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Make your gingerbread house look anything but cookie-cutter—even if you’re working from a store-bought kit—with tips from beth “Ginger Betty” Veneto, owner of Ginger Betty’s Bakery in Quincy, MA., and multiyear winner at the Boston Christmas Festival’s famed Gingerbread House Competition. Read on for her delicious do’s and definite don’ts.
Make a mischievous Rudolph by coating a marshmallow in melted chocolate, adding pretzels for antlers, red candy for a nose and paper-doll sunglasses for an—ahem—clever disguise. Place him so he’s peeping out from behind a tree, thanks to a lollipop stick or skewer.
Transform ice cream cones into trees (coat with green frosting, then decorate with candy ornaments or sprinkles).
Build a fence out of pretzels. You can go the straight-up rod route, as we did here, or stand a series of traditional looped pretzels upside down. Use frosting as mortar.
Pile and scatter shredded coconut for sweet snowdrifts.
Gussy up your gingerbread men (or toy figures) with fun accessories. Licorice or any other candy that comes in strips makes for a cute muffler.
Place Peppermint Pattie candies or cookies as “pavers” to form a pathway to your house.
Build on a rainy day or store your house in the fridge. Under these conditions, moisture can seep in a make the walls wilt.
Start decorating the house too soon. The frosting that holds the structural elements together should be 100 percent dry first. Every house is different, but give yours at least eight hours to set.
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If March Madness means your television is turned to college hoops all month long, show your school pride by giving your couch a spirited makeover: Temporarily transform your favorite team tees into game-day decor. Don’t worry– your shirts are still wearable when the season’s over. What a slam-dunk DIY project!
1. Gather your supplies
Clear off a workspace and have your supplies handy. Slide the pillow form into the T-shirt, making sure the logo is centered. Lay the pillow flat on your work surface with the front of the shirt face down.
Square pillow form
Team logo T-shirt
Peel-and-stick Velcro tape
2. Pin it down
Fold the next of the shirt over and down the back of the pillow and secure with safety pins. Fold both sleeves in, making sure the design on the front of the shirt remains centered and smooth. Finally, fold up the bottom of the shirt and secure with more safety pins.
3. Make your backing
trim the felt so that it is 1 inch smaller than your pillow on all sides. Remove the backing from one side of the Velcro tape and secure it to the felt, placing it 1/4 inch from each edge. Remove the remaining tape backing and turn up the 1/4-inch runover of felt so it wraps around part of the Velcro.
4. Put it together
Flip the felt back over and center it on the back of your pillow, making sure to cover up all the safety pins. Press down on the adhesive Velcro to secure the edges.
When the season’s over, remove the Velcro and pins and your tee is as good as new!
If decorating a pumpkin has gotten buried in your to-do list between whipping up dinner, baking Halloween treats and–dare we say it–starting to plan for Thanksgiving, have no fear. These three pumpkin ideas are easier than making a ghost costume out of a sheet. All you need are a few inexpensive items you may already have at home. You stoop has never looked more festive… for less!
Now that the Greek yogurt bandwagon is overflowing with foodies, fitness junkies and just about everyone else, we’ve decided to try a ride on a new train: the skyr train. Never heard of skyr? Neither had we.
Skyr is the traditional yogurt of Iceland, and what differentiates it from traditional yogurt is not only what it’s made of but also how it’s made. To make skyr, skim milk is incubated with live active cultures. Then, the whey, or natural water found in milk, is completely strained out, yielding an incredibly thick yogurt. To make one cup of skyr, you need 3-4 times the amount of milk as you would to make a regular cup of yogurt. If you can believe it, skyr is even thicker than Greek yogurt!
Where can you find such a luscious cup of skyr, you ask? At your local grocery store, in the form of siggi’s, a New York-based yogurt company that was launched in 2004 due to one man’s homesickness for a childhood staple snack.
Photo courtesy of siggi’s
Besides being high in protein, low in sugar and downright delicious, siggi’s is becoming one of our new favorite yogurts because of their unique flavors and dedication to simplicity. At the beginning of May, siggi’s introduced their newest flavor, Strawberry & Basil. Perfect for spring, this flavor represents two things we love about the warm weather: sun-sweet berries and intoxicatingly fresh-smelling herbs. The berries and basil are blended gently with plain skyr, and each flavor is poignant enough without being overpowering. Great on its own, the yogurt also pairs perfectly with almond granola or a sprinkling of flax or chia seeds.
