Category / CREATE

Patriotic Poundcake (Kid Chef Friendly!)

I’m no cook, but I do love a pretty dish – especially when it’s dessert. Whether it’s Memorial Day, the 4th of July, or just any old summer day, you must try this simple treat. I love it as a way to include kiddos in the kitchen — they can wash and chop fruit, scoop Cool Whip, and of course cut stars out of the poundcake!

You don’t even need directions or an ingredients list — just slice up a frozen Sara Lee poundcake (and cut into stars!), add sliced red and blue berries (I used strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries), and add a tub of Cool Whip. Light and refreshing and oh-so-patriotic-summer!

Sugar Cookie Decorating Tips & Supplies

In recent years, I’ve gotten pretty into the decorated cookie craze. I love any artsy project, but these happen to work year-round for a sweet treat and they are wonderful to gift. It’s a relatively inexpensive hobby and the cost is your time, not so much money — I’d guess I have MAYBE a hundred bucks in ALL my supplies I’ve collected over the past several years. (Okay, that’s assuming you already have basic baking stuff on hand like a mixer and cookie sheets.)

Today, I wanted to share my favorite tips and tools for decorating (full disclosure: I’m not a professional baker, I just do this for fun!) as well as my favorite icing and dough recipe (after many, MANY rounds of trial and error!).

BAKING THE COOKIES

Let’s start with the cookie. I love THIS recipe for my sugar cookies – the shape you cut out won’t bloat or expand much, what you see is what you’ll get! I follow it exactly, and to her point, I’ve frozen the dough before when I make extra batches, but do let it come ALL the way to room temp before you start working with it. By far, it works best to whip it up and use it right then without storing/cooling time.

I keep a stash of cutters in our pantry (they double as sandwich cutters for Crew’s lunches, too). I have holiday-specific ones, but a favorite year-round set has been this alphabet set as Crew wants to spell his name or it’s fun to gift someone a little set of cookies that spell out “JOY” or “LOVE” or “BOO” depending on the time of the year.

You can roll your dough out on your floured counter, (I use a regular wooden rolling pin, nothing fancy) but Page specifically cut a giant piece of pine to perfectly fit one half of our island and sanded it super smooth. We originally wanted it for rolling out pasta dough, but it doubles as my cookie surface now. At the recommendation of the chef we learned to make pasta from, we picked up a large drywall trowel that we only use in the kitchen to scrape off caked-on dough and extra flour when we’re done (genius). My exact cookie sheets are no longer available but these are identical (the textured surface makes it nearly impossible to end up with stuck-on cookies) and to keep them nice, I only use them for baked goods (we have separate baking sheets for pizza, snacks, and anything else). Of course, use ALL the flour when cutting out your cookies – I dip my cutters in it, and keep it liberally sprinkled everywhere, rubbing it onto the surface, the dough, and the rolling pin every so often.

MAKING AND COLORING THE ICING

I won’t lie — baking the cookies is the easy part, but I also thinks it’s the less fun. Now you get to be creative! I first learned some basic techniques in a local bakery cookie class. I went home and practiced, and have evolved how I do the next part, so I’ll share both ways below. First, you need some royal icing. Again, after MANY different tested recipes, I like THIS recipe because it dries firm enough to stack your cookies, but not rock hard like so many versions (you want them to look AND taste good!). They have the slightest shine to them when they dry, and there’s no egg white like some, so you don’t have to worry about them sitting out.

After you’ve whipped up your batch of frosting, divide it into bowls, depending on how many colors you want to use. (I use Pinterest all the time to get inspo on color palette, and I pick out a handful of cutters I know I want to use, and determine my colors accordingly.) Your icing, well covered, has a shelf life of about a month, so I’ve gotten in the habit of mixing each color directly in a food storage container with a lid, so I can keep any leftovers if I want to. I’ve tried a few kinds of food coloring and have come to love these the best. Tip: you will need WAY more red and black compared to the others to get a true red or black, so I buy the bigger bottles of those colors. It was a game-changer to learn that to get an even wider color palette, you can add ivory food coloring to your pure-white icing to get a whole bunch of softer colors.

