Mod Podge and Loose Glitter, DIY glitter candles

glittercandleDIY Glitter projects are all over Pinterest these days.  You can pretty much glitter anything.  When I was deciding on a color scheme for my upcoming wedding, I went with black, white, and glitter gold.  Classic, classy, easy to pull off.  No worrying about matching shades of blue, green, or any other color.  Imagine my surprise when the contract for our venue (as well as all the other venues I considered) specifically mentioned “no glitter.”  In a panic, I asked my venue coordinator if that meant only loose glitter, or any glitter decoration.  She told me that for the purposes of the contract, they mean loose glitter, used for confetti, table scatter, etc.  I could have glitter decoration, provided the glitter didn’t flake off and get all over everything.

I get it.  Glitter is the Herpes of craft supplies.  You can have one piece of it on your hand, and god forbid you touch anything with that hand, or it’s all over.  Next thing you know you see a piece in your hairline, in your car, on your carpet.  Somehow one flake multiplies.  You shower, you vacuum, months go by, and then…. you see a damn glitter flake in your bed!

So basically I needed to have glitter decorations that didn’t shed the stuff all over.  I came across this pin fairly early in my search, and decided to use it as inspiration.  You can get inexpensive glass candles, vases, etc. cheap at Michael’s and the Dollar Tree, and customize them to look fancier.  Our wedding is in the evening, so I knew I wanted lots of candles.  I will also be adding glitter to cylinder vases that will hold the loose flowers I am purchasing as center pieces.  We are getting married outside in front of an arbor (weather permitting!), and so I also purchased some clear glass ornaments that I will fill with rose petals and hang from the arbor for the ceremony.

Up until a couple of days ago I was a Mod Podge virgin.  But most of the DIY glitter project posters agreed that it is the best medium to work with.  It is both a glue and a sealer.  I chose the shiny lustre finish as recommended to not dull the glitter.  I was pleasantly surprised with how easy it was to adhere the loose glitter.  Of course, I prepared my work area to try and prevent the spread of glitter.  I layed down a large piece of cardboard on my table, and I had a large plastic tray to shake the glitter over.  Using a small foam brush, I painted on a thin line of MP, then shook my glitter out onto the candles and ornaments.  I didn’t use tape to mark off sections, I just used the width of the foam brush as my guide.  I’m not going for perfection, just pretty.  🙂

glittercandle2I got my first pack of 12 candles (I’ll be doing three total) and ornaments done in about an hour.  I took the plastic tray with the excess glitter outside and put it back in my glitter shaker using a funnel.  That way any stray glitter went in the grass, not all over the house.  I let the candles dry overnight.  The next morning, I picked up a candle, and glitter went all over the cardboard.  The candle still looked the same, there weren’t “bald” spots, but it was shedding glitter like crazy.  So I knew I had to seal it on, using another layer of MP.  Now here’s where Pinterest failed me:  most of the pins I looked at just said “seal with another layer of Mod Podge.”  Very casual, no big deal.  So I got my foam brush back out, and started spreading MP on one of my ornaments.  It looked like crap! (See picture at left.)  All my beautiful glitter was covered in a white mess.  Not only that, but a lot of the glitter came off onto my brush.  I panicked, and put the ornament back down while I consulted the internet.  Once I actually searched for “mod podge to seal loose glitter,” tips came out of the woodwork.  Some people said to dilute the MP with water to spread it on thinner.  Some people said they can’t us MP to seal the glitter at all, they use some sort of spray to seal it on.  I was like, “great,” I guess I’ll go buy some special spray.  I walked away and started doing other things around the house.  Imagine my surprise when a couple of hours later, my “ruined” ornament looked great! (picture at right)  If anything, it was MORE sparkly than it was before applying the second layer of MP.  Not only that, bglittercandle3ut the glitter was sealed on.  I touched it gently, then not so gently, and every speck stayed on!  I’m sure if you really lay into it some of it will come off, but for my purposes of sitting the things on a table, it will definitely stay on.  So then I went back and “ruined” (hehe) the rest of my ornaments and candles with a second layer of MP.  Here is my trial-and-error technique for applying non-diluted MP over loose glitter:

-I used a small foam brush, the same as the one I used to brush on the initial layer of MP under the glitter.

