Love Letters and Wire Rings

Well. January is almost over.
Which means it’s almost February. And we’re just about two weeks away from Valentine’s Day!
Now I don’t know if any of you have noticed, but it’s kinda hip to hate on Valentine’s Day anymore. I understand that in many ways it’s a commercialized holiday without much meaning. I think that sentiment stems in some way from elementary school parties, where you had to give everyone a card, even that stinky kid who always cut in the lunch line. But we can change that! We’re grown-ups now, or at least old enough to pretend to be! And in that vein, I present an idea, complete with mini-tutorial.001

Send your friends Valentine’s Day letters!

         They don’t have to be elaborate, but a simple note to tell your friends you’re thinking of them and love the connection you share can be quite meaningful. (Not to mention, if you send a lot of letters, the USPS will get some love too. And Cupid knows, they need it!)
I drew a simple doodle related to love – a traditional heart, a winged Cupid, an anatomical heart – and wrote a little note for all my friends. To make it fancy and romantic, I used a fountain pen. I’d have used a quill if I had one!

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And then I sealed the envelopes and wrote a little note, asking the recipients to keep the letters sealed until the big day itself, and added another doodle, like lips or roses.003

Now you may be asking yourself where the mini-tutorial comes in. Here goes: before I sealed the envelopes, I inserted a customizable heart ring in each. It’s a length of shaped wire that my friends can wrap around their finger, making a one-of-a-kind fit, and a permanent reminder of love and friendship. Read on to make your own heart rings for your friends!

Materials:

  • Wire cutters
  • Round-nosed pliers
  • Jewelry wire – use a gauge between 20 and 24

Directions:
Note: You can either work from the spool, or you can precut the wire. Either way, you’ll use about 4” per ring

  1. Starting with the end of the wire, shape a heart using your round-nosed pliers. This part may take some trial and error to get the heart shaped just how you want it. You can practice on a piece of coated phone wire if you like.011
  2. After you’ve formed the heart, move about 2” down the wire and wrap it in a tight loop. If you’re working off the spool, this is also where you use the wire cutters to snip off your ring.015
  3. TA-DA! Just include instructions for shaping it around a finger in your letter.006
  4. Mail them out with notes and share the LOVE!

Tasseled Cork Earrings tutorial

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Hello!

I’ve got a fun little tutorial for you all today! Making earrings out of wine corks! And not just any earrings: earrings with beaded tassels. Of course, you don’t have to add the tassels, but where’s the fun in that?

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You can make these funky or classy, but whichever direction you go, you’ll make a statement and turn heads! These can be a little tricky, especially the tassels, but with patience, anyone can make them. And so, without further ado, the tutorial!

Materials:Image

 

  1. Acrylic paint and paint brush
  2. Wine cork
  3. X-acto knife
  4. Pin and beading needle
  5. Thread
  6. Scissors
  7. 2 large beads – how large is up to you; I recommend about the size of a pony bead
  8. Roughly 100 seed beads
  9. Post-earring backs
  10. E6000 or similar adhesive

Directions:

  • Use the knife to carefully slice off sections of the wine cork. I suggest cutting more than two, so you can pick the best slices to work with. You want them to be somewhere around 1/8 – 1/4 inch thick. Too thin and the slices with crumble, too thick and they’ll sit oddly on your ears.Image
  • Paint the cork slices. Be creative! I went with a design on one pair and solid purple on another. If you’re using a light color, a base coat of white on the cork will help show off the color. Also, if you want a smoother surface, you can gently sand the cork slices before painting.
  • Once the cork is dry, take your sturdy pin and push it through the cork slice. It may not go through the entire diameter, but that’s okay. As long as you make sure the pin goes at least halfway through the cork and pokes out on the unpainted side, you’re good.ImageSee how the pointed end of the pin emerges at the center of the section. That’s what you want. If the pin goes through further before emerging, that’s good too.

 

  • Now pull the pin out and slip a threaded beading needle through the ‘tunnel’ the pin made. You want about 12 inches of thread on the needle. Once it’s through, unthread the needle and rethread it so the tail comes out in the center and the working end is off the edge: look at the pictures below for clarification.