Piping and Flooding

This is how I originally learned to frost and it’s how I frosted the IOWA cookies, above. For this technique you’ll need icing bags and a basic icing tip and couplers for each bag/color you plan to use (this video can explain how to to put your tip on your icing bag better than I can explain in writing.) You can play around with different tips, but I always go back to the no.3 as my sweet spot. You’ll also need a few squeeze bottles (I’ve used and like both this style and these).

For each color of icing you’ve made, you’re going to divide it in half. Spatula half of it as-is (thick) into an icing bag and tie it off with a rubber band or I do like these to hold them closed. With the remaining half of each color, add a few drops of water and remix, SLOWLY adding more water until the icing is the consistency of runny glue. Once you have that, pour it into a squeeze bottle. NOTE: I once did this out of order and split up my icing BEFORE I’d colored it — you want to color it first so it’s consistent and matches perfectly. Huge headache to try and do this after you’ve split it up!

Start with your piping icing (in the bag) and outline your cookie or the portion of the cookie you want in that color. It should be nice and stiff and hold its outline shape. Take your matching flooding (squeeze bottle) icing and outline JUST inside your piped icing, getting as cloooose as possible even overlapping a tiny bit without going outside your line. Once you’ve done a full outline, just squeeze all over “flooding” and filling in your outline. It feels extra, but this tool is INVALUABLE in popping any air bubbles you might get while flooding before they dry.

All-At-Once

I did the piping and flooding method for a long time and still sometimes do if I need super precise detail. But in the batch above, as a time and clean-up saver, I’ve also tried for ONE icing color consistency just a tad thicker than the glue and as my hands have gotten steadier, I just pipe the thick-flooding as my outline and fill right in from there. This definitely takes practice and if it’s even the slightest bit too watery, it’s a hot mess (and no I hadn’t yet popped air bubbles in the shot above ha!). But I mention this option for anyone wanting to try!

To finish it off, I love some sprinkles or simply dragging toothpicks through the icing to make pretty designs. There are zillions of YouTube videos on simple decorating techniques once you’ve got the basic icing down. A favorite sprinkle look (seen in the footballs above) is a clear piping gel design, then sprinkle a sugar on top and shake off the excess.

Happy decorating and of COURSE be sure to taste test throughout the process! 😉





Christmas Carriers Thank You Printable

I can’t take credit for the idea, but for the first time last year and again this year we set out a seasonal basket for our package and letter carriers as a thank you gesture for all their extra hard work.

It’s fun to see the items disappear and Crew’s favorite job is to check and refill it as needed. I stay away from liquids because of our cold temps but the popular things seemed to be fresh fruit that’s easy to eat on the go (apples, bananas) and individual packs of snack mixes. I stashed everything in a dollar store container that I wouldn’t miss if it got too empty and blew away unexpectedly.

This year I wanted to do better than my handwritten sign from last year, and it made sense to share it forward here.

You can print this at full size to be 8.5 x 11, or use your printer options to scale it down if need be for a smaller container (I printed mine above at 50% to better fit ours).

To get your printable sign click here

Happy holiday season!





Dragons Love Tacos Halloween Costume

I spent weeks taking this 3.5 year old to the store, browsing online, and generally asking him what he might want to be for Halloween. Anything I suggested was met with some variation of “meh” — until I proposed a character from one of his favorite books. If you have a kid in your life and haven’t read Dragons Love Tacos, do so immediately!

The ONLY opinion that was voiced was that he wanted to be a BLUE dragon with green wings. So off to Primary I went for their hoodie and joggers to get started.

If you are familiar with this book, you know the whole story unravels when the dragons get ahold of the spicy salsa. I grabbed an orange pumpkin bucket from the dollar store, spray painted it red, and we loosely followed the illustration as a guide, using scrapbook sticker letters for the label.

Dragons Love Tacos Halloween Costume | 29thanddelight.com

I bought a yard of the most dragon-ish green fabric I could find for the wings, tail, and horns. I am NOT a seamstress, but I managed to make a simple cone shaped tail, turned it right side out and stuffed it with stuffing. I added a single triangle “horn” to the end of the tail, and tacked the other two onto the hoodie. I bought a pair of children’s fairy wings at the dollar store to use as my base, covered them in the green fabric, changing the outline of the wings to be a bit more dragon and less butterfly. I sewed the top of the tail to the underside of the wings so he could put the whole thing on as if it were a backpack.

