Homemade Valentine's Day Treat Boxes

Homemade Valentine Treat Boxes6 I love making fancy edible gifts, and receiving them, too! Valentine's Day is a great chance to cure my holiday season baking withdrawals and get back into the kitchen to whip up some pretty treats. I have a habit of collecting baking accessories like some girls collect jewelry, and I recently purchased some alphabet cookie cutters and molds. I decided to put them to use for typographic Valentine's Day treats, and with a quick paint job on these paper mache boxes, I had some nice little homemade treat boxes to give to my friends.

Homemade Valentine Treat BoxesAlphabet Brownies

Supplies:
-brownie batter
-non-stick cooking spray
-alphabet mold
-paper mache box (I used a 7x7 box for the brownies and used these nesting boxes later.)
-gesso or your desired paint
-paint brush

Step One: I used an icing piping bag to fill select letters of my mold with brownie batter. (I cut the Q shaped brownie to make another U.) After baking the brownies in the mold until a toothpick inserted into the brownie comes out clean, I allowed them to cool. Then I put them in the freezer for a couple of hours to harden them. This made them less brittle, allowing me to easily pop each brownie letter out of the mold.

Step Two: While the brownies were in the oven, I began painting my paper mache boxes. I hand painted stripes with gesso because gesso is thicker than paint and will be opaque after just one coat. I also used a paint dabber to make polka dots on another box. I painted the inside of the boxes with two coats of gesso.

Homemade Valentine Treat BoxesStep Three: I used square-shaped baking liners because they fit better into a square box to make a checked pattern. These liners are reusable silicone liners that you can actually bake right inside of if you'd prefer to just make mini cakes for your treat boxes.

Doesn't it look fun? I lofted this top layer of brownies with a piece of card stock. You can fit another layer of treats below.

Homemade Valentine Treat BoxesHomemade Valentine Treat BoxesGlazed Mini Cakes

In addition to the alphabet brownies, I wanted to make XO petit fours, but the cookie cutters I used were just a bit large for petit fours. So in the end I guess I made mini cakes in the style of petit fours, with half of them glazed in poured fondant, and the other half glazed with a chocolate coating.

Supplies:
-pound cake
-jam
-marzipan or almond paste
-knife & alphabet cookie cutter

Poured Fondant:
-1/2 C water
-2 1/2 C sugar
-1/4 C light corn syrup
-food coloring
-vanilla extract
-candy thermometer

Chocolate Glaze:
-dark chocolate chips
-coconut oil
(portions are dependent on your needs.)

Homemade Valentine Treat BoxesStep One: Cut pound cake into .75" even slices.

Step Two: Cut out the pound cake into the Xs and Os using your alphabet cookie cutters.

Homemade Valentine Treat BoxesStep Three: Spread a thin layer of jam to make little sandwiches, stacking two layers of pound cake.

Step Four: Roll out the marzipan or almond paste into a thin sheet and cut out enough pieces to top each of the pound cake sandwiches you made. Wet one side of the marzipan or almond paste so it will adhere to the top of the sandwiches. This layer will allow for a smooth top when you glaze the cakes.

Refrigerate the finished sandwiches for at least two hours. This helps all of the layers to really come together. Make sure to cover the sandwiches or keep in an air-tight container.

Homemade Valentine Treat BoxesStep Five: Combine the sugar, water, and syrup in a pan to make the poured fondant. Stir until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage (which should be marked on your candy thermometer. Pour the syrup into a food processor and allow to cool to 140 degrees F.

Step Six: Add the coloring and vanilla extract to the syrup and process for 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a microwavable bowl suitable for dipping the cakes into the fondant.

Homemade Valentine Treat BoxesStep Seven: Dip the room temperature cakes into the fondant and place on a cooling rack. I had to microwave my fondant to get it back to a runny liquid state in between icing each cake.

Step Eight: Combine coconut oil and chocolate chips ( I used about 1/4 C coconut oil with 2 cups of chips, but probably could've used less oil.) Melt in the microwave or using a double broiler just until the chips are soft. Stir and microwave until the mixture is just melted. Dip the cakes, place onto a cooling rack, and chill in the refrigerator until the chocolate has set up.

Coconut oil melts at body temperature, so be careful when handling the chocolate glazed cakes.

Homemade Valentine Treat BoxesI lined a painted paper mache box with wax paper and place the cakes inside. They were a perfect fit in the largest nesting box I had. Though a bit more time-intensive than regular glazed cakes, the petit four style of layering and glazing is so delectable. I can't wait to make smaller versions, because I'm sure they are much easier to dip in the poured fondant. Brings me back to my American Girl tea party days!

