Blueberry Cornbread Griddle Cakes

Blueberry Cornbread Griddle CakesHappy Valentine’s Day, nerds! (I’ve been re-watching a lot of 30 Rock lately, can you tell?) Here we are in February already; the second month of a full-on dumpster fire of a year so far. I, generally, like Valentine’s Day for the heart-shaped everythings and the extra reminders and opportunities to say ‘I love you,’ while also acknowledging it’s yet another holiday rooted in consumerism. Yawn. We all know the story by now. In the midst of so much horrible, though, I’m fully embracing Valentine’s Day this year as a chance to spread some big, fat, queer love all over the place – and I’m starting with these Blueberry Cornbread Griddle Cakes!

Blueberry Cornbread Griddle CakesHere, we have the best of two breakfasts – blueberry pancakes and corn muffins – rolled into one. What’s your favorite part of a cornbread muffin? The lightly browned and buttery edge, of course! And blueberry pancakes? All of those tart, warm berries bursting in each bite, yes? Lucky you, because this recipe has both, plus the usual melted butter and maple syrup, to boot.

Blueberry Cornbread Griddle CakesCould you make these with your go-to cornbread recipe? Yes, I imagine so, but Valentine’s Day is very often on a weekday and who has time for all that measuring when all you want to do is put a plate of heart-shaped griddle cakes in front of your loves, your besties, or your kiddos? No one, that’s who! I’d rather spend that time cooing over someone I adore – Hey, Bear, that’s YOU! – than getting fussy. For this recipe, I rely on a boxed mix because it does the job very well and allows me a great base to throw in a few extra bells and whistles.

Blueberry Cornbread Griddle CakesQuick, delicious, and they just feel so dang special, Blueberry Cornbread Griddle Cakes are my new favorite breakfast treat for any day that needs a little bit more love. And, let’s be honest, that’s most days lately. Happy Valentine’s & Galentine’s to all my many loves – I wish I could have each of you over for breakfast, kisses, and a plate of griddle cakes. Someone bring the bacon and the mimosas!

XOXO

Blueberry Cornbread Griddle Cakes
Yields 6, 4-inch griddle cakes

Ingredients

  • 1 box of Jiffy cornbread mix
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons of butter, melted, plus more for cooking
  • 3/4 cup of blueberries
  • Maple syrup or honey for serving

Directions
In a mixing bowl, combine the contents of the cornbread mix and add the egg, sugar, milk, vanilla, and 3 tablespoons of melted butter. Whisk to combine and let rest 10 minutes. When you’re ready to go, heat a frying pan over medium-low heat and melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Use a 1/4 cup scoop to make round cakes or pour the 1/4 cup of batter into a metal cookie cutter that you’ve placed into the pan. I used a 4″ heart-shaped cookie cutter. Do not add more batter than this, simply use a spoon to push the batter to the edges of the shape to fill it. Once the griddle cake has set, add the desired amount of blueberries to each cake. Allow the griddle cake to cook until bubbles begin to form and break on the surface of the cake.

If you’re not using a cookie cutter to create shapes, simply flip the cake with a spatula. Be gentle. The cornbread texture makes these a little prone to crumbling. If you are using a cookie cutter, test that the batter has cooked enough for you to remove the cookie cutter by raising it slightly and observing whether or not batter begins to run out. When you’re sure it is set, carefully remove the cookie cutter (be careful! it’s hot!) and flip. If your cookie cutter is a little more intricate, it may help to slide the griddle cake still in the cookie cutter onto the spatula and then remove the mold before flipping. Cook griddle cakes an additional minute on the opposite site and then remove from the pan. Follow with another tablespoon of butter and the next batch of cakes. You can keep your cooked griddle cakes warm in a low 170 degree oven.

When ready to serve, top your griddle cakes with an additional pat of butter if desired and drizzle with maple syrup or honey.

DIY Kate Spade Glitter Earrings

DIY Kate Spade Glitter EarringsThese DIY Kate Spade Glitter Earrings are a project I’ve wanted to undertake for two years now – two whole years! The backstory is that three years ago, my eyes landed on the originals around the holidays and I put them at the top of my Christmas list for all to see. Though I received some absolutely wonderful presents that yea, as I do every year (thanks, fam!), these multi-color glitter studs weren’t waiting for me under the tree. “Not to despair!” I told myself, “If not Christmas, then Valentine’s Day!” But many others shared my delight with them and they were sold out everywhere by the start of the new year. Insert: sad trombone.

