Minnie and Mickey Mouse Pumpkins

23 Sep

Minnie and Mickey Mouse painted pumpkin

M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E!

My husband and I, unsurprisingly, both showed up to the pumpkin painting party with Disney ideas. I’ll post his amazing Jack Skellington pumpkin soon.

For Mickey and Minnie, I used acrylic craft paint and the help of painter’s tape to make the center line. I stamped the white polka dots with an unused eraser on the end of a pencil. You know I love those polka dots—see the dotting technique in action on Easter eggs, or another finished pumpkin example with gold dots.

I used scrapbook paper to make the ears, ribbon for the bow and hot glue to hold it all together. The ears were a bit tenuous—perhaps super glue or a pin would have been more secure?

The best part about painted pumpkins (besides the lovely lack of pumpkin guts)? They’ll last all season on your shelf, so it’s not too early to get crafting!

Cat in the Hat Costume (with Thing 1 and Thing 2!)

21 Sep

Cat in the Hat group costume

We have a box of felt in our attic that comes down exactly one day each year: October 30.

Even though Halloween falls on the same day each year, and even though it’s the very last day of the month—with no possibility of sneaking up on us—Greg and I find ourselves in a yearly panic over Halloween costumes. It turns into a late-night, felt-to-the-rescue DIY session on October 30 . . . or sometimes the morning of October 31, if we’re being completely honest.

Cat in the Hat Cat Costume

It’s partially because we know that dressing up a pet is a ridiculous tradition. It’s partially because we don’t want to spend money on said ridiculous tradition. Every year, we consider skipping, and every year we cave at the last minute. Because now that it’s a tradition, we just can’t seem to let it go. (It all began with a dollar store devil costume, bought on a whim, and anyone who has ever met Pixel can certainly understand.)

A few years ago, we threw together this Cat & the Hat group costume. We already had red shirts, so I just printed, cut and taped on Thing 1 and Thing 2 graphics from the interwebs. The cat’s hat is a cardboard cylinder (a breadcrumb container, I believe) covered with felt stripes and attached with elastic (another supply that rarely comes out besides October 30). Same story for the bowtie—felt, hot glue and elastic. In hindsight, a simple piece of cardboard under the bill of the hat would have helped it keep its shape.

Cat in the Hat with Thing 2 Costume

I was so happy with the finished costumes! They were SO easy and so cute! They couldn’t withstand a party, but Pixel hasn’t been getting many invites lately, anyway.

I have at least two other group/pet Halloween costumes from past years (and one doesn’t even involve felt!), so look for those soon!

Coconut Cheesecake and Cookie Nests

18 Mar

Coconut cheesecake and nests

As previously stated here, here, here, here, here and here, I love a good cheesecake. Not only is cheese my “love language” (making cheesecake my favorite dessert), the very fact that cheesecake freezes beautifully makes it a welcome addition to nearly every holiday or party I host. Something I can check off months in advance? Yes, please.

I tried and loved a new recipe for this cheesecake. I skipped the strawberry topping and instead spread a thin layer of whipped cream on top (1.5 cups cream with a couple teaspoons of sugar). Not only did this make a smooth, pretty surface for my decoration, but it was delicious. I might add a whipped top to all my cheesecakes from now on! And one last recipe change—I didn’t want to buy coconut rum, so I replaced it with 1/8 cup regular rum and 1/8 cup leftover cream of coconut.

I served the coconut cheesecake with both chocolate sauce and berry compote on the side, and while delicious with both, it was great on its own. I probably won’t bother with the toppings next time.

Coconut Cheesecake and Nests

Now for the super cute nests on top. Because they’re cookies, they could easily be placed on any type of cake, cupcake or cheesecake, or served solo. The recipe makes plenty, so I had a platter of cookie nests on the side. The solo cookies weren’t as good as the cheesecake, but very kid-friendly.

The recipe is from the back of the M&Ms bag, and my only modifications were to use fewer M&Ms (just 3 per nest) and to melt some chocolate chips for the center of the nests to act as glue. I have no idea how the M&Ms would stay put otherwise.

Coconut & M&Ms Bird’s Nest Cookies
Yield: 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients:
1 1/3 cup flaked, sweetened coconut
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups M&M’s Chocolate Eggs

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Spread coconut on non-greased cookie sheet. Toast in oven, stirring occasionally, until it turns light golden, about 25 minutes (Edit: this is crazy too long. Watch carefully, stir often, don’t be surprised if it’s done before 10.)

2. Remove coconut from cookie sheet and set aside.

3. Increase oven temperature to 350°F. In large bowl, add butter and sugar and whip until light and fluffy; beat in egg and vanilla.

4. In medium bowl, combine flour and salt. Blend into creamed mixture.

5. Form dough into 1-1/4-inch balls. Roll heavily into toasted coconut.

6. Place coconut cookies 2 inches apart on lightly greased cookie sheets. Make indentation with thumb in center of each cookie. Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until golden brown.