Homemade Valentine Treat BoxesSo special, and even more delicious. The perfect little valentine surprise for someone you love. -Mandi

Credits // Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson. Photos edited with Stella and Valentine from the Signature Collection.

Make Real Silver Jewelry with Metal Clay!

Have to do this! Use metal clay at home to make a pure silver fingerprint pendant necklace (click through for tutorial)           Since I've been doing art and craft projects since I was a kid with my art teacher Mom, there aren't that many areas I've never dabbled in at all, but this project was a totally new challenge for me. Emma mentioned that she had learned about this clay that you shape and dry, and once it's fired, it turns into pure silver! It sounded crazy, but the more we looked into it, we realized it was true. The clay is made of silver particles, organic binders, and water, so when you fire the piece, the organic binders and the water burn off, and you are left with a piece that is 99.9% pure silver. Awesome!

The other great thing about this clay is that if you've heard anything about metal clay before, you may have thought that you had to have a kiln to work with the material, but you actually don't need one. They make metal clay that has a low enough firing point that you can actually just use a butane torch (the same thing you would make creme brûlée with) to fire the piece instead. As long as the piece is smaller than a silver dollar in size, you can use the torch and that change makes the project much more accessible.  

I love the idea of making jewelry with a fingerprint of someone you love, and having a husband that travels a lot makes the idea extra special to me. I thought I could make two fingerprint necklaces (one with his print and one with mine) so it's like having a piece of each other near our hearts on a daily basis. Love it!

Have to do this! Use metal clay at home to make a pure silver fingerprint pendant necklace (click through for tutorial)Supplies:
-Art Clay Silver 650 (low fire)
-polishing papers
-small piece of plexiglass (check your local home improvement store)
-card stock paper or playing cards
-acrylic roller
-small circle cookie cutter slightly bigger than the size pendant you want (I used the smallest circle in this pack. It's a little less than 1" wide)*
-firing block
-small butane torch 
-wire brush
-fine grade sandpaper
-small spray bottle for water
-plastic clay knives
-agate burnisher (optional)

They also make these Art Clay starter kits that come with a bunch of the above items, so it may be a better deal to get a kit depending on what you need. 

*The clay will shrink 8-10% once it's fired, so pick a circle that's a bit bigger than the size you're going for.

Have to do this! Use metal clay at home to make a pure silver fingerprint pendant necklace (click through for tutorial) First you'll want to set up your station to roll out the clay. Metal clay starts to dry as soon as you expose it to air, so get everything ready to go before you take it out of the package. You can use pieces of card stock or playing cards stacked next to each other with about 1 1/2" in between them to keep the thickness of your piece consistent. I used 4 pieces of card stock on each side, and I would suggest a thickness of 4-5 cards for this project. Secure your cards to the plexiglass with a few pieces of tape and unwrap your metal clay. You can coat your fingers in a very thin layer of olive oil so the clay doesn't stick to your fingers, but the clay does wash off hands easily. Place your clay on the plexiglass between the card stacks and use your acrylic roller to roll out the clay the thickness of the cards. 

Have to do this! Use metal clay at home to make a pure silver fingerprint pendant necklace (click through for tutorial)  Once rolled out, take your thumb and press it into the clay starting on the left side of your thumb and roll your thumb to the right (like if you were making a fingerprint with ink). You want to press hard enough to get a good impression of your thumb, but not so hard that you smooch all the clay to one side or the other. If you think you pressed too hard or too light, simply scrape up the clay with a clay knife, knead it gently, roll it out, and try it again. If the clay starts to dry before you get a good print, lightly mist the clay with water from a spray bottle and it should knead back into a soft state. I did notice that no matter how hard I pressed, I could never get quite the definition of Todd's fingerprint, so maybe he's just way stronger than I am (totally true) or he has more defined fingerprint lines.

Have to do this! Use metal clay at home to make a pure silver fingerprint pendant necklace (click through for tutorial)   Have to do this! Use metal clay at home to make a pure silver fingerprint pendant necklace (click through for tutorial)     Once you have a good thumbprint, place your circle cookie cutter over the part of the print you want to become your pendant and press down. Keeping the cutter in place, use a clay knife to scoop up the rest of the clay around the cutter and place that clay immediately into plastic wrap and then into a plastic bag with a damp paper towel at the bottom for storage. Keep the bag in a dry, dark place, and it should stay good until you want to use it again.

