These treats aren’t from scratch, but they’re pretty neat (and easy!)

an assortment of finished giant jolly rancher lolipops

an assortment of finished giant jolly rancher lollipops

I found them on pinterest last fall, you can see them over here at The Decorated Cookie.    There’s tons of tutorials out there now on how to make these.  There’s one here from recently that shows you how to make them into shapes (like hearts.  I think they put the crushed candies in a cookie cutter to make the shape, then remove the cutter before baking- but I didn’t see that detail in the directions).

Hard candies of your choice, placed on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment.  I put my candies inclose together, but not necessarily touching since they meld together some as they melt down in the oven.  Oddly placed candies should still be okay, as long as there’s something within, say 1/2 and inch.  Melt in a 275 degree oven for 5-10 minutes (melt them, but don’t let them get too thin and runny, and/or bubbly around the edges).  Add a stick immediately when you pull them out of the oven, then let sit to cool.  (Roll the stick to cover it with the molten candy when you put it into the lollipop.)

candies in the parchment paper 'form'

candies in the parchment paper ‘form’

lolipops baked/melted with sticks inserted

lolipops baked/melted with sticks inserted

I used jolly ranchers.  I also made one from warheads.  Most any hard candy *should* work.

So here’s my spin:  I used round wooden dowels (3/16, about 12″long).  These are inserted after baking just like the original post.  They can also be put in the oven without a problem if you prefer to have that part done ahead of time.

I also used a lot more candies and molded my parchment paper to a lid to form about a 6″ circle- not precise, but enough to give it the basic shape.  (Remove the lid from the paper before continuing!)  Then I proceeded with the melting.  These took closer to 10 minutes with all that candy.  I didn’t chop/smash/grind up the candies in any way, just put them in whole and they melted together.  If you use crushed candy, don’t leave spaces or get the layer too thin.

forming the parchment paper into a large circle

forming the parchment paper into a large circle

I wrapped in plastic wrap once they cooled.

The result was jumbo lollipops (Christmas gifts- well received!  Need to see if my mom has a picture of some with theirs.)


Canning safety

I had my first scary experience as a canner the other day.

Background:  I’ve canned independently (aka-not with my mom) for 8 years and used tattler lids for 2- several hundred cans in most of those years, using mostly Tattler lids in the past 2 years.

I went to tighten the band on my jar of chili- just pulled out of the pressure canner (NOTE:  normal metal lids don’t get tightened in this process, Tattlers do- just a reference for anyone unfamiliar with them).

And it happened.  The lid and screw band burst off the top of the can- and scalding chili flew on my window, wall, counter, floor ceiling, stove, the 12 quarts of applesauce cooling on the counter, 15 feet down the wall at the dining nook, EVERYWHERE.  Some ended up on me- a bit at my elbow and some on my face.  About 1/4 of the jar was left in the jar.

canning jar explosion- what's left in the offending jar.

canning jar explosion- what’s left in the offending jar.

canning jar explosion- all over everything, including 15 feet down the wall to the dining nook

canning jar explosion- all over everything, including 15 feet down the wall to the dining nook

canning jar explosion- all over the window and walls

canning jar explosion- all over the window and walls

canning jar explosion- on the ceiling

canning jar explosion- on the ceiling


I immediately went to the bathroom (with my eyes closed to keep the chili out of them) and rinsed repeatedly with cold water.  I tried to process what had happened and thanked God most importantly that my little girls were not in the kitchen when it happened.  And then that it wasn’t any worse for me.   I used a cool wet cloth and some ice to keep my face comfortable for a while.  It had some “burning” sensation even after an hour- heat and/or chili spices related.  I had red spots, but somehow no blistering.

Here’s what was GOOD that I did:

#1 I had an oven mitt on one hand that protected me from some splatters, and

#2 I had a dry washcloth over the top to hold and tighten the lid.  That saved a lot of spewing scalding liquid from coming my way and potentially causing more damage.

Here’s what I think I may have done WRONG:

#1 I  didn’t let the jars cool once I took of the pressure canner lid.  While I haven’t had a problem before, I read (now) that it’s best to let the jars sit 5-10 minutes after removing the pressure canner lid before moving the cans.

