Sunday, April 16, 2017

Embellished Easter Eggs



What a great weekend this has been so far! Spring is in full force now. The sun is out, flowers are starting to bloom, and the grass is a vibrant green. This year, my daughter Adelaide is old enough to take part in some fun Easter activities, so yesterday I took her to a community egg hunt. She didn't really know what was going on and only found a grand total of two pieces of candy with my help, but she loved being around all the people and the excitement. The only thing she wasn't crazy about was the Easter bunny, haha. Later in the day, we went to a nearby park for our own little family Easter egg hunt.



In the past, I've enjoyed creating elaborate Easter egg designs. This year, I managed to find a little time to do a few. I created some patterns with markers as I usually do, but I wanted to do something a little different this time, so I added some rhinestone embellishments for some added sparkle. The results are below.










Today looks like it's going to be another beautiful day. I'm off to church soon with my family. I hope you all have a wonderful Easter Sunday!

Niki



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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Candy Deviled Eggs



What a crazy few months it has been. I started off the year with the arrival of my second daughter, Charly, so it has been just a whirlwind of mom duties as I’ve adjusted to becoming a mother of two. Charly has been a little angel, though lately we’ve been dealing with some sleep issues with BOTH babies. Some days end (and begin!) with exhaustion. There are good days, too, of course.

Charly


Recently, I’ve been focusing on getting back into the swing of things with work and trying to find a balance with family life. And other fun stuff, too. Like candy.

Last April Fools Day, I made a meatloaf decorated as a cake, complete with a mashed potato sundae. It was one of my favorite posts from last year, so I came up with another fun food twist for this April 1st. This one happens to be perfect for Easter time, too: candy deviled eggs.

These “deviled eggs” are actually white chocolate coated candies with various flavored fillings and toppings. I’m relatively new to the art of candy-making, so I’m still learning a few things. I’m pleased with how these turned out, though, and they were a lot of fun to make. Follow the directions below to make your own for April Fools Day, Easter, or just because you like candy. :)

Happy Spring, everyone!
Niki




Candy Deviled Eggs

Materials and Ingredients:

-egg-shaped candy mold (I used the Mirenlife 8-cavity silicone mold.)
-chocolate thermometer
-bag of white chocolate chips
-red sugar sprinkles
-yellow food coloring (optional)

for fillings and toppings:
-raspberry cheesecake: ready-to-eat cheesecake filling, raspberry jam, graham cracker crumbs
-peanut butter (like Butterfingers): peanut butter, yellow frosting, candy corn
-cookies and cream: Oreos, white chocolate chips, yellow frosting




Directions:

1. Melt the white chocolate chips in 15-30 second intervals in the microwave.
**Tip: I would suggest using a chocolate thermometer and learning how to temper the chocolate properly for a better result. I used this tutorial from Sugar Hero as a guideline.

2. Coat the candy mold with white chocolate to form the outer shell. Chill for a few minutes to harden.
**Tip: Try to keep the outer shell on the thinner side, or else you’ll end up with a thick, hard-to-bite shell. As you can see from the pictures, I haven’t quite mastered this yet. Dealing with melted chocolate can get quite messy if you don’t know what you’re doing like me, haha.

3. Make your fillings and place into the hardened chocolate in the molds, leaving room for the top layer of chocolate. Chill for a few minutes to set the fillings if needed. See below for the flavors I made, though there are endless possibilities.



4. Pour melted white chocolate into the mold to fill the remaining space in the cavities. Chill to set.
**Tip: Scrape the top with a knife to try to keep the top as smooth as possible.

5. Remove the candy from the mold. Use a paring knife to trim any rough edges.

6. Pipe the desired topping onto the eggs around the “yolk” part of the egg.

7. Sprinkle with red sugar sprinkles.



Flavor variations

For raspberry cheesecake:
filling: equal portions of cheesecake mix and graham cracker crumbs + a thin layer of raspberry jam
topping: cheesecake filling + a few drops of yellow food coloring, if desired

For peanut butter:
filling: melt a handful of candy corn with a spoonful of peanut butter in short 15-30 second intervals in the microwave
topping: equal parts frosting and peanut butter mixed + a few drops of yellow food coloring, if desired

For cookies and cream:
filling: equal portions of melted white chocolate and crushed Oreo cookies
topping: yellow frosting (or white frosting + a few drops of yellow food coloring)





RELATED LINKS


Mirenlife egg mold on Amazon




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Sunday, January 1, 2017

Welcome 2017

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday break. I had a great time celebrating my baby’s first Christmas and birthday this past week.

