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Posts from the ‘My Projects’ Category

Beautiful Breakfast: Violet Pancakes

Happy Friday, everyone!

What better way to ring in the weekend than treating ourselves to a lovely flower-filled breakfast? How do violet pancakes drizzled with violet-infused maple syrup sound to you? Hopefully the idea tickles your taste buds, because that’s just what I was in the mood for yesterday. I took some snapshots along the way and put together a little recipe for you guys, should you want to give it a go at home. There are lots of edible flowers out there, violets being one of them. The key to choosing healthy blossoms is to make sure that you chose flowers from an area void of pesticides, herbicides, heavy traffic, dog pee, or animal droppings. Piece of (pan)cake, right?

The wild violets (viola odorata) are at their peak right now, the sprawling mounds of attractive green leaves topped with a multitude of fragrant purple flowers. When the weather warms up, you can really enjoy their sweet scent… even more-so if you snip a few to bring inside where the warmth allows even a small bunch to perfume a whole room. When these little beauties are in full bloom, it’s hard to resist the urge to cook up a project or two centered around the delicious properties the wild violets naturally possess. Last year I cooked up a batch of violet syrup, but I felt that a new year calls for something fresh and different…

Pancakes! Yes! Who can say no to a plate full of pancakes?

I started off by bringing a small pot of maple syrup to a boil before tossing in a handful of violet flowers (trimmed as closely to the flower as possible and rinsed in water). I let the flowers and syrup simmer together for about 15 minutes before turning off the heat. One the syrup had cooled down, it was time to strain the liquid from the flowers and put it back in the fridge to sit. Even this short infusion time was enough to give the syrup a really pleasant violet aroma. Yum!

Then it was time to whip up a batch of pancakes!

My go-to recipe for American-style pancakes is: 1.5 cups flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, 3 teaspoons baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, 1.25 cups milk, 2 tablespoons melted butter, and 1 egg. Mix the ingredients all together in no particular order before spooning small scoops into a greased and heated pan.

After you’ve spooned your batter into the pan, gently press the individual flowers on top of the batter. Be careful not to press too hard, because if they get covered in batter, they will disappear once flipped. Cook the pancakes thoroughly on the non-flower side before flipping the pancakes for just a moment. The idea is to give them some slight color while not over-cooking the flowers. For me, about 30 seconds over a medium heat did the trick.

Put them on a plate, drizzle with your violet-infused syrup… and, voila! You’ve got yourself a beautiful springtime breakfast that’s just as much a treat for the eyes as it is for the taste buds.

Just in case you’re curious, the violets in the pancakes don’t pack much flavor. The majority of the characteristic violet taste comes from the violet-infused maple syrup. It’s a nice and easy way to add the sweeten foods with a violet flavor… a simple alternative to violet syrup.

I hope you enjoyed our little Friday feast! If you have some violets growing in your garden, this could very well be worth giving a try this weekend :)

Whether you indulge in violet pancakes or not, I wish you all a wonderful weekend!

Dreamcatcher Baby Mobile

Good evening, crafty companions!

Since our little one could technically be born any moment now, I figured that it might be a wise idea to share the last of my baby project posts with you guys. If I’m totally honest, I think I just might have saved the best for last… I dragged my feet on this one, since there were so many different ideas running around in my head and I changed my mind almost every day. The idea of a dreamcatcher appealed to me, since every baby should be guaranteed only the sweetest of dreams. I also liked the boho-chic look of hanging ribbons. Lastly, suspended shapes that twist and turn in the breeze would provide a bit of mesmerizing entertainment for whoever’s looking up from down below.

In the end, I was able to combine all of my ideas into one pretty nifty little baby mobile…  a dingly-dangly piece of nursery decor that features the three main components I was hoping to include!

To get started, I cut free-form cloud shapes out of three different layers of fabric (my all-time favorite Liberty floral fabric, a thin white linen, and some left-over scraps of Ikea curtain fabric). I pinned the three layers together in order to ensure that the different layers matched up correctly before starting to sew them together by hand.

Once all but the last bit of the outline was sewn together, I started stuffing the cloud with loose wool. I continued to stitch and stuff until the little clouds began to take on a lovely, plump three-dimensional shape.

