Friday, January 27, 2012

Crepe Paper Bouquet

Hello once more, friends. This post has taken a while due to the tragedy of me losing the cord that connects my camera to my computer! Luckily, just as I typed those words, I remembered where I had left it. So huzzah for that. Now I'm going to stop writing for a moment so I can actually upload and sort the images.
. . .
So, as you may know, earlier this month some young man and I got engaged. The wedding's over a year away, but that's no reason to put off the DIY elements that will keep. So, for the last two weeks I've been shopping around to figure out what is worth the cost to buy and not have to worry about, and what would be easy to make myself. When I got around to looking at floral arrangements, I decided the universe was just messing with me. Seriously, $100 for a simple bouquet I would use once in my life? Seriously? So, like any crafter, I started looking around for ways I could make this happen without investing in ready-made.
First, I looked at tutorials for arranging bouquets. This tutorial and video on, a site with lots of great wedding resources DIY and otherwise, was my favorite. But then, I ran across something I had never heard of, although now I see that it's rather a common project- crepe flowers! Martha Stewart has a great tutorial up on making very realistic crepe flowers, but I was really inspired by this Mother's Day Corsage tutorial, which incorporates painting the flowers to add color variety. So I set out to combine the beautiful, articulated petals of Martha Stewart's creations with the depth and detail of painted crepe. Here's what happened.

Crepe Paper Bouquet

Crepe streamers in petal color and stem/leaf color
wire cutters
20 gauge floral wire
acid-free glue stick
gouache paints
paintbrushes, size and shape depending on what you want to do with your flowers
water for mixing with gouache and cleaning your brushes
palette or plate or something for holding/mixing your paint
plastic bag to cover your paint-space
Star Trek: DS9 on netflix as background entertainment

Since there are a few steps to this project that tend to spread out, you'll want a work space that's free to be taken over by this project for a while. Like this.

To start a flower, fold one end of your crepe paper over about 1.125" - 1.25", then continue folding it in a flat roll 20 times. Now cut that flat roll into your desired petal shape, making sure to leave the bottom ~.25" of the petals connected at either side. The aforementioned Martha Stewart tutorial has some good petal ideas, but unless you're going for total realism, I would use them as ideas and not strict rules.
Now unroll your petals. The ones that were furthest inside the roll might need a bit of extra shaping, so go ahead and do that now.
Time to play with paint! If you're wanting your flowers to look more real, go ahead and google whatever type of flower you're making and see what sort of color variations happen in nature. I noticed three color schemes that I really liked and used for the three flower types I tried: a lighter color at the center/base of the petal, a darker color at the center/base of the petal, and a color edging the petal.

Gouache is my paint of choice for this because it is as easy as or even easier to use than regular water colors. Use water to thin it out a bit on your palette, and have fun mixing the tones. For my roses, I made half-circles of an interesting mix of bright yellow, flat gold, and light salmon at the base of the petals. My carnations received creamy white edges around each petal. I painted thin, bruised-purple lines up from the base of my quasi-dahlia petals. You can also mix colors down to a thin consistency and use them to tint your petals so that each flower isn't identical to the next, or to make your flowers a better color match to another decoration.
When your petal strips have completely dried, it's time to assemble your flowers. Begin by cutting your floral stems down to a manageable size if necessary. Then, bend about a half inch over 180 degrees at one end. This gives your flower a larger area to glue onto than just the straight end of a wire. With 22 gauge wire, I didn't even need pliers to make this bend.
Now run your glue stick along the bottoms of the first two petals and wrap them around the bent end of the wire. Continue applying glue to the petal bases one or two at a time and layering them around the flower. If your crimp and pleat the bases as you go, this will help your petals fan out a bit, so your flowers won't all be tight buds.

To cover your stems so that they aren't bare wire, cut a length of crepe about 1.5x the length of your wire. If you don't like the color of the crepe, take a moment to tint it with your gouache and let it dry completely. Now fold an end of your stem crepe so that two inches or so of it are pointing 90 degrees away from the rest. Cover the crease with your glue stick.

Roll the crease around the base of your flower, making sure to let the two inch end stick out above the rest of the crepe, as this will be your leaf. Continue wrapping and twisting the long end around your wire. Crepe likes to stick to itself well enough that, aside from the top crease, you probably won't need any glue to hold the rest of your stem crepe in place. When you reach the bottom of your wire, just pinch or cut off any excess crepe. Cut the leaf-end into a leaf-shape and you have a beautiful, unique, painted crepe flower!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Savory Flax Seed Drop Biscuits

Reader. Dear reader. I am doomed. Any time I make my own recipe for something, it comes out delicious to the mouth, yet heinous to the eyes. Perhaps I should take some sort of class on making pretty foods. I don't know. Anyway, I'm sharing another original recipe this week, and I wanted to warn you just how ugly these might be if you try them. I promise that they taste wonderful and will be eaten by you or your guests in a trice! This ugly duckling is a swan of flavor.
Anyway, now you know why there are no pictures with this post.
In other news for the week, I got engaged! That boy and I have been together for six years. I'm pretty stoked.
But back to the real reason you're here.

Savory Flax Seed Biscuits:

2 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp seasoned salt of your choosing
3/4 cup milled flax seed
1/4 cup butter (room temperature, or melted in the microwave if you're impatient like me)
1 Tbsp maple syrup
3/4-1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 450 Fahrenheit. Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl, including flax seed. Add maple syrup and cut in butter. Add milk until dough is slightly sticky. Drop biscuit sized spoonfuls onto a baking sheet, and bake approximately 10 minutes or until peaks start to golden.

I served these with red beans and rice and a side of bacon roasted potatoes. We were happy nommers.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Salsa con Carly

Friends, this Christmas I received three small kitchen appliances, and it made my heart merry. Very merry indeed.
Two of these presents were coffee makers. One is a little Keurig contraption, which I have dubbed R2-D2 and whom makes me delicious and fanciful drinks. The other is a Mr. Coffee, who shall forever be known as C-3PO. Threepio is programmable and makes me large quantities of coffee before I am even out of bed. They are delightful, and perfectly compliment each other in every way.
The third gadget, however, fills a serious deficit in my life as a kitchen user. His name is HK-47 and he is my food processor.
The boy and I were invited over to a friend's place last Friday for board games and whatnot, and I knew that it was the perfect excuse to play with the new toy. My ambitious goal for the future is to follow Sunday Dinners' example and make a fanciful hummus. However, I had time to either look up recipes and do my research, or go to the store and just buy things that looked good. I figure the latter works better when you have any idea what actually goes into something. So I made salsa instead!

Salsa con Carly:

1 large can whole, peeled tomatoes
2 cans original Rotel
1 can large ripe olives, drained
1 can black beans, drained
1 pepper (I used an Anaheim pepper, and made sure to take all of the seeds out.)
1/2 large sweet onion
3-5 cloves of garlic
a generous squeeze of lime juice
1 Tbsp salt
20 turns on a peppercorn grinder (or pepper to taste)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ginger

Blend until awesome.

This recipe does make a huge batch, so it may work for you to dump half of the ingredients in a bowl and only have half in the food processor at a time. I had to go back and forth between two pitchers, but that's okay because HK-47 has three separate containers each with their own blades. He's awesome like that.
Be prepared for another recipe next week. You won't even need fancy tools for it!