To drive home that this wasn’t just any dragon but a taco-loving dragon, I bought an “I Love Tacos’ button on Etsy and pinned it to his hoodie. We made a couple cardstock and tissue paper tacos and stuffed them in each pocket — after all, you have to have “pantloads” of tacos to host a proper taco party for dragons.

Oh no, dragon! You know what happens if you eat that spicy salsa!

Happy halloween — and happy costume creating — from our home to yours! <3





Classroom Halloween Treats: Witch’s Brew Bath Bombs

We’ve been busy over here whipping up all the magic potions so that Crew’s classroom friends can create some of their own for Halloween!

You may have guessed it — we made our own bath bombs, complete with spooky surprises inside!

This project was much easier than I expected (I was fully counting on some crumbling bombs and preschooler – and Mom – meltdowns) but I’m happy to report it was really pretty simple and straightforward!

It DOES help to have all your stuff ready, premeasured/open, so you can work quickly. (Once everything is mixed, you want to make your bombs before the mix gets too dry.) I did two batches; the first I followed the recipe below exactly (this made about five medium-sized bombs), and when those turned out well, I quadrupled it to make enough for Crew’s class of 24 and a couple extra friends.

My best tip is to spend a minute on YouTube watching an actual video of how to make these, because I picked up a lot of hints and it helped me understand better than all the written directions out there. In all I’d say we spent about $20 on everything (although I did already have the essential oils on hand). And if you keep scrolling I’m sharing a printable of the label we stapled across the top, so you can gift these as well!

After reading a few reviews of silicone versus plastic versus aluminum, I settled on this set of molds. I don’t foresee using the small one much, but the medium was perfect for stretching the batch enough to make decent-sized bombs for 24+ kiddos (and I’ll be making my own and gifting some at the holidays with the larger mold, which feels even more grand/luxurious). They worked like a charm with no sticking.

For our bath bombs, we knew we wanted them to be green (but not so pigmented they stain anyone’s tub ha!) so we used green food coloring accordingly.

THE RECIPE:

1 cup baking soda

1/2 cup citric acid (cheaper online than in stores)

1/2 cup corn starch

1/2 cup epsom salt

3 Tbsp almond oil or grapeseed oil

1 Tbsp water (add your drops of food coloring to this for even mixing)

Essential Oil as desired (for our quadruple batch I did about four drops each of lemon, tangerine, sweet orange, and bergamot)…Crew could not get enough of smelling them ha!

Our final “ingredient” was a bat-shaped ring (I bought a bag of 30+ at WalMart for a dollar) and they fit perfectly inside the medium sized mold. I thought these would be a fun surprise when the bomb fizzles apart in the tub.

TO MAKE YOUR BATH BOMBS:

After gathering your ingredients, whisk together all the DRY ingredients first. Combine the wet ingredients separately and pour them SLOWLY into the bowl, constantly whisking. The consistency should feel ALMOST as damp as wet sand – a tad more powdery, but still “wet”.

Scoop the mixture into both halves of your mold. Don’t PACK it in, but gently press enough to firm it up, and make sure both halves are overflowing. (At this point, I pressed the bat ring into one side.) Stick your two halves together and press them together, wiping off any excess that comes out the seam. Use your knuckles to tap firmly on either side of the mold so the packed mixture will slide out easily. I used a slight “twist” motion (like unscrewing a cap) to remove one side at a time, and laid them out on a sheet of wax paper to harden up. A lot of recipes called for 24 hours to dry but I think it only helps to give them a solid 48 hours before handling them in any way.

I was nervous about how durable these would be when loaded up dozens deep and handed out at school. My coworker had the genius idea to add some cobweb stuffing to the little ziploc treat bags (found at The Dollar Tree). I added a bomb and some stuffing to each bag, and printed and cut apart the following printable. (They should be about the size of a business card, before folded in half lengthwise). Stick them over the tops of the bags and staple in place. Voila! Witch’s brew for all!

Grab your free printable treat topper by clicking the attachment link below:

Witch’s Brew Printable

Happy Halloween!!





