DIY: How to Bind Your Own Books & Journals

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I recently took a fine arts course in bookmaking and had to go through the entire process of making a book, from start to finish: writing, layout, printing, and binding. I was able to produce a slightly larger book because I had access to the correct printing tools, but you can easily create a small book of your own on letter size paper.

I won’t go into the technical aspects of bookmaking (i.e., InDesign, how to print booklets, etc.), but I will go over the basic steps needed to bind your own books! You can use this technique to make homemade notebooks and journals as well — they look beautiful and are so much more fun to write in when you’ve produced them yourself. And you can go crazy with selecting the perfect papers and creating your own covers.

(NB: This is a pretty detailed post, and I tried to include as much information and helpful instructions as possible in case you want to make your own books, notebooks, or journals. Feel free to just browse through the photos if you’re interested in getting a feel for it!)

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Before you begin, you will need the following items. All of these can be purchased at an art supply store:*

  1. Enough paper for your book, each sheet to be folded in half, of the proper grain direction
  2. 2 sheets of slightly thicker paper (card stock works perfectly) for your flyleaf
  3. Supplies for your cover: either a thick card stock if you want a softcover book, or book board and book cloth if you want to make a hardcover book.
  4. Bookbinding thread (or, if you want to save money, a really thick, coarse thread)
  5. Bookbinding needle (aka just a really heavy needle)
  6. An awl for hand-punching holes (this is the one I use)
  7. A bone folder (if you want to be a perfectionist; otherwise you could just use the edge of a pencil for folding and creasing)
  8. An X-Acto knife for cutting, with replacement blades
  9. A surface to cut on: a cutting mat is ideal, but a piece of cork board is an easy and cheap alternate
  10. A good ruler
  11. PVA glue
  12. Glue brush
  13. Waste paper to contain glueing

*I know some of the above items can seem daunting to find, and some of the terms confusing. They are really not! Binding a book is a very exact process, but you’ll get the hang of it quickly. You just need to pay attention to the details before you begin if you want the best results.

To make this a little less confusing, let’s discuss some basic terms for bookmaking.

  • Signature: A signature is a booklet of “text” pages (which can be blank if you’re making a notebook) in your book. Each signature is folded, hole-punched with an awl, and sewn as one set — so you don’t need to sew each individual page, just each signature. If you look at spines of some books, you can see these page groupings (although not all books have them).
  • Text block: All the signatures that make up the “text” pages of your book. Only two signatures are excluded from the text block: the flyleaves.
  • Flyleaf: Fancy word for the first and last signatures of a book. The flyleaf doesn’t have writing on it, and its main function is to allow you to attach the cover (if a softcover, you the flyleaf is reinforced and becomes the cover; if a hardcover, the flyleaf is glued to the back of the cover). Generally, the flyleaf is a thicker paper, like a card stock. Open any hardcover book and you’ll see the flyleaves at the front at the back.
  • Grain: All paper has a “grain direction” — one direction (long or short) will be weaker and easier to fold along than the other. I cannot stress how important grain direction is. If you want your book to lie flat and not pop open, you need to have proper grain direction. Most art papers will tell you the grain direction, otherwise you can test it for yourself: gently push against the long edge, and then short edge, of the paper as if you were going to fold it. Whichever edge gives you the least resistance is the way the grain runs — so make sure you cut your pages and structure your book so that you are folding along the grain at the center. The grain in your cover and flyleaves should also parallel the grain of the paper for the text block.
  • Bookboard: A hardcover board used to make hard covers. You can find it in the bookmaking section of any art supply store. It looks tough, but you can hand cut it with an X-Acto knife by making lots of shallow cuts along the edge of a ruler.
  • Bookcloth: Special cloth used to cover bookboard. Can be fabric or leather, and you can find many varieties online and in art supply stores. Also has a grain.

Here are some diagrams to explain all that (click to enlarge).

Basic grain direction:

grain direction diagram

Signatures (as viewed from the spine):

signatures

Flyleaf in a softcover book:

softcover flyleaf

Flyleaf in a hardcover book:

hardcover flyleaf

Now that all the technical terms are explained, you can begin producing your notebook or journal. (Again, these same steps work for a printed book, but I won’t be covering them here.)

