Tuesday, March 29, 2011

How To: Making Decorative Balls

These days, filling vases, apothacary jars, bowl and baskets with decorative balls has become "very fashonable." :) But these decorative balls can be so expensive! Bloggers and crafters have long known that you can, in fact, make decorative balls all by yourself. Yes, I am here to tell you that you are capable of participating in this craft. :) There are lots of tutorials out there, but I thought I would show you how I made two different types of decorative balls, Jute and Spanish-Moss. 

But first things first,
 It is imperitive that you have good music to craft to. Imperitive. (that means very important, essential) I'm a huge fan of Pandora and lately I've been loving the Laura Story station - great worship.

Ok, now onto burning our fingers creating our decorative balls.

Supplies Needed
  1. Spanish Moss (the off brand was called American Moss.... hahahaha!)
  2. Natural Jute/Twine
  3. Styrofom Balls (the white craft type, not the army-green floral ones) - you could use anything round that you have at home, I've seen some people use old balls that their kids are done with - my baby being young, I thought it best I not use her toys for my craft. :) 
  4. Your trusty friend, the glue gun. He will need to be heated up all the way before beginning this project.
  5. More ammunition for your gun, you will need aprox 4 sticks to make two balls (one of each type).
  6. Scissors
How to Make a Jute Decorative Ball

 I like starting with a nice clean work station, it makes me realize how much of a mess I make when crafting - I don't mind cleaning up craft messes. :) I like to use a tray underneth projects like this, it helps contain the mess a bit - and protects my dining room table from glue.

  1. Put a dot of glue on to your Styrofoam ball, and put the tip of your jute onto it. Let dry - only takes about 10-15 seconds and gives you a firm foundation that is not going to move.
  2. Put down no more than 1/4 inch glue at a time to establish your circle shape. Begin to go around the initial place where you attached the jute.
  3. You can begin to put a bit more glue down now, but no more than the length of half of your circle. (If your jute falls off, it is difficult to put it back the same way it was before, leaving you bits of white hot-glue in your string. A bit of this is to be expected, but too much isn't attractive.)
  4. Continue gluing and wrapping your jute around, working from the top-down. 
  5. Repeat step 4.
  6. When you are half-way done wrapping your ball, turn it over and begin working from the bottom-up.
  7. Repeat step 4.
  8. At this point, you will need to start working in 1/2in to 1in segments again, since you are not wrapping your jute around an established layer anymore, but are instead "laying" on the previous layer. 
  9. Continue wrapping/laying the jute until you are two "turns from being done" lay the jute into the rest of the circle without gluing so that you can see where you need to cut the jute and finish your string.
 While you are working on your decorative ball, no one will blame you if you turn it to the side and pretend it has a face. :) 

 It may be helpful to allow the ball to "unwind" to allow the string you are wrapping to relax and not be bunched up because of tension (you know when it curls?). 

 Ok, so picking up in step 9 - hold the jute so you can see where you need to cut. 

 (I think it looks like a coconut bomb from Swiss Family Robinson!) Put a dab of hot glue on the end of your jute, to keep it from unraveling - wait a few seconds before shaping it to the string. Then fill your "hole" and lay down your jute to finish the ball. 

 There you go! A jute ball! Good job! See that wasn't too bad right?!

How to Make a Spanish Moss Covered Ball
  1. Approach this stuff with caution, it is messy.
  2. Take some moss out of the bag, I found it necessary to cut out what I thought I would need - it was so tangled. 
  3. Spread out your moss, so it is in a few clumps but still attached (if it comes unattached, it's ok) try to keep the moss "clumpy" the more you have the better coverage you will have.
  4. Take a Styrofoam ball and put a zig-zag (yes, it's a technical term) of hot-glue on it.
  5. Take some of your moss and hold it against the fresh hot-glue. (go to step 7)
  6. Continue to make zig-zags and hold your moss against it, shaping the moss around the ball. This is a two hand process, but I had to take the picture with one of my hands. Go to step 8
  7. (Ahem... so sorry this is out of order, I didn't notice until just now.....) The moss should stick pretty well, the more you "scrunch" the moss together, the less you will be able to see your ball (some people reccommend painting your ball a dark color, so that if you can see it through the moss it isn't white, but I didn't have spray paint and didn't want to make more mess - if you have trouble getting good coverage on your decorative ball, it may be helpful for you to paint them before you begin to cover.) Go back to step 6.
  8. Well, that was kinda a choose- your-own-adventure, in the fact that you were jumping from point to point. Anywho.... Make sure you get good coverage with the moss, there is no shame in going back into the (albeit scary) bag to get more moss. 
  9. You are done! :) Way to go!
(Side note: I have tried to use tacky glue to make this and it doesn't work as well as the hot-glue. It doesn't "grip" the moss like the hot-glue does. :) )