Fall Book List

Just give me alllll the fall reads — I’m not sure who is more excited for the season, me or my mini!

Our current list of must-reads:

The Scariest Book Ever has the boldest, most “popping” illustrations that are so fun to look at. This was a big hit last year when he was only two, but loves it all over again this year at three, and it’s funny for the adults reading it, as well.

Gilbert the Ghost I’ll admit, is better loved by Crew than by me. But it’s not too spooky and gets at the moral of being inclusive.

No Such Thing  is probably my favorite of this list — from the beginning the character doesn’t believe in ghosts and explains away all the weird things happening, only to find out maybe there IS such a thing, in the end.

How To Make Friends with A Ghost is a little wordy yet for Crew, so I shorten it as I read. He laughs out loud out the antics of befriending a ghost, and I love the idea that your ghost is “with you” from your youngest to your oldest days.

Thankful is obviously a good read with the message of gratitude — I haven’t found many “Thanksgiving” books but of them, this is my favorite.

The Little Children’s Halloween Activity Book is sure to keep Crew busy when we need a time-filler (restaurants, road trip, etc) and it’s nice to have something fresh in the mix, and relevant to the season. Always love Usborne’s activity items!

Vampirina Ballerina is one we checked out from the library to test run. I thought it was adorable, but based around a girl’s love of ballet, it didn’t hold Crew’s interest. I’d definitely recommend it for the girls, though!

Stumpkin is one I stumbled on at the bookstore the other day and will be going back to pick up. I’d never heard of it, but at first flip through, I love the story sentiments around the idea of being “perfect”.

Ghosts is another on our wish list — I try to add a new title or two each year, and this will likely be one of them!

Which titles did I miss???





The “Crew”Neck — Personalized Patch Kid Sweatshirt

You don’t have to look far to see the patch trend is everywhere — and particularly big in kid’s clothing. One piece of  this trend goes a long way for me, but I thought it would be such a fun way to capture everything that makes Crew, CREW right now, at age 3.

He LOVES to spot the letter C everywhere, and 3 is his current favorite number, so those were easy places to start. But it was when I was able to find a garbage truck patch on Etsy,  that I knew this project was a must-do.

 

 

I pinned a few example pieces to get a feel for arrangement and relative sizes of patches. I ended up ordering this  sweatshirt, as Crew isn’t super big on zip-ups right now (he thinks anything with a zipper is for going outside only, he has yet to understand the heavenly-ness of a hoodie!) and I didn’t want this piece to be limited to outerwear.

The C patch and the 3 patch came from Amazon, everything else was from a variety of sellers on Etsy, although Ebay is a great resource as well if you’re looking for something super-specific. For a 4T sweatshirt, I’d keep the patches smaller, around 1-1/2″ average size. I actually started with a much bigger slice of pizza (admittedly, I wasn’t paying close attention to  the size description) and ended up swapping for something smaller.

When you’re shopping for your patches, I’d recommend varying the sizes and colors and shapes of the patches — I opted to start with a focal point (I knew I wanted the letter jacket “C” to be prominent) — and then built everything else around that. It SEEMS random to throw them all on there, but it took me a few minutes of arranging to get everything to “work” on here and keep it balanced.

Yes, this was a project for my enjoyment, but I’m happy my model is thrilled with it, too.





My Photography Gear

recommended camera gear | www.29thanddelight.com

I’ve done a LOT of purchasing, experimenting, selling, and swapping my gear out since I really started to get serious about photography a few years ago. A huge piece of getting the right gear is figuring how and what you like to shoot. For me, I photograph families, my own included, and a few interior stills here and there. (I’m also a Canon girl from the start, so I’m sorry, I can’t answer many questions about Nikon or other brands!)

