CRAFTS: How to Make Different Sized Decorative String “Tangles”

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Pinterest is awash with various people pinning tangle balls. Tangles made from string, from yarn, from twine, from bamboo strips and from wire. They are often used in DIY lighting or decorative accents and can be made super big to very small.

We decided to do a little spruce up at our office recently, and I had my eye on this kind of project for a bit. Our agency logo includes a “tangle”, and I thought it would be fun to create various sizes around the office in a decorative manner, lighting them with string lights to brighten certain corners.

So after two weeks of smelling like fabric stiffener and Vaseline (I know, that sounds attractive!) I certainly can give you the low down on what works best for what, and some tips I learned along the way.

But first, how to do this.

What you will need:
Round balls you can inflate/deflate in the sizes you want.
(I used a variety of things, from small blow up balls to a super-large beach ball to various balloons to some “punch” balloons.)
Bottles of Fabric Stiffener like “STIFFY”
A Tupperware container you can throw away
Vaseline or nonstick cooking spray
Yarn, natural twine or cotton string
Tarp
A pump (if you want a really big tangle)
Paper towels
Scissors
Spray paint (if wanting a different color)

How to do it:

1: Cover your area with a tarp. This is very messy endeavor. Also, wear paint clothes or a smock.


2: It is best to hang medium sized balls in an empty closet to sit overnight. SO tie a piece of yarn to the blow hole closure and leave enough length to tie it on a hanger or rod. If you are making a HUGE ball, this is tricky. We found that if we flipped a small chair on top of another one, and used the legs as a “holder” for the ball from the bottom, the ball could sit in the legs and be left alone to dry overnight before the next layer. We just had to keep rotating this around all week as we added layers to it. If using chairs in this way, I would suggest you cover those with a thin plastic tarp as well.

3: Cover your inflated ball lightly with Vaseline or with cooking spray. I found the cooking spray to be easier to deal with, but the Vaseline had more staying power on the ball, as I reused the balls over and over again throughout the week.






4: Either tie off your ball to work on it while hanging (I found I had less control this way, as the ball kept twirling in the opposite direction if I Lost hold of it and unwound itself) or work on it on the tarp on the floor. Pull out a long piece of string/twine/yarn. As you unwind it, loosely make loops around your hand to keep things organized and untangled. Get a good amount around your hand that you can handle without having it be too wily. (You will do more than one layer). Cut the yarn when you have enough. Now pour about ¼ cup or more of fabric stiffener in the plastic container. Lay the looped yarn flat into the glue, but keep it in the loop. Press it into the glue, move it around until it is well saturated. Keeping it in the loop, pull it out and let it drip. With your fingers and hand, keep the loop shape but squeeze excess glue, but not too much. If you squeeze too much out, it will not be stiff enough. Now put your hand through the loop and with the dangled extra string, begin laying and wrapping the string around the ball. Doing it this way will keep the string organized and not a tangled mess. It still may happen, but doing it this way (I found the hard way) it is less likely. Tie off your end piece to another are of string. Let sit for 10 minutes as you repeat this step for another layer. I try and see where gaps and holes are.

5: Keep layering until you have a thick structure. If the tangles plan on sitting, they will need to hold their own weight. This will mean a lot of layers. Also, if using a beach ball, you will need a whole big enough to pull the ball through once deflated. SO keep that in mind as you layer.




6: Once done, let sit overnight to dry and cure completely. For the very large tangle, I would continue to layer after sitting overnight.





7: Now, the tricky part-deflating. If using a balloon, it’s easy. Just puncture where you tied it with a thin needle to make a small hole. It will slowly deflate on it’s own. You can then easily pull it out of one of the yarn holes. For some of the beach balls, you need to either 1) get your hands in their, squeeze the plastic blowing area so it releases air as you use your other hand to add pressure to the ball to deflate. Then pull the plastic out through the biggest hole. I realized after a few of these that my hands were causing the balls to distort in places. SO for the big one, I took a binder clip to the plastic blowing area so it is being squeezed together passively. I then threw a small ball of twine on the ball to add weight gently so it deflated slowly without much handling. Every once in awhile, I would move things in there and reposition the “weight”. After about an hour, the ball was deflated enough for me to simple pull out.

8: At this point, I found clear acrylic shellac to keep things stiff is a nice finish, or spray-painting them as well. We strung white Christmas lights through parts of them, but not through the whole tangle. The fact is, we found that the string lights were way too heavy for the tangles, and they collapsed after a few days. SO when we strung them, we kept them through the bottom just delicately to add some sparkle.



