Redneck Wine Glass and Dessert Tray

I know I’ve mentioned how crafty my Mom is, but I may have failed to mention how equally crafty my Dad is. Actually, he is the handiest man I know. He can fix anything, and when he wants, he can build anything!

On Christmas, we were handed this:

Hmmmm, what are these???

This is a Redneck Wine Glass. The bottom is a candle holder, and the top is a canning jar, complete with lids! So, if you don’t finish your entire glass of wine, you can seal it up and put it in the fridge for later. So excited, we’re definitely going to make Lemonade Shake-ups in these this summer!!!

So cool! Dad has been working on this project for a while. He had to compile all of the pieces and them build them, and then make sure they held up. He was forced to drink a bunch of wine ensure the glasses could withstand The Rays.

His craftiness inspired a project for me as well. I’d like to say that did any work on these, but really, other than purchasing the supplies and picking out the trays, I did not do anything.

My Annual Cupcake Party is next month, and it’s already consuming all of my creative thoughts. One really important part about hosting a party is how to display your food. Last year, I just used random trays and plates. We host other events throughout the year and I’ve been wanting some trays. Just to really give that layered look to the food table.

I found some pretty simple instructions here: How To Make Interchangeable Cupcake Stands. I loved the idea of being able to take them apart for storage.

Well, ours don’t come apart for storage. 🙂 But who cares? They are really fucking cool! I bought candle holders from the Dollar Tree and plastic trays from the Salvation Army. Originally I planned on looking for plastic plates at Target, but found these at the SalVat instead. I think they are perfect!

Lets be honest. Brian did most of the work. I’m not really power tool savvy. He helped me buy the knobs and screws, and we got wine corks from our friends. He drilled the holes and assembled the trays. Once we were done, I ended up gluing the cork in the candle holder.

I didn’t follow the directions – which call for a candle holder that is hollow all the way through. Whoops. So it was too shallow to really get the cork in the hole and have it stay there. The other problem with taking them apart is on the gold tray, the knob I choose has a thing on it that doesn’t allow it to be unscrewed from it’s home. I had no idea, it just looked cool and was on clearance.

Here’s a look from the side, you can see the cork, but luckily you can’t see the glue 🙂

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Trunky Decorating

My parents used to have a beautiful tree in their backyard. He was just a generic tree, but absolutely perfect. The perfect climbing tree, which would have been awesome if I had any upper body strength. His name was Trunky.

This was Trunky, a few years before his untimely death in 2010.

We loved Trunky. Well, most of us anyways. But eventually he got old, and my parents made the tough decision to end his poor life by chopping him down, into small pieces.

Here is Trunky today:

Bye, Trunky!

What does this have to do with a craft blog? Is this just some sappy dedication to your childhood tree?

It has everything to do with crafting! You might remember last year, the Ray Family Christmas Extravaganza had The Rocks Glass Invitational (which I won, of course) . I wanted to keep the competitive crafting tradition alive, and with the help of my sister, I suggested that we decorate Trunky disks as a family, as a competition. The idea was well accepted by all parties. You see, my dad had left a bunch of the branches in the driveway for firewood (or for decoration, not sure). My sister wanted to take a log to have on display in her living room. And that’s when the idea struck – we can cut up a log, then everyone can decorate a piece of this family history.

[a big THANK YOU to Leah, for getting these action shots!]

Everyone worked really hard! You could decorate any way you wished – we had three wood burners, paints and glitter glue. I am pretty sure all of us went the wood burning route, except some of the kids. And on a positive note, no one got injured.

Adult Division

Kids Division

The winner of the RFXX2011 Trunky Decorating Contest:

Congratulations, Andrew! This is the family crest he created for us.

If you’d like to check out the other contestants, here are links to all of their images:
Iowa (Ginny)
Playboy Bunny (Leah)
Ray Iowa (Ginny)
Drunk Face (Dan)
Ray Crest (Andrew, Winner)
Impatient Face (Brian)
Butterfly (Penny)
RIP (Becky)
Sun Star (Tim)

Breakfast Crack

If you haven’t made Christmas Crack before, you had better try it. It’s a stick-to-your-teeth holiday treat that’s relatively inexpensive, super easy and just plain delicious. This is a fantastic recipe for it.

Crack isn’t just for snacking. It’s also for breakfast. This is a French Toast bake that I’ve made three times now. First was for myself (bad idea, as Brian does not enjoy sugar for dinner), second was for our Christmas Day brunch, and the third for the Ray Family Christmas Extravaganza Christmas Brunch (two different events). It was a hit!

I got the recipe about a year ago from E-Mealz. E-Mealz is a really great dinner meal planning service on the cheap.  I’ve adjusted the recipe a bit, so here is the original recipe, with my changes [following]. The original recipe is for like 2 or 4 people, in a 9×9 pan, but I make mine in a 9×13 pan and will serve 6. I pretty much just double most of the ingredients.

