Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tea Light Winter Village Paper Craft

Happy Wednesday!  My Cricut Explore™  and I have been hard at work making winter wonderland crafts to help make my house merry and bright this holiday season.  Although Halloween has yet to pass, I can't help but dig into my Christmas papers and supplies and start creating projects for Christmas.  For my Cricut Design Space™ Star Round 3 project I made a tea light winter village paper craft that you can use to dress up a holiday mantel, table, or even use as a centerpiece.

Make a tea light winter village paper craft to decorate your house during the holidays |
Miniature paper houses are one of my all-time favorite crafts to make.  Miniature villages spark the imagination and, when done in festive holiday colors, spark loads of holiday cheer.   I die cut these houses from patterned paper and glitter cardstock using my Cricut Explore™.  These cut files can be found in the Cricut Explore Cut List as part of the Winter Woodland cartridge.

Tea Light Winter Village Paper Craft

Tea light winter village paper craft church and houses |
I had so much fun setting up this tea light winter village.  I kept the details on the houses at a minimum so the patterned paper and structural details would take center stage.  I placed the houses on cut logs and added some faux snow to bring the village to life.  I placed little bottle brush trees throughout to add some pretty detail to the village.  

Make your own tea light winter village with Cricut Explore |
No village would be complete without a schoolhouse and a large house on top of a hill.   TIP: When resizing the cut files, start with the house with the widest cut.  Since I was using 12"x12" paper, I maxed out the width at about 11.75".  I quickly learned that not all houses are scaled the same.  I resized my houses based the size of the front door (about 1 1/2" tall) so that they would all stay to scale. 

Three-story paper house with dormer windows. So cute!
This two story house with dormer windows is my favorite out of the whole village.  It looks like it came straight out of an old-fashioned Christmas movie.  If this were my house, I would pick the bedroom on the east side of the second story. 

This striped church is so sweet!
The stripey church looks so inviting!  I added vellum inside the doorways of the houses so the tea lights would be well disguised.  The houses do not have floors making it easy to set the houses over a tea light.  Each building also has a contrasting door.  Although I was tempted, I refrained from adding too many extra details to the houses so they wouldn't distract from the glowing lights.

I love the little dormer window on this peppermint striped paper house!
I die cut each roof from white glitter cardstock to make them look as though they were covered with a fresh layer of snow.  Even the tiny doorways and dormer windows have glittery roofs.  Adhering the chimneys to the glittered roofs required a bit more patience.  Just hold those babies on while listening to your favorite song and you'll be good to go. 

Make a tea light winter village paper craft to decorate your house during the holidays |
The best part of these houses is that they can each be lit with a single battery operated tea light.  The houses look great lit during the day, but look especially stunning at night.  The addition of vellum to the windows softens the glow and makes the houses look warm and inviting.  I accidentally left the tea lights on all night a couple of nights ago and was pleasantly surprised when I walked into the otherwise dark dining room the next morning.  So pretty. 

Tips and Tricks

Use Cricut Explore to make a tea light winter village paper craft to decorate your house during the holidays |
I learned a few things along the way as I die cut and assembled many houses, but only slightly less well-known is this: "Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line!"  See?  See what I did there?  But really, I did learn some stuff about paper crafting. 

Add vellum to the inside of the windows before assembling the house. |
Add vellum inside the windows and doors before you fold and assemble the houses.  Cut pieces of vellum so they overlap the windows about 1/4" on each side and adhere with a tape runner.

Make crisp creases and folds by folding paper over a sharp edge.
The cut files for these houses leave small perforations along the lines to be scored (blue arrows).  For shorter lengths, these work well for creating a fold.  To create a fold along a longer length of paper, place the score line along a sharp edge and create a crease by folding the paper over the edge.  

Make crisp folds by pressing paper with a bone folder.
After you have created creases in your paper, make a nice, crisp fold by pressing each fold with a bone folder. 

Use a quick-dry liquid adhesive when assembling the winter village houses.
Use a quick-dry liquid adhesive to assemble your houses.  It is just a little bit messier than using a tape runner, and you have to be a little more patient, but your houses won't pop apart at the seams.  I like Scotch Quick-Dry Adhesive for paper projects because it binds quickly and doesn't warp the paper. 