#2 I MAY have left the band too tight when I put the can in the canner.  This is one of those subjective things- how tight is finger tight?  With Tattlers (again, different from metal lids), you tighten finger tight and back it off 1/4 inch.  Metals you just tighten to finger tight (still subjective).

This can (as others have in the past- pressure and HWB canning) had a bubbled up lid when I took it out of the canner.  So it may not have been able to vent as much as it needed and there may have been excessive pressure inside the can for that reason.  I’ll be careful in the future to observe this more carefully and err on the side of a bit looser.  And I’d suggest handling any can with a lid that bubbles up very carefully as well- maybe let it sit for longer before handling so it can vent more.

#3 the jar possibly may have been over-full.  Although I believe I left appropriate headspace, it did contain rehydrated beans that may have expanded more in canning). Or it may have had an air bubble in the can somewhere.  I don’t think so, but I don’t know for sure.

I’ll also use a larger towel (hand towel size) from now on instead of just washcloth size.  Less convenient, but more protection, I think.  I definitely did when I finally worked up the courage to take the rest of the cans from the canner so I wouldn’t “lose” them to not sealing.  But I did so with much trepidation and closed my eyes and turned my head as I tightened the remaining 6 cans!

Here’s a link I found helpful in analyzing what may have happened.  It’s on the Homesteading Today Forum.

I’m going to agree with the original poster at the forum- In my case as it was in hers, this was user error and had nothing to do with the Tattler lids as a dangerous product.  I like them, I feel they do what they should do and love that they’re reusable- you just need to be aware of the differences in how to use them, and follow general safe practices in canning regardless of the lid type.

Another poster commented that they’ve had a metal lid explode out of the canner as well.  I’ve had metal lids seep boiling liquids (peach juice, tomato juice, etc), but never explode them.

Lessons learned.  Hopefully it will never happen again, and hopefully it will never happen to you.  I know I’ll be relaying this info to any of my canning interested friends.

Leave the cans to cool 5-10 minutes after opening the pressure canner.  

Always use a hand towel over the top of the can in the tightening process (tightening for tattlers only).  I may be inclined to don a long sleeve shirt when removing cans- metal or tattler lids.

(Continue to) Keep the kids out of the kitchen when removing cans from the canner.

Hand scraped flooring

Here’s a quick look at the latest progress in building our house- hand scraped flooring.  John ordered the scraper online and tried it out- the scraper is from Hardwood Industry Products if you’re looking for one (no sponsorship, just a link). The floor is made of salvaged pine boards that used to be a wall in an old house. John scraped and sealed it over the past week.

Although he’d removed some paint from the boards with the planer and some with a hand paint scraper, the blades wear down a lot quicker with boards that have paint on them.  If you’re curious about details, ask below and I’ll answer.  He scraped the entire board, leaving some high spots/patina.

Next time (on boards without the paint) he thinks he will try just at the edges to smooth the transitions between boards but leave more of that old patina on the boards.  (Also would be a quicker floor.) He spent 2 days scraping this one- approximately  12’x14′ room.


Close up hand scraping a foor


Hand scraping a floor


hand scraped floor- upper portion has been scraped, lower portion has not

Hand scraped floor sealed

Hand scraped floor sealed

hand scraped floor detail

hand scraped floor detail

hand scraped floor

hand scraped floor

hand scraped floor close/profile

hand scraped floor close/profile

hand scraped floor detail

hand scraped floor detail

Here’s the beginning of a new segment- hopefully these will be short and sweet.  I’m going to call it “My Spin on the Pin” since they’ll be inspired by things I’ve pinned on pinterest.  However, since I rarely do anything exactly as presented, you’ll be able to see or get a brief description of the changes.

So without further ado…  my first “Spin on the Pin.”

Salt dough fingerprint ornaments- this takes 2 of my pins.


Pin #1 is a Cinnamon salt dough recipe that can be found at grouprecipes.com.  A basic salt dough recipe plus some cinnamon for scent/color.