Have to do this! Use metal clay at home to make a pure silver fingerprint pendant necklace (click through for tutorial)     Remove the circle cutter and use a toothpick or a small straw to make a hole for your jump ring once the piece is finished. Allow the clay to fully air dry for 24 hours.

Once the clay is completely dry, you should be able to pick up your piece and sand down any edges that are uneven or sticking up with a fine grit sandpaper (like a 220 grit) or the fine side of an emery board. 

Have to do this! Use metal clay at home to make a pure silver fingerprint pendant necklace (click through for tutorial)         In a dimly lit room, place your piece on the firing block and use your butane torch to fire your clay (obviously this photo above is not a dimly lit room, but I wanted to show you the angle and proximity of the torch to the clay). You'll want to hold your torch about 2" away from the clay at a 45° angle and move the torch around the clay in a constant motion to heat the piece evenly (don't settle the heat on any one spot for too long). At first, you may not see anything happen, but keep going and the piece should begin to smoke a bit or even catch on fire. Don't worry, that just means the organic binders are beginning to burn off. Keep moving the flame around the piece until you see the piece begin to glow a peach color. This is why you want to fire the piece in a dim room if possible as it's easier to see the peach glow in a dim space.

Once you see the peach color, you'll want to keep time of how long you continue to fire while you adjust the proximity of the flame to maintain the peach glow. A weight of 5 grams only requires 1-1.5 minutes and 6-15 grams needs 1.5-2 minutes, but since I didn't know the exact weight of my piece (and you can't really fire it too long), I kept the peach glow for at least 2 minutes just to be safe. Once time is up, turn the torch off and allow the piece to completely cool. The piece should be coated in a white layer at this point.

(If you're like me and you want to have a visual walkthrough of the firing process, this is a great video to see what it should look like as it's happening.)

Have to do this! Use metal clay at home to make a pure silver fingerprint pendant necklace (click through for tutorial)          Drop the cooled piece in water and use the wire brush to brush off the white outer layer. Dry with a cloth. Then use the polishing cloths to polish your piece (starting with the coarsest and working down to the finest). Dip the polishing cloth in water and polish in one direction only (like only in strokes from left to right). To get a mirror shine, rub an agate burnisher all over the piece for an extra professional look. If you want to add a dark patina to your piece to highlight the sunken lines of the fingerprint, you can use a bath of liver of sulfur before you polish the piece.

Have to do this! Use metal clay at home to make a pure silver fingerprint pendant necklace (click through for tutorial)            Have to do this! Use metal clay at home to make a pure silver fingerprint pendant necklace (click through for tutorial)           At first I was skeptical about this process because it seemed so technical, but now that I've done it a few times, I'm totally obsessed! Also, the process is a lot more forgiving than I thought it would be, so I was happy that I didn't have to feel stressed to do everything totally perfect.

It's so special to have matching necklaces with each other's prints, and I know for sure that I will be wearing this necklace a ton when he's gone. You can do this process on a bigger or smaller scale and make charms or key chain pendant gifts with meaningful fingerprints. Of course, I love making jewelry and learning new crafting skills regardless of the sentimental level, but when it's a project that also pulls a bit at your heartstrings, well, that makes it extra special if you ask me...xo. Laura

Credits // Author: Laura Gummerman, Photography: Laura Gummerman, Todd Gummerman, and Elsie Larson. Photos edited with Stella from The Signature Collection

Statement Shower Curtain DIY

Sometimes only a shower can fix that situation. Statement Shower Curtain tutorial over on www.ABeautifulMessThis statement has never been more honest than when I'm staring at my bedhead each morning at 7am, and sometimes only a shower will fix that hot mess. Embrace your hot mess with a statement shower curtain—a little humor to get you up and at 'em while your coffee brews. All you need is an off-the-shelf shower curtain with a subtle pattern or solid color, a printer, and a steady hand to add a little fun to your morning routine.

I Woke Up Like This Shower Curtain tutorialSupplies
- cotton shower curtain with subtle pattern or solid color 
- acrylic paint in darker color than your curtain (or metallic)
- freezer paper
- scissors
- iron
- paintbrush
- straight pins
- yardstick
- beach towel
- access to a printer

SuppliesPrint Your PhraseStep One: Choose a large, bold font and print your message on individual pages. I used Function Bold. Place your phrase on your curtain and decide how you want to align things. I centered mine in three rows. 