 Remove any yuck like this from your moss, it doesn't make for pretty decorative balls. 

 And there you have it! A fun, springy (both the season and the motion) decorative moss ball. You can glue down all the ends, but I think they looked natural and kinda sassy poking out everywhere. :)

FYI: The jute balls take about 15 minutes to make, I am convinced that all the upping and downing with the hot-glue gun eats time. The moss ball took 4 minutes. Yes, that fast. :) It is a little more of an organic process and not so precise like the jute (if that makes any sense).

 Whatd-I-tell-ya about the mess.... use a tray... you will thank me. :)

I thought it was crazy - but all three of these are the same size (at least they were when I started)! I think the hot-glue shrinks the Styrofoam a bit.

 This is how I am displaying my decorative balls right now, but once I make enough I am going to fill my apothecary jar with them. 

Another idea for covering/wrapping - wouldn't it be fun to wrap a bunch of balls and put them in a basket for fall/winter. Something about yarn just calls out for cool, crisp weather and hot chocolate. :) Do you have any other covering/wrapping ideas? I've seen them made with coffee beans (ohh, might be a neat combo with the yarn!) and sea shells.

 Which one is your favorite? I find myself stuck, I seriously can't decide. I love the texture the jute one gives a bowl/vase/jar/basket but the moss one is so fun and a bit crazy - yes, I like things a bit crazy sometimes. :)

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Ok calm down... CALM DOWN. I know all you obsessive compulsive blog readers out there, leap off of your: desk chair/couch seat/bean bag chair/dirt floor of your hut (for our missionary friends) each time that I Mr. Rev. Brad Kidder (how the paper prints my name when I do a funeral) sit down to write a post. Well sit back down and relax and get ready to learn.

As a Pastor, the stereotype tends to be that I spend a lot of time telling people that they are not good enough. Well today friends, that is what I have to tell you! Your life, mainly the part of it that consist of eating and cooking, is lacking, and that is because I have never taught you how to make a risotto.

Those of you who have partaken of this elusive unicorn like meal, know that the simple combination of Arborio Rice, Chicken Stock, White Wine, Butter, and parmigiano reggiano in the right order in the right intervals is enough to make an man or woman weak at the knees. In fact I must preface this post with a warning, that this dish never be made outside the confines of marriage, as it can tend to lead to... well, PG-13.

OK so here we go!

Here my friends is the finished product that we are headed for!!!

Sorry to show you the finished product from the get go, I know that I hate when the interior design show that, Sarah and I like to watch Sarah makes me watch (insert manly grunt here) do that, but I wanted you to know what we are headed for.

To start out gather the following:
1-2 Cups of Arborio Rice (You can find this at any grocer or even walmart these days, you CAN NOT use regular old long grain rice)
Cooking Oil
1 Cup of Dry White Wine, or Champagne (You, Fancy Pants you!)
2 Swanson Boxes of Chicken stock
3 Tablespoons of small diced shallots (or just an onion for redneck risotto)
2 Cloves of Gallic minced
1 tsp of basil oregano and parsley
Salt (Kosher please, what would Moses use!)
Pepper (freshly Ground)
2 Tablespoons of Butter
3/4 of a cup of Good Parmesan (parmigiano reggiano if you can get it, but for goodness sake it better not come from a plastic shaker!!)
and 3/4 cup of precooked shredded or chopped Chicken (this one is optional)

You will also need:
2 medium to large sized sauce pans, or even better a saucier
A ladle
A Spatula that you don't mind stirring with for 30 minutes

Ok got all that! Then off we go!