-I found it best to blot on a little bit thicker layer over most of the glittered surface, and then you can spread the layer over all the glitter.  If you go right into brushing, it makes more glitter come off.  Some glitter still comes off with the blot and spread method, but its a small amount, and you really are just re-spreading it over the surface anyway.  I didn’t have any bald spots after doing it this way.

-Using the same brush, I wiped of excess MP into the bottle, then blotted some more.  It will still look scary and white, but it dries shiny and clear.

-Try not to get excess MP on the non glittered areas.  Otherwise you get little streaks (somewhat visible in picture on right).  It doesn’t look terrible, and no one will likely notice it, but if you’re a perfectionist like me, you may want to use a paper towel to clean up the edges before it dries.

 

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Gluten Free, Dairy Free Strawberry Cake

cakeI had some friends over this past weekend.  One of them has both a dairy and gluten sensitivity, which can make cooking for her a bit challenging.  She is very good about bringing her own food, but I hate inviting someone over with the caveat that they have to feed themselves.  We did a cook-out and our friend was able to eat the burgers and brats (sans cheese and buns, of course), and the salad and veggie sides.  While I know my way around the kitchen, I’m more of a baker than a cook, and I love to try out different desserts.  But all of my go-to recipes have gluten and dairy.  When I asked my friend if she had a dessert recipe she wanted me to try and make, she responded that all the GF/DF desserts she has tried (both homemade and store-bought) aren’t great, so it wasn’t worth it for me to make something and subject the rest of the guests to it.  Being the competitive person I am, I saw this as a challenge.  There had to be something I could make that would be good!

One of my other friends has a daughter who has Celiac disease, and so she has become a gluten-free expert.  I have eaten GF dessert several times at her house, and have always liked the cupcakes, brownies, etc. that she makes.  After consulting her, I learned that her “secret” ingredient when baking GF is pudding.  She said she adds pudding mix to everything, and it helps balance out the “off” texture that many GF desserts can have.  That is a great tip, except that pudding is dairy, so I couldn’t use it.  But I did learn that King Arthur makes a very good GF vanilla cake, the best vanilla mix according to my friend.

Next I turned to my old stand-by, Pinterest.  I came across this recipe for a strawberry upside cake, using a box mix as a base.  I decided to go with it, making these amendments, some of which were suggested by Amanda, the original poster:

-King Arthur gluten free vanilla cake mix.   I prepared according the directions on the box, substituting Earth Balance “butter” and Silk in place of the butter and milk.  The box says you can use water instead of milk, but I was afraid it would further mess with the consistency.  Also, I dumped some vanilla in there, probably about a tablespoon.

-The recipe calls for “crushed” strawberries.  I used fresh, as they are in season.  I wasn’t sure the best (and quickest, to be honest) way to crush them, so I stuck a bunch of berries into my food processor.  I had barely pushed the button and then I had puree.  😦  I went ahead and spread the puree in the bottom of the pan, then chopped up a few more whole berries and scattered the chunks in the puree to give it more texture.

-As Amanda put in her post, I also had large marshmellows instead of minis, so I just cut them up into quarters.

Once it started cooking, I was pretty skeptical.  It looked pretty messy, the marshmellows coming up over the cake in some spots, the cake browning but the whole dish still appearing liquid-y.  Even once the time was up, it didn’t appear like it had set, but somehow my cake tester came out clean.  I cooked this in a 13×9, and again, the top looked messy when I went to serve it, so I tried to flip it over so the strawberries were on top.  Everyone except my DF friend put whipped cream on top.

Now the moment of truth- IT WAS GOOD!  I would never have known it was GF/DF.  In fact, my fiancé is one of the pickiest eaters I know (I didn’t tell him there was anything special about the dessert or he wouldn’t have tried it), and he had seconds!  My GF/DF friend’s husband said this was the first dessert he’d tried that his wife could eat that he liked.