Trace Your PhraseStep Two: Measure how wide each line of words will be, and then add about 6" to come up with how much freezer paper to cut. Place your freezer paper sticky side down. Then line up your letters underneath so that they are nicely spaced. Once you're happy with how things look, trace around the edges of each letter. 

Center Your PhraseStep Three: Carefully cut out the letters so that you have a negative of each letter. Be sure to save the extra pieces for letters like 'O' and 'P'. Realign each strip of freezer paper and use straight pins to secure them in place.

Paint Your PhraseStep Four: On a dry setting, iron your freezer paper to your fabric according to the manufacturer's directions. I laid a beach towel under my curtain after pinning my paper in place to protect my floors. Once I was done ironing, I removed the beach towel and put foam board underneath before painting in the negative spaces. 

Let it DryStep Five: Once my paint was dry, I removed each freezer paper stencil and ended up with this. 

I woke up like this...so I need a shower. Make your own Statement Shower Curtain with the tutorial on www.abeautifulmessI'm really happy with how it turned out and love the face lift it gave our master bath. If you don't want to mess with tracing and cutting and measuring, you could easily freehand the same phrase or something similar. Just use chalk to help outline your words and give you some idea where to work as you go. Switch this phrase out with your own morning pep talk and enjoy how much nicer 7am feels! -Rachel

Credits//Author and Photography: Rachel Denbow. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

DIY Lap Desks (No Sewing Required!)

DIY Lap Desk (via abeautifulmess.com) I mainly added that "No Sewing Required" to the title of this post in the hopes that you would not read this as "DIY Lap Dance." Every time I say "lap desk" I think, "lap dance." I guess a DIY lap dance post wouldn't be the worst for this month, with Valentine's and all. It's just not something I have the right, uh, skills to teach. 

So sorry to disappoint anyone—this is about needing a comfy, flat surface so you can type in bed... not about a lap dance. 

His and Her Lap Desks DIYDIY Lap Desk tutorialI type or edit pictures in bed fairly often, so I've been wanting to get some kind of lap desk for a while. But, I kept seeing ones that were just not my style or just generally a little overpriced. So, I decided to make my own, and once I realized how inexpensive it was going to be, I thought I'd make a his and her version so Trey and I can be really cool and BOTH be on our computers in bed at night. Ha!

Cut the foam to fit the boardSupplies:
-wooden lap desk top (I bought ours here)
-foam square (found in the fabric department of most craft or fabric stores)
-fabric (1/3 to 1/2 a yard, depending on your lap desk top size)
-trim
-scissors
-fabric glue
-staple gun and staples (make sure they are shorter than your lap desk top)
-wood stain and brushes (optional)

In case you're curious, each lap desk costs about $18 to make, depending on what fabric you choose. This does not include tools (scissors or staple gun).

Step One: I placed my lap desk top on the foam and traced a pattern. Be sure to cut the foam a little smaller than the top. You can use scissors to cut the foam, and don't worry if your edges aren't perfect. You won't be able to tell once you're done.

Stain the topsStep Two: I chose to stain the tops and sides of my lap desk tops. You can skip this if you like the look of unfinished wood. I decided to stain one black (Ebony) and one white (tinted stain base with white paint). Allow to fully dry.

Staple the cushion to the bottomStep Three: Place the foam over the bottom side of the lap desk top and staple in place. Try to make your edges look clean and pull the fabric taut as you go. If you find that a staple goes in at an angle, so it comes up out of the desk surface, remove it with a pair of pliers and try again. You don't want any staples exposed or they may snag you once you put your lap desk to use.

Trim and add trimStep Four: Trim any excess fabric. As you can see, I had quite a bit to trim away. It's good to have extra fabric while you are stapling because it gives you more to hold on to as you work. 

Step Five: For a cleaner edge, fabric glue trim to the trimmed edges of the fabric. Allow to dry.

Easy homemade gift ideas for menHow to make your own lap desk for less than $20I'm really glad I went ahead and made my own because I love how they turned out. Thanks for letting me share! xo. Emma

Credits // Author: Emma Chapman, Photography: Janae Hardy and Emma Chapman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

Happy Mail Unboxing: February

Happy Mail Unboxing FebruaryHey friends!!! Here's our monthly unboxing video for Happy Mail. We're super excited about the pieces this month! 

Happy Mail is shipping to subscribers today. If you aren't subscribed, you can sign up here. Once you are signed up, you'll get $50 value of cute, curated stationery each month for as low as $15. Pretty sweet! Get more info here. xx. Elsie

Credits // Author and Photography: Elsie Larson. Video and Music: Jeremy Larson. Photo edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

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