Delicious French Toast (also known as Breakfast Crack)

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup br0wn sugar [2+ cups]
  • 1/4 cup butter/margarine [use 1.5-2 sticks]
  • 1 tbs corn syrup [1/2 cup]
  •  4 slices of white bread [10-12 slices]
  • 3 eggs [5 or 6 eggs]
  • 3/4 cup milk [1.5 cups]
  • 1/2 t vanilla [1 tbs]
  • 1/4 cup sugar [1/2+ cup]
  • cinnamon [wing it]
  • maple syrup [totally unnecessary)

Directions

  1. Combine brown sugar, butter and corn syrup in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, pour into a greased 9×13 pan.
  2. Place one layer of bread over the mixture. You should definitely get four pieces to lay flat in the pan, cut the remaining pieces of bread into halves/pieces to so that all of the goo is covered.
  3. Mix the sugar and cinnamon to your desired sugar/cinnamon likings. Sprinkle half of the mixture over the bread layers. Then layer the remaining bread, and the rest of the sugar/cinnamon mixture.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, milk and vanilla. Evenly pour over bread mixture. You can let it sit overnight or just throw it in the oven at 350 for 30 minutes (for the single serve) or for closer to 40-45 for the big guy. It’s done when the egg mixture is fully cooked.

Tips:
Don’t worry about the exact measurements. It will turn out fine.
Don’t let the brown sugar, butter and corn syrup boil for very long. The longer it boils, the tougher and more caramelized it will be. It will be super sticky and stringy, so once it hits a rolling boil, remove it from the heat.
Don’t make this just for yourself. You will eat the entire pan.

EDIT [1/24/12]
I made another batch for the in-laws, who saw the recipe and were intrigued. This pan turned out fantastic.

Side shot: the crack should still be boiling when you take it out of the oven. Let it sit and cool for a few minutes.

This is what your crack should look like. It shouldn't be soupy on top.

Jade’s Rodent Cakes

My adorable niece, Jayden, turned 6 in May. She loves rats. Fortunately she does not have a live one, but just lots of stuffed/plastic/rubber ones. They totally freak out Grandma!

So we went on a quest to make a rat cake. I cheated and made these closer to Zhu-Zhu pets, whatever rodents they may be.

I split one cake mix into two loaf pants. Once completely cooled, I carved off all the corners and made him more oval shaped. I used regular kitchen knives. Sure, I could have tried fondant and made a smooth rat, but when has that really worked for me? (Hint, it hasn’t! Yet!).

We mixed up four frosting colors – black, brown, tan and white. And some pink for his little rodent feet and tail. We frosted in sections, then forked all of the frosting for a really matted fur look. 

The ears and nose are made from bubblegum strips. Eyes are some sort of chocolate – looks like malted milk balls. The teeth are some minty 

Turtledove Meringues

By now you’ve figured out that I love love love holiday baking. I really love sharing my baked goods too! But 2011 was really about getting healthy for me, so back in October I was convinced that I wasn’t going to do much holiday baking. That totally went out the window 🙂

For the most parts, I made classic favorites – Peanut Butter Balls, Oreo Balls, Peanut Butter Cup cookies. As my mom and I were finishing up our baking day, I decided I wanted to try these cute meringues, Turtledove Meringues to be exact. The picture was just too cute!

So I measure out my ingredients. I had never beat egg whites before, so I was totally surprised when they went from being regular egg whites to being foam. It was so cool!

And here’s my final beauties:

Turtledove Meringues

Ingredients
2 egg whites
1/2 tsp Vanilla
1/4 tsp Cream of Tartar
1/2 cup sugar

Directions
Beat egg whites, vanilla and cream of tartar until small peaks form.
Keep beating, and slowly add sugar, one tbs at a time, until more peaks form.
Shape your turtledoves using the meringue in a frosting or Ziplock bag, doing this on parchment paper works great, but don’t plan on using the paper a second time.
Bake at 300 for 15 minutes, then turn oven off and leave in oven for 30 minutes.


Here are my turtledoves compared to the ones in the book. I think they turned out really well.

Then I got this not-so genius idea to make Ghosty Meringues. They didn’t turn out quite as awesome, I should have added more sugar or substituted the food coloring for the flavoring or something. They just weren’t as puffy, but they were just as delicious.

Christmas Card Wreaths

Wow. 2011 has gone by in a flash. I can’t believe the year is almost over! Don’t we say that cliche crap every year? Yes? Well it’s true.

Ok, so Christmas is here. It’s my favorite time of the year, for realz. As a kid, my mom would totally Christmafy the house. She has some really cool old decorations. The holidays are really special when you walk into the living room and you see that Christmas has puked over everything.

I was missing two things, a vintage cardboard fireplace and a wall decoration to hold Christmas cards. Brian decided that we needed a fireplace, and I made us a card wreath.