I searched high and low for over a year with no promise of a return in sight, so I planned and I schemed on how I could recreate them – I just needed the perfect base earrings to build my shimmery beauties. You know how it goes though, life happened and other projects emerged and my idea for the recreation sat idling on the back burner. But finally, in December of this year, I took the bull by the horns and bought a pair of matte faux stone studs for $3.51 from Forever 21 and began auditioning my treasure trove of glitter nail polishes for a good combination.

DIY Kate Spade Glitter EarringsI wanted pink to be more present in my pair than in the originals. I mean, if I had creative control of this process, I thought that I might as well shoot for the moon! I settled on some complimentary glitter polishes that I already owned – namely, Sally Hansen’s Cheery On Top and China Glaze’s Shine-nanigans, which has a lot more depth and pinkness to it than the photo below would suggest. I also selected New York Color’s Wine Bar to up the magenta quotient by using it as a background color to the glitters; I applied it as a base coat since the earrings I upgraded were grayish white.

DIY Kate Spade Glitter EarringsThese DIY earrings require a little patience, as it pays to let the layers of color and glitter set up a bit before applying the next coat. I used a small stiff angled brush to more aggressively push the glitter around to the spots I wanted it and, at the end, I also used it alongside some cotton swabs and nail polish remover to clean up the areas where my handiwork got a little messy. I sealed the earrings not with clear top coat, as one might be tempted to do considering we’re working with a lot of nail polish here, but rather with this amazing glaze by Americana. It took about 24 hours to fully cure, but it gave the earrings a smooth, slightly domed finish just like the originals and also imparted some really great shine.

DIY Kate Spade Glitter EarringsFor those of you prepared to leave me a comment letting me know Kate Spade went and did a girl a solid and re-released these opulent little gems this past holiday season, I know! But I have to be honest: for less than a third of the original price (way less if you use nail polish you already own or repurpose an old pair of earrings), I think this DIY version is a pretty fantastic dupe! Within minutes of wearing them out into the world for the first time, I got three sets of compliments from three entirely different, unrelated people – that equals success in my book! My only regret is not buying more pairs of the Forever 21 studs so that I could recreate these for all of my earring-wearing, glitter-loving Galentines out there – lucky for all of us, they’re still online here. Small miracles, I say!

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! XOXO

DIY Kate Spade Glitter Earrings
Materials
One pair of cushion-cut stud earrings; I used these from Forever 21
Your choice of glitter nail polishes (consider one with finer glitter and one with chunky, hexagonal pieces)
A nail polish, or acrylic craft paint, to use for your base color (optional)
Small, stiff angled brush
Cotton swabs
Nail polish remover
Americana Triple Thick Brilliant Brush-on Gloss Glaze
Foam or cardboard to poke the earrings into for ease of handling when painting and for elevated drying

Directions
Remove your earrings’ backs and poke the stems into a piece of sturdy foam or stiff cardboard so that there is at least half an inch between the back of the earring and the surface of the foam/cardboard. This will help keep the earrings elevated and make them easier to maneuver and see all sides as you paint them. If your earrings are a light color or a color you dislike, use a nail polish or acrylic craft paint of choice to apply a thin base coat to the earrings. If you want one color in the glitter polishes to really stand out, choose this as your base color. I chose a magenta polish on my pair as the base. When dry, apply your first coat of glitter polish. Err on the side of lighter coats, of which you’ll need to apply several, as opposed to heavy, gloppy coats. The latter, obviously, takes more time to dry, but I also felt like I had less control over the distribution of the glitter when the top of the earring was overwhelmed by polish. The more lightly you apply the glitter polish, the less chance you’ll have of errant glitter getting stuck to the side and back hardware of the earrings. Repeat your coats of glitter polish using the stiff angled brush to manipulate the glitter into the patterns and positions of how you’d like it to appear.

After you’ve applied your final coat of glitter – I used about 5 coats – allow it to dry and clean up any spots or splatter with some nail polish remover and either the stiff angled brush or a cotton swab. Next, apply the glaze. I was more heavy-handed with the glaze because I knew I’d only be applying one coat. Paint it on thickly and make sure the surface is smooth and completely covered. As the glaze cures it will, initially, turn opaque white and then, as it hardens, it will lighten until it eventually becomes a smooth, clear, shiny casing. It’s amazing how much this glaze took these from an obvious (but still pretty!) DIY to something that looks much more, well, polished!

 

Victoria Sponge Cakes

Classic Victoria Sponge CakesLike a lot of people, Bear and I ditched cable a while back and, for the most part, have no complaints! Not having a huge bill is the greatest perk, of course, but so is discovering new shows. This can go either way and, if we’re being honest, at least 20% of what we queue up is for hate-watching; have you re-watched any early 90s cooking shows lately? Hilarious…and also a study in food trends. Ah, the days when the portobello mushroom was “exotic,” as I recently heard it referred to or how we watched an entire show dedicated to the “wonders” of basil. I die.