Use needlenose pliers to press together glued seams.  Works like a charm!
Sometimes it is hard to get a good seal between paper layers when making 3-D projects.  As I was making these houses, I discovered that using a pair of long needlenose pliers to press seams together worked perfectly.  The pliers make light work of assembling smaller objects like the chimneys and gables.  

Make a tea light winter village paper craft to decorate your house during the holidays |
I just love looking at this little village!  I may have to break out the Christmas decorations early this year.  

Check out what else Cricut Design Space™ Star Team 10 has been up to!  Pretty amazing, right?  Click on the links below for more details on these amazing projects. 

Cricut Design Space Star Team 10 Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland Mantel Luminaria from Let's Eat Grandpa

Winter Treat Boxes from Crafting in the Rain

Winter Wonderland Decor from Albion Gould

Tea Light Winter Village from Popper and Mimi

Personalized Snowflake Ornament from Sugar Bee Crafts

Whimsical Deer Art from One Krieger Chick

Frozen Inspired Pallet Art from Sweet Rose Studio

Happy creating!



Cricut Explore® Machine + Basic Starter Set 
Cricut Winter Woodland cartridge
Doodlebug Santa Express collection, Home for the Holidays collection
Doodlebug Sugar Coated cardstock
Buy Cricut Explore

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Make Spooky Halloween Scene Cards with Stickers

I can hardly believe that Halloween is almost here.  I am seriously hoping that the weather holds out for a couple more weeks.  Few things suck more than trick-or-treating with kids when it is 25ºF and snowing. 

Okay, now that my whining is out of the way, I can get around to sharing some super fun (and a little spooky) Halloween cards that I have been working on this past week.  I love making cards with scenes.  There is just something so quaint about miniature paper trees, animals, houses, rolling hills, etc.  Making scenes on cards makes me feel artsy, like I actually have a grasp on depth and dimension.  Artsy-fartsy-ness aside, it is just plain fun.  Grab your favorite set of stickers and get creating!

Make Spooky Halloween Scene Cards with Stickers

Create Halloween scene cards with stickers and patterned paper
Eeek!  Don't let these black cats cross your path!  I love using starry or other dark patterned papers to create a night sky.  The starry print from Pebbles Thirty-One collection paired with the Boo Street sticker and cats makes for a spooky Halloween scene.  

Using the starry paper in the background, I created a street and sidewalk by layering patterned paper, cutting the paper at an angle to make it appear as though the sidewalk was narrowing in the background.  

Pop up various elements with foam squares to add dimension to the card
When creating a scene with stickers, pop up various elements with foam squares to add dimension to the card.  Popping up larger elements in the foreground of the scene creates depth on an otherwise flat card.  

Create Halloween scene cards with stickers and patterned paper
Another fun way to create a scene is to make an indoor scene with cute wallpaper and flooring.  I started with orange patterned paper that looked like it may have been found in grandma's house and added a contrasting piece of paper to act as the floor.  I always add a narrow strip of paper between the wall and floor to act as the baseboard molding.

Unstick your stickers by brushing cornstarch on the back of my stickers with a dry paintbrush
BONUS TIP: Making the perfect scene with stickers can be tricky because stickers are, well, sticky.  Unstick your stickers by brushing cornstarch on the back of my stickers with a dry paintbrush.  Brush off the excess cornstarch over a garbage can and you are left with a lovely little die cut that you can move around until you decide where you want it.  When you are ready to adhere the "sticker", simply apply your favorite adhesive. 

Scenes on cards don't have to be complicated or too literal.  Like the witch card above, I created an indoor scene on this card using a spooky damask print as the wallpaper.  I popped up the ghost with foam to make it seem like it is floating and layered the skulls on the bottom of the card to make them appear as though they were piled on the floor.  Creepy.  

Free printable Ghosts & Ghouls card sentiment
I used the print and cut feature on my Silhouette CAMEO to create the Ghosts & Ghouls sentiment.  I have made this sentiment available for free.  Wahoo!  Click HERE to download a jpeg or PDF file with this sentiment. 