Using (you guessed it!) an embroidery hoop, I started to put together the remaining key elements of the baby mobile: the dreamcatcher within the interior ring and the romantic row of ribbons along the exterior ring.

Once each element was complete, I tightened the rings together and proceeded to hang the clouds from various points around the dreamcatcher.

And here’s what the mobile looks like from a baby’s-eye view…

The mobile is already safely suspended above the baby’s crib, patiently awaiting her arrival. Hopefully this bit of overhead entertainment with keep her calm in moments of confusion and restore her balance during sleepless nights. Most of all, I hope it will whisk away all of her worries and soothe her into a sweet sleep.

DIY Crib Canopy

Good evening, everyone!

Today’s post doesn’t necessarily have to do with flowers, per say…  but that doesn’t meant there aren’t flowers involved! The last few weeks, I’ve been working on finishing up a few projects for the nursery. As I was taking pictures to show my family back in California, I figured that maybe, just maybe, you guys might like to be involved as well. After all, you’re all an important part of my extended internet family :)

A crib canopy (or “hemeltje” here in Holland) is an idea that I’ve been toying with for a while. The nursery ceiling has some old paint made from who-knows-what, and, while it’s a beautiful baby blue color, I don’t want tiny paint chips flaking off and falling into the baby’s bed. Plus, I quite like the romantic look the lacy curtains add to the nursery. The ready-to-buy canopies available around here were either ridiculously expensive or “meh”-looking… so I took matters into my own hands and put one together myself.

All you need for this project is an 8-inch (20 cm) embroidery hoop (borduurring), some string and/or ribbon, and a pair of curtains. I used a combination of panel curtains available at Ikea- a pair of Alvine Spets curtains and one panel from a Lill set.

The production process isn’t actually all that complicated. All you have to do is feed your curtains through the outer circle of the embroidery hoop. I fed one Alvine Spets panel through first, followed by a Lill panel, followed by the second Alvine Spets panel. This combination of curtains is wide enough to fully enclose a standard 60 cm x 120 cm crib.

Once your curtain panels are evenly distributed around the embroidery hoop, tie three equal lengths of ribbon/string/fishing wire at equal intervals around the inner circle of the embroidery hoop. To finish things up, place the outer circle fitted with the curtains around the inner circle and tighten until secure.

Tada! Now you’re ready to hang the canopy over your baby’s crib!

Since the curtains I used were a good two meters long, I trimmed them to just above floor length and bunched the bottoms together at various points around the crib using ribbon. I’m happy to have “splurged” on the Alvine Spets curtains, because I think the floral “lace” adds that extra oomph I was looking for. See, I told you there were flowers involved! ;)

All that’s left for me to do is put together a dream-catcher-type topping for the canopy and hang a handmade mobile that I’m in the midst of sewing. *Gasp* Yes! I’m sewing. By hand, though, this time… no sewing machines involved.

I hope you enjoy the how-to tutorials of these little nursery projects of mine… and, if you don’t, never fear, there won’t be many more to come. In fact, this one shouldn’t even be limited to a nursery- any adult can enjoy a floral canopy as well, right? :)

Have a lovely evening, and I’ll see you tomorrow for a little outdoor fun!

Floral Fashion: Hellebores in Your Hair

Good evening, flower friends, and a very happy Friday to you all!

In honor of Carnaval, which is taking place around these parts this weekend, I thought that it would be fun to play a little dress up. Just because we won’t be celebrating this year doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy playing around with costumes and putting on a little show! The influx of newly purchased hellebores plants in combination with some trimmings left over from another project I’ve been working on made the perfect mix of ingredients for putting together a fashionable, haute-couture headpiece beautiful enough to rival the front pages of Vogue… well, alright, maybe not quite that hip and fancy, but a girl’s gotta dream, right? :)

For this project, any old fabric will do really, although antique lace would make for the most elegant look. Totally lacking in the antique trimmings department, I actually used a scrap of Alvine Spets curtain fabric from Ikea. The only other key ingredients for this project are some short-stemmed flowers (hellebores is a wonderful option during the late months of winter), a decent length of ribbon, and a needle and thread.