 

Well, now the holidays are over, and it's time to not only look back on the past year, but also to look forward to what new opportunities and possibilities 2017 has in store. I had a lot of great things happen to me in 2016, and I have a feeling this coming year will be just as eventful. Life is sure keeping me on my toes!

Looking Back

First, a reflection on 2016. I, for one, had quite a year. There were many changes that took place, both personally and professionally, and all positive for the most part. I started out the year by becoming a mother when my daughter Adelaide was born right at the end of 2015, on December 30th. Then this past summer, my family and I moved across the country from New Hampshire to Utah for my husband’s schooling. The new baby and relocation pushed me to take a new direction professionally since I had to leave my office job in book publishing and all my family (aka, babysitters) behind in New England. It was hard at first, and we had a few months there without much for income, but I am now happily working from home and growing a freelance business for myself. It has allowed me not only to spend more time with my daughter, but also to expand into other areas of work more suitable to my creative side, such as illustration and graphic design, as well as devote some time to personal projects. While it may be a little more stressful and difficult working this way, I am loving the newfound independence and flexibility it has brought to my life.

Looking Forward

Similar to last year, I am looking forward to a big life change right at the start of the year… another baby! We are expecting our second little girl towards the end of January, and I am feeling both excited for the added blessing to our lives and apprehensive of the new challenges it will bring. But mostly excited. I can’t wait to meet her.

Work-wise, I am optimistic for what is to come. It was really scary to abandon a long-time, steady office job and jump blindly into the role of working stay-at-home mom, but now that I have a few months of routine and steady jobs under my belt, my confidence is increasing, and I am excited to keep growing.

My Goals for the Coming Year

I like to start out the year with a few resolutions. I’m not always good at keeping them, but it gives me a good starting point for the brand new year.



Growing My Business
I’ve gotten to work on some great projects and create relationships with wonderful clients just in the past few months. I want to continue to build upon that by adding to my portfolio and actively seeking clients and jobs that I want to be a part of so I can continue doing what I love while helping to support my family.

Self-publishing
I love books and magazines (especially those that are DIY themed, of course!) and have always wanted to create my own. Actually coming up with a legit proposal to send to publishers may be something I would do in the future, but for now, I like the idea of self-publishing. I’ve worked in publishing for over a decade designing and laying out books, so I have the technical know-how. It’s finding the time to create the content that’s the hard part. Or even just coming up with an idea. I experimented with creating my own adult coloring book and self-publishing it via Createspace on Amazon. I would like to continue to expand on that with at least one more book this year.




Blogging 
I always feel like I could do better with this blog, so as always, that is one of my resolutions for this year. In addition to just posting more regularly and frequently, I would also like to experiment with adding other types of content, like videos and better tutorials.

And Just For Fun...

Journaling
I am always wanting to keep a sketchbook, write down lists and ideas, be more organized, make a photo scrapbook, write down thoughts, and record personal history. Well, I’ve decided that I could probably combine all of that into one task—journaling. My initial idea is not to have one dedicated notebook, but rather to take random bits from different sources and compile them as digital pages that I can then print later if I decide to do so. I can scan drawings and hand-written notes, or make use of digital text files and photos. While I do like the idea of a physical journal, I figure this way will give me the freedom to do whatever (doodle, hand-write, type, paint, photograph) with any materials (paper and pen, computer, phone, camera, paint) without restricting me to one set medium, size, or method. Plus, bonus, I lay out books for a living and I enjoy doing it, so it will be fun to put the pages together like a digital scrapbook. I will feature some of my pages as I finish them here.

Photography
I got an awesome new Canon camera this year, and I have been having a lot of fun taking pictures (mostly of Adelaide). I would love to learn more about how to use it and improve my photography.



