Domestic Science Club

Since it's been a while since I posted something, and since all three of my current projects (bathroom mirror frame, DIY magnetic knife rack, and spring wreath) are still in the works, I thought I would post about a subject near and dear to my heart.

The Domestic Science Club!

My friend Cami had the idea to start a club where we get together and teach each other the crafts we each know. She got the idea from a homesteading skills group her grandmother was a part of about a century ago, called the Domestic Science Club.

In January 2010, we started things off with an Interior Design Seminar/Demonstration. We talked about design fundamentals, picking colors, and furniture arrangement, among other things. Beforehand, we did a room makeover with only things on hand and did the reveal that night. We had a huge turnout from our great neighborhood gals and had a lot of fun. In the months since, some of the other things we have learned to do are garden, make jewelry, make sushi, sew girls' skirts, make homemade chocolates, and can chicken. A couple of our future meetings will be about presentation and staging, and how to do the crackle glaze that I used on the boxwood topiary and the birdcage redo.

This week, Cami and I will be on the radio on Classical 89.1(89.5 in Cache Valley) for those of you readers in Utah. We were interviewed about our club and its roots a couple of weeks ago, and there will be two thirty-second spots that will each air once on Wednesday and once on Thursday. I do have the audio files that I will try to figure out how to post once they have aired.

We are super excited about this opportunity! My sister has started her own chapter of the Domestic Science Club in North Carolina. If you are interested in starting your own group, send me an email with any questions to audzipan(at)gmail(dot)com and I will help get you started. Together we can save the dying arts!


Amateur Portrait Tips

I am by no means a professional photographer, but I have learned a few tricks over the years that can really change the way you take pictures. I do have a Nikon D40 and Photoshop, and I use these tools in a few specific ways to strengthen my photography. My camera still has a kit lens, and I only use a couple of the functions in Photoshop, although I do regularly research tutorials for both.

The first set of tips I have are for when you are actually taking your photos, kid portraits in particular.
  • Use indirect, natural lighting. No flash! It is the very best way to go, and reduces the amount of editing you will have to do.
  • Try your best to get your kid to look at the camera, whether or not you have to pop out from behind it and play peekaboo a few times. I think some of the best portraits are when you get to stare deep into someone's eyes.
  • Get down on the same level as your kid. I think this helps make portraits much more personal.
  • Use an uncluttered background, either a plain wall or a fun texture. Just make sure that the background doesn't compete with the person! For the portraits I am featuring in this post, I used a plain gray wall and a bathroom rug.
  • Take lots of photos, especially with kids. Don't be discouraged if you have to do lots of little sessions. That is the beauty of taking your own portraits! You can take as many breaks as you need.

My next set of tips is for editing. These tips will be most useful for Photoshop users. I have a few favorites, and I'll just share how I use them.
  • Image>Adjustments>Levels. Use the white dropper on the right to adjust your white balance by clicking on the part of the photo that you want to be white. I usually try a few different spots like the reflection on the eyes or the brightest highlight I can find. You can also use the black dropper the same way by clicking on the darkest shadow.
  • Image>Adjustments>Curves. Click on the diagonal line to make a point that you can drag around to adjust the photo. I usually make a slight "S" curve and just play around with it until it gets where I want it.
  • Image>Adjustments>Brightness/Contrast. I will sometimes up the brightness and contrast a little bit, but if you had good lighting when you took the picture, you may not need to adjust this at all.
  • Filter>Sharpen>Unsharp Mask. I play with the Amount and the Radius, but usually leave the Threshold alone. This filter can really make the eyes stand out, so that is usually what I watch when I am trying to decide how much to adjust the levels.
  • Window>Actions. This is one I just discovered myself. Actions are a sequence of adjustments that are recorded and can be replayed on different photos, which is a huge time saver if you find yourself doing the same things over and over again. I haven't tried making my own yet, but there are lots of free Photoshop actions hanging around the web. This is one of my favorites so far. These seem to work best on photos that already have good lighting and color.
I hope you find some of these tips helpful. They have certainly helped me get some great photos of our kids as they grow up.

Linked up: C.R.A.F.T.,


Dreamy Cream-Filled Cupcakes

I'd like to introduce you to a little piece of heaven.  Reader, meet cupcake.  Cupcake, reader.