Pin #2 is a cute christmas ornament using thumb prints for the ornaments on the tree, found over here at Home Life Simplified.  (Warning- no instructions, just a link to a pin, that will not load for me).

fingerprint salt dough ornaments

I added a manger scene in fingerprints (sides of thumbs for Mary and Joseph, sides of pinkies for baby Jesus).

fingerprint ornament close

This was my first (stressful!) attempt at making Christmas ornaments with my girls (twins 4+, little sister almost 3).  They got to help with most of the stages- making the salt dough, helping with rolling and cutting out the ornaments, adding their fingerprints, painting the tree green and the stars yellow, and painting in the dots (Q-tips, 1 color at a time, 1 child at a time helped here).  I served as project manager and quality control, plus baking, painting details, sealing, and stringing.

3 painters

(IF you want the fingerprints to be visible in detail, I think I’d go with a polymer clay, unless you have an excellent no-puff, detail-able salt dough recipe.)

They had lots of fun, and I think they turned out pretty cute!

There’s also some gingerbread men and stars waiting in the wings to be completely finished- I left the girls unrestrained in their paint application and I think they’ll need some Q-tip dots to give them a cleaner look- we’ll see what happens.

That cute little snowman has a bit of a tilt, but he’s SUPPOSED  to look like a marshmallow snowman on a graham cracker, if you’ve seen any of those cute little guys out there in the stores…

**** If you’re a relative and you get one of these, pretend you didn’t see it first here 😉

Before I get going, I’ll warn you all that I’m only a self-taught seamstress- no formal training.  If you’re a professional, please don’t be laugh too hard.

I’ve done only a little wedding and formal dress work, but I’m good with concepts and finding out a way to make things work.

My dear cousin Judy got married in July (on one of the hottest days of the summer!)

Here’s her dress- un-bustled followed by bustled.  (Thanks to my sister for letting me use her pictures!)


I’m not sure what exactly you would label this dress type as, but it is a wrapped/folded fabric style with a bubble style skirt bottom and train, and because of the way the fabric wraps on the dress, it makes it kind of asymmetrical (At least the outside fabric is- the inside skirt is not).  All those factors in place, my cousin loved the dress and it fit her perfectly- no alterations needed, so she bought it.  The dress shop told her it would be a $300 bustle job (if it could be done at all).  She decided to skip that and try me instead.

I searched a bit online and came up with a basic concept to follow- the ballroom bustle.  It bustles by pulling the train up underneath the skirt.  There’s a diagram and some pictures at the Wedding Bee.

I could not pull the skirt up in the back and attach to the outside of the dress to bustle, since that bubble skirt has it’s secrets of how it’s formed so readily available once it’s lifted.  I don’t have a picture of the underside of the dress, but it basically looks like this (dress from my little girls bubble dresses I posted about here).

So under we went with that train.

This bustle is done very simply- some ribbon, buttons, and a hand needle and thread were all the materials I used.  I did put the dress on a form for ease of working, but not necessary.

After a trial pin underneath, I decided that simple pull points underneath the skirt would not work well.   I would need many, and even then it might not cooperate to lift/bustle evenly.

Here’s what I did instead.  (The goal with gathering instead of just pull points is to make an easier, more even pull for bustling.)  For a hand drawn diagram that maps out what the bottom of the dress looked like as I describe below, check this:  drawing of bustle structure.

Underneath the skirt a few inches from the edge is where the inner tube dress meets the outside fabric to form the bubble bottom to the dress.  In my cousins dress, there was a bit of stiffener fabric inside, with a generous overlap of the fabric.  I stitched a channel along the entire bottom seam, from side to side.  I only had to take out a few stitches at the side- very easy to stitch back shut- and I just hand sewed a running stitch from outside- I didn’t open it up.  That meant I needed to stitch carefully so that I didn’t catch the skirt or the inner lining skirt with my stitches.  (I did have to go back through to re-do a few places where I accidentally got the inside skirt- easy to fix).

This channel ended up being something like 110 inches long, so it takes a bit of time, but not terrible or technical.