So those are my resolutions for this year. I can’t wait to get started!

Happy New Year!
Niki



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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Santa Doll Makeover

Well, it's officially the Christmas season, which means sparkling snow, pretty twinkle lights, cookie baking, and holiday crafting.

To kick off this December, I thought I would share this DIY gift that I had fun making for my mom a few years ago. She likes to collect Santa dolls to display in her home at Christmastime, so I came up with the idea to design and make her a custom doll. I ended up buying a Ken doll and modifying it to look like Santa Claus. See below for my work-in-progress pictures and the end results.




BEFORE
This particular doll worked well because I could use the boots in the final Santa outfit.



I used permanent markers to add some wrinkles and rosy cheeks to the face.



I sewed batting scraps around the body of the doll to plump him up a bit. I then designed and knit a miniature winter sweater, and also sewed him a pair of pants and hat from fabric scraps.



I glued strips of white specialty fur yarn to the face to create the eyebrows and hair, and knit a small block with the yarn to create the beard.



AFTER

Happy December!
Niki



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And don't forget... My Christmas coloring book is for sale on Amazon!



Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Pretty Patterned Pumpkin Roll

Thanksgiving is around the corner. Usually, I love to make pies for dessert. And there will be pie. Lots of it. But sometimes it is fun to do something different. I like to use the Thanksgiving season to experiment with new fall recipes. A little while back, I discovered patterned cakes on Pinterest was instantly intrigued. Pretty patterns + baking = LOVE. They are just so pretty.

Pinterest search for "patterned cake roll"

Basically, it is a swiss roll cake where a design is drawn out with different colored cake batter before pouring the rest of the batter into the pan, so it creates a design on the cake. This was the first one I attempted. It was a basic yellow cake with strawberry jam and whipped cream filling, so the pattern was appropriately themed.

strawberry cake roll

For my second attempt, I created my own recipe for a fall-themed cake. It is chocolate/pumpkin flavored with an autumn pattern and color scheme. Here is the result:



This would be a nice addition to a Thanksgiving table. The extra effort to create such a pretty presentation are perfect for special occasions. The link to download the printable recipe is below.



Pretty Patterned Chocolate Pumpkin Roll

Ingredients

Cake
• 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
• 1/2 tsp baking powder
• 1/2 tsp baking soda
• 1/2 tsp cinnamon
• 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
• 1/4 tsp salt
• 3 large room temperature eggs
• 1 cup sugar
• 2/3 cup pumpkin puree
• 1 Tbl cocoa

Filling
• 1-8 oz. package cream cheese
• 6 tablespoons softened butter
• 3/4 cup powdered sugar
• 1/4 cup cocoa
• 1 tsp vanilla




Directions
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a 15.5 x 10.5 inch jelly roll pan. Line with parchment paper and grease and flour the paper.



2. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Set aside. In a larger bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar. Add the pumpkin and mix well. Stir in the flour mixture.


3. Reserve 3/4 cup of the batter and add the tablespoon of cocoa. Place chocolate batter into a squeeze bottle or piping bag. Create your design on the prepared parchment-lined pan.


4. Bake the chocolate pattern for just a few minutes in the oven until the design begins to set.
5. Pour the remaining pumpkin batter into the pan over the design and spread evenly. Bake for 13-15 minutes until the cake springs back when touched.
6. Immediately turn cake out onto a baking rack covered with a clean towel that has been sprinkled with powdered sugar. Carefully remove the parchment. Cool slightly, but not completely—just so it can be handled more easily. While still warm, flip over again onto a clean parchment lined pan so the design is face down once more.


Roll up the cake with the parchment (from one of the shorter ends) and let cool further.


7. For the filling, beat together the cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, cocoa, and vanilla until smooth. Carefully unroll the cool cake. Trim off the thinner, harder edges to even out. Spread the filling over the top, without going all the way to the edges. Roll up the cake once more with the filling, placing the end at the bottom to keep it from unrolling. Trim the ends for a clean, neat look if needed.


8. Cover and chill to set the filling. Bring back to room temperature before serving if desired.


Enjoy!
Niki



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