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Above: I used a decorative flyleaf for my book.

1. Cut your paper, and assemble your signatures. Decide what size you want your book to be and make sure you account for the fold. For example, if you want each page to be 8×9″, each sheet of paper will be 16×9″. I would recommend no more than four large sheets per signature (so 16 pages in a finished book). If you are using thicker paper, you can do two or three sheets to make sewing easier. You should aim to have at least three signatures in your text block, in addition to your flyleaves — otherwise the book will look weird. Make sure your grain direction runs along the fold (as pictured in the first diagram for an 8×9″ book). Also cut your flyleaves at this point (the equivalent of two 16×9″ sheets if your book is 8×9″), and make sure the grain for those matches. Fold each group of signatures (and your flyleaves, separately) and cement the crease using your bone folder (or the edge of a pencil, but a bone folder is better).

2. Create a transfer paper. The transfer paper is a sheet of paper that shows you where to punch your holes for sewing, so that the holes align between signatures. The transfer sheet should be the height of your book . Fold in half lengthwise and keep folded. Widthwise, fold in half, then fold the ends in about 1/2-3/4 of an inch, then fold in half again. Unfold, and mark “holes” with a pencil as indicated. Lie your transfer paper flat on your cutting surface so that one long half is against the surface, and the other is perpendicular. Using your awl at a 45 degree angle (just estimate it), punch holes using the guide marks on the transfer paper. Unfolded, your transfer sheet should look like this, with the Xs indicating approximately where to punch holes:

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3. Punch holes in your signatures. Use your transfer paper to do this: align the transfer paper inside each signature, making sure either the top or bottom is always aligned. Use your awl to punch through the transfer paper and all the pages of your signature at a 45 degree angle. Make sure you punch all the pages per signature at one time. Repeat for each signature and the flyleaves.

4. Measure your thread. Measure the amount of thread you need using this count: the height of your book (generous), times the number of signatures (including flyleaves), plus two. You can thread your needle by flattening some of the thread near one end with your bone folder, threading the needle, pushing the needle through the flattened area, and tightening.

5. You are reading to begin sewing! This is where it gets a little tricky, but the stitches are easy and completely manageable. First, you’ll be sewing on your cutting surface. Assemble your signatures in the correct order (the way you want your book/notebook to read), and then place your book, front cover side down, with the page edges facing towards you. Flip the top signature towards you, so that you are looking at the spine (note: this should be the last signature in the completed book — the back cover flyleaf). Always start with the back of the book and work your way to the front. In all of the following diagrams, you are looking directly at the spine of the book — which is what you should see while you are sewing.

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6. Start from outside the signature on the right side and always pull the thread in the direction you are sewing. Push the needle through the first hole, then out through the second, and so on, until you reach the end. Pull the entire thread through, leaving a loose tail (about 3-4 inches) at the right side of the book. Flatten the signature with your bone folder.

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7. Place the next signature on top of the first. This will be the second-to-last signature in your completed book, or the last signature of your text block. Now you will be sewing in the the opposite direction, back towards the beginning. Go through the first hole on the left, and out the second. Then, loop the needle under the section of thread that remains on the outside of the first signature you threaded. Go through the third hole, out the fourth, and repeat this process until you reach the right end of the second signature.

8. Tie a square knot to secure the first two signatures. This is pretty straightforward: right over left, then left over right. (So you’re basically just tying two regular knots.) Be sure to tighten the thread as much as possible and flattening the book with your bone folder before securing with the knot. Always work on on a flat surface while sewing, and try and keep the book as flat as possible, with the spine aligned (preferably at the edge of a table).