7. Remove cookies and cool completely. Fill indentations with M&M’s Chocolate Eggs.

Coconut Nests

Eggs in a Basket Casserole

17 Mar

Eggs in a Basket Casserole

I made this bacon and egg casserole for last year’s Easter brunch, and it was the perfect combination of festive and flavorful. I love that it can be made ahead AND made *half* vegetarian.

At the recommendation of reviewers, I boiled the potato cubes for five minutes before adding. To make half of our casserole vegetarian, I skipped the bacon fat for cooking and greasing, and I (obviously) left the bacon out of one half. But, let it be known, BOTH sides were delicious!

Easter Candy Bark

19 Feb

Easter candy bark

I saw these ingenious cookie-cutter candy bark pieces on the Etsy blog and had to create my own. Even though I attempted something very similar to the original, I love the endless possibilities! With slight modifications, I’ve also made peppermint Christmas bark and dark chocolate Valentine’s Day bark. Shamrocks with green melts and candy pieces, anyone?

Easter candy bark

The limiting factor is definitely the number of cookie cutters, but these harden quickly in the freezer!

Easter candy bark

P.S. In the years since I’ve updated Seakettle, I’ve had millions of post-worthy moments: backyard parties, holiday desserts, homemade gifts. I’ve also re-created a number of previous blog projects and come to realize just how much I depend on my Seakettle notes, links and photos! So I’ve decided to throw up a bunch of old and random posts, for my future self’s sake! They will likely lack the story-telling and in-depth instructions, but they’ll get the ideas out there and maintain this site as a reference.

Easter candy bark

Easter Egg Bread Wreath

31 Mar

Easter Egg Bread Wreath

Easter Egg Bread Wreath

I have a definite preference for bringing pretty foods to parties and potlucks; I never contribute meat, for example, and have mostly avoided green salads. Even though my dishes are generally well received, I figure I can only get away with donut pops and sugar cookies so many times, right? Because of this, I’m always excited to find beautiful savory foods (bonus points if they’re holiday-themed).

After seeing many vibrant, frosted, sprinkle-y (three things I love!) Easter egg breads gone terribly crazy wrong, I was happy to find a few chic examples. After seeing this wreath, I fell in love with the robin’s egg idea and set about recreating it.

Easter egg bread wreath

I dyed my (uncooked) eggs turquoise with food coloring. Rather than brown paint, I decided to add flecks of gold, and I splatter painted the eggs with non-toxic paint. Then I lightly coated the colored eggs in oil—it supposedly helps prevent color splotchiness from condensation on the eggs.

Adding gold flecks to Easter eggs

After decorating the eggs, I found a highly reviewed recipe and went for it! Creating the wreath shape looked impossible (and I was nervous), but I can assure you that it’s easier to do it than it is to read how to do it. The dough is also nice and flexible with plenty of room for error and adjustment.

Easter Egg Bread Wreath
Adapted, only slightly, from allrecipes.com

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
2/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
3 eggs
6 dyed eggs, brought to room temperature

Directions
1. In a large bowl, combine 1 cup flour, sugar, salt and yeast; stir well.

2. Combine milk and butter in a small saucepan; heat until milk is warm and butter is softened but not melted.

3. Gradually add the milk and butter to the flour mixture; stirring constantly.

4. Add two of the eggs and 1/2 cup flour; beat well.

5. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition.

6. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.

7. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil.

8. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

9. Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.

10. Divide the dough into two equal size rounds; cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

11. Roll each round into a long roll about 36 inches long and 1 1/2 inches thick.

Rolling dough

Rolled dough

12. Set the two rolls of dough parallel to each other, slightly offset (this will help hide the ends later). Criss-cross the pieces to form a loosely braided ring, leaving gaps for the colored eggs.

Making a bread wreath

Making a bread wreath

13. Seal the ends of each roll together and tuck under the other roll, if possible.

Hiding the ends

Dough wreath

Hiding the ends

Dough wreath

14. Transfer the dough to a greased baking sheet.

15. Slide eggs in matching orientation (wide end of egg, pointy end of egg followed by wide end of egg, pointy end of egg etc.) into slots and reshape dough as needed.

Ready to rise again

Ready to rise again

16. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and set in a warm place and to rise until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

17. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.

18. Lightly beat remaining egg and brush a coat over risen dough.

Brushing with egg

19. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden.

The finished wreath will be quite large—larger than I had anticipated and larger than any of my platters! I ended up liking the round look of a pizza stone for serving, though a large cutting board or even the cookie sheet would work, as well.

Have a wonderful Easter!

Easter egg bread wreath

Bottle Cap Wreath Ornament

22 Mar

Bottle cap wreath ornament

To celebrate my dad’s 60th birthday last summer, my family headed to Denver in search of mountains and beer. (And don’t worry, we definitely found both.) Great Divide, the maker of my dad’s favorite beer, is there along with a whole host of other awesome craft breweries.