And here is my wreath!!!

This was super easy. And surprisingly enough, it’s not from Pinterest! It’s kinda my own creation! I am also proud to tell you that every item used in this craft was something I just had on hand. I didn’t have to run to the store for anything!

Wreath Ingredients

  • Large piece of cardboard or two small/medium pieces
  • duct tape
  • scissors
  • Xacto knife
  • XL t-shirt (or larger), in the color of your choice (I went with bright green)
  • paint (I choose red)
  • mini  close-pins (or regular sized)
  • string (hemp or embroidery floss are nice and thick)
  • beads (that fit on the string of your choice)
  • hot glue (lots)

Directions
With your cardboard, make a giant circle. To get an even circle, tie a piece of string to a pen/pencil. Hold the string in the middle of the cardboard, and trace a circle holding down the string. Then make a smaller circle inside the big circle. If you can wing it, just eye it. Cut out the wreath with scissors or the knife. If necessary, use multiple pieces of cardboard and duct tape them together once cut out.

Lay the t-shirt on a flat surface. Cut off the hem and discard it. Cut strips about 2-4 inches thick, starting from the bottom of the shirt, towards the top. It doesn’t really matter how big the strips are, they will overlap. So if you cut them all wonky, it’s all good. Once cut off the t-shirt, cut each strip on one side, so it is no longer connected and just one long piece of tshirt.

One at a time, wrap the t-shirt strips around the cardboard. Pin them to the board or something, but don’t glue them until you get all of the strips on the wreath. Make sure all loose ends are on the back of the wreath.

If you need to paint the close pins, do that now, or earlier. Paint all sides.

String the beads on to the hemp or embroidery floss. Or both! My beads wouldn’t fit on the hemp, so I strung them on white floss. Tie one end of floss to the wreath, leave some of the beads on the front of the wreath, and the knot on the back. Wrap the floss tight enough around the wreath that the beads wont be able to slide to the back. When complete, tie the floss again.

Now, you can either string the close pins on another piece of string, or just glue them to the wreath, your choice. I chose to string mine. Again, pull the string tight enough that the close pins don’t slide to the back. A small tip: have the close pins point in different directions so you have some options for your cards. Leave  a little slack in the close pin string so that you can glue each of the pins to the fabric. Take your time with gluing – we all love hot glue, but no one wants to see it!

Once everything is tied on/wrapped around the wreath, it’s time to get your glue on. I put small dabs under every layer of fabric, as well as adhering all knots to the wreath. Once everything was secure, I took an extra strip of fabric and glued it to the back of the wreath, in a circle, to cover some of the back of the wreath.

Then hang your wreath and wait for the mailman to deliver your cards!

Milestone Birthday Cakes

May was a big month for us. Brian had a birthday (but doesn’t eat cake), brother Tim turned 40, and my little man Ken turned ONE (And my niece Jade, but her cake won’t be made for another week)!!! As the official Ray Family Birthday Cake Chef, along with my Sous Chef mom, we had big plans!.

First was Tim’s cake. I wanted to really personalize it, so Brian and I came up with an idea based on his first tattoo, a koi with an “S” in waves behind it.

The base is a simple chocolate chip cookie cake. Ok, I threw in an extra bag of white chips too. The cake is from a cake pan shaped like a fish (an AWESOME garage sale find, thank you Brian!). We frosted him in yellow to start. I wanted the fish to have more texture, so the main part of his scales are made from cut pieces of candy orange slices. His tale was from peach rings. I really wanted to use orange colored licorice, but was wayyyy to lazy to visit multiple stores to find it.

See the resemblance?

The next weekend was also filled with a sugar coma, from Ken’s Birthday Cake. He’s a little guy, but he needed a big cake. So, four boxes and one batch of chocolate banana cake later, here’s what we got.

From far away, I LOVE LOVE LOVE it. The family was a BIG help! Dad cut the dowels, Beckey, Tim and Brooke rolled and shaped the fondant, and Mom is an awesomesauce cake froster! But, here’s my critiques (on me, not my help!):
1. I WAY underestimated how much time it takes to build a cake. The cakes were all made and frozen the week before, as was the frosting (most of it anyways 🙂 ). But actually assembling the beast was a process.

2. Next time I will build the fondant shapes as I make the fondant. It took way to long to roll out (three colors!) that morning. I could have saved time and gotten it to the correct thickness (half of what it was) if I would have done it on the spot. Traveling back in time, I would have just stacked the shapes between layers of waxed paper.
On a positive note: My red and black were RED and BLACK. Yay!

3. Buttermilk makes a heavy cake. I cheated and used cake mixes. So sue me. But, I did sub buttermilk for water, which I blame for some of the heaviness. It doesn’t help that I had four layers on the bottom tier, three in the middle and so on. Those dowels and cardboard didn’t stand a chance.
Positive: Probly one of the most delicious cakes I’ve ever made!