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9. Add the third signature. For this signature, you will be sewing right to left again, as with the first signature. Go through the first hole on the left, out the second, and loop under the thread segment for the second signature only. Always, always, only loop under the thread for the signature directly under the one you are currently sewing. Repeat until you reach the left end of the signature, then tie a kettle stitch: push the needle towards the back of the book, going between the previous two signatures and before the final hole, and pull the needle out in the direction you are sewing (in this case, to the left). Pull the thread through to create a small loop. Loop the needle under the loop and pull straight up to tighten. (Again, remember to tighten all your thread and flatten your book with a  bone folder before this.) Repeat this step (with mild differences, depending on whether you are sewing to the right or the left) for all the remaining signatures. Here’s a slightly more detailed diagram of the kettle stitch:

kettle stitch-2

10. Finish the last signature with two kettle stitches. Essentially, the last signature (which will be your front cover flyleaf) is added the same way as all the other text block signatures, except you will secure it twice with the kettle stitch. Trim the excess thread to about 1 inch, but no further (if having it stick out bothers you, carefully secure each bit of excess thread to the spine with a dab of PVA glue).

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11. Once the text block and flyleaves have been bound with thread, add the covers to your book. There are many ways to do the covers, and you can get creative with them. Here, I’ll go over two very basic ways to do covers: softcover and hardcover, both with exposed spines (although it is fairly easy to modify so that the spines are covered). The initial diagrams I used to explain the role of the flyleaf can also be helpful in visualizing these two alternatives.

Softcover:

Notice that each flyleaf creates four pages within your book, and that the interior two pages of each flyleaf can be glued together to create a thicker cover. While you can elect to glue them directly together, it is more prudent to glue a piece of card stock between them as reinforcement, so measure out a piece the size of your book (slightly smaller so that the edges don’t stick out), keeping proper grain direction in mind. Slip a sheet of waste paper between your flyleaf and text block to catch runoff glue, and keep it from ruining your book. Then, apply glue directly to the entire card stock insert (not the flyleaf paper) on one side, and attach to the interior flyleaf page on the right (the left if you are doing the back cover). Smooth with your bone folder to avoid bubbles, and repeat with the other side of the card stock to create a softcover. Then, you’re free to decorate the cover however you like — applying a label usually looks nice.

Hardcover:

This is a bit more complicated because you need more materials, so I’ve drawn out the key steps (click to enlarge):

hardcover binding

Essentially, you need to measure the size cover you would like out of the book board (again, be conscious of the grain). Remember to add a little extra length and height so that the cover hangs over the edge of the text block a bit — I recommend 1/8 of an inch per side. Don’t forget that you don’t want overhang on the edge with the spine — so you’ll add 1/8″ to the width, and 1/4″ total to the height of the book. Next, spread glue directly on the bookboard, and place on the cloth cover you would like for the book, keeping the grain lined up. Be sure to smooth out immediately with your bone folder. Cut about a 3/4″ around the edge of the bookboard, and then cut off the corners as marked in the diagram. Before measure the 45 degree angle, leave a bit of edge the thickness of the bookboard (you can use a piece of scrap bookboard to do this). Glue each edge of excess cloth onto the back of the bookboard — place glue directly onto the back of the cloth and stand the bookboard up to press the edge in before folding the cloth over. Secure with a bone folder. Do two opposite edges first, then the next set, being carefully to glue the corners in. Repeat to create the back cover. Secure the hard cover to the flyleaf by applying glue directly to the first page of the flyleaf (remember to use waste paper) and pressing the cover onto it. Smooth out imperfections with your bone folder, and repeat for the back cover. Add a label to your front cover (or not), and you’re good to go!

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Congratulations, you’ve just made a book!

Whew, okay — I think that’s it in terms of the technical process. To expedite the process of hand making gorgeous notebooks, journals, and personal books (all of which make great gifts, by the way), here are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind:

