Thursday, November 17, 2016

Almond Berry Linzer Cookies

I have always wanted to make these cookies.
And I'm not sure why it's taken me this long??
They're so beautiful, like little stained glass windows.
And they're amazingly delicious.
They're the kind of cookies that make your house smell like Christmas.
And puts a smile on every kid (and husband's) face.
Yep.  That's what these are all about.
I guess the reason I finally ventured out and tried this gorgeous cookies is that Crisco All-vegetable shortening asked me to share a holiday recipe with you.  So I tried something new.

I already use Crisco for the Never Fail Pie Crust recipe, and I use it in my favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies, and also in the Gingerbread Softies (Dang.  Are the holidays here yet??  I need all of these).

So I already know how amazing Crisco works in baked goods.  It really gives cookies that really light-and-crisp-but-still-soft kind of touch.  It's hard to describe----it's just that, magic of Crisco!
And I LOVE the Crisco butter-flavor baking sticks because it makes the process even easier.  For this recipe, you just toss in one stick. EASY.

(makes appx. 2 dozen cookies)

1 stick Crisco® Baking Sticks Butter Flavor All-Vegetable Shortening (or 1 cup of Crisco)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp almond extract

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup ground almonds (optional)

Berry jam
Powdered sugar for dusting

Beat the first four ingredients in a bowl with an electric mixer for one minute. 
In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients together.  The ground almonds are optional, but they are SO good in there---they add a lot of flavor.  To create the ground almonds, I took a small package of sliced almonds and ground them in my food processor. If you don't have one, just crunch them up with your hands or use a mallet over a bag.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix, just until incorporated.  Try not to over mix.

Work in small batches and roll the dough onto a floured surface, till it's fairly thin.  It's important to work in small batches so your dough doesn't become oversaturated with flour and become heavy.  You want to it stay light and soft.  I also prefer to roll the dough as thin as possible without it breaking, since you are going to sandwich two cookies together in the end.  This makes for a lighter cookie if you can roll them thin. 

Use a cookie cutter to cut out many stars (you can use other shapes too.  I just like the look of stars, but they're definitely more fragile to work with!).  Use a metal spatula to transfer the stars to a baking sheet.   Then use a smaller cookie cutter to cut out a smaller star from the center, on half of the cookies.  Remove the smaller star with a toothpick.

Bake the cookies at 350 degrees for 6-8 minutes. 
Allow the cookies to cook.  Then comes the fun part...

Use your favorite berry jams to create the little "stained glass" windows.  I used homemade Strawberry Jam, Blackberry, and some other berry mixes.  It looks so pretty to use a variety of colors.  Maybe I should throw jalapeno jelly in there for a real holiday mix!

Spread a small amount of jam in the center of each full star.  You don't need a lot of jam, or it will drip over the side.

Then dust the cut-out cookies with powdered sugar.  Place them on a baking sheet or plate to do this---and shake a small strainer filled with powdered sugar over the top.  Then place each window cookie on top of the jam cookies and carefully sandwich them together.
And you're done!

Mmmm.  I can smell these all over again.
And I definitely won't admit how many I ate while preparing this blog post.
Of course every bit started with,  "I'll just eat one point of the star"....and ended with me having to try every flavor in the mix.
Hooray for the holidays!  And hooray for Crisco.

For more recipe ideas, check out the RECIPES tab at the top.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Everyday Sweatshirt Pattern is HERE!

You guys. This has been a long time coming!
But I'm SO excited to finally announce that the Everyday Sweatshirt Pattern has arrived!

We'll show you how to turn cozy piles of this, into....

I hope you have a blast sewing up all the best sweatshirt options -- kangaroo pocket, high low, tunic length, and optional puffed sleeves. It's the perfect cold weather staple for your boys AND girls, babies AND tweens.


The Everyday Sweatshirt - $9
Purchase HERE.

There are 11 Sizes and 5 Styles.
You'll find all the info HERE in the SHOP.
But here's some more details...

The Basic version of the Everyday Sweatshirt is the classic that you'll reach for over and over again. But it's also infinitely customizable. I love contrasting ribbing! And this lace-overlay version I made for Clara is one of my favorites... so far...

The High-Low version is really one of the reasons I wanted to create this pattern. I love the look of a high-low hemline!

Plus you can make it with no ribbing, so simple. It's also got you covered with a wide size range - 12 months to 12 years.
And finally, I had to throw in another couple fun options. The tunic length is perfect for leggings (or you could even extend it a few more inches for a little dress). And for just a tiny added effort, the puffed sleeves add an adorable little girly touch.

I have no idea why, but Clara has decided that glasses are her new favorite accessory for photoshoots. But I completely agree.

Whatever style you choose, it's going to be a party.
And if you've been subscribing to our newsletter....
You know that we announced and released this pattern yesterday to you guys!  That's right, another high five for reading our newsletter.

Plus, we gave away FIVE FREE PATTERNS to newsletter readers as well.
Woot woot.
So subscribe to our newsletter over there in the right-hand column.

When you're ready to sew your Everyday Sweatshirt, we've also created a HEADQUARTERS page----with additional links, fabric info, tips, FAQs, and other tutorials. This will be an ongoing resource page that grows over time.   So check that out as well.

Now walk your little fingers over to the SHOP!
Happy Sweatshirt Sewing my friends.

Friday, October 28, 2016

How to be Nick Wilde the Fox from Zootopia

Owen is a pretty funny kid.
In groups and social scenes, he's somewhat quiet and shy.
But ask him to dance or model for photos?....and he totally hams it up.