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  • Now thread on one of the large beads and about 15 seed beads. You can add more or fewer seed beads if you want a longer or shorter tassel. Be careful, when threading, that you don’t pull the thread through the cork.Image

  • Now thread the needle back through all the seed beads except the last one you threaded. In doing this, you’re creating the first dangle of the tassel. You want to play with the tension here. If you don’t pull tight enough, the dangle won’t touch the large bead, and if you pull too tight, it will stick out funny. Have patience and play around!

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  • In order to secure this dangle and move on to the next, thread around and back up through the seed bead closest to the large bead.

  • ImageNow thread another dangle’s worth of seed beads. You can make each dangle the exact same length, or you can vary it a bit. Mine are 13, 13, 14, and 15 beads long. Follow the same procedure, running the needle back up through the beads and around the one closest to the large bead. I used 4 dangles, but you can make your tassel thinner or thicker as your choose!Image

  • Once you have the desired number of dangles for your tassel, you may notice that they’re strung along next to each other rather than grouped under the bead. To fix this, simply tie a loose knot around the top the tassel, right under the large bead. Here again, you want to watch your tension. If you knot too tightly, the tassel will get stiff, and the knot is hard to loosen.
  • Next, guide the thread back up through the large bead and through the cork. At this point, tie the tail that’s been sticking out of the cork this whole time and the working end together and trim the ends.
  • And ta-da! You have one earring. Follow the beading steps again to complete the second one.Image
  • Finally, use the adhesive to attach the post back to the unpainted side of the earring, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Image
  • Once the glue is set, wear with pride!

Additional ideas:

  • Skip the tassels and just rock out the painted disks; They’re incredibly light-weight!
  • Skip the paint and rock a natural look.
  • There are tons of ideas around for decorating cork slices. Try stamping or glitter or even embroidery!
  • Glue beads or rhinestones around the circumference of the cork slice

Cookbook Review – Best-Loved Hershey’s

hershey bookI received a new cookbook for Christmas, and I am in love! Best-loved Hershey’s: Sweet  & Sensational Cakes, Pies, Brownies, Holiday Treats and more! is absolutely wonderful. It is pretty much entirely desserts, and most of them are chocolate, but that’s to be expected. It’s divided into 6 sections, including no-bake desserts and breads & muffins. I must say, I was blown away by the variety of recipes.

As to the quality of the recipes, I’m usually wary of ‘brand’ cookbooks, and find that they’re more interested in getting readers to use their products, but every recipe I’ve tried so far is amazing (although I am a little annoyed with their peanut recipes, as most of them involve REESE’S (R) Peanut Butter Chips). Still, the majority recipes can be made easily using any brand of chocolate, cocoa, or peanut butter. I’m also pleased to find a large quantity of cheesecake recipes. My old faithful cookbook, a 1981 copy of Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book does not have any.

hershey table of contents

There’s a whole chapter for cakes and cheesecakes!!

So far I’ve made monogrammed mini chocolate cakes, peanut butter and chocolate mousse pie (buying the peanut butter chips was, in fact, worth it), chocolate peppermint roll, decadent holiday chocolate torte (which lives up to ‘decadent’), festive fudge, and their classic chocolate and peanut butter chip cookies. Everything as turned out deliciously!

My favorite thing about this cookbook, however, is that it’s challenging me to take on more complicated baking projects. The directions are clear and well-written, and the layout is spacious and easy to follow. Additionally, the photography of finished treats is fantastic. As a result, I’ve been persuaded to attempt increasingly complicated recipes. Furthermore, the photographs are really inspirational when it comes to making your desserts look pretty!

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Here’s the decadent holiday chocolate torte, which I brought to a New Year’s Eve party. It tasted as good as it looks!

If you’re looking for a dessert cookbook, and really like chocolate, variety, inspiration, and challenge, I highly recommend Best-Loved Hershey’s. And my family recommends that you share anything you bake from it with them!

I am not endorsed by Hershey’s (R) in any way. All opinions are my own.