  • Be precise. Try not to skip the little steps — these are what truly make your book look well done. Specifically: pay attention to cutting precisely, grain direction, tightening your thread constantly, pulling in the direction you are sewing, and ALWAYS using your bone folder to flatten paper.
  • Be creative! Above is the basic formula for bookbinding, but experimentation makes it great. Use an art paper for your flyleaf (or, if you’re doing a hardcover, cut art paper to the size of your flyleaf, place it inside the flyleaf, sew it into the book, and glue to the interior pages of the flyleaf). Experiment with different ways to design your cover — labels, collage, etc.
  • Learn how to cut properly. When you’re hand cutting anything, always, always cut towards yourself. Stand up to give yourself leverage, and hold your ruler firmly in place as you cut against it.
  • Take your time. Sure, bookbinding can take a while. But its kind of like knitting (or, at least I assume so) — its relaxing as a result. This goes hand-in-hand with being precise.
  • When it comes to glue, thinly and quickly cover the entire surface you are applying glue to. Start at the center of the surface and work your way out with a brush to get an even coating.
  • Quality of materials will make a big difference in the final product — especially the paper you use.
  • Don’t hesitate to reach out to me in the comments if you have any specific questions!
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DIY: How to Make Handmade Postcards

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Snail mail is one of my favorite things to receive. There’s nothing like opening your mailbox and (after sorting through all the junk catalogues and bills) finding a letter from one of your best friends, or even a Christmas card from distant relatives. There’s a quality to handwritten mail (and postcards, short as they may be) that just can’t be surpassed with smart phones, Facebook, and tweets.

As far as postcards are concerned, they’re super easy to send and require much less effort than letters, but are just as wonderful to receive! In my experience, the funnier and shorter the message the better — the dull (and jealousy-generating) “We’re in Ireland, it’s so beautiful here! Miss you!” will never beat something hilarious or an inside joke. I’ve gotten some pretty funny postcards from friends, and I’ve saved every one.

Postcards are not only a great way to catch up with faraway friends you haven’t seen in ages, they are also super easy (and economical) to make — chances are you can create an endless amount of original and beautiful postcards without spending a dime. They’re fast, too, which means you can mess up over and over without wasting time or money, and you can perfect your postcards to a design you love. So, without further ado, here’s my guide to building gorgeous do-it-yourself postcards for friends and family!

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Supplies

With just a few simple ingredients, you’ll soon be on your way to creating your own snail mail confections!

Some basics you’ll need:

  • 4×6 inch blank flashcards or 4×6 inch template
  • Cardstock — white is preferable, but you can experiment!
  • Scissors
  • Colored pens, pencils & markers
  • Metallic Sharpies
  • Mod Podge/glue (Mod Podge is really preferable because it acts as a sealant)
  • Glue brushes
  • Food coloring
  • Plastic disposable cups
  • Old magazines & newspapers

Optional but fun:

  • Colored ribbons
  • Needle & thread
  • Metallic paints
  • Watercolors
  • Sequins
  • Artists’ paper with various designs
  • Old photos
  • Old film
  • Fortune cookie fortunes
  • Anything else you can think of that could theoretically be glued to a postcard

I’ve separated the remainder of this post into two parts: I’ll start with the basics, then go over some more detailed instructions for the example postcards I’ve used here.

The Basics

Step One: Prepare your work surface. Since you’ll be working with glue and sharpies it can get a little messy, so you’ll want to put down an old newspaper to prevent getting any glue on your desk or counter. You’ll also want a plastic disposable cup with a little whatever to store your brushes in between dipping them in glue. Additionally, a few paper towels isn’t a bad idea.

step2 {Tracing a 4×6 postcard onto cardstock}

Step Two: Cut out a 4×6 piece of white cardstock, or glue two 4×6 index cards together (they tend to be flimsy, so you’ll want to reinforce them for the mail). When you add layers to your postcards they will also become thicker. Make sure the glue is even and get the corners! Be careful not to drip too much glue on the back because you won’t be able to write over it.

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Step Three: Prepare the back of the postcard by drawing a line down the center as shown (I prefer to draw mine a little to the right so I have more writing space) and then by drawing 3-4 perpendicular lines on the right for the mailing address. I just eyeballed these and used a ruler for a straight edge — don’t worry if they’re not all perfectly in-line. You can also make little designs on the back around the edges or just leave it plain. (And yes, that is my super cool presidential ruler, circa second grade.)