Ghosts & Ghouls Halloween card
The free Ghosts & Ghouls sentiment can also be used on cards and projects that don't have scenic elements.  You can put a bunch of Halloween cards or invitations together in no time by printing and cutting the sentiments and placing them on patterned paper with a few simple embellishments.  

Free print and cut Ghosts & Ghouls sentiment |
I kept this card clean and simple by layering the die cut sentiment on top of a piece of orange thread and adding a few gold star sequins.  Flat cards, like this one, are awesome because they fit nicely in an envelope and don't require any extra postage.  

Spooky Halloween scene cards
I recently shared three additional Halloween scene cards over on the Pebbles Inc blog.  Click here for more details on each of these three additional cards.  

Make framed Halloween décor using this Ghosts & Ghouls free printable
Both a large and small Ghosts & Ghouls sentiment are included in the free jpeg and PDF files.  Use the larger graphic to create a simple and sophisticated piece of framed holiday décor.  For more ideas on how to use the Ghosts & Ghouls sentiment to create cupcake toppers, treat bags, banner, and more, check out this blog post HERE.  

Happy haunting! 


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DIY baker's twine spider web wreath

Ghosts & Ghouls Halloween party décor

Thursday, October 9, 2014

How to Make Pumpkin Purée (and What Not To Do)

For the past couple of years here on the farm, we have done a lot of experimenting in our garden.  Each year we grow different crops to see what we like, what is worth the effort, and what actually grows.  We have grown leeks, cucumbers (almost), asparagus, squashes of all types, peas, beans, and corn, to name a few.  The ultimate goal is to decide what we like best, decide what is worth the effort, and continue to grow those crops in the future for maximum efficiency and minimal frustration.  

Having successfully grown large jack-o-lantern pumpkins in the past, we decided to grow sugar pumpkins (AKA pie pumpkins) this year to add to our winter food stores.  For years adopted the Martha Stewart philosophy that canned pumpkin purée is just as good as fresh pumpkin purée.  While I won't argue that this may be true from a taste perspective, it is not nearly as satisfying as learning how to make pumpkin purée.  

How to Make Fresh Pumpkin Purée (and what not to do)
So is growing sugar pumpkins and making fresh, homemade pumpkin purée worth the effort?  In one word: yes, but with the recommendation to roast several at a time and freeze the purée for later use.  While I wouldn't describe making fresh, homemade pumpkin purée as hard, it is a bit time intensive and requires a little bit of work. 

How to make pumpkin puree from homegrown sugar pumpkins
This is most of our sugar pumpkin crop from this year.  You can expect to get one or two pumpkins per vine.  We had our first frost this year in the middle of August which killed most of the vines, slowing the ripening of the pumpkins.  We harvested the pumpkins before the next frost in late September.  I expect that if the frost had held off for another month that most, if not all, of these pumpkins would have been fully ripe.  

Choosing a Ripe Pumpkin

Don't roast pumpkins that have even a little bit of green.  Save them for decorations.
Here's where some things went right and some things went wrong.  Because we had our first frost in August, many of our sugar pumpkins didn't fully ripen.  We harvested all of them, hoping to make purée from the pumpkins that only had a little bit of green skin, like the pumpkin on the right.  WRONG!  Choose pumpkins that have deep, orange skin and NO GREEN!  Not even a little bit!  I also learned as I roasted many pumpkins, that the ones with the smoother skin are easier to peel.  Roasting a bumpy, wavy pumpkin doesn't affect the flavor, but the skins are harder to remove, resulting in frustration and more waste.  

How to Make Pumpkin Purée

How to Make Fresh Pumpkin Puree |
Give  your pumpkin a good scrub under running water, in a clean sink.  I designate a green Scotch scrubbie notched with a V (for veg) so my family knows not to use it for cleaning the kitchen.  I cannot verify that this never happens, but it makes me feel better.  

How to Make Fresh Pumpkin Puree |
Start by cutting the stem off of the pumpkin.  This isn't necessary for roasting, but it makes things a heck of a lot easier.  See the beads of water forming on top of the pumpkin?  That's a sign of super freshness.  