MATERIAL NOTES:
WE found the hard way that the best material that stays the stiffest-especially for the really big tangles is the most untreated material. That would be natural twine. It seems to suck up the stiffener the most and dry the strongest. We tried fashion eyelash yarn or some texture, and that pretty much was a disaster. We used regular white yarn that worked only if it was a smaller tangle and had many layers to the structure. You can play with other string, too. But my recommendation is that if you want it large and to hold it’s own weight, use something as untreated and raw as possible. Some yarns have dyes and chemical additives that may not do what you want it to do.

That’s about it! I am tangled out for a while!

RECIPE: Rosemary Infused Olive Oil and Elderflower Citrus Cake

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Olive oil cakes seem to be the rage among my fellow foodie friends. And the other night, I needed a quick and easy cake to bring to an impromptu dinner party. I think we have all been there, right? Well, a few olive oil cakes I have seen required beating eggs and whites separately, which did not mean “easy”. But I came across a cake by Cat Cora from the Food Network that had a European flair to it. It reminded me of  cake I enjoyed in Savoy, France that my Great Aunt made for us during our visit (and I still cannot replicate in the U.S. :[ ). It seemed a very “mix it all up, bake it and go” kind of thing. So I started there. But I wanted to add a Rosemary undertone, similar to an olive oil cake recipe my colleague raved about recently. I also wanted to play with an Elderflower liquor that we discovered. It has a grapefruit flavor that I thought would match with the citrus nicely. So this is the adaptation.

A few notes, what you see here is a bundt. The original recipe required a 10 inch cake pan. I did not think that was big enough to hold all the batter, unless it was a springform pan. This cake did not want to come out of the bundt pan, AT ALL. So it did break as I finally got it to release. The drizzle covered up the cracks. But I would recommend you use a well greased and floured 10-12” springform with parchment paper. Also, I used dried Rosemary in this recipe versus fresh. It makes the rosemary undertones very subtle. If you want a little more Rosemary punch, I would go fresh with it. The oils from fresh leaves will give it a brighter Rosemary lift.


Rosemary Infused Olive Oil and Elderflower Citrus Cake


Ingredients:

3 eggs
2 cups sugar
10 oz. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
10 oz. low fat milk
Cheesecloth, kitchen twine
3 tsp. dried Rosemary leaves or 2-3 whole fresh sprigs, about 2-3 inches in length
2 oz. Elderflower liquor (like St. Germaine)
2 oz. fresh orange juice
3 tsp. fresh grated lemon zest

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt

Glaze:

4 Tbsp. Elderflower Liquor
1 tsp. dried Rosemary (or fresh)
1 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. milk (or more)

Directions:



Steep your Rosemary first, because you want to infuse the milk as you do the other steps. In a small saucepan, heat the milk until near boiling. In a 5” square piece of cheesecloth, place the dried Rosemary and wrap it in a bundle, tying the top with twine. Place in the pan with the milk, and swirl it around. Take off the heat and cover for about 30 minutes to one hour. Swirl it around every so often.

Heat oven to 350˚. Make sure you have a rack in the upper middle of the oven. Spray your pan with nonstick olive oil spray, and place a piece of parchment along the bottom, cut to size. Spray again and lightly flour. Set aside.





Sift together in a small bowl the flour, baking powder and soda and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until frothy. Add the sugar and whisk until thick and creamy. Add the oil and whisk until well combined and thick. This will take a bit, because oil wants to separate. But it will get combined, just keep whisking. Add the liquor, juice and zest. Take the milk, and squeeze the cheesecloth bundle to get all the remaining Rosemary flavor into the milk. Discard the bundle and add the milk to the batter, and whisk it until well combined. (if you are using fresh sprigs, take them out of the milk, shake them off and discard them. Continue with the recipe, adding the milk into the batter.)






Now add the flour mixture, and whisk until just combined. Don’t overdo it. Pour into your prepared pan, and bake for about 1 hour, or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes on a rack, then release from the pan and let cool completely.

Make the glaze:

In small pan, heat up the Elderflower liquor until just to boil. In a mortar and pestle, crush the dried Rosemary and crush. (If using fresh, just mince up the leaves.) Add the Rosemary to the liquid, and take off the heat. Let sit and steep for about an hour. Add it to the sugar, whisking with a fork. Add the milk, and whisk until the glaze is drizzling consistency. You may need to add a touch more milk until it is right.

With a fork, drizzle the top of the cake with the glaze and serve. This cake would make a fabulous garden tea party addition or bridal shower treat with some tea.

RECIPE: Apple, Lavender, Lemon and Chamomile Cake

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Spring calls to mind fresh rains, citrus fruits and floral overtones. And it was Spring that inspired me to do something interesting with my sad Granny Smith apples sitting in the fruit bowl for over a week. I have always wanted to try Lavender with apples, especially a pie. I have yet to try it, but I thought a step towards a successful pie is to play with it in an easy cake. As I began playing with a recipe, I wanted to bring up the floral notes even more, and decided to use chamomile tea in the batter and glaze. My husband dislikes Lavender in baking, so to tone it down, I added citrus notes of lemon-a perfect mate for Lavender.