Here’s the rundown of my camera gear:

Canon 6D // My very first “real” camera was a Canon Rebel with kit lens (my model is no longer available, but the equivalent is here) and it’s a wonderful camera with which to begin. If you’re just starting out, this dSLR is plenty powerful as you learn the ins and outs of shooting in manual mode. The 6D, my current body, is a full-frame camera (as opposed to the Rebel which has a cropped sensor), which means the sensor is larger and able to “gather” more information from an image. For example, it performs better in lower light (wonderful for me, as I love to shoot without flash when possible). In my mind, the “ultimate” that I’ve never quite been able to justify is the MarkIV, whose most noticeable difference is the ability to shoot images onto two SD cards simultaneously. For photographers who shoot “unrepeatable” events (births, weddings, things you can’t recreate later), this dual-slot feature is a must-have, in the awful instance an SD card malfunctions, the images are backed up on a second card. There are of course other bells, whistles, and improvements in performance, but I’ve found for what I shoot, the 6D is the perfect “mother size” bowl of porridge.

85mm lens // I began with various zoom lenses and quickly learned I’m a prime lens girl. Prime lenses have a fixed focal length, meaning you can’t zoom in and out — you use your feet to get closer or farther away from your subject.  It’s a personal preference and prime doesn’t always fit every need, but they are tack sharp lenses and let in more light (always the ultimate goal!). I LOVE my 85mm for portraits — it creates beautiful background blur and a comfortable shooting distance (not TOO in baby’s face, but not so far away I’m yelling directions at people).

(Honorable mention: the uber-popular “nifty fifty” (50mm) is a FANTASTIC, budget-friendly prime lens with which to start. It’s also nice and compact, ideal for travel. Newborn cutie, above, was shot with this lens!)

28mm lens // This is the best lens for capturing a wide scene (like this family and the cityscape) and it’s ideal for when I need to shoot a group of people in tight spaces. I also think it’s fun for the whimsy of slightly distorted close-ups of children (not as flattering on adults, FYI!). This lens is also great for interior shots, although some prefer to go even wider, I don’t personally care for the shots of interiors that are SO distorted they feel fake and every wall is curved like a fun house. Must-have lens in my book.

200mm lens // I use this the least, but I’m still so glad to have it when I do. I envision using it even more now that Crew is getting into sports and activities where I can’t be quite so close but still want to capture detail. (In the shot above, Page was at the bottom of a pretty big hill, several yards away.) It captures beautiful, crisp detail, and in part because of the length, creates gorgeous background blur. My first telephoto (long) lens was HEAVY and HUGE. I like that I can be more discreet in a crowd, but still photograph from a reasonable distance, with this one.

430 speedlite // Gorgeous light just isn’t always available. I rarely use flash, but this one has been working for me from the beginning. It’s nice to have just in case a room is less well lit than I hoped when I show up to an in-home session, and the ability to bounce the light in other directions (aka NOT right at your subject — hello, deer in headlights!) allows for more flattering final images. (Budget note: If you don’t think you will use flash all that much, I’ve heard from several photogs that they have been very pleased with cheaper, off-brand alternatives like this one.)

Gary Fong diffuser // I’ve had this on my list for a while and after seeing a photographer bust his out recently at an event I attended, I asked for it for Christmas. I had to know if it was all it was cracked up to be as a complement to my speedlite — and it totally is, as I used it on the above interior shot on a VERY gloomy day. To me — it’s a nonnegotiable now, and I love that the images don’t scream “I used my flash in this one!!”. If you’re going to buy a flash, don’t buy it without this counterpart.

wireless remote // A must if you want to get IN some pictures! You can set the timer all you want, but sometimes it’s nice to just know exactly when that camera is clicking. You can easily hold this discreetly in your hand while cuddling up to your favorites and snap away. (Tip: posing yourself without showing the remote takes a little practice — but it’s small, and in the above shot, it’s hidden in my left hand.)

Other Notes:

Camera bag — I don’t have one! I’m that risk-taker who throws a spare lens into the pocket of my vest and goes — for now. (I HAVE tried and discarded a couple options so far. If you have suggestions, please send them my way!)

Editing — I shoot in RAW and edit in Photoshop ACR (although Lightroom is another great option).

Online storage / Business website — For my rather simple needs (ClickSmith is a small part-time gig for me), Zenfolio has been my vendor of choice.

Photography Classes — Online, I loved the 101 and 102 courses at Shoot FLY Shoot when I was first getting started. If you’re in the Des Moines area, I HIGHLY recommend ALL of the classes at Christian Photo in Urbandale.

ETA: Crew does not yet have his own camera (the one pictured came in a happy meal!) — but I’m looking seriously at this one to get him started!

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