Start by giving your flowers a nice soak. Since they’ll be out of water and in your hair, it’s important for them to get a good drink. Just so you know, if you do choose to use hellebores, try to choose buds that have begun to develop seed pods… and even then, they will probably just barely last throughout the day. Small roses, scabiosa, anemone, and tulips are more hardy alternatives.

Use the needle and thread to attach an equal length of ribbon to both ends of your piece of lace.

Place the flower heads across the lace in a manner which pleases you most before beginning to sew them in place, one by one. I found that just a few stitches were sufficient to secure each flower to the fabric.

By the time you’ve attached all of the flowers, you should have a dense mat of petals making up one heck of a hellebores headpiece.

The fun thing about this project is that it can be worn in multiple ways! Tie it around your neck like a choker, wear it as a headband, use it as a floral sash… the decision is all yours.

I’m partial to wearing flowers in my hair, so I bet you can guess what my personal preference is… but all ways of wearing flowers are fun!  If any of you are getting married anytime soon or if you just want an easy excuse to be a floral fashionista, maybe you’ll consider giving this project a try.

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend!

Sweetly Scented String Garden

Hello, fabulous flower friends!

Hopefully the weekend treated you well, and you are ready to kick start a brand new week full of fresh energy. I don’t know about you, but I experienced an inexplicable surge of inspiration this weekend… with so many ideas flooding my mind at once, it will simply be a matter of finding the time and energy to tackle them all. The first on my “to-do” list, a fun and flowery project that I’ve been waiting for ages to try, is a suspended garden of sorts. Closely related to the Japanese art of bonsai, Kokedama (moss balls) takes indoor gardening to a whole new level… literally.

I had originally planned to use a willowy orchid to hang in the nursery, but after searching high and low, I couldn’t settle on an option that was both affordable and aesthetically pleasing. Fast forward to my “a-ha!” moment during last week’s trip to the local Aldi when I happened upon some reasonably priced jasmine vines. Dare I say that these heavenly scented, feminine, and delicate creatures would make an absolutely ideal hanging plant?

I know that the scent of jasmine is one of those “love it” or “hate it” kinda things… but I love it. I’ve loved it ever since I was a wee one, begging my dad to let us plant one solitary specimen outside my bedroom window at our rented house. Suffering from an unfortunate aversion to strong scents, he reluctantly agreed to let my garden grow. Having left my little jasmine plant behind long ago, I often dream of growing a new friend here in Belgium. Our harsh winters seem to disagree. So, why not give it a go inside?

All I needed for this simple and straightforward project was a bit of string (or fishing wire if you’d like a more minimal look), a potted plant, and a sufficiently-sized sheet of moss.

I began by carefully teasing the vines of jasmine away from the cheesy metal “loop” form around which they had been wound.

Next, I tucked the soil and root ball safely within the confines of the moss. Holding the moss tightly against the plant with one hand, I used my other hand to wind the string around and around, forming something of a moss ball with jasmine vines sticking out from the top.

The more colorful or contrasting string you use, the more attention you should pay to the abstract art you are creating with your layers of string.

Once your moss is tied nice and taught around your root ball, cut three equally long pieces of string. In a strategically triangular pattern, tie the three pieces of string to the “abstract art” string already in place. Gather the three pieces of string together at the top and tie them into a double-knotted loop.

You can leave various vines hanging and wind others up the suspended strings, or leave them all dangling wild and free. The choice is all yours.

I’m debating between using the hanging jasmine as a sort of natural mobile above the little one’s crib or as a clever distraction device above the changing table… probably leaning toward the latter.

All it should take is a good soak once or twice a week (depending on what plant you use) and a bit of time to dry before hanging it back in place. Thanks to the buds in bloom, the nursery already smells delicious… to me, at least! :)

Scrubalicious Bath Bombs

Good evening, everyone!