I’ve never been crazy about bottle cap crafts (so many ugly ideas!), so I was surprised to find cute ornament ideas online. I gathered up the caps from several breweries we visited in Colorado, and later made this wreath as a souvenir and Christmas gift for my dad.

I didn’t get a photo of the back before giving it away, unfortunately, but it’s pretty basic. I cut a circle wreath shape out of card stock, and then I hot-glued the bottle caps to the card stock. I made sure to get a little glue on the sides, in-between each bottle cap, as well. The card stock just adds a little extra surface area for the thin caps to stick to and helps support the ribbon. If you have enough bottle caps, it would look prettier and be sturdier if you repeated the process on the back, making the ornament double-sided. I didn’t have enough caps, but was happy with just a one-sided version, after I cleaned up the stray hot glue on the back.

This ornament would look great with all matching bottle caps, especially if they have a cool pattern or are a Christmas-y color. Start collecting now, and you’ll have plennnnty of time to put these together for the holidays!

Merry Christmas!

25 Dec

Christmas card 2014

I’m not sure if it was the 4:30 am wakeup time, leaving my family in STL, the flights and late luggage or the fact that we’re still wrapping presents, but today hasn’t actually felt like Christmas to me! Maybe tomorrow, after lots of sleep, cocoa and Christmas music! In the meantime, I’ll leave you with our annual Christmas card collage. Thank you for reading Seakettle this year!

Photo locations (clockwise from upper left):
Los Angeles, CA (UCLA gala)
Zion National Park, UT
Carlsbad, CA
Rocky Mountain National Park, CO
Las Vegas, NV
Zion National Park, UT
Santa Monica, CA

Beer Bread Kit

9 Dec

Beer Bread Mix

I don’t know about you, but I love thinking about, shopping for, and making gifts for Christmas. Even though there’s always (way, way) too much to do, I really look forward to this crazy time of year!

Beer Bread Mix

We gave out these beer bread kits a couple Christmases ago, inspired by a store-bought version. Just mix up the dry ingredients (which you’ll already have on hand), bottle them, attach the directions and give with a bottle of beer (or not). The bread is delicious and so easy for the recipient to make!

Beer Bread Mix

Supplies (for one mix):
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Cardstock and string or ribbon
Large glass bottle

I’ve had great luck finding the right size bottles at thrift stores, but TJMaxx-type stores typically have an assortment, or you can buy bottles for $4 at IKEA.

Directions:
1. In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients. Using a funnel, gradually pour the ingredients into a bottle. Tap the bottle frequently, encouraging the mix to settle, until all ingredients fit. Seal.

2. Make tags with instructions for the recipient. For tags like mine, first print a pattern on the back of paper. (I used Elli’s striped gift wrap, but there are tons of free printables out there, including lots more on the Elli blog.) Then flip your paper over and print my tag template on the other side. Cut one out, punch a hole and tie it on!

Beer Bread Mix

These are easy gifts to customize, too — want to give a more substantial gift? Give the recipient their favorite six-pack. Traveling by plane and can’t bring liquids? Tie an interesting bottle opener around the neck of the dry ingredients. Whether you’re giving one mix or twenty, you can still make them personal — something that I absolutely love!

Stamped Quote on Wood

23 Nov

Stamped wood slice with moss and marble

I have always loved this quote (always, as in, since it started popping up all over on t-shirts and tacky Pinterest inspirational images). And while I was most certainly not familiar with John Muir before moving to California, I’m now so grateful for all the work he did, especially in preserving one of the most beautiful places ever — Yosemite National Park.

This quote seemed perfect for my brother, a person rather uninterested in the outdoors who then moved to Portland (away from the bugs and oppressive humidity) and suddenly loved climbing mountain peaks.

Stamped quote on wood

Once I had a sanded piece of wood in hand, this project was incredibly easy. (And once I decided not to worry about boring things like straight lines.) I used an alphabet stamp set that I got several years ago at Michael’s for $1 and some ink I had on hand. Any basic stamping supplies will do.

I set the stamps on the wood to choose an approximate layout.

DSC_0122-2

I often rubberband letters together when using my tiny stamps, and sometimes turn one backwards to serve as a blank spot when one of the letters is repeated (since I only have one of each letter to work with). It actually works better with words that are shorter than mountains (more like mount), and isn’t really necessary when doing something as free form as this project ended up being. Still, it’s something to keep in mind for projects that require more precision.

DSC_0124-2

I finished the project with a sawtooth hanger hot-glued to the back. You can also see from the dark spot in the center that this wood hasn’t quite dried out, so it’s likely to crack a bit more along the way.

Type on wood

I intended to finish this gift for my brother while he still lived in Portland, but ended up being rather late (oops!) and he’s now across the country. Hopefully it’s a nice reminder of all those Pacific Northwest mountain adventures, and maybe even encouragement to travel west! (Come visit, Jason!)