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{An example background made of magazine text blocks}

Step Four: Decide what you’re going to put on the front and gather the necessary materials. You can do a simple design or you can make a postcard from a specific place (I promise this looks cool regardless of whether or not you’ve actually been to Paris, Italy, or wherever). You can cut out magazine ads or words, draw something and cut it out to use, color directly on the postcard, or create multiple layers to your postcard using more cardstock (more on this technique later). Either way, I recommend gluing down a basic background first — whether it’s colored newspaper, shimmery art paper, or a magazine ad — to serve as the canvas for your design.

Step Five: Finish adding layers to your postcard. Give the entire front a coat of Mod Podge — this will act as a sealant and waterproof your design for any tumultuous experiences in the U.S. postal system. Important: do not coat the back. This will back it impossible to write on. Also, be careful going over colored pens — they may run.

Step Six: Write and address your postcard, pop a fun stamp on it, and send it in the mail!

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Specific Designs & Techniques

Here I’ll provide examples of some of the cards I’ve made and details as to how you can achieve the same result.

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Postcards from Magazines

One of the easiest ways to create postcards is to grab a stack of fashion or travel magazines, cut out one (or a few) of your favorite pictures and words and layer them — you can make a detailed collage or keep it simple, as I’ve done here.

For the New England postcard, I used a Ralph Lauren add and cut my own strips of cardstock to glue on top. This is an easy way to add text to your postcards without writing directly on the background. Finished with sparkly Mod Podge.

For the shoes postcard, I used metallic paint and a thin brush to paint over a Calvin Klein ad. If you find a simple image from a magazine, it is fun to add details to it using this method. I would recommend a metallic Sharpie for this — it is much more precise and easy to work with than metallic paint. Finished with a cut-out word and sparkly Mod Podge. Also: this postcard doesn’t make much sense, but I still like it. Point is — yours don’t have to make sense either. Just let your creativity lead you where it will.

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Incorporating Your Drawings

It is also possible to create your own drawings or designs (I recommend doing this on pieces of 4×6 paper or index cards so you have a rough idea of how they’ll look once transferred to the postcard) and make them part of your postcard. Colored pencil is also great because the colors won’t run, even if you liberally apply Mod Podge.

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For this butterfly postcard, I drew this butterfly freehand and colored it in with some pencils. Then, I cut it out with scissors, leaving a white border — you don’t have to leave a border, but it’s all about how you want your final postcard to look. I had already prepared a piece of 4×6 cardstock with colorful yellow and gold artist paper glued down as a background, and I simply glued the butterfly design on top. Finished with a thin metallic paint coat around the butterfly and a sparkly Mod Podge sealant.

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Using Dyes

The main technique this particular postcard makes use of is the application of food coloring. You can get the same effect with pricey artist inks, but for the purpose of making basic postcards you really don’t need to be spending that kind of money. Food coloring is also great because it doesn’t dry out over night. I used neon food coloring to achieve the colors on my postcards; I imagine regular food coloring will come out slightly different.

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For this design, I used an index card to paint the background before gluing it to another index card to form the whole postcard. You will want to make the painted part separately and let it dry first, because the food coloring will soak through. To make the inks, use a plastic disposable cup for each color of food coloring. Put in 10-15 drops and add very small amounts of water slowly. Use a brush and a spare index card to test the color — you may want it darker and thicker (less water), or lighter and more watery (more water). You can see the amounts I used for about 15 drops/cup above.

Next, simply use a brush to add color — don’t be afraid to let it get messy! I only used one brush, and I just dipped it in water before switching colors. Once the dye dried, I added a few splashes of gold paint and finished off the postcard with an old fortune cookie and matte Mod Podge.

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As you can see, I added some details to the back of this card. In this case, I had gotten some splotches of paint on the back and didn’t want to glue a second backing on (although that is always an option, so don’t worry!). I just dabbed some gold paint over the mistakes and drew some swirly flowers over it with a thin Sharpie. Problem solved!

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Using Newspaper

The same food coloring method used for the previous postcard can also be applied to newspaper — simply open to a sheet of paper (preferably one with a lot of small print) and swipe on the dye. Let dry before cutting out and gluing on to your postcard.