First take that Chicken stock of yours and put into which ever sauce pan you don't like as much (you know you have a favorite) and get it to and keep it at a simmer. It should look like this:

If that step was hard for you then, just stop right there and make a grilled cheese. For those of you continuing on, congrats!

Next take your fav sauce pan or Saucier, and heat enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan about a quarter of an inch in oil heat this over medium until it shimmers, and apparently (thanks to my infrared thermometer!) is about 135 degree's

Add to this oil your dice shallot and cook with a small amount of salt until it looks like it has softened. When said softening is achieved and the corner of the shallot are just about to turn brown add your garlic.

We only want to cook the garlic for about 20-30 second just until you start to smell it's fantastic Twilight repelling smell, any more and you will have burned it.

Add in your Arborio Rice and stir to coat all of the grains in oil. Let this sit stirring occasionally for 1-3 minutes until the rice starts to smell a bit nutty (just like your favorite crazy uncle!) At this point if you are adding chicken at the end it would be wise to get it reheated or completely cooked so it can wait at the side, you are going to want to add it while it is still hot from cooking or has been reheated!

Ok Moody Students, tea totters, and Baptist buckle up! At this point we do need to add just a tiny bit of wine. I know I know but won't buying probably get me kicked out of my church! Well folks Jesus made it, and I think we will be ok cooking with it! But if this step makes you squirm (or if you are at risk for alcoholism, no jokes here) then just skip it.

Add Just enough wine to cover the rice and stir until everything is wet.

Let this simmer until all of the liquid is gone but the pan is not completely dry stirring every 30 seconds or so.

For the next 20 minutes you will enter into a time consuming process of truly cooking this dish.

Ladle into the rice the already simmering chicken stock which is hopefully next to your rice on the stove, again you want to just cover the rice in liquid, don't fill the pot with stock, but also don't add so little that your adding stock every other minute. It should look like this:

KEEP Stirring the rice as the liquid evaporates, again until the pot is just about dry, and looks like this:

Now repeat the above steps at least two more times, after the Third addition of the stock the rice will likely be getting hard to stir as you are gently pulling the starches out of the rice, which is just one of the many proofs that we serve a Divine and benevolent God. After the third addition of Stock is added taste the rice,

it should be still a bit hard in the middle but getting very close to done, and salt until it taste almost seasoned enough, but error on the safe side, since the Parmesan we are adding latter is quite salty. Also add the green spices that we set aside earlier and a pinch of black pepper.

Now add about half as much stock as you have been in the previous steps, let it evaporate and taste, do this until the rice taste just slightly more aldente in the middle than you would like. If your adding chicken do it before you add this next bit of stock so it has time to completely heat throughout in case it has cooled at all since cooking or reheating!

Now we finish!!

Add in the cheese and about 2.5 tablespoons of Butter and stir over the heat until they have melted into the rice completely, taste the dish, shout for joy at its amazing flavor, and add any additional salt or pepper to your taste.

Plate up the dish in two-three bowls or plates and garnish with fresh parsley, and parm shavings! And Enjoy! :)

Ok everyone I hope you enjoy your dinner!! Thank-you cards, containing money of course, would probably be appropriate.

Saturday Morning Play-Time

Friday, March 25, 2011

Fixin' Up Friday: Progress in the Decorating Department

Last week, my mom's upcoming arrival lit a fire under my bottom to get some stuff on the walls and decorate a bit. And with the arrival of spring, I wanted to "springify" the house a bit. :) (to see the house before all the progress - click here)

In the past, I've always forgotten to decorate for spring - Easter sneaks up on me, and before I know it the pastel-pallet is no longer applicable. Thankfully, this year, I remembered to pull out all my fun decor. :)

Let's start our tour in the front room.
This space is pretty empty (and I kinda like it) but functions as a big entry way right now. Eventually we will have a piano in this room and may be a chair or two or small couch. But for right now, our pennies need to be saved for new couches for the living room. :)

Our two bookshelves anchor this side of the room, because Brad has almost all of his "studying" books at church in his office, space has been freed up on the shelves for me to put some picture frames and decor. I even have my cook books out here right now, since my kitchen/dining room doesn't have a place for them right now. :) You may recognize the plant stand from here and the lamp has moved into here from the living room because of a new lamp (keep reading to see it). :)

(Pet-peeve: The shelves are different colors, we bought them at different times and Target changed the shade of the color between purchase 1 and purchase 2. Boo. Paint may be an option in the future...)