In fact he wasn't an ounce embarrassed to be walking the streets dressed like a fox, with mom and camera close behind. 

Like Nick Wilde, I think he enjoyed the attention of owning the moment.
What a guy.

Oh, this fox head was so much fun to make.  And could be used for so many different animals ---- bear, pig, bunny, elephant.

The best moment of the season is when Owen walked in the room and saw the finished fox head and bellowed out, "EPIC!"  Haha. 
Making Halloween dreams come true for everyone.

Now, in all honesty when Owen said he wanted to be Nick the fox from Zootopia, I first looked on Amazon so I could click and purchase a costume.  I'm kind of in that "we can only make one kid's halloween costume a year" mode.
But I was totally unimpressed with what I saw.  The costumes were all those onesie type things, where the shirt and pants are attached and the whole thing velcros in the back?
No gracias.

So we put together our own look, with the fox head being the star.


You'd be surprised how hard it is to find a green shirt!  So....RIT Dye to the rescue. 

• I found a white cotton shirt at Old Navy and dyed it in a bowl in my sink, using this liquid Apple Green dye.  His shirt in the movie is actually a green print with palm leaves, but this was close enough. Make sure your shirt is 100% cotton or it might not dye properly (see next bullet point)

Use my tutorial here for info on dying fabric and elastic.

 It's also hard to find simple blue/pink striped fabric. So....

• I cut out a tie using my Everyday Necktie Pattern, in navy blue fabric.  
• I sewed skinny satin ribbon to the fabric to create the stripes, spacing them about an inch apart.  I just used the width of my ruler to help guide me.  I sewed the ribbon the whole length of the outer tie fabric (it didn't take as long as you would think).   And I actually love how it turned out.  The satin makes the cotton fabric feel a bit "fancy".  I might have to try this technique for reals on other ties.


As I mentioned above, the real star of this costume is the head----kind of like adding a yarn wig to your ensemble.
I'll have to do a full tutorial for this later.  But here are some photos to get you started:

• I used the same concept as the Bat Costumes, Kitty Cat Costume, and the hood in the Beach Robe Pattern.
• I used white faux fur for the outer head and orange cotton fabric for the lining.
• I drafted my own patterns and sewed everything first.  Then I spray-painted everything with orange paint.
• For the tail, I added stuffing and bunch of floral wire stems so the tail could bend and stick out.
• Once the orange paint dried, I used black spray paint to add some accents.
• Then I sewed the ears to the head (similar to the Cat and Bat costumes)
• I added two ties at the bottom of the hood so it would stay on his head (but this is optional.  It would have stayed on without the straps also).  I used pieces of bias tape with velcro attached.

And there you go!
Hat and tail ready to go.

(And, another goofball who likes to get into character.
The moves were all her own.  I merely asked her to try it on for size. )

• The tail is attached to the back waistband of the pants with a couple safety pins.

I pinned the tail from underneath...meaning: when you're pinning, hold the tail UP toward the shirt, then when you flip it over it helps it to stick out more.  

Then throw on your brown pants and make your sly way to the party. 

Happy Halloween from Willardtopia!
Have a festive weekend!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Mini Key Lime Pies

The holiday season is coming....which means, time to make pie!
Or many pies.
Or MINI pies.

YES.  I love pie!
And I asked Owen to help me with the recipe because he loves pie too.
Really, he just loves to bake.  Isn't it fun when you start seeing real interests in your children?  Just last Sunday, out of the blue he asked if we could make Peach Cobbler.  Um, sure!
He's also helped me make Pumpkin Pie.  And now we'll add this to his resume as well. 

Daisy Sour Cream asked me to share a holiday recipe with you. And it was a no-brainer:

Lime + Sour cream + and mini pie tins?
Who doesn't love mini things??

And with the Daisy Squeeze bottle, this recipe is super easy for kids to help out.  Have you seen those bottles?  Brilliant.  I keep thinking of all the chili pot-lucks we've been to over the years, and how fantastic it would be to have a Daisy Squeeze Sour Cream like that!

Okay let's get squeezing....

(makes 12 mini pies or one standard pie)

1 cup sugar
3 Tbl corn starch

1/4 cup melted butter (and somewhat cooled)
1 Tbl zested lime rind
1 cup lowfat milk
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
3 egg yolks, slightly beaten

1 cup (8 oz) of Daisy Brand Sour Cream

• Combine sugar and cornstarch in a stove-top pan.
• Mix in the rest of the ingredients EXCEPT the sour cream.
• Cook over low to medium heat, stirring constantly until thick.
• Allow the mixture to cool.

Then comes the fun part.
Squeeze in the Daisy Sour Cream.
And as any 8 year-old boy would do, inspect the contraption to see how this amazing invention works.

For the recipe you need 1 cup of sour cream, which is approximately 1/2 of these squeeze top bottles.  I just told Owen to squeeze in about half of it---you don't need to be precise.
And I love that there the squeeze top meant one less thing to clean.

Then fill those mini pie tins on up!

Top them with a bit of whipped cream and a sprinkle of lime rind.
And smile at how amazing your house smells.
Chill them till you're ready to eat.

These can be made one day ahead, but I wouldn't do more than that or the crust will get soft.  And if you're asked to bring them a baby shower.....double or triple the recipe. And pull out the big trays.

Okay, want to make your own pies for the holidays??  With Daisy Squeeze Sour Cream?
Tell me in the comments, what's your favorite holiday tradition?....