Classic Victoria Sponge CakesRecently, our hunt for new shows of the cooking variety brought us to The Great British Bake Off (GBBO) series, which airs on PBS. Oh my god, you guys, we have lost the last three weeks to watching every single episode in all five of its seasons! It is so, so good! GBBO is a baking competition that follows 12 amateur home bakers through 10 weeks of challenges. Sounds familiar enough to U.S. cooking competition shows, yes? Well, that’s about where it stops. GBBO is wonderfully antithetical to anything you’ve  watched on the Food Network or Fox. It is believable, first and foremost, and the most impressive part about it is how genuinely invested the contests and judges are in the skills and in each other. There’s no “Welcome to the Thunderdome!” element to it, no sabotage, no surprise twist ingredient. It’s just an honest competition with lots of talent and two totally delightful co-hosts. I’m so sad we’ve watched, literally, all of it. Good thing Season 6 starts in just a few months! Eee!

Classic Victoria Sponge CakesAfter watching five seasons of GBBO though, you can imagine that there’s a strong impulse to bake alongside the contestants and try out the (new-to-this-American) confections. Season after season, it seemed as if each had a challenge where the bakers had to make classic Victoria sponge cakes (also called Victoria Sandwiches), a double-layer vanilla sponge cake filled with homemade strawberry jam and whipped cream, and named for Queen Victoria herself. While I was tempted by more complex undertakings, such as brandy snaps and mille feuille, it was the simple Victoria sponge cake I most wanted to try.

Classic Victoria Sponge CakesTraditionally, the batter for Victoria sponge cakes is evenly divided into two 8″ round cake pans, but with Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I couldn’t resist using my heart-shaped muffin tin. I think I chose right! In tins such as mine, one batch made 24 mini cakes, which is perfect if dividing into small gifts, favors, or serving them alongside afternoon tea, as intended. Of course, these will taste just as delicious as a large two-layer cake in proper English tradition.

Classic Victoria Sponge CakesAt any rate, I hope you’ll try these. The cake itself is so buttery and airy – just strong enough to cradle layers of sweet preserves and a very lightly sweetened whipped cream between its halves. Everyone always says that simple is better and, in this case particularly, it is absolutely the truth. I would take a perfect, tender Victoria sponge cake over something complex covered in salted caramel and spun something-or-other any day – they are so sublime! Happy Valentine’s Day, lovies! xoxo

Classic Victoria Sponge Cakes
Yields one 8-inch double-layer cake or 24 mini layer cakes; recipe only slightly altered from here.

Ingredients
4 eggs
1 cup of superfine sugar, plus 3 tablespoons for whipped cream
1 cup of self-rising flour
1 cup of butter, softened, plus 2 tablespoons to butter tins
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of homemade strawberry or raspberry jam (or store-bought with visible pieces of fruit), approximately
1 cup of heavy cream
Powdered sugar for decorating

Directions
Preheat your oven to 355°F. Prepare your tins. If using two 8-inch round tins, cut a round of parchment for each. Butter the bottom of the tins lightly and then lay down the parchment rounds. use remaining butter to spread all over the top of parchment and all around the interior sides of the tin. You may wish to add a slight dusting of flour to these as well for easier removal. If using muffin tins, liberally butter each hole, as well as the area in between each section in case they bake up over their individual spot.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the butter, 1 cup of sugar, flour, eggs, baking powder, vanilla extract and salt. Blend with a hand-mixer until just combined. Do not over-mix or your cakes may sink. Fill your tins evenly and gently smooth the tops with a butter knife or a cake spatula. If you are using muffin tins, each hole needs only to be filled about 1/3 of the way. Place cakes in the oven and gently shut the door. Two 8-inch rounds will take approximately 25 minutes, while those in muffin tins will take approximately 15-20 minutes. Cakes are done when they are lightly browned, pulling away from the sides of the tins, and spring back with a gentle touch.

Allow cakes to cool in their tins for 5 minutes once removed from the oven. Next, transfer to a baking rack and allow to sit until they are cold. When ready to prepare your cakes, pour 1 cup of heavy cream and three tablespoons of superfine sugar into a medium bowl and blend with a hand-blender or a whisk until whipped peaks hold their shape. Under-mixing will cause the whipped cream to ooze out of the cakes once sandwiched and over-mixing will turn the cream to butter.