Here are the basics behind these bad boys.  
  1. Devil's Food cake mix
  2. Cream Filling
  3. Perfect Cupcake Frosting (via Our Best Bites)
Yes, I used a cake mix.  I have a hard time wanting to make my cakes from scratch when the mixes already taste so great and are so fast.  Plus, I haven't found a cake recipe that warrants me spending an extra hour in the kitchen.  If you have one, seriously, fill me in.  I am willing to try any recipe once.
The cream filling is the same one that I used for the owl birthday cake.  After the cupcakes were baked according to the box directions and cool, I used a filler tip to put the pastry filling in each cupcake.  I probably could have put a bit more in than I did, but it's nearly impossible to tell what's going on inside each cupcake.  After I made these, I heard a tip from a friend about how to know when there is enough filling:  Listen for a "burp".  I have not tried it, so don't take my word for it, but if you want to try it, there it is.
Like I said, I used the Perfect Cupcake Frosting recipe for these.  Can I just tell you that everyone raved about it?  It is a little bit of work, but so very worth it.  Take note, however, that the recipe makes enough frosting for 12 cupcakes, and a usual batch from the box makes 24 cupcakes.  I doubled the recipe and had no problems.  In fact, it was the perfect amount for all the cupcakes.  I colored the frosting teal with the Wilton gel coloring, using mostly sky blue with a little bit of leaf green, then I used the big star tip to frost these.  As a finishing touch, I sprinkled on some hot pink sugar sprinkles.  The best part about the frosting is that it didn't instantly form a crust, like the canned stuff.
I was really pleased with this cupcake experience.  Really, really pleased.  These are the best cupcakes I have made to date, and that counts the Rainbow Cupcakes I made last year.  The frosting was a huge part of that, plus the fact that I learned about using the big star tip to frost them.  Seriously, that tutorial changed my cupcake-decorating life.
I think that pretty much sums it up.


Owl Birthday Cake

We had my daughter's second birthday party yesterday, along with my baby daughter's blessing.  I made this owl cake in honor of the occasion.  It was my second fondant cake, and my first time making my own fondant!  It turned out so much better than the store-bought variety.  Here's the branch detail on the sides: 

For the branch detail, I rolled the fondant into long snakes.  For the leaves and the owl, I rolled the fondant flat, then cut out the shapes with a paring knife.  The inside of the cake was four layers of funfetti cake with a pastry cream filling.
I also used bamboo skewers to stabilize the cake.  I don't know if I needed them or not, but it made me feel better about it.  Here's the birthday girl getting ready to blow out the candles:
 I had so much fun making this cake!  For the party, I also made, in my opinion, my best cupcakes to date.  Those will be getting their own post later this week.
 Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

Linked up: Someday Crafts 
Show and Tell Green
Join  us Saturdays at tatertotsandjello.com for the weekend wrap 
 up           party!


Valentine Sugar Cookie Pops

Still trying to find a fun idea for Valentine's gifts?  These sugar cookie pops are so fun and easy!  I made them even easier by using sugar cookie mix.  Seriously, it was so quick for a project that looks so good.

Here's what you will need:
-Sugar cookie dough (either from scratch or a mix)
-Lollipop sticks (I found mine in the Wilton section at Walmart)
-Glacé icing (No, I don't know how to say that)
-Cellophane treat bags or clear wrap
-Thin ribbon

First step, roll out your cookie dough and cut out your shapes.  They can't be too big, or else the stick won't be able to support them.  I used a medium-sized heart.  Lay each dough shape on the pan over the top of a lollipop stick.  I put mine about two-thirds the way up the stick.  Press the dough into the sides of the stick a little bit, but not too much.  Bake cookies according to directions.  They should come out looking like this:

Let them cool while you make your icing.  Here's the recipe:

Glacé Icing

4 c. powdered sugar
6 T. milk (I used 1%, but 2% or whole would probably be better)
6 T. light corn syrup
1 t. vanilla extract

Mix the powdered sugar and milk together until all the lumps are gone, then add the corn syrup and vanilla.  The icing should be fairly thin for glazing.  For piping, add more powdered sugar until it thickens up and becomes hard to stir.  If you want a great tutorial on how to use this icing, click on the Our Best Bites link above.

I glazed my cookies and didn't really wait until they had dried before I started piping.  This way, the icing sort of blends together and looks like a watercolor painting.
I did the white dots at the end, so they look raised up, like how the icing would act if you wait for the base layer to dry.  At this point, you want to let the icing dry for a half a day or more.

Next, I wrapped the pops in cellophane and tied it with a ribbon.
These turned out great!  You could use these as awesome party favors or Valentine's presents for friends.  I am using them as party favors, so I decided to display them in Valentine themed takeout boxes:
I know I wouldn't mind getting one of these on Monday.


His & Hers Etched Goblets

I found these great goblets for a dollar at Taipan last fall, and as a part of the master suite makeover, I thought I'd etch our initials onto them.  These would make a great Valentine's Day gift, and they were so easy to do!

I cut the initials out of vinyl on my Silhouette cutter, put the vinyl on the goblets, and applied etching cream.  Such an easy project with subtly bold results.  I love the way etching blends into the room, yet makes a statement once you notice it.
The font is called Secesja PL.  I found it on my favorite font site, dafont, and it is free for personal use.

For my next etching project, I think I am going to get a bunch of new glasses for our kitchen and redo the etched numbered glasses