Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Brilliant, Beautiful and Delicious Cake

There are 5 family birthdays in the month of October, and I hosted a giant birthday party for all of them.  I was pretty stressed out, and handed over the cake responsibility to Marzipan.  I gave her a general "calendar" kind of theme, and just LOOK what came out of her kitchen!

To feed 20 or so, Marzipan made a double layer square cake.  The bottom layer was chocolate with an amazing vanilla icing, the top was vanilla cake with scruptious milk chocolate icing.  She tried to tell me how much butter was in it, but I plugged my ears. 

Since she had the 4 sides to work with on the bottom layer, she wrote (a word per side) "Happy Birthdays In October" and for the top cake with 5 sides, she wrote each person's name, and their birthday date.  We call the kid's grandfather "Pop", so for him, she wrote "Pop On Top", since he is the family's patriarch.  It was so perfect.  So delicious.  Everyone asked for business cards. 

Marzipan takes orders, you know!  Email her for some truly amazing baked goods for your next event.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Autumn Glory Animoto Style

Don't you just love this time of year? Here are some of my favorite photos so far.

And, if you haven't tried Animoto yet, what are you waiting for? You could be sending your Dad a video greeting right now, or how about a thank you card to someone who did something nice for you? (like I just did).

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I'd Like You to Meet Alabama

Well, actually, Natalie Chanin. Her company is Alabama Chanin. This brave and true Mom runs a company that inspires, awes and humbles me.

Natalie began her journey with a documentary that sought to tell the story behind quilt squares. She's a collector of the spoken word. This project put her in touch with so many talented women whose craft has been handed down for generations.

From this acquaintance, her company began. She employs local women from a economically depressed part of Alabama that has generations worth of history in textile mills. The women work at their own pace, with their own work hours, and get paid by the piece. Each article is handmade.

In addition to using organic materials, and promoting a sustainable lifestyle, she practices what she preaches. AND, she's a success. She was just recently featured in Vogue, and Google.

She has a few books, such as Studio Style (above).

But the one I want is the Stitch book. I want to make this skirt. Did I mention that she also sells DIY kits, has classes and workshops, and she sells supplies, patterns, and raw materials.

You truly need to visit her site to get a full appreciation of how this woman is living her dream, and what an inspiration she is to us all.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hey, I'm Featured Over at The DIY Showoff!

Roeshel over at DIY Showoff is featuring some sweet, frilly, girly projects today, and she featured my corsage scarf! Go check it out!

I know you have some girly project you'd like to show off: She's having a linky party too...I can't wait to check back for some great ideas!

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Little Girl's Birthday Spa Party Tutorial

I asked my little girl what kind of Birthday Party she'd like to have this year. She thought about it for awhile, and settled on the idea of having a Spa Party. Here's how the spa all came together:

First, I had my recent 7 year old spell out a sign for her spa. One letter to each 9X11 sheet of paper. I then used a paper punch at the top corners of the sheets and strung them from some yarn across the doorway to the "Spa". We added a wall of walk-through streamers for a fun "doorway". I then strung a piece of plastic tablecloth across the front, and Birthday Girl made a "closed" sign, so that I could work in secret behind the curtain.

I taped 3 plastic tablecloths (from the dollar store) to the floor to protect the rug from nail polish and bubbly foot baths. I then used painter's tape in different colors to spell out the name of the Spa. I added some balloons and sprinkled dollar store rose petals.

I used an old school desk as a manicure station. Note the use of the plastic tablecloth again, for color and for protection from polish spills. I also had a pedicure station. (I used disposable aluminum pans as foot baths.) The girls got facials. (I applied a clay mask and cucumber slices to their eyes as they relaxed to the soft music.)

I put together treat bags in the form of cosmetic bags (Found them at (guess where?!) the dollar store..Pretty cute, huh?) I included some soap, a puff, lip glosses, and a tiny pedicure set.

I made a special party drink by combining equal parts of lemonade and sprite, then I floated some lemon slices in the container. I served the refreshments in sparkly plastic water glasses with a strawberry garnish.
The girls all had such a great time, relaxing and chatting about all that is important in the world of a 7 year old. This was a great, inexpensive party idea that the girls just loved.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I Convinced the Pizza Shop to Open Early and Other Tales From This Week

My Sister in Law sent me an email last night just to ask how things are going. How sweet of her to ask. My random and rambling response caused me to assess the chaos around here. Here's How It's Going:

-I had a birthday party for my 11 year old daughter last week. YES, it was a sleepover (is there any other kind when you are 11?) I had to take special care with the presents (what to get: no one had any idea), the cake (no pink roses this time), the decorations (not fru-fru), and the activities. Actually, she wanted exactly zero planned activities. I strong-armed her to agree to a few "back-up" crafts and games. (All of which we used, by the way, although some girls were more "into" them than others).

-My husband had a birthday. With very little fan-fare (and he sort of likes fan-fare-in a quiet, "just-us" sort of way). He got exactly what he asked for: a Penguins Jersey and a book. I hate it when I don't have a decent surprise gift for the people in my life that mean the most to me.

-I'm co-chairing the big fund raising auction at my kid's school. I have been busy meeting people, co-ordinating class projects and visiting possible venues for two weeks straight.

-My 7 year old daughter has a birthday this weekend. I have a clue what she wants, I have purchased it, but, it remains unwrapped. The party, of course,is a sleepover. She wanted a "Spa Party". I have some grand plans. I'm hoping that they'll all sit through the manicures, pedicures and facials that I will be doing as I transform myself into an Employee at the Spa. I even have the babysitter coming over (she's cool and hip, after all) to do hair.

-The soon to be 7 year old wanted to have pizza with her class on Friday. This is a common occurrence at our school. The birthday kid brings pizza for the whole class at lunch. My daughter told me that they have lunch at 1pm. It's a good thing that I asked the teacher: lunch is at 11am. (Hey, there is a 1 in it!). So, after I have committed to get pizza for the class, I start calling pizza places. They don't open till 11:30! Argh. I sweet talked (or bullied, or begged) a local place to open a little early for me on Friday. Then browbeat them to make sure that the pizza would be delivered at exactly 11am. (The kids only have 1/2 hour for lunch after all.) I ordered an extra pizza that I'm sure we won't need just to make it worth their while. Looks like I'll be feeding the 1st grade teachers Friday too.

-Since 3 of my immediate family members have birthdays in October, I am hosting a "Family" birthday party Saturday. A few other family members have birthdays this month too. So, we are celebrating for 5 birthdays. I have only the vaguest idea of what I'll be serving to 20 people Saturday. I ordered a huge sandwich from the grocery store yesterday. I have Marzipan baking the cake. Beyond that, I am completely unprepared.

-My dear sweet husband got the Halloween stuff out of the attic this past weekend because the kids begged him. Let's just say that it looks like Halloween threw-up all over their rooms. There are bins with lids askew, costumes from years past flung, I'm stepping on spiky spider rings. I may have to shovel it back into the boxes and have my dear sweet husband return to to where it came from.

-I'm making fire-engine cookies with my littlest guy at school today. Somehow, long ago, I thought it would be a good idea to sign up for cooking today. The teacher called me last night to remind me, and give me a list of the things I'd need.

-The laundry....Oh. Ok, at least the clothes are clean. They just need sorted from the giant heap that they are currently in, folded, and put away. The kids have been digging through the pile for outfits for a week and a half (scattering it all in the process). It would make me feel so much better if you admitted that this happens at your house too. Feel free to comment below.

-It goes without saying that the kitchen floor, and many other surfaces, need cleaned.

I'll be skidding to a complete stop on Sunday. Maybe someone should let my family know that I need a day off. Oh, that's right, Moms don't get "Days off".

Friday, October 9, 2009

If You Have Never Tried Costco's Chocolate Cake...

Go now and get yourself $16 worth of bliss. This cake is huge..triple layer and 10 inches round, but not a crumb is wasted at my house. The plastic tray is licked clean. It's hard to describe how moist that cake is, and how intoxicating the icing is, you just must try it.

My daughter loves it, and requested it for her 11th birthday. I was trying to find a way to "jazz" it up. I've tried piping my own icing on, but it always looks so amateurish. I saw this marzipan at Joann's and wondered if it could be just that easy. The box contains 4 colors of ready to roll out marzipan. Just use a rolling pin, wax paper and cookie cutters.