If you are baking the traditional 8-inch, two-layered Victoria sponge cake, place one layer upside down on a cake plate and spread as much, or as little, jam as you’d like on the top. Repeat with a layer of whipped cream. Affix the top cake layer top-side up and dust generously with powdered sugar. If you are using a muffin tin, slice each cake in half horizontally and fill as described above. Dust with powdered sugar. Store cakes in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Valentine’s Day DIY Gift Guide

Valentine's Day Gift Guide: DIY Edition

Of the three Valentine’s Day 2015 Gift Guides I’ve done over the past few weeks (check out gifts for your main squeeze & gifts for your BFF!), this one is my favorite – Valentine’s Day DIY Gift Guide! I’ve combed Pinterest, my favorite blogs, and my own archive (Shameless! Absolutely shameless!) to give you the best suggestions for how to make Valentine’s Day a DIY affair this year. With budgets, skill levels, and genders in mind, I think you’ll find this gift guide all you need for making your boo, bae, or bff something special that reminds them of your love and care all 365 days of the year.

I’m in love with all of these DIYs, so I’ll tell you a little bit more about each of them:

1. This DIY Dino Valentine from Lovely Indeed is one of my most popular pins throughout the year. I think what makes it so instantly beloved is the transformation that occurs when you gild something ugly (or ferocious, in this case!) and turn it into something fancy! An ordinary dinosaur toy isn’t anything to look at, but with some gold paint and tiny arms filled with hearts, there’s nothing not to love! This DIY is quick, easy on the budget, and something your valentine will love regardless of age and gender. Imagine leaving this on the desk of your best officemate? Cu-ute!

2. Working with leather is such a popular trend right now and it’s definitely something I want to try in the future. This DIY leather iPad case tutorial from Martha Stewart also features instructions for a wallet, mouse pad, and pencil case, so the sky’s the limit!

3. For the past two years, Bear has added DIY leather key chains to every single list I keep for blog ideas on my desk, phone, computer, or elsewhere. It’s a new year, so I guess I’d better take a hint. This simple tutorial from 17 Apart includes plenty of photos to guide you in creating these functional little charmers. If you want to get fancy, grab a letter and number stamp kit and customize your key chains with initials or a meaningful date.

4. These DIY vanity trays are so quick, cheap, and easy, but look really luxe! They’re one of my most popular DIYs on the blog and have been featured in various spots online. Most recently, these beauties made it into a feature on Elle Decor’s website as one way to spruce up your bedroom in less than an hour. If they’re good enough for Elle, they’re good enough for your valentine!

5. Did you tragically miss out on the gorgeous Multi-color Glitter Stone Stud earrings that Kate Spade carried over the holidays? Me too. If I’m only drawing your attention to this bad news now, I’m so sorry. Not to worry though! This ingenious DIY from Shore Society will have you armed with a pair for your valentine (or yourself – I wouldn’t be able to resist!) in no time and, truly, they look as good as the originals. I’m in love!

6. If your valentine is experiencing winter in a colder climate, these DIY hand warmers are an adorable, loving way to tell someone you think they’re hot! Minimal sewing skills required and the designer, Rae, has even included a printable card to include with the hand warmers explaining how to heat and, well, handle them. Such a thoughtful gift!

7. My Hibernate with Me pillowcases are one of my favorite DIYs ever and I’ve made it so easy for you with images and text you just download and print. Grab some photo transfer printer paper and your iron and you’re in business! These take just a few bucks and less than an hour – they’re beloved by…everyone!

8. I spend so much time ogling projects put out by the contributors of the Purl Bee, the blogging spot from the creators of Purl SoHo, that it’s a wonder that I, myself, am not so much better at knitting, crocheting, and sewing. Truly, I’m a disaster. This Railroad Tote is a fantastic example of why I keep coming back to their site, though – it’s current, super useful, and a project I feel confident trying because of their awesome, step-by-step tutorials. I love that this tote appeals to the masses both in its style and function – what valentine of yours doesn’t need an extra place to stash their stuff or carry home their groceries?

9. The title of this DIY toiletry bag on Polkadot Chair is “Dad’s Travel Bag,” but this case is great for anyone, of any gender, when they’re planning to be out of town. I especially love that creator, Melissa, used such a bold, fun fox pattern on the inside to give it a little something special. This is a perfect Valentine’s Day gift for long distance loves – whether they be boos or friends – to remind them how much you look forward to their next visit.

10. Can you tell I really value organization and things having their place? Here’s a great tutorial for these adorable DIY clay jewelry dishes from Hello Natural. Aren’t they just so sweet with their scalloped edges and bright, bold paint job? These would be great paired with a set of scented tea lights candles so your valentine can use them as a candle dish to light up their bubble baths or in any other part of the house. For a finishing touch, wrap the metal exterior of the tea light with a washi tape that coordinates with the colors you chose for the dish. Instant hit!

