forgiven for eloping.  For this reason, he is up for the challenge of pleasing and of having two weddings, in Istanbul and Manila.  But, not only would that be a financial nightmare, that would mean we would have segregated weddings for our respective sides of the family and in many ways, that option is more alienating than choosing one city over the other.  What other choices do we have left?

What makes the decision process even more arduous is I cannot stop my mind from rampantly wandering off to a fantasyland of wedding DIY.  My mind has somehow dispelled my compulsions to craft for craft’s sake on this here blog.  Instead, my mind has been inundated with countless crazy cool ideas for world-travel-themed wedding invitations, favor boxes, centerpieces, and crafty décor — everything I long to make with my very hands — all of which I cannot really accomplish unless we have a wedding.  I have poured my creative soul in designing all forms of paper paraphernalia for brides for nearly the past half a decade — how could I not do my very own?!? And am I left to fashion a big white dress within the confines of a bridal store??

Wearing White by Vera Wang at David's Bridal (a great dress for US$1,400, however, not quite what I would wear, whether or not I elope).

mehndi-inspired illustrated card

June 10, 2011 § 8 Comments

I’ll be heading to a henna party this evening for one of my friends who is a bride-to-be.  In some Middle Eastern, East and West Indian cultures, it is customary for women to apply a decorative design with henna, called mehndi, on hands and feet before a wedding — a bridal shower of sorts.  Last night, I decided to design this congratulatory greeting card for her, made in the likeness of mehndi.

I had a lot of fun creating this design, which is composed almost entirely of hearts (fit for a bride-to-be) with some added swirls and lines to keep within the typical style of mehndi patterns.  The flower and leaves are nothing but a repetition of hearts.

All I used were: kraft card stock, light purple card stock, purple rhinestones, pencil, black felt pen, double sided tape, and 2″ circle punch.

1. I made a 5″ x 7″ card, with a sleeve made of kraft cardstock.  The folded sleeve has a final measurement of 6-1/2″.  I made a 1/2″ allowance on two edges for double-sided tape.  I punched the center of the edge of the sleeve where I want a design to peek through.

2. I cut a sheet of light purple card stock to a final size of 5″ x 7″, so that 1/2″ would peek through the sleeve.  I doodled away with my pencil.

3. I went over my design with my black Sharpie felt pen.

4. I added the rhinestones for some sparkle.

5. I applied double-sided tape to the 1/2″ allowances I made and folded the sleeve shut.

I have never attended a henna party before.  I am excited to see the designs the mehndi artist will create for my friend and her bridesmaids.

play cakes

June 4, 2011 § 2 Comments

If the three-tier cake chalkboard I made in my previous post for CRAFT is not enough for the budding Ace of Cakes in your household, here’s a really exciting cake decorating project that your kids can do while you’re busy making real cake in the kitchen.

All you’ll need are tubs of Play Doh (or your homemade version), small nested hat boxes and some random objects around the house that can be used to flatten the Play Doh and make various textures.

I found an amazing range of pastel colored Play Doh at my favorite dollar store, Dollarama.  Two boxes per cake should be sufficient.  The largest tier should be no more than 5″ wide, so covering the boxes would still be manageable with a couple of tubs of Play Doh.  I used 3″ and 5″ boxes.  Smaller may even be better.

1. Assist your little one in rolling the Play Doh until it is less than 1/4″ thick.  I used a 1/2″ dowel.  Stores like Michaels carry mini rolling pins for children.  My 5″ bottom tier required 2 tubs of Play Doh.

2. Assist your little one in placing the rolled out Play Doh and flattening it on and around the box until it is fairly even.

3. Let them imagine the cake any way they want.  As inspiration, I’ve made a striated surface on my play cake by pressing a pencil along the sides and repeating to make a pattern.

4. Repeat above on second box and stack the layers.

5. Now let them decorate!  As inspiration, you can show them how to press pieces of dough with their thumbs to make petals.

6. A finished play cake!

Adults can’t have all the fun decorating lavish tiered cakes!

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