That’s the big part.  Now that the channel was in place, I took some simple 1/4 inch ribbon and sent it through the channel with some extra on each end for loops- one on the very end and one to hold the gathered train (more on that to follow).   A button at each end kept the loop from sliding into the channel when the train was down.

I gathered the train and tied a slip knot to experiment with button placement on the underside of the skirt to get the train up and the bottom even.  The gather should be evenly dispersed. It will gather to approximately the same length as the front of the dress.  You want the bustle points (following) to be straight pull lines, not drooping between points.  Once you’re finished with your pull points and bustle points and sure the length of the ribbon is correct, mark the ribbon at the best length, then make a loop on each side at this mark.  When bustled, this loop holds the train in the gathered position via the button at the end of the channel.  Then you can let it loose again and when completely flattened out, make your loop at the end of the ribbon.  This holds the ribbon from disappearing into the channel while the train is down.

The pull points at the bottom of the dress were spaced symmetrically and fairly evenly- 7 points- one on the center back seam and 3 on each side- seams being key reference points.   I relied on inside seams, not outside ones as my points to bustle because of the wrap/asymmetrical aspect of the outside.  I pulled to 7 button points- on in the center back, and 3 on each side of center.  The diagram at the Wedding Bee shows basically the same thing.  This seemed to be the sensible number for this particular dress.  You may need more or fewer.  Two landed on seams, one in-between seams.  For the in-between seam, I stitched a bit of fabric on to reinforce the lightweight fabric where the button was sewn.

I pinned and marked my points, checked and double checked, then stitched on loops.  NOTE:  Don’t stitch your loops to the ribbon inside of the channel.  These loops were made out of the same 1/4 inch ribbon I used in the channel and were just simple loops tied of ribbon just large enough to go over the buttons I used.  The loops stitched on the underskirt of the dress just above the union that forms the bubble bottom.  The knot went up, the loop went down (loop goes up around the button when the skirt is bustled).  I did have her try on the dress before I finally stitched the buttons to make sure she liked it and that it was even on her, not just on the dress form.

A note on what layer to bustle to:  I went to underneath the crinoline, but outside of the innermost layer of the skirt.  This just worked in this case, but if the train had been longer, I would have had to stay outside of the crinoline since the crinoline started around knee level and a longer train would have needed to be pulled higher up to keep from dragging.  Either placement would be fine.  I chose inside because I felt it did a better job of disguising the bustle underneath and shaping the outside of the skirt once bustled.

A few more notes.  Since this is a bubble bottom, asymmetrical wrap skirt, there are places where depending on how the fold “flops” at a given moment in time, it may look uneven.  The thing is that the dress does this everywhere on the bottom edge without the bustle, so don’t be terribly concerned if you look at it and it looks uneven at the bottom.  Do, however, make sure that those uneven bubbles hit the floor evenly around the entire bottom of the dress.

If needed, you could number or color code the buttons and loops to help prevent confusion.  I worked form one side to the other and designed/made it, so it was no problem for me to figure out.  You will also need to fluff/ re-sort the crinoline layer once the train is bustled so that it lays neatly again.

And a last detail.  The ribbon that gathers the train when bustled hangs out quite a bit when bustled.  Here’s what to do with it so that it doesn’t drag.  After all the loops are on the buttons, pull the extra over the center/highest button bustle point, then put the loop over one of the button bustle points on the opposite side of the dress.  repeat with the extra ribbon and loop from the other side.

This took about 6 hours total- from the time my cousin arrived with dress in hand until I stitched on the last button.  That included a lunch break and my planning time to figure out how exactly I was going to do this, and pinning a mock channel to try before I sewed it, and some other experimentation time- and hand stitching everything.  $300- ridiculous!  I’ll do any bustle you want for $50+ per hour!

Actually- I’d do them for a lot less.  If you’re in the WNY/NW PA area, I like to make and work on formal dresses (if I’ve got a bit of spare time).  I’m too old for high school formal dances, so I have no excuse to make a dress for myself anymore!

Nothing too original with this one- I just followed the directions over at Somewhat Simple.