I hope these DIY gifts inspire you and make you a hit among all your many loves for the big V-Day. You’ve got two weeks to go – get crackin’, lovies!

Valentine’s Day Gift Guide for your Best Friend

Valentine's Day 2015 Gift Guide1. Notebooks, Day Planners & Address Books  |  2. Sequin Heart Clip or Pin
3. Handmade Cotton Napkins  |  4. Glass Jewelry Box in Bronze
5. Bon Appétempt: A Coming-of-Age Story (with recipes!) by Amelia Morris
6. I’m not Bossy. I’m the Boss! Mug  |  7. Personalized Stationery
8. Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 Instant Film Camera

As promised, I’m posting today with a Valentine’s Day Gift Guide for your Best Friend…or, you know, any friend that you want to show a little love for this time of year. Some of very best Valentine’s Day memories are shared with friends, especially one where a feast was prepared that ended in chocolate lava cakes! Such good memories and, truly, reminders that friends can be the greatest loves of your life. I feel that way about a few of mine.

My gift ideas here span budgets and interests, but I’m particularly drawn toward the cotton napkins from CuteBrightThings for any friend or loved one that likes to cook and entertain. This orange floral set is so bold and gorgeous and at $18 for four, it’s a great gift idea. I’m also loving the jewelry box in bronze from H&M. It comes in a few colors, but the bronze is so pretty and chic. Who doesn’t need an extra holding spot for all of their baubles? Amelia Morris’ cookbook is another idea for the cook in your life, but it’s also supposed to deliver a really lovely story. It comes out next week and I absolutely cannot wait. I’ve been a reader of her blog, Bon Appétempt, for years and her writing is always funny, familiar, and touching. I haven’t bought a cookbook in a long time – I mostly check them out from the library – but this is definitely one I’ll be buying for myself and a friend!

What are you gift ideas for friends on Valentine’s Day? Do you have any friend memories from V-Day’s past?

Valentine’s Day 2015 Gift Guide

Valentine's Day 2015 Gift Guide

1. Herschel Supply – Little America Backpack  |  2. Snow-Covered iPhone Case by Sarah Montour
3. Classic Wisdom for the Good Life by Bryan Curtis  |  4. Montblanc – Legend Eau de Toilette
5. Foil-Stamped Washington, D.C. Map (other cities available)  |  6. Timex Weekender Watch in Camo
7. Prism Diamond Limited Edition Print  |  8. Milk Glass Cake Plate  |  9. Dessert for Two by Christina Lane
10. Electric Gardens Statement Studs  |  11. Julep’s Glycolic Hand Scrub & Vanish Cuticle Remover
12. The Two-Color Color Block A Satchel from Kate Spade Saturday

I honestly think that 50% of the hype around Valentine’s Day is based on the fact that we all need a little pick-me-up, a little reminder of love, a little sparkle, this time of year. Not only are there now several weeks between us and the holidays – a sad realization that yes, we’re back to the grind for another year – but for many of us, we’re also at least ankle-deep in snow, slush, and the brown-gray dreariness of winter. Just earlier today, I looked out our living room window and gazed upon the street and sidewalks of Minneapolis and compared it to what I can only imagine 19th century city life was like in, say, London – sooty, muddy, messy. I’ve been watching a lot of BBC period dramas lately, guys.

At any rate, with the news that Valentine’s Day is a mere four weeks away, it’s time to start thinking about what you might surprise your great loves with. Flowers and chocolates are all well and good, but something a little bit more personal, maybe even a little glam, is just the thing to turn someone’s February frown upside down. Starting today, I’m releasing three gift guides over the next week to help you navigate the holiday with ease. Each infographic offers fool-proof gifts, across a variety of budgets, for your main squeeze, your bestie, and anyone else whose very presence in your life you want to celebrate. After all, while sold to us as a day for romantic loves, shouldn’t Valentine’s Day really be about telling anyone with permanent residence in your heart how much you adore them? My third infographic later this week will even feature the very best DIY Valentine’s Day gift ideas in a show of solidarity with those that believe the holiday should be detached from consumerism.

In the meantime, though, how about these gift ideas for your main squeeze? How excited would your sweetie be to open that gorgeous foil-stamped map print from Minted (the prism print and the cake plate are from there too – they have such beautiful gift ideas, let alone stationery!)? Or to crack into Christina Lane’s new cookbook featuring small-batch sweets for you and yours; her blog, Dessert for Two, is such a happy, inspiring, and tasty place to visit online. Bear stands by the Timex Weekender watch as a great gift that keeps on ticking – a present from Mom & Dad this past Christmas – and I don’t even bother giving myself a manicure anymore without using the hand scrub and cuticle remover from Julep. They truly improve the lifespan of my nail color and the neatness of the application – special thanks to my friend, Charlotte, for gifting me that duo last summer! Of course, for the purse-carrier in your life, is there anything more gorgeous than that Kate Spade Saturday A Satchel? It’s even on sale right now, though it remains pricey. That fuchsia leather though…droooooling.