Photo courtesy of siggi’s
Just like us, siggi’s is dedicated to green living, healthy tips and DIY crafts. They have purposely created a label that is easy to pull off so you can recycle or reuse each yogurt cup once you have devoured its contents. After enjoying our siggi’s breakfast, we thought, what better way to recycle our strawberry & basil yogurt cup than to plant some basil leaves in it? Talk about full circle.
You can find siggi’s in grocery stores across the country, but be sure to grab a strawberry & basil while you can! It will only be available at Whole Foods through August 2014.
Here’s a fast idea for a hostess gift that’s both beautiful and useful: an edible salad bouquet! Here’s the how-to:
Buy starter plants– green-leaf (like oak), red-leaf (like ruby) and flavorful mesclun mixes (arugula, kale)– at farmers’ markets or gardening stores and transfer them to a planter or pot. Add a note on a gardening tag, then let your friends dig in. Your hosts can enjoy it all season long!
More Fast Ideas
Nothing makes us happier than seeing our ideas in YOUR homes! Two very special readers put our November issue to the test this Thanksgiving holiday and we were wowed the by results. Check is out!
Jaime Hollander, Every Day with Rachael Ray merchandising director, made all six of our gravy wheel recipes and turned them into a full on gravy bar. She completed the spread with a chalkboard platter that’s both informational and super cute (you know how much we love chalkboards!).
The Spivak family from Potomac, MD used two ideas from our “15 Holiday Table Tricks from the Pros” story: David Stark’s apple centerpeiece and Alison Caporimo’s kids’ tablecloth. We think it was a smashing success!
If you’re like me, you always over-buy paint. I mean, who wants to get halfway through a painting project and realize you don’t have enough paint and need to go back to the store? Not me! So, with this philosophy in mind, I often end up with extra paint. So after my last painting project–a chalkboard cabinet door–I had an immense amount of chalkboard paint to get rid of, thus I began a search for more chalkboard paint ideas. Check out the 7 cool ideas–I might actually try–below!
Chalkboard Wine Glass Labels
Looking for wine glass charms before a party is a pain in the butt so nix the idea completely by opting for chalkboard paint-dipped wine glasses. You’l never get your wine glass confused with someone else again.
As of now, I’m not sure what I’m would do with chalkboard painted bottles, but as I collect beautiful bottles and always want to upcycle old wine bottles, this could be a great solution.
Chalkboard Wrapping Paper
How fun! Personalize your gift wrapping paper with chalkboard paint. Supposedly, the chalkboard paint wrapping paper is reusable too.
Can’t have a real fireplace? No worries, just draw one instead! I particularly like this photo because of the small candles in front of the illustrated fireplace.
Chalkboard Herb Garden Labels
Classy and cute labeling is hard to find. Chalkboard paint provides the much-needed solution here.
Chalkboard Wall Calendar
Got a blank wall in your office? Then dress it up and simultaneously get a handle on planning with this chalkboard paint wall calendar. Write directly onto the chalkboard paint days or use post-its as an easy (and moveable) alternative.
Chalkboard Cheese Plate
I love this idea because it provides an easy solution to the “labeling the cheese plate dilemma.” Not sure what I’m talking about? Labeling a cheese plate on the fly with something classier than post-its–yup, it ain’t pretty–is hard. So this easy chalkboard cheese plate is the perfect, easy solution.
These setups will be the stars–and stripes!–of your Fourth of July or outdoor summer party.
You’re a grand new flag
Lay out rows of red, white and sparkling wines, making sure the bubbly forms a square in the top left corner. Drop blueberries into the flutes for a pop of color.
Use a cookie cutter to make stars from sandwich bread, then top with spreadable cheese and tomatoes.
Slather crackers with Boursin cheese or goat cheese.
We used prosciutto and soppressata, but you can try red sausage or deli meat.
Pipe softened butter on a plate and chill before serving.
Cut corn on the cob into thirds or halve to fit.
Don’t have red potatoes? Use cherry tomatoes or radishes.
Sweet land of liberty
Wrapped Hershey’s Kisses make great sparkly stars.
The rest of you s’more ingredients are your stripes!
By Teri Tsang Barrett
Photography by Johnny Miller
More Fun Food Crafts:
This cute crustacean will have your guests clawing their way into your party dip!
For a beach-to-table treat, cut a crab shape out of store-bought puff pastry dough, making sure the body is big enough to cover most of your serving bowl. For extra-curvy claws, rest them over balls of aluminum foil. Then bake the little guy on a cookie sheet according to the package instructions. Let cool for a few minutes, then transfer to the top of the dip bowl and invite your guests to dive in!
Get more DIY Crafts: