Armington Mail

Tonia Loy

Tonia Loy | Columnist

Tonia Loy was the Mail Lifestyle Columnist covering Food, Arts & Crafts, and Do It Yourself topics until August 2021. She is from Peoria, Illinois, and is the owner of Great Cake Adventure Bakery. She attended ICC and NIU for art and design.

DIY Fire Pit

With summertime approaching, there is nothing more fun than sitting around a fire pit with your friends or family! Well, maybe a tropical trip! Fire pits are a great way to add some fun to a yard! With a little hard work and some elbow grease, you’ll have one in no time. We put one in at our last home and loved it, I can’t wait to do it again! 

How to Make a Dreamcatcher

In Native American culture, dream catchers were believed to catch and trap bad dreams, whilst allowing good dream to pass through the spider-web design, and drift into the heads of the children that lie sleeping below them. Nowadays, dreamcatchers come in many shapes and sizes, and are an incredibly popular bedroom decor choice! If you’re ready for some sweet dreams, why not learn how to make a dreamcatcher?

Baked to Perfection Ziti

The key to creating a perfect Baked Ziti is to keep it from drying out. This classic Italian baked pasta dish is made by layering penne noodles, sauce and cheese. Once it is prepared correctly, however, it will become the only way you make it.

Small Raised Paver Patio

Sometimes you are in the middle of a project and realize you need something else! This happened to me when I was creating my back garden scape. I placed my new Adirondack chairs in there place. They were a perfect fit, if the ground didn’t slope down in the back! I knew I needed to make an elevated bed for them. I had recently found a ton of old pavers in the yard and knew this was the spot for them. 

Four Season Garden

Sometimes you can get stuck in a rut and wonder how to keep your perennial gardens looking beautiful and full of color throughout the entire growing season, and even year-round. One of the biggest benefits of growing perennials in your garden instead of annual flowers is that perennials last for many years… but the downside is that perennial flowers only bloom for a short time.

Start a Daily Sketchbook

I bought a new planner and sketchbook today. It reminded me of the easier days of my youth. I felt like I found a piece of me that was missing. Don’t get me wrong I create things everyday, but this is a different kind of freedom. A way to put your thoughts on paper, that only you understand. 

Moist Carrot Cake

Practically everyone has a carrot cake recipe that they think is the best, but after just one bite of our extra moist carrot cake recipe we think you’ll reconsider!
Fresh baby carrots already peeled make preparation so much easier and faster, but if you already have a bag of carrots in the fridge that need to be trimmed and peeled, go for it! Just make sure to throw in a few extra to bring the weight back up to one pound—after all it is called carrot cake for a reason.
If you feel you need to make the layers more level, trim them but don’t let the scraps go to waste! Dry them in a warm oven, turn them into crumbs and press them into the sides of the frosted cake for a decorative touch.

Mudd’s Pasta Salad

This Vegetable Pasta Salad is a crowd favorite! My sister (Mudd) has to make it for every family event! It’s a running joke that she brings that and I bring pecan coffee cake! This easy, vegan pasta salad recipe is fun twist on a summer classic with fresh vegetables and pasta tossed with Italian dressing and served cold.

DIY Fire Pit

With summertime approaching, there is nothing more fun than sitting around a fire pit with your friends or family! Well, maybe a tropical trip! Fire pits are a great way to add some fun to a yard! With a little hard work and some elbow grease, you’ll have one in no time. We put one in at our last home and loved it, I can’t wait to do it again! 

No Bake Caramel Cookies

I want to share a recipe from My Little Dairy Blog, for my mom! This cookie is perfect for her! It would also be great with Nutella and pecan chips! Smooth salted caramel, crunchy toffee chips, and chocolate wrapped up in super easy No Bake Caramel Cookies! I can’t think of a thing not to love about these cookies!

Tie dye!