Got any great gift ideas I’ve missed? Let me know what you’re eyeing up for Valentine’s Day 2015 – whether for yourself or a loved one!

Up next: Valentine’s Day gift ideas for your best friends! Stay tuned!

‘Hibernate With Me’ Pillowcases

Hibernate With Me Pillow TutorialValentine’s Day is upon us once again, which means many of us are searching for a creative way to make someone we love feel special on February 14th and, really, all days of the year. While I can’t imagine anyone turning their nose up to any kind of candy or flower, a homemade project is a safe bet in getting your point across that you’ve got ALL.THE.FEELS. for your loved one. More than making something adorable or pretty that I know my sweetheart or dearest friend will appreciate, I’m all about also making sure that item is useful. No one needs an extra something – no matter how whimsical – to sit on a desk collecting dust, am I right?

Last year, I jumped on the ever-popular bandwagon of making long distance love mugs with Sharpies for two of my beloved friends on opposite coasts. They were a huge hit and inspired copious selfies drinking coffee out of our coordinated drinkware sent to each other via text. This year, I wanted to make something that was more romantically inspired; something you could gift to your boo(s), or the sweet thing you’re out to woo. Being that Bear is the apple of my eye, I started brainstorming ideas from there and eventually got to here with these ‘Hibernate With Me!’ pillowcases. These might look tricky to the less tech-savvy among us, but fear not! I’ve taken all of the work out of this for you and hooked you up with each and every one of the images you will need to re-create these beauties. All you need to do is download them, hit “print” on your printer and do some light ironing. Full deets to follow below!

First things first, it’s a miracle I even came up with a concept so adorable – “Hibernate With Me?” Come on! That’s so cute! I am *the worst* at coming up with slogans or catch phrases for things. If you knew how many ideas I went through before I named this blog, you’d pat me on the head a few times in second-hand embarrassment. I must have had the right amount of orange juice the morning I remembered that bears, in fact, hibernate – not to mention that ‘hibernating’ with a sweet someone is something most people want out of their Valentine’s Day! – in order to come to this, but when I did, I knew it had staying power.

Hibernate With Me Pillow Tutorial
I decided to use this idea on pillowcases for a few reasons, but mainly the first two that come to mind: 1) they suggest bedroom time with your sweetheart and 2) they’re an inexpensive option as opposed to creating a set of throw pillows. Maybe that last point is gauche when it comes to creating a gift, but I’m a thrifty girl who likes to keep an eye on her spending and DIY pillowcases make for an adorable, affordable choice. After considering a few options, like painting the lettering or using those fuzzy sew-on letters, I decided to look into the option of iron-on transfers and found that Avery makes some pretty highly regarded transfers that you can run right through your printer.

We live in the future.

Once I knew how I was going to execute this project, I focused on finding an image to accompany it. I wound up free-handing this one based on some examples I saw online and then, wanting to keep with a bright, cheery look, chose a simple red polka dot pattern to fill the bears with. My last decision was selecting a font in a trifecta of valentine-themed colors to really make things pop. After flipping the images horizontally in Photoshop (you have to print their mirror images so that when you iron on the transfer it reads correctly from left to right), it was an easy print on my standard inkjet, and then just a matter of cutting out the pieces and aligning them accordingly onto the pillow cases before hitting them with the iron.

A little bit of patience is needed for these. You’ll want to use a ruler and be deliberate in checking that you have the images centered and equal on each case so that when they’re side-by-side they read as a set. The arrangement and the measuring is, in all honesty, the most time-consuming part of the whole process and that’s pretty much 10 minutes if you’re being extra careful. Follow the instructions that come along with the transfers for the best results; I had only one spot where one of my letters didn’t fully adhere and I just gave it some more heat and pressure before it set perfectly.