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To complete this card, I colored over the newspaper with black Sharpie and did a more graphic design. This is a really easy method — you don’t have to make a “New York” postcard, but you can just doodle over the newspaper with Sharpie! To give the card a polished finish, I used the matte Mod Podge.

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Postcards with Multiple Layers

Using multiple layers of cut out cardstock is a really easy way to add dimension and depth to your postcard and also maintain clean lines.

First, decide on the design you want and sketch out your layers on a 4×6 card (I’ve only used one extra layer here, but you could probably make something really awesome with a bunch). Skyline silhouettes often make good layers. Cut out your layer carefully and arrange over a second 4×6 index card — this will form your postcard. Color both the layers separately — for this design, I used a dark blue marker for the background and then colored in the top layer a light pink. I detailed both with blue ink and gold paint after gluing the layers together. Finished with a heavy coat of matte Mod Podge to keep the layers together and waterproof the design.

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Adding Embellishments

This multi-layer postcard uses the food coloring dye technique and is tied up with a pretty ribbon.

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To create this postcard, I drew on a blank card with pencil and then black Sharpie/colored pens, and used a light coat of the dye over the drawing. I glued an extra layer above the drawing to frame it. To add a bow like the one here, first tie it from ribbon and then secure with a needle and thread. I know, I know…it’s a pain. But glue — even hot glue — is NOT going to hold up in the mail. after sewing the ribbon on, you can glue a new back onto your postcard to hide the knot from the thread.

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…Now all that’s left is to write a short message on your card and pop it in the mail! Your friends will appreciate it, especially now that you have a stack of gorgeous homemade postcards to send them. You can also try making more by printing out your favorite photos and gluing them to an index card — whatever you choose to do, the combinations for these are endless. So get writing!

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this post — please let me know your thoughts by dropping me a comment below!

Refreshing Lavender Lemonade

There are certain ingredients that I just absolutely love working with — and I have a particular attraction to lavender. It has a unique flavor and is so refreshing, especially when added to lemonade. (It is fabulous in ice creams, cakes, macarons, and with anything chocolate.)

I’ve made this recipe several times and it’s one of my favorites. The results are delicious and this stuff is super easy to make! (Once you hunt down culinary lavender, of course…) Lavender lemonade is the perfect summer drink, and it’s also pretty addictive. Nothing quite beats a tall glass of freshly squeezed lemonade on a hot day, but, couple that will lavender, and you’ve got a killer combination.

Lavender Lemonade

Adapted from Amy’s Lavender Lemonade on allrecipes.com.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tray ice cubes (crushed if desired)
  • 1/4 cup dried lavender
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 3/4 cups white sugar, or as needed
  • 8 lemons
  • 5 cups cold water, or as needed

Directions:

  1. Place the lavender in a large loose tea filter bag, if you have one available, and place the lavender in a medium heatproof glass bowl. (If you don’t have filter bags, you can just put the loose lavender in, but you’ll need to strain it out afterwards.) Allow to steep for about 10 minutes before removing the filter bag and discarding the lavender.
  2. In the meantime, squeeze the juice from the lemons into a separate bowl or cup, making sure to catch seeds and excess pulp.
  3. Add the sugar to the hot lavender water (after the lavender is discarded) and stir until dissolved.
  4. Place the ice cubes in a 2 quart pitcher and immediately pour the lavender mixture over the ice.
  5. Top off the pitcher with the cold water and stir. Be sure not to add a lot of extra water, or else the lemonade will begin to loose its flavor and intensity. Add extra sugar and stir, to taste.

chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes

Chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes. Try saying that five times fast.

Yeah, it’s a mouthful. No pun intended! (Okay, fine. Pun completely intended. I even spent a good three minutes setting that one up!)

But seriously, bad jokes aside — these cupcakes are too die for. For some reason, my friends and I all have an incurable obsession with cookie dough. It’s delicious and honestly who wants chocolate chip cookies? The batter is ten times better! (Try saying that five times fast too!) But I digress.