Cut the bottom off of a bottle and put a baby sock over the bottle (enclosing the hole you made by cutting off the bottom). Dip it in straight dish soap (in any container with a flat bottom that will accommodate your bubble snake).  I used the super cheap stuff from the dollar store.


For each kid at VBS, they got 5 minutes to color an infant sock with permanent markers (put the sock on the bottle, then color).  Then we spent the rest of the time blowing bubbles for our last night of VBS.  Each crew was different.  One group competed for longest snake, another group worked together to make a giant bubble pile/cloud on the ground, some just ran around and blew their bubbles.


Pre-school age kids are most likely to breath IN when they put their mouth on the bottle, so encourage them to only blow out, or they’ll get bubbles in their mouth.

These were super simple, but tons of fun for all ages!  They’ve seen a lot of use at my house this summer!

These butterfly notebooks were the craft for day 4.  With school upcoming, this seemed like a fun and practical craft that should really be useful.  I made some other versions for my girls at home- definitely a neat back to school craft as well.

They are a bit time consuming to prepare, but it’s a neat craft that sticks nicely to the butterfly as a theme for the Resurrection (the bible story for the 4th day of VBS).

I got spiral notebooks at the back-to-school sales.  Clear re-positionable contact paper comes in a roll 18″x24′.  I think other sizes were also available.

My butterfly was really a simplified blown up version of a butterfly stencil.  The copier did all the hard work for me to size it, then I just transferred it onto a piece of cereal box to make a stencil.  Of course, any object will work, or letters.  Use your stencil to trace your shape, or free hand it.

Small scissors or an exacto knife work well for cutting out the shapes, but I had a free-form shape cutter that I’d used for one of my crafts last year (someday I’ll post about it) that sped things up quite a bit to make the number I needed.  I couldn’t cut them out completely with the free-form cutter since the base of the cutter wouldn’t go over the spirals in the notebook, but it was simple to cut the rest of the wings with scissors.  Whatever shape you use, remember to keep them simple if you have a lot to do!


Once the shape is cut out, you move on to the contact paper.  I put on the outside layer for each notebook and left the paper backing inside so that it wouldn’t adhere to the first page.  This stuff is forgiving and re-positionable, especially for the outside piece.  The size of  your piece will vary based on the size of your cut-out shape.  Just make sure it overlaps your shape by at least 1/2″ or so.  I cut the inside piece of contact paper and slipped it into each notebook for after the kids decorated them.


Regarding applying that piece of contact paper, you can take the whole backing off and set it on like a giant sticker- reasonably easy to do.  But for the kids to do it (and maybe adults, too- whatever you prefer), this is a better method:  Start to remove the backing from one edge of the contact paper.  Set it on the cut out shape and adhere the edge, make sure the whole piece sits squarely over the cut-out.  Then pull the loose edge of the paper backing from underneath the contact paper and smooth it down as you pull off the backing. I did “burnish” the surface to get it to stick better once it was properly placed, but only for the front- the kids didn’t burnish the inside.   To burnish I used the handles of my scissors to rub the contact paper and get it to adhere better to the notebook.


Now for some inside decoration.  I used shaped paper punches (butterflies, stars, helicopters, and planes) and fine glitter in the little shaker containers.  I punched a full 8 1/2″x11″ paper of each, and for 66 kids that was sufficient.  It also kept things simpler with only one color choice for each punched shape.  Adults handed out the shapes to the kids- a small pinch of punched shapes goes a long way.  I handed out the last of my stars and almost all my butterflies to the last crew that came through, but no one lacked any.  Stick the paper punch outs on first, then the glitter.  Don’t get too crazy with the glitter, or less of the contact paper will stick.  Also, be sure to brush off excess glitter from the inside cover before trying to put on the contact paper so it has more places to adhere to seal in all those decorations.

I tried crayon shavings at home and melted them with an iron after I put the contact paper on.  They turned out okay, but the melted crayons aren’t an appealing look where they seep into the notebook cover.  It’s most obvious around the clown nose below.

Once the decorations are in and the cover is swept clear of excess glitter, The inner piece of contact paper can be put on. (Review directions above for the easiest way for the kids to apply the contact paper themselves, or at least help.)