Today I’ve got a tasty treat for you… a lil’ DIY bath and body project that I’ve been dying to try. Bath bombs! What better way to bring a little romance into your life this Valentine’s Day than soaking in a rich and luxurious bath, right? That’s what I was thinking, anyway. Due to the difficulty I had finding one key ingredient, what started out as a quest to make my own bath bombs ended up as a surprisingly pleasant body scrub. Don’t worry, though, I’ll go ahead and give you guys the full ingredients and recipe and see what you can come up with! :)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons of Coconut oil
  • 5 tablespoons of liquid (I chose rose water, but you can brew your own tea or cook up your own herbal concoctions)
  • 2 tablespoons of epsom salts (or, as I used, Himalayan salts)
  • 1/2 cup corn starch (Maizena as it’s called here in Holland)
  • 1 cup baking soda (bicarbonate of soda for Dutch locals)
  • 1/2 cup citric acid
  • Several drops of essential oil (optional)

So, the citric acid is what makes the bath bombs fizz… and, of course, I couldn’t find this essential ingredient anywhere around these parts. It was available online, but I didn’t think it was worth the fuss of placing an order for something I thought that I might be able to do without. I read somewhere that since Jello contains a hefty amount of citric acid it could be deemed a worthy replacement. Well, my 1/2 cup of strawberry Jello didn’t do the trick. It did, however, make a very nutritious and nice body scrub. The combination of the ground salts and coconut oil left my skin feeling refreshed and moisturized, while the subtle strawberry and lavender scent helped relax the mind.

Let’s get this party started! In a medium bowl mix together your dry ingredients (ground salts, baking soda, citric acid, and corn starch). Using your hands, mix in the 2 tablespoons of coconut oil until you achieve a somewhat chunky sand-like texture.

Now it’s time to slowly stir in spoonfuls of your liquid of choice. Oddly enough, this step turned my bath bomb batter blue… go figure! Stop adding liquid once you’ve reached a mold-able stage.

Tightly pack your bath bomb batter into whichever molds you choose. I used small and simple silicone molds which were wonderful! The more detailed your molds are, the more difficult it will be to remove your bath bombs in one piece.

Let the bath bombs dry overnight before trying to remove them from the molds.

Once they’re hard and dry, they should pop out easily, leaving you with a lovely little selection of sweet smelling bath time treats!

If your weather is going to be anything like ours on Valentine’s Day, perhaps a nice warm bath will be the perfect way to relax both your body and mind.

Tussie-Mussies and Talking Bouquets

Hello there, flower friends!

You’re probably here thanks to our common admiration for flowers. They’re naturally beautiful, they often smell better than even the best perfumes, and they have the uncanny ability to brighten up a dull day… but did you know what they can talk? Yes, indeed, folks. Flowers carry a flurry of hidden messages, a secret language all their own. They can whisper messages of love, offer their condolences, and even help to forge new friendships. The rich history of the language of flowers traces back over 200 years ago, to the Victorian times when discerning floral meanings became something of a cultural movement.

Courtesy of our discretely creative ancestors, the most commonly found plants and flowers were assigned a variety of specific sentiments. When used in small arrangements called tussie-mussies, the recipient of the flowers could infer a secret message hidden within the pretty petals. Take the sweet little snowdrop, for example. Its delicate white flowers were used to convey consolation or hope.

Masked meanings weren’t limited to just flowers. Herbs, greenery, and foliage also played an active role in the language of flowers. For instance, ivy imparted a message of fidelity, while ferns spoke of sincerity… but not maidenhair ferns. No. A maidenhair fern swears its recipient to  secrecy, a promise of utmost discretion.

Can you imagine the mixed messages and confusion that must have run amok among the poor people left to interpret the meaning of their bouquet?

“Hmmm… was it just a daisy (innocence)? or was it a michaelmas daisy (farewell)?”. “Does the dahlia he gave me mean dignity or instability?”. Oh, the rumors that must have flown around.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, when countless flowers are gifted and love letters exchanged, I thought that it would be fun to combine the two… to bundle up a bouquet and a love letter in one. Foraging in the garden resulted in a limited selection of flirty flowers, but the freshly picked wintery white bouquet was just enough to give you guys some flowers with feeling.

“I hope (snowdrop) that you’ll keep this between the two of us (maidenhair fern),

but I sincerely (fern) appreciate your fidelity (ivy) and greatly enjoy your amiability (white jasmine).