Look at the polka dots that we added to her cake. She loved that I got her the cake, and she loved that she decorated it. The marzipan WAS just that easy. The colors were obnoxiously bright, and I wouldn't recommend eating a huge wad of the stuff at one sitting, but it worked well.

Apparently it's at age 11 when the cake must get a little more sophisticated. Pink flowers by the dozens will no longer do. (In fact, anything pink will no longer do.) This was a great fix for us, maybe it could work for you too?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Custom Make Your Own Puzzles

As a room Mom for the 5th grade, I was assigned the task of planning for Halloween. The teachers at my kid's school had asked for something different. Their thought is that the kids get way too much candy and treats anyway, so let's NOT stuff their treat bags with sugar. They also wanted some activities. We came up with a "Brain Bag". These bags will contain things like pencils, a coupon for a book at the book fair, erasers, and the like. I made this custom search-a-word puzzle for the kids. Did you know that you can make all sorts of puzzles for FREE? Try this site. It's so fun for the kids to find their own name in a puzzle, or the name of their teacher.

I printed the puzzle, then stamped it with a pumpkin to add some color. I then rolled the sheets and secured it with a sparkly sticker. How's that for a Treat?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Returning The Gate: This Weekend's Project

I grew up on a farm that has been in my family for generations. Over 170 years. In that amount of time, and acres to work with, a lot of "stuff" can be accumulated. Take into account that these people often didn't have a lot to work with, they were isolated, and not wealthy. Add to that: they made it through the Great Depression, and that's why EVERYTHING is saved.

This gate has been in the barn since I can remember. Isn't it beautiful? The newels are in the picture above. My Dad told me that this gate and fencing was originally erected around a family cemetery plot. His Mother's family buried 5 children in one year because of diphtheria. His Mother, and 4 other siblings, survived.
The fence was removed in the 1940's to make it easier to mow the cemetery. My Dad used the fence for pigs (He was young, and stupid, and didn't see the value in an old fence...His words, not mine). So, much of the original fencing has been destroyed, but he still has about 12' and the gate.
When I said I'd ask if the cemetery would want it back, he acted as if a weight had been lifted.
I think he has felt badly, all of these years, and would be happy to have it returned to the original cemetery plot, or at least to have offered it back to them. So that's how I came to spend the weekend trying to return a cemetery gate.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Chair Sleeve Tutorial

I was approached by our Kindergarten teacher and she asked me to make a chair sleeve for the "Star of the Week". Each child in class gets a chance to be in the limelight and tell about themselves for a week during the school year. It's a much anticipated week when you are 5. Last year, they decorated the back of the special person's chair with some bows that became very tired looking by the end of the year. Looked less special, and more like old wrappings pulled out of the trash.

I gathered my supplies: Red polar fleece, a denim fabric with glittery stars, white and blue felt, various colored threads and some buttons.

I measured the back of the chair, and cut 2 pieces of my polar fleece only slightly larger. I used polar fleece for 4 reasons: 1.) it's stretchy, 2.) it doesn't fray, and a raw edge is fine, 3.) it's soft and 4.) it wears well.

I cut out the words "I am a Star" directly from the white felt. I printed my own star pattern off of the computer and pinned that to a piece of blue felt. I used felt (again) because it doesn't fray and a raw edge is fine.

Then, I began stitching the words directly on to the blue felt with colorful thick thread. I also sewed a few red star buttons along the word 'star'.

After a few layers of felt, denim and polar fleece, here are the results. Notice how I used pinking shears on both the polar fleece and the denim. This adds yet another layer of interest, and prevents the denim from fraying. I handstitched the letters and the star to the layers of denim and polar fleece. Then I machine sewed the two layers of the polar fleece sleeve together on 3 sides. I made sure to heavily stitch the bottom corners, near the opening, as these will be the seams that get the most stress. The teacher was thrilled.

The sleeve easily slides over the top of a kindergarten sized chair, and can be moved from week to week. I really like how all of the layers, different fabrics and buttons add texture and dimension. The bright colors make it cheerful and eye-catching.

I was thinking these would be a great addition to a holiday table. Felt pumpkins with a few sequins, or Christmas trees with button ornaments would be beautiful. You could also make them for your everyday kitchen table. Maybe put the kid's names at their chairs. How about a special "It's My Birthday" sleeve that makes the rounds for each member of a family? If you make one, be sure to link back, I'd love to see what you've come up with!