Monday, November 10, 2014

Belated Fall Wreath

Every time I enter my house I am reminded of all the things I need to do. All I have to do is look around, and the mental chore list grows. It's not exactly that I neglect my house, but lets just say we've grown comfortable together. But every time I am able to complete one of these projects that have been nagging at me, instead of the pang of guilt I feel at seeing a job undone, I let out a mental huzzah! 

I have been huzzah-ing for a couple days now, ever since I removed my Christmas wreath from the door (hanging since last year -- possibly even the year before) and hung up my brand-spanking-new fall wreath. Did I buy this fall wreath? Of course not. I cobbled that baby together with bubble gum and dreams... Well, almost.
Does brown packing paper count as bubble gum or dreams?


Actually, I used a coat hanger, some brown packing paper, ribbon (which became totally obscured by the time I was finished), silk leaves, and scrap fabric.

You could use actual leaves, but they are more brittle and\
less colorful. Or you could make leaves out of construction
paper.

I started by shaping my wire coat hanger into a circle and wrapping it with a long strip of brown paper to give it some bulk. If you don't want to use paper, you could always cut a doughnut shape out of a pizza box and work with a real crafter's material: cardboard. But I used a wire coat hanger and brown packing paper - the next best thing to cardboard. Note: a lighter weight hanger is easier to shape than the real sturdy ones.

Ain't she purdy?

And of course, as with any project, one must use the correct adhesive. For a project like this, I prefer hot glue, even though my glue gun has definitely seen better days. A crappy glue gun is better than no glue gun... but hey, if you are looking to get me something nice for Christmas, perhaps you could splurge on the $5 glue gun? 

My hanger was even a festive red color.

Once I had the paper wrapped around the wreath to my satisfaction, I wrapped it in fall colored ribbon. This turned out to be a waste of ribbon, because I promptly covered every inch of my wreath in colorful silk leaves, but hey, I know it's there. To tie it all together (pun intended), I wrapped the leaf-covered wreath with a leaf-print fabric scrap and tied a bit around the top like a ribbon. This was after a few failed attempts to turn my fabric into a pretty bow.

The lap makes a great craft table... until one burns oneself
with hot glue.

Have I seen prettier fall wreaths? Definitely. Have I seen worse? Yeah, probably. Do I like mine anyhow? You bet! And it pops really well against the white curtain I recently stitched together for my door -- and no, I didn't blog about it. Every once in a while I do something crafty that I don't brag about online, lol.

In three and a half years, maybe I will take this down and
make an Easter wreath...




Monday, November 3, 2014

Let There Be Light!

When my husband and I bought our house four years ago, we were incredibly lucky that the nice, elderly couple who sold it to us gave us a great price on a house that was just the right size for our little family. Our house had many good selling points, such as the brand-new doors and windows and recent additions to the insulation. It also had floral wallpaper in almost every room dating from the early nineties and some very dated light fixtures, including the non-working ceiling fan in my kitchen.
Also floral.

We have been intending to update the light fixtures since we moved in, but thus far have succeeded in updating only one... well, make that two, now. A week or so ago I did some shopping in my attic (you never know what you will find in the attic), and came across another dated light fixture:

This is what it looked like, on its best day.

Even though I am far from there, I have been attempting to do a Mediterranean thing in my kitchen. I have a (dollar store) painting of a Tuscan villa on the wall, a faux wrought iron clock and mirror, and bright happy colors. So I thought maybe I could alter the above pictured plain Jane light to look like it was also sporting some wrought iron.

Ta-da!

I took the metal fixtures off and spray painted them with both a chocolate brown and a black spray paint, attempting to give the look some depth. For the globe, I turned it upside down (like a bowl) and Mod Podged pieces of colored tissue paper to the inside. I layered some white paper in on top of the orange and green, but you can't really see the white when the light is turned on.

Hanging in my kitchen.

My ever-so-crafty father-in-law agreed to do the wiring for me. It only took about half an hour, and would have been quicker had my wiring not been a bit of a mess. 

During the course of this project, we discovered that the duct tape which had always been stuck to my kitchen ceiling was covering a bit of a hole. So my next project? I'm going to make a cardboard medallion to go around the base of the light, camouflaging the poor condition of my kitchen ceiling. I haven't completely figured out HOW I'm going to do it yet, so your suggestions are welcome :)

Keep crafting!


Monday, October 13, 2014

Triumphant! The Wall is Papered!

Free wallpaper - found in the garage after we bought our house.
I don't know about you, but I have always found the idea of hanging wallpaper to be daunting. I've seen it done many times on TV, even assisted hanging it once, but still, it always felt like one of those things that a petite person like me just couldn't do on my own. Tearing it down, however, I've historically been pretty good at. I stripped walls in my dad's house as a teenager with great success, and again after we got our house a few years ago, as the previous owners had a thing for ugly wallpaper.

The "accent wall" in our living room - formerly covered in a beige striped
floral. Does it make anyone else gag?
The wallpaper in my living room, however, did not cooperate. I scored and soaked and scraped it for hours, and it just would not come off. I was able to get the vinyl off of about half the wall, but the backing was absolutely glued to the wood paneling, and no amount of scraping or cursing would remove it. So my wall has looked like this for months now. Gross.

I've had re-papering this wall on my "To-Do" list for a while, but it had always been contingent on getting the hubs to lend a hand. He works a crazy schedule which often has him out of the house for 70 hours a week, so time was a problem. Also, he had some projects of his own that were higher on his priority list, so it really didn't look like this project would ever happen.

But it needed to happen, oh how it really needed to happen. So I gathered up my materials: pre-pasted paper, water tray, scissors, X-acto knife, sponge, straight edge, ladder, table... everything I could think of that I could possibly need. Then, of course, I Googled it - and THIS is the video that came up at the top of the list. I watched the video - this lady gives clear, step-by-step directions. I took a deep breath. And I jumped in. 

There is something about doing a repetitious task that's soothing - that is,
until the kids come in the room and start asking questions. Then I have to
double- and triple-check that I've put the paper down in the right direction, etc.
I was amazed at how the wallpaper behaved exactly as described in the video - I could fold it together, let it sit for a while, and it would still be perfectly wet and sticky, ready to go. Also, it didn't stick really well to the vinyl paper I had been unable to scrape off the wall - a fact that made me very nervous as I worked. It's hard to line up edges accurately when they are curling. But I kept going, cursing every time I tried to cut the paper and it tore instead (don't worry - the kids had long since been shooed out of the room). 


Even when it was all done, I had stressed over the job so much that it was
difficult to feel relief.
I was amazed at how well I matched the pattern - even though it was a really simple pattern to match, I had been sure I would screw it up. But, miracle of miracles, I managed to hang it all straight and properly match the pattern! I do, however, cringe every time I look at the little tears round the edges where I had to cut the paper. It really didn't take long for my razor blades to get dull (I used 3 different knives, 2 with reversible blades, so 5 blades in all). My kids, however, keep telling me how great the wall looks and how happy they are that we have a new wall in the living room. I have not pointed out the imperfections to them as Mommy's ego needs a little boost ;)

Please ignore the dog box and the poor lighting... I obviously didn't stage this
photo properly (lazy blogger). Just wanted to show off my $20 dollar store
mirror and the little shadow box shelf my sister and brother-in-law gave me.
And if you look closely...
You'll see in this expertly cropped and
edited photo that I've filled all the tiny
spaces with my dollhouse furniture!

I have collected some really great things over the years for my dollhouses, but I don't really have any way to display them - at least one that doesn't make me look like a creepy lady who plays with dolls, lol. But for the first time I have somewhere I can share my lovely pieces, and it looks like a collection of "miniatures" instead of "toys". All it needs is some lighting and it's done :)

So glad this project is done. I feel almost as great as the day I crawled under the house and fixed a water leak (a story for another day). Even though I had to take scrapbook glue to my wallpaper edges, and there are little imperfections everywhere, it is a million percent better than it was before. And the kids haven't stopped praising me. So I'm good, lol. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Mario Party!

So we had a birthday party the other day. I know, you are shocked by this news... I'm sorry to spring this on you without any warning. ;) As you know, if you've glanced over any of my previous 5 or 6 posts, the theme of the party was Princess Peach and Princess Daisy (read: Mario). My two baby girls turned 5 on Sunday, which coincidentally happened to also be Mother's Day. It seemed fitting to me to celebrate the birth of my children on Mother's Day, and it turned out to be a really great day.

I try to make birthdays special for my kids, but I also don't have a giant budget for these things, so I do a lot of the decor and such myself. I wasn't able to find a lot of appropriately themed items in our local party store, but there are all kinds of wonderful resources online. Lots of moms have pulled off the Mario theme much better than I have, but I think that we did enough to make it fun.

The Birthday Girls - Princess Daisy and Princess Peach

One thing that always makes a party more festive is having the right clothes for the theme. In this case, it meant new princess dresses for my girls. They absolutely loved their dresses, and this was pretty much the main present from Mama. (Want to make your own? I found a great tutorial online. Click HERE for more info.)

The next thing we needed were