Hibernate With Me Pillow TutorialCan’t you just imagine throwing open the bedroom door for your valentine to these propped up on your bed? It’s ok if you have to fan yourself thinking of the reaction it might cause. These pillowcases are sure to make anyone see hearts…just ask our meow, Ollie. He’s totally ready to hibernate. Like, anytime, all the time.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

‘Hibernate With Me’ Pillowcases
Supplies:
2 standard white pillowcases (100% cotton is best for the transfers)
1 package of Avery Light Fabric Transfers for Inkjet Printers (#03271)
Inkjet Printer with black & colored ink cartridges
Scissors
Iron
Ruler
Hibernating bear & text images, downloaded

Directions:
Read the instructions that come with the fabric transfers very carefully. Set iron to highest cotton setting and turn off steam feature. Allow to warm up for at least 5 minutes. After downloading the bear & text images, do a print preview of the images to make sure they’re scaled to the page and then print them according to the directions from Avery and set aside. You should print two bears that face left, two that face right, and one copy of each text image. You will notice that two text images are written backwards. This is correct. You need to print the text as a mirror image in order to have it read correctly when transferred.

Iron pillowcases lightly to rid of wrinkles and allow to cool. Cut out the bears and text images. Because of the size of the printer paper (8-1/2″ x 11″), you will need to cut the “Hibernate” out in two halves – hiber & nate – and align and affix together on the pillowcase. You will need to do the same with aligning the “With Me!” I chose to cut out the entire words and not each individual letter so that I didn’t have to worry about aligning all of the letters individually.

Work on one pillowcase at a time. Find the center of your pillowcase and arrange the bears as you see fit. Again, following the instructions from Avery, apply the heat and pressure of the iron to affix the bear transfers. Allow to cool as you measure and align the “Hibernate” above. It may help to keep a note to yourself with how many inches in from the edges the bears are, how many inches are between the top of the bear and the bottom of the word, etc., so that you can easily apply these same measurements to the other case. Once your “Hibernate” is aligned, apply the heat and pressure of the iron and then allow to cool. Replicate this process with the second pillow case. Allow both cases to cool before use. Wash inside out and on delicate or by hand for longevity.

Long Distance Love Mugs

I will easily get behind any holiday that advocates for reminding important people in your life that you love them. Every time I hang up the phone or part ways with a dear friend I tell them I love them; residual effects of being raised in a loud, Italian-American family who are verbose with their feelings – both good and bad. But even if I remind friends on the regular how much they mean to me, the idea of reaffirming it on Valentine’s Day feels extra special.

With two of my dearest friends on opposite coasts – New York and California – and me, smack dab in the middle, I wanted to make a little care package for each to celebrate the day. While I knew I’d certainly put together some kind of baked good, I wanted to add something even more personal to the mix. I’ve had the tutorial for these mugs pinned for what feels like forever and thought they’d be perfect for a V-Day surprise. I love how these came out overall, though there are a few caveats I’ll get to in a bit. They’re super adorable and deliver the message that, despite the miles, we’re always connected.

The first step in creating a set of these mugs is figuring out how to align your states and the cities you’re each in. Imagine them outlined on the mugs, calculate about where you will place your hearts, and then decide on the layout. For example, if I had made California my left mug and Minnesota my right mug, my dashed line would have had to travel around the bulk of each state to connect and that would, in my opinion, look too busy. Once you have your sides situated, you’re ready to start drawing.

You may think you have to have awesome freehand skills for a craft like this, but you have infinite chances to get the shape of the state exactly as you want it before you finish in Sharpie. The shape is first done with a pencil eyeliner – keep the liquid for your cat-eyes, femmes! – making it easy to wipe off slip-ups. Of which there will, most likely, be many. Don’t fret though. You’ve got this! I practiced drawing the shapes of the states I needed a few times on paper and then with the eyeliner, wiping and re-doing as I went. Eventually, it becomes much more about learning how to control the softness of the eyeliner pencil and the pressure you apply. Just think: the state outline is only a jagged little shape and if you practice on paper first, you’ll figure out its edges and proportions in no time. Patience is key.

Once you have your eyeliner outline of the states complete, go over it with Sharpie. It might seem like the Sharpie isn’t cutting through the grease of the eyeliner completely and in some places that will be true. When your outline is complete, give it a few minutes to dry completely and then go in and wipe the eyeliner layer off with a paper towel. You want to make sure it is completely free of eyeliner. If you encounter some tough, extra smudgy spots, breathe a little hot breath onto it and buff. Now you can go over the Sharpie outline a second time to make it truly opaque and fill in spots where there might have been some skipping. I used a gold and red Sharpie that I had on hand to place the cities, though even a small black heart or asterisk would work if you only have one color. Design the remainder of the mug as you’d like. I couldn’t help adding some sass to the backside of the mug for my bestie in NYC.
Once all of your Sharpie work is complete, allow the mugs to set for at least 24 hours. This allows them to completely dry and set up to prepare for curing. When the 24 hours has passed, stand the mugs on a baking sheet and place them in a cold oven. Set the temp to 400° and allow them to bake for an hour. When time is up, turn the oven off and allow them to cool completely in the oven. This could take several hours, so you should plan to cure the mugs on a day when you’re ordering take-out for dinner. When you remove the mugs from the oven, allow them to sit another 24 hours. You may notice the Sharpie has faded slightly in some spots; my red turned nearly orange and the gold metallic lost a little luster. If this happens, don’t despair. We’ll fix it in just a moment.