When my friend first proposed the idea of making these, I scoured the blogosphere for a good recipe to try out. Many called for baking the cupcakes first and cutting a hole in the baked cupcake to insert the cookie dough, but I wanted to find a recipe where the dough was actually baked inside the cupcake. I finally came across this recipe on Lovin’ From the Oven. (Well, it’s actually three separate recipes she compiled from various sites. This girl’s a genius!) They are not nearly as beautifully decorated as hers, as I am not skilled (at all!) with piping frosting. I can assure you they tasted heavenly though!

I used these adorable cupcake holders, which you can’t really make out on the finished cupcake. If you doubled the holders, though, I’m sure you would be able to see the pattern clearly.

You can see the cookie dough center here (although it blends in with the cake somewhat). I would recommend using mini chocolate chips if you can, as the larger chips can be a bit much. Also, the frosting is divine. A little sweet, but it balances the cupcake quite nicely and is fluffy and has the perfect subtle hint of cookie dough. Don’t skimp on this stuff!

The recipe I used was for 12 cupcakes, so I doubled all the ingredients to make 24. You will want to make the eggless cookie dough (for the filling and in the frosting) the night before. With the doubled recipe, I set aside about 3/4 cup — 1 cup dough (if you want a stronger cookie dough flavor use more) for the frosting and put that in the fridge. I then added the chocolate chips to the batter and rolled out 24 balls of dough and put those in the freezer overnight. You have to make sure they’re frozen before you make these, otherwise they’ll bake in the oven if they’re not cold enough!

Another thing I found was that I had a lot of extra cupcake batter (because the dough balls in the cupcakes displace some of the batter) and plenty of frosting (perhaps from doubling the recipe?) so if you want to make more cupcakes, make a little extra cookie dough and you’ll probably get 5-10 more, depending on how much batter you put in the cupcake holders.

These cupcakes require a little extra work than your run-of-the-mill chocolate and vanilla treats, but they are well worth the effort!

{ Source: Images by me. Please feel free to use — just leave a credit/link! }

the best crêpe recipe

I’ve had this crêpe recipe for quite a few years now. One of my old French teachers used to make these for our class (and let us make them with her as well), and they were always a treat! I always had mine with a little lemon and sugar, but the wonderful thing about crêpes is that you can get creative with the toppings. As long as you start with a good base crêpe (the freezer ones — if you can find them — just don’t compare), the final result will be delicious.

According to the Word doc I’ve had saved on my computer all these years, the recipe is from La Technique by Jacques Pépin.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 sticks butter (melted)
  • 1/2 cup water

Preparation

  1. Wisk until smooth: flour, eggs, sugar, salt and 1/2 of the milk.  Add remaining ingredients and stir well.
  2. Use a teflon-lined pan, 5″ to 6″ in diameter. Heat skillet on a medium to high flame. You do not need to grease the skillet. Hold pan slightly tilted and pour about 3 tablespoons of batter onto the pan, quickly rotating it so that the batter has a chance to cover the hot pan. (The thinner the coating the better the crêpes.)
  3. Cook crêpes on medium heat for about 50 seconds, then loosen the crêpe with a wooden spatula, flip the crêpe over and cook approximately 30 seconds on the other side.  You will notice that the side which has browned first is nicer than the other, stack them with the nice side down so that when they are rolled or folded they look nicer.

These are honestly quite easy to make. Although a crêpe pan would be ideal for making these, I just use a regular skillet and that always works fine. And if you have to scrap a few (or more than a few) crêpes in the beginning, do not be daunted! Flipping them takes some time to get used to, and the first couple usually get thrown out regardless of one’s culinary skill.

Finally, what would be the purpose of crêpes without filling? Try experimenting with your own — almost anything is possible — or try some of the ones my French teacher suggested:

  • Fresh-squeezed lemon juice and sugar (my personal favorite)
  • Chocolate — Hershey’s, Nutella (yum!), etc.
  • Jellies in any flavor
  • Fresh fruit (try mixing with whipped cream!)
  • Ham or chicken & cheese
  • Tomato & cream cheese

Enjoy!

{ Source: Images used in collage (clockwise from top right) from foodnetwork.com (separate recipe included), closetcooking.blogspot.com, vanillabasil.blogspot.com, and taste.com.au }