Ok, let's go down the hall to the master bedroom,

A close up of the wall. Wedding pictures, our invitation, some love penguins, a (fake-but-looks-so-real) rose and memorable little boxes make a nice grouping.

The dresser. Brad gave me the jewelry box for my birthday (the first year we were together) the Lladro piece has a fun story behind it:

Years ago my Great Grandpa Ivance was shopping and bumped this statue while browsing. He ended up buying it and gluing it back together. As my family was helping him move this was one piece that went into the "give-away" pile. As I was looking through the pile I grabbed it up! When I lived with Bill and Nina Knuth for a few summers they instilled in me a love for Lladro and I thought it would be years until I could own a piece of my own. I rebroke this pretty lady's arms, took off the old glue and tape (with finger nail polish remover and cotton swabs) and re-glued her together, the results made me happy! The cracks were much less evident and I felt comfortable making her a centerpiece on my dresser. She is not perfect. But I love her. :) As we think about what we want our Master Bedroom to be, I think I would like to go to a lighter color pallet in the future, perhaps using this lady as inspiration. :)

Onto the other side of the room:
I am still thinking through what I can do above Brad's side of the bed (left) to balance out the off-centered window and hide the electrical box.

I moved my apothecary jar onto my nightstand per Brad's request, he felt he was going to break it on his side. :) I like waking up and seeing one of my favorite things, so I was happy to oblige. :) I painted the picture, a copy of this, with my friend Linsey one summer.

To see Lucy's room, click here.

The guest room, still a little sparse - but functional. :)

Ok, back to the dining room. :)
Our buffet is no longer lonely, but has a picture to keep it company. :) I'd like to make a longer runner for the buffet (burlap? canvas? or something else neutral), the proportions are off a bit with this one, but hey - it was free. :)

A bit of Easter fun, candy anyone? :)
(ohh that rhymed :) )

I hung the pictures in the same arrangement they were in in Chicago (tried to find a picture to show you - is it possible I NEVER gave you a tour of our condo on Leavitt?). I liked the grouping, and it works well on the wall.

Our spring table. Look, Lucy even has her bunny bib out! :) (Secret: I'll give a tutorial on how to make those decorative balls soon. Shhh... dont tell ok?)

The living room doesn't have too many decorating changes (other than the south wall! lol - that's a bit different now than it was during the last home tour).

My mom gave me this end table, which I think was given to her by her sister Joy. I love family furniture pieces (especially when they are free!). I've been loving this table, it gives me a place to set my drink in the evenings when we are relaxing - the right side of the couch is mine, the left is Brad's. Yes, we assign seats in the living room. :)

The left side of the living room is lookin' fine with that treadmill, am I right? Oh the price I am paying to (try to) stay in shape. :) Eventually we will get a screen to hide the ginormous equipment. As for now, we fold it up and push it against the wall when we have company.

Attention north wall. You will soon be attacked. Prepare yourself. (I can't wait to get that paneling and wallpaper down... but one project at a time Sarah, one project at a time.)

And meet the Lucy corner. It has expanded. Quite a bit. (See the progress we are making on the wall? :) A few more coats of mud left, and then we can PAINT!!)

And there is the new lamp, we got at IKEA in Dallas. Love that place.

Brad likes the changes I have made, but Lucy isn't so sure:
Just kidding! She loves them too, she even asked me, "Mama, when will you be done taking down all that paneling?"

That's my girl. :)

Well, I hope you enjoyed the progress tour. We are no where near the "after" status, but we will make sure to take lots of "during" pictures to document our journey toward it. :)

Do you like the changes? Or do you feel like Lucy, in that picture above? Has spring sprung in your neighborhood? Have you decorated to bring in the new season? If not - it's totally fine, I'm a little obsessive - maybe even OCD - about changing my decorations, I like things to be new and different. :)