Well, I was really pleased with how it turned out. I think when I try a pie next, I will add a little punch of something like candied ginger? We'll see.

Oh, and one final comment, my husband approved and had seconds. Point for The Wife!


Apple, Lavender, Lemon and Chamomile Cake

Ingredients:

Dry:
1 3/4 cup flour
2 3/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

Apples:
2 tart apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled and chopped into 1/2 squares
2 tsp. dried Lavender flowers, roughly crushed with a mortar and pestle or a back of a spoon
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar

Wet:
3/4 cup boiling water steeped with 2 chamomile tea bags (you will only need 1/2 cup for batter, reserve the rest)
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs

Glaze:
2 Tbsp. reserved chamomile tea
2 Tbsp. melted butter
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar


Directions:

Heat oven to 350˚. Spray a 9" spring form pan with nonstick butter flavor cooking spray. Set aside.


Now prep your stuff. Steep your tea bags in the boiling water. Set aside. Mix your chopped apples with lavender, lemon zest, lemon juice and 3/4 cup sugar. Let macerate while you finish the batter. Give it a mix every once in a while.

With a fork, mix the flour with baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.





In a mixing bowl, cream the butter with the 1 cup of sugar. Add the eggs and beat until light and fluffy. Add the sour cream and vanilla. Mix until smooth. Add only half of the 1/2 cup Chamomile tea and mix until combined. Now add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Stop and scrape the sides. Turn the mixer back on and add the rest of the tea, and mix until creamy and combined. Don't over mix. Using a spatula, fold in the apple mixture until evenly combined. Pour batter into the prepared pan.

Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 45-50 minutes, or until top is golden and toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for ten minutes on a wire rack. Then carefully unclip the sides and remove so it can cool quicker.


As it cools, make the glaze. In a small bowl, add the powdered sugar. With a whisk add the melted butter, lemon juice, and tea to the sugar. Glaze should stream off the whisk when lifted. if it is too dry add a touch more chamomile tea until it is thick drizzling consistency. Once cake is cool, drizzle top generously with the glaze.

RECIPE: 3 Cheese and Carrot Macaroni Bake

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It was "Girl's Night" Saturday night, and we were alone.

The hubby was golfing and not to be home.

We watched movies, played games in our PJs all day,
with no complaining or rules to get in our way.
But then 5:00 came, and dinner was near,
and as typical girls, wanted no calories to fear.


But craving delicious, comfort food, too.

I looked to the web, I knew just what to do!
A healthy mac & cheese, with veggie and grain,
mixed with low fat cheese, staying on the "light" train.
My daughter had seconds, we ate it with glee-
as we watched The Secret World of Arietty!
We went to our bed without much of a fight,
and gave each other the sweetest kisses goodnight!

Thank you, Epicurious, for inspiring this rhyme,
I added and adapted to make it more mine.


that was fun!
SO is this:


3 Cheese and Carrot Macaroni Bake

Ingredients

3 cups whole wheat noodles
2 cups grated carrot

3/4 light sour cream
2 eggs
1 Tbsp. ketchup
3/4 tsp. good dry mustard
1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1 tsp. Kosher salt

3 cups shredded mild Cheddar, 1/2 cup reserved for the top
3 oz. light Cream Cheese
1/8 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 stick butter
1/2 Tbsp. Smoked Paprika





Directions






Preheat oven to 400˚. In a large stock pot, boil well salted water. Add the noodles and cook according to package directions. The last three minutes, add the carrots to the pasta. This will blanche the carrots and make them sweet and tender for the casserole. Drain well. While the pasta was cooking, I whisked the sour cream with the eggs, ketchup, dry mustard, pepper and salt. Set that aside.





While the drained pasta is still hot, dump back into the pot and mix with the 2 1/2 cups Cheddar cheese, Cream Cheese and butter until melted and well combined.






Fold the sour cream mixture into the pasta. Pour into an 8" oval casserole dish that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Top with the remaining Cheddar, grated Parmesan and the smoked Paprika. 


Bake on a rack in the upper third of the oven until golden brown and bubbly, about 25-30 min. Serve warm.




some notes: The smoked Paprika adds a bacon nuance without the calories. Feel free to up it a little and mix a bit more into the sour cream mixture to kick it up. It adds a rich undertone. You can use some chopped, crispy bacon too. But it is not as healthy...but who are we kidding? It is macaroni and cheese.
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