I hope (snowdrop) that our friendship (oak-leafed geranium) will be be long-lasting (sage).”

But surely the flowers already spoke for themselves. You probably would have inferred my kind words just by looking at the pretty posy, right? ;)

I’m taking a trip to the flower market tomorrow, so hopefully I can come up with some more “colorful” romantic sweet nothings to share with you all. This is so much fun, coming up with small arrangements bursting with unspoken emotions!

My Funny Valentine…’s Day Cake

Happy Monday, dear friends!

Did you have a wonderful weekend? Anything exciting cross your path? I had the delightful opportunity of meeting up with three creative minds, the lovely ladies of Studio Yuki (Danny), Art for Happy People (Rakhee), and Deidre Dreams (Deidre). We had such a great time chatting, sipping tea, exchanging stories and giggling together. It’s always quite special to meet facebook contacts in real life, to make new connections and forge new friendships. In addition to socializing, we also did our fair share of eating… which gave me the perfect opportunity to use Danny, Deidre, and Rakhee as guinea pigs for a fun little Valentine’s recipe I’d been dying to try.

Red Velvet cake has become something of a family favorite since my sister first introduced us to it several years ago. It’s red… it’s chocolatey… and it’s sweet. What better batter to use as the basis for a very Valentine’s Day cake! :)

Ingredients

Batter:

  • 2.5 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 60 ml red food coloring (or substitute half of the food coloring with 3 pre-cooked red beets)
  • 120 grams butter, room temperature
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk (or add 1 teaspoon vinegar to 1 cup of milk and let stand for 5 minutes)

Icing:

  • 400 g cream cheese, room temperature
  • 100 g butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2.5 cups powdered sugar

Time to get started guys, so gather up all of your heart shaped pans and muffin molds! Lightly butter whatever pans you decide to use for your red velvet cake and preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F).

Mix together the flour, salt, and baking powder in a small bowl. In another small bowl, mix the food coloring with the cocoa powder. The recipe that I found said that this should result in a kind of paste… but mine didn’t.

I also didn’t feel totally comfortable using soooo much artificial food coloring. So, tada! I decided to use a few pre-cooked beets in order to add an extra pop of color.

In a blender, I improvised a bit and mixed half of the butter and the beets.

In a large bowl and using an electric mixer, I mixed the rest of the butter, sugar, and my butter-beet combination together. I added the eggs, one at a time, before adding the cocoa powder and half of the buttermilk.

Last but not least, I mixed in the flour, bit by bit.

Time to pour your batter into your pans and pop ‘em in the oven.

I baked the cupcakes for about 20 minutes and the cake for about 40 minutes (until a toothpick came out clean).

Thanks to the super flimsy silicone cupcake molds I used, the heart cupcakes looked a little bit wonky. The cake, however, turned out well.

For the icing, all you have to do is blend your butter and cream cheese together until light and fluffy before slowly blending in the powdered sugar. Yum!

The internet assured me that the beets wouldn’t alter the flavor of the cake… but I would have to disagree. They definitely made the cake a lot denser and gave it just the teeniest, tiniest “earthy” flavor.

My guinea pigs seemed to enjoy the cake enough, even though it wasn’t particularly as bright red or light and fluffy as I’d hoped it would be.

Despite any shortcomings my red velvet cake might suffer, I hope you’ll enjoy giving this all-American treat a try sometime! :)

Heart of Hearts

Hi there, all you hopeless romantics!

Valentine’s Day, the international day dedicated to love, is only a little more than a week away. Yes, of course we should celebrate love each and every day. And yes, I know, it’s an over-commercialized sorry excuse for a holiday… but I still love it. While we don’t blow it out of proportion and turn it into some bank-breaking holiday, I do enjoy picking out a cute little something or finding that perfect card. If I get flowers, great. If I get breakfast in bed, awesome! If all I get is a big fat kiss, then I’m a happy camper too! :)

Because I’ll take any excuse to get crafty with you guys and whip up some fun projects, you’d better bet that you’ll be seeing lots of hearts, pinks, reds, and flowers here on the blog during the next week. To start things off, I figured it would make sense to start at the very source of romanticism and love… our heart of hearts.