 

Low Sugar, High Protein 3 ingredient Green Smoothie

greensmoothie

As a runner and someone who is concerned with eating a balanced, healthy diet, I have been really watching my sugar intake recently.  Although I’ve generally been eating healthy for quite some time, the amount of sugar I realized I was consuming daily was pretty high.  Using myfitnesspal as a food journal for years to monitor calories, protein, carbs and the like, once I started paying attention to the “sugar” column, I was really surprised!  I have a soda maybe once a month, and I try to only eat desserts/sweets on the weekends or special occasions.  I pretty much exclusively drink black coffee, water, and then a glass of wine or beer every day.  So where was all this sugar coming from?  Turns out, it sneaks in in all kinds of forms.  Dairy products, most things in bottles, including pasta sauce, ketchup, salad dressing, even taco seasoning, as well as in fruit in all of its forms (jams, fruit yogurt, juice, etc.)

Sugar and its ill effects have gotten a lot of attention lately, and it seems like there are two main camps of people:  The first type distinguish between “good” or “natural sugar,” such as those in fruit and milk, and “bad” sugar, anything processed or added to enhance sweetness or flavor.  These people say that it is fine to eat lots of natural sugars, but to limit bad sugars.  The second school of thought does acknowledge that natural sugar is better than processed, but suggests that ALL sugar produces negative effects, and should be consumed in moderation.  After reading a lot about sugar on the internet, I’ve decided to count all of my sugar intake for the day towards my recommended allotment of 45g, but also trying whenever possible to only eat natural sugar, and eliminating processed sugar.

So how has this worked out for me?  I pretty eat the same types of items, but not in the same way.  In the grocery store, I’ve started scrutinizing my “go-to” brands, in many cases switching to those with less sugar.  FYI, “organic” doesn’t always mean less sugar.  I make my own taco seasoning, salad dressing, and stopped buying greek yogurt with fruit already added.  As it (finally!!) warms up in my area, I stop eating oatmeal (another sugar sneaker, even though I thought it was healthy) and start drinking smoothies.  In my small town, there is only one smoothie shop, and they have about 10 varieties on their menu.  EVERY one has at least 40 grams of sugar, with some topping out over 70.  For a SMALL!!  Last summer, my fiancé and I made our own smoothies almost daily.  A lot of times we just threw whatever fruit/yogurt/juice we happened to have in the house in the blender.  As such I never calculated the sugar content, but I’m guessing the OJ, strawberry yogurt, and other high sugar fruits weren’t as virtuous a choice as I thought.

As many people do when they need answers, I turned to google.  I searched for “low sugar smoothie recipes,”  “green smoothie recipes,” “high natural protein smoothies.”  And what did I find?  Lots of high sugar, not so healthy recipes.  So I decided to create my own, and it was surprisingly easy, only 3 ingredients: Naked Kale Blazer, plain greek yogurt, and frozen fruit.  I wanted a juice that was mostly vegetable based, I don’t get enough greens even though I try.  My grocer had plenty of juices, green and not, and so I read the labels of any that sounded good.  Many were quite high in sugar.  I settled on Kale Blazer because it had the highest number of veggies and the lowest grams of sugar.  It also contains a hint of ginger and lemon, which are said to be great for digestion.  I use Chobani plain greek yogurt, again because it has the least amount of sugar, and is a great source of natural protein.  Finally, I scoured my frozen fruit section for a blend that is, you guessed it, low in sugar.  I settled on a package of strawberries, blackberries, and pineapple chunks.  The result?  A not sweet (I mostly taste celery) but still pretty good smoothie.  I like to pair it with some cheddar cheese and a hard-boiled egg for lunch.

 

Low Sugar Green Smoothie (that appears pink) 😉

1/2 cup frozen strawberries, blackberries, and pineapple chunks

1/2 cup Chobani plain greek yogurt

1/2 cup Naked Kale Blazer juice

*optional- I throw in a couple of leaves of mint or basil (whatever I have a lot of) from my herb garden for a little extra flavor

Blend until smooth, blend with ice for a thicker smoothie

Nutritional Info:

150 calories

443 mg Potassium, 2g Fiber

18g Sugar, 13g Protein

A good source of Vitamins A, C, Calcium, and Iron