But first: most tutorials I’ve read say you’re finished after you’ve let your mugs cool post-curing. Those same tutorials are littered with comments about how the Sharpie rubbed off as soon as they were washed. Not being able to bear the idea of my new mugs being destroyed, I riddled my brain trying to come up with a solution. Then it hit me: Mod Podge! When all else fails, Mod Podge Like a MotherFucker (MPLAMF)!

For those of you new to crafting or who haven’t encountered Mod Podge before, it is a glue, sealant, and finish that dries clear and, depending on the variety, glossy. It also doesn’t wash off with water. At least it hasn’t in my initial tests. It’s perfect for this project and helps seal the Sharpie to stay put. Perfect! Before you MPLAMF though, now’s the time to fix any fading that may have occurred or light spots you may have noticed on your mugs. I don’t suggest major repairs, like going over all of your lines, because you won’t be re-curing and I’m not certain if the Mod Podge is enough to seal the uncured Sharpie. If you notice, however, that the heart faded or you have a knick in a letter, fill it in now.

Ok, now we’re ready to MPLAMF! Take a thin, angled paint brush dipped lightly in Mod Podge (Gloss) and just follow the outline of your states, the dashed lines, cover the hearts, whatever you drew. You don’t need to completely cover the mug, though you certainly could. I find it really hard to get a smooth line with Mod Podge even with a foam brush, so I chose to simply paint the individual marks and not the whole side of the mug.

Can you see the Mod Podge on the finished product? If you look really close, yes, but it’s, essentially, the top coat to the mani! If it makes the design stay and doesn’t alter the finish, that’s more important to me. I did three thin coats, letting them dry to the touch between coats and then let them set another 24 hours. If the mugs are just going to be for show, used for holding pens and pencils on a desk (cute!), you can skip the Mod Podge altogether. But if you want to try and enjoy your favorite hot beverage out of them or share in tea time with your bestie across the miles, take the extra half hour and seal them. It’s important to note these mugs will never be dishwashable – even with the Mod Podge. You will always need to hand wash these gently. They might not last as long as your friendships, but this trick will definitely extend the life of your very fancy new mugs.

Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas for Your Boo or Bestie

1. Best Bitches Necklace Set | 2. Leather iPhone Wallet
3. You’re My Lobster Greeting Card | 4. Tocca’s “Stella” Perfume | 5. The Cowboy Comb
6. Thrill of the Taste Shaker Set | 7. Frilly Lingerie Heart Panties
8. Onyx Pentagon Drop Earrings | 9. Wall-Mounted Bear Head Bottle Opener
10. Je T’Aime Pendant Necklace | 11. Printend Angora Fingerless Gloves
12. Clothes Horse Pocket Square Club | 13. The Sriracha Cookbook
14. Portland General Store Cigar Box Toiletry Sampler

Haters gonna hate. But be that as it may, Valentine’s Day is coming and even if you’re currently without a boo, isn’t it still kind of fun to think of making your best friend, office mate, or favorite relative your “someone special” just for the day? Some of my best Valentine’s Days were spent with a friend or two making a great big dinner for ourselves and watching movies or going bowling. I know the whole holiday is fueled by consumerism and here I am adding to the problem, but in the middle of February, I welcome the over-saturation of everything pink and sparkling. It’s also far enough from the holiday season where a small, thoughtful present to you from any kind of sweetie in your life, and gifting them as well, is good for your dreary winter soul. Trust me on this one, I’m a doctor…of philosophy, but still.

So, if you are celebrating and shopping for someone, but need some ideas or inspiration, fear not! I combed all of the Internet hot spots for you and put together some potential gifts that range across price points and interests. I think it’s a pretty great selection! Also, you’ll note that it’s not broken into categories of any kind, including gender. Here at Femme Fraîche we believe gender has its place, but we also believe in disrupting the compulsory cultural assumptions that are made about it. I think you and I are just too dang smart to think that “feminine” and “masculine,” are static, unchanging categories that only look one way and only include certain set characteristics. Thus, the list above is a sampling of ideas; none of which are attached to a specific gender or identity because I trust you’ll know which direction to go based on who you’re buying for and also because, frankly, doesn’t everyone in creation want that bear face bottle opener, anyway?? Right. I thought so.