How to roast a sugar pumpkin |
Oooh, pretty.  If your pumpkin is ripe and ready to bake, the flesh will be a deep yellow-orange.  If the flesh is pale, toss it to the chickens.  

How to roast a sugar pumpkin |
Scoop out the pumpkin guts and save them for later.  I cry myself to sleep when I find out that someone has thrown their pumpkin seeds away.  Roasted pumpkin seeds are nature's way of saying I love you.  Be sure to remove all of the weird stringy parts.  A few won't hurt, but they aren't the most tender.  NOTE: Goats love pumpkin guts.  Horses, not so much. 

Roast sugar pumpkins face down on parchment |
Place the pumpkin halves face down on a parchment lined baking sheet or jelly roll pan.  I experimented with non-stick foil as a pan liner which worked great as a liner, but it easily shredded to bits as I peeled pumpkins.  Stick with parchment.  

Roast sugar pumpkins face down on parchment |
Roast the pumpkin at 350º F for an hour, adding a few minutes as needed.  The skin will turn a deeper orange and look a little puffy.  You should be able to stick a fork through the skin easily and find no resistance as you pierce through the flesh.  

Gently peel the skin off of a roasted pumpkin.  If it doesn't peel easily, the pumpkin wasn't ripe enough.
Gently remove the skin by sliding a spoon under the skin, removing pieces of skin as you go.  This should be super easy if your pumpkin was fully ripe.  If needed, turn the pumpkin over and scrape the flesh from the skin with a spoon.  Toss the roasted pumpkin into a food processor and process for a good minute or two to make the purée nice and smooth.  

(and What Not To Do)

Okay, since I had so many pumpkins with just a little hint of green on the skin, I thought I'd try roasting a couple.  I mean, how different could they be from a ripened pumpkin?  I could not have been more wrong.  The flesh was more yellow than orange, they were impossible to peel, and not nearly as flavorful as their ripe counterparts.  This really sucks because I only had 4 completely ripened pumpkins in the whole lot.

Don't roast unripened pumpkins.  The puree isn't as smooth, flavorful, or colorful.
Continuing my experiment, I puréed the underripe pumpkin to compare it to the ripened purée.  A little ripening can make a huge difference.  The ripened purée was sweeter, more flavorful, and buttery smooth.  The rest of my greenish pumpkins will be used for holiday décor.  Hooray.

But, since I had 2 cups of the yellowish purée, I went ahead and made a pumpkin pie anyway.  It turns out that a lot of sugar and the right spices can save a bland puree.  The pie was tasty, but not quite as rich as if I had made it with ripe pumpkin.  So you might be saying to yourself, "Why not roast and purée the underripe pumpkins?"  Well, because it's a pain.  It is super difficult to remove the skins which causes a lot of the pumpkin to go to waste.  Green pumpkins go to the goats and chickens.  

Freeze sugar pumpkin puree to use year-round in your favorite pumpkin recipes.
Although I would like to, I am not going to make a ton of pumpkin recipes right this moment.  You can easily freeze pumpkin purée and use it at a later date.  Most pumpkin pie recipes call for 16 oz of purée so I recommend freezing the purée in relatively small amounts.  Other recipes may call for smaller or larger amounts, but 16 oz isn't too much to use at a single time.  If you don't have these really cool plastic freezer jars, freeze the pumpkin purée flat in a Ziploc freezer bag.

Fresh Pumpkin Purée Recipe

How to Make Fresh Pumpkin Purée (and what not to do)


  • 1 2-4 lb. sugar pumpkin


  1. Wash pumpkin and cut off the stem. 
  2. Cut pumpkin in half lengthwise and remove seeds and strings. 
  3. Place pumpkin halves face down on parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 350ºF for an hour.  
  4. Remove skin from pumpkin and purée pumpkin in food processor for 1-2 minutes. 

Refrigerate purée for up to a week or freeze up to 6 months.  Use pumpkin purée in pies, other baked goods, and savory dishes. 

(Click HERE for a printable recipe) 

Happy baking!


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