I foraged for a few burnished burgundy willow twigs and wild rose branches. If you want to get extra fancy, you can search for some lovely red rose hips or berries. The birdies must have eaten all of mine, ’cause I couldn’t find any. Granted, they looked a lot more “red” before they got paired with my bright yarn, but isn’t it kinda cool how the cold nights turned only one side of the rose branches a dramatic shade of purple-ish red? Note to the wise: to spare your poor fingers any pain, you’ll want to either snip off or break off all of the thorns.

Separate your twigs into two piles. Using thin, flexible wire secure your twigs together near the bottom and again somewhere in between the middle and the top. Don’t worry too much about the metal wire ruining the look of the heart- the bottom wire will be covered by your yarn of choice and you’ll have the option of removing the top wire once it’s no longer needed.

Create an overlapping “v” with your two sections of twigs, and, using your yarn of choice, secure the two sections in place.

Once the bottom “v” is nice and sturdy, you can tie the tops of your twigs together. Do this by first bending the two sections toward each other and tying them in place, leaving the edges free. Next, tie the tippy-tops together. Your heart will probably look a bit wonky at this point… but don’t fear!

With one end of the string at the bottom of your heart, tie the other end of the string (vertically) around the top junction of your heart. As you pull the string tighter, your heart should start to take shape. Keep pulling until the top and bottom meet. After securing the top and bottom together, you can hide all of the messy bits by wrapping the core of your heart with yarn.

Once you’re heart is finished and you’re happy with the result, you can trim off any dangling strings or unruly twigs. Since your branches should be secured in place with yarn, now is also the time to carefully remove any non-essential wire we used in the beginning.

You can surprise your loved one with a heart on his/her pillow, hang your heart, prop it somewhere cute… heck, you can even wear it if you want!

Whatever you choose to do with your heart, hopefully you treat it well and take care of it this Valentine’s Day. Here’s hoping that you enjoyed our first simple labor of love… and maybe it even helped you get in the mood to have a little extra fun this Valentine’s Day? I have some more fun ideas lined up, so buckle your seat-belts and get ready for a romantic ride all the way through til V-Day! :)

Snowdrops… Not Snow

Hello everyone!

I’m happy to report that both today’s skies and mood were of a much sunnier sort. Yippee! It’s amazing how a bit of sunshine and fresh inspiration can lift your spirits. Although the temperatures have taken a bit of a dive towards freezing, it’s still generally enjoyable to spend some time outside. This is an opinion that the plants and flowers seem to share. Tiny green shoots of grape hyacinths are peeking through the ground, and snowdrops and hellebores are nearly in full bud.

Being the proud new owner of an awesome thrift store find and the impatient gardener that I am, I couldn’t resist plucking a few sprouting spring bulbs to bring indoors. Tucked behind a smorgasbord of random kitchenware, this footed tin dish (maybe there’s a more technical name that I’m missing?) was calling my name. I happily snatched it up, paid my pennies and brought it back home to meet my other tin friends.

Not sure if it’s a genuine antique, but who cares! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right? :)

To get started on my little preemptive springtime spectacle, I lined the bowl with a layer of chicken wire. Since this vessel wasn’t particularly meant to house living bulbs, there aren’t any drainage holes… the chicken wire will hopefully make the process of watering the bulbs a bit easier.

Before adding the snowdrops and dirt, I lined the chicken wire with a layer of moss in order to create a sort of planter within a planter. Then it was time to gently tease apart groupings of snowdrops and arrange them within the bowl.

I tucked them into a thin layer of dirt before adding a dressing of moss to make everything look neat and tidy.

If we can’t enjoy a skiff of snow, I’m happy to enjoy my little snowdrops instead! For as long as they continue to blossom, they’ll grace our little coffee table with their light and airy presence. After their curtains have closed and their performance has ended, back into the ground they’ll go!

Forcing bulbs and snipping branches are wonderful ways to make springtime come early. The pussy willows are beginning to burst and I’ve already seen fruit branches of all sorts being sold at the market. So why not treat yourself to a simple spring pick-me-up and trick your brain into thinking colorful thoughts of new life! :)