With summer break on its way, what’s more fun than a tie dye project! You can buy a tie dye kit or you can buy the colors and supplies individually. You can tie due anything from a shirt to a bag, even a mask or headband. Put a twist on tie dye with the spiral tie-dye technique! Whether you use one color or four, you'll love the winding effects!

Garlic Butter Shrimp Scampi

This week, I would like to share a recipe from one of my go to websites, Garlic Butter Shrimp Scampi can be enjoyed as an appetizer/light meal or for dinner with your favorite pasta of choice. You can also keep it low carb and serve over zucchini noodles or with steamed cauliflower. Either way it’s delicious and even better than an Italian restaurant Scampi.

Funfetti Cake

April is my birthday month!!! Let’s make a delicious cake! This recipe is from the online Blog Pretty. Simple. Sweet! As you may know, I own and operate a small in-home bakery and love experimenting with cake and cookie recipes.

Wainscoting an Island/Wall

Sometimes we have a wall that just needs something! Maybe a fresh coat of paint or trim. In our case we had to take a wall out to make our room look bigger and more open. We knew we wanted to have a pass through or take it out completely. After contacting a contractor to remove the wall (there are somethings I won’t even attempt), we found out that it was not load bearing wall and we were able to take it out completely without a header! Score, right! Luckily, our contractor is also my sister’s Dad, Norm! He is always there for me and willing to listen to my endless ideas! I’m truly happy to have him in my life. He teaches me the tricks of the trade, while trying my way on occasion. 

How to Etch Glass

When my husband and I got married, I wanted to make some custom gifts for our wedding party. I chose to make custom beer steins and wine glasses! If you’ve never tried it, this is actually something you can easily do at home. It’s super easy and cheap!

Outdoor Side Table

How often are you looking for just the right piece of furniture and never find it. After looking at several stores for the perfect outdoor side table and not finding one under one hundred dollars. I decided to make one! I needed a rectangular table and could only find circular or square. So here we go!

How to Make a Rope Coil Basket

I have always been a maker of all things. I love to create new projects or build things. Most people don’t like repetitive work, but I like it! It relaxes my mind and calms me. Making this coil basket is perfect for relaxing. The repetition of the stitches is soothing and random. No need for perfection on this! I have a rule: if I can make it, don’t buy it. One of my favorite bloggers feels the same way. I was inspired by her and her blog(we are scout) for this project. 

French Macarons

Before we start off with these delicious cookies, I want to start with some tips. These cookies take very precise measurements. If you have a food scale that’s great, if not it’s ok! 

String Art!

First time for everything! When you create something new or you figure out something you have been working on, that’s the best feeling in arts and crafts. This week I wanted to branch out and try something completely new. I’ve had my eye on string art for awhile now and decided that was what I wanted to try. I’m going to share my process and some tips from the pros! 

The Art of Crafts

As children, we are encouraged to be creative in play and to develop our imaginary worlds. During childhood our minds are the most open to creating things, because we haven’t created walls yet. As Picasso said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” As we age, our brains form new adventures and we forget about those creative places our adolescent brain took us. We may have occasional memories or Déjà vu of the magic. Don’t worry about missing this as we can all go back to those fun creative, magical times. All you need are a few simple supplies and an open mind. 

Granny’s Biscuits and Gravy

During these trying times we could all use some comfort food. Some of my earliest memories revolve around my grandparent’s kitchen. The sound of all my cousins running in and out of the house as my grandpa yelled the  “in or out, we aren’t heating the outdoors.” My favorite spot was always next to my grandma. She was patient and kind. The house smelled so good all the time, there were a lot of mouths to feed. As soon as I was old enough to help cook my granny would pull up a kitchen chair and let me help. She would always place her soft hands on my cheek and smile. It was my favorite place on Earth. This sweet woman just passed away leaving this world a better place than when she came into it. I can’t think of a better way to honor her memory than to to share a recipe that is close to my heart, my Granny’s biscuits and gravy. She loved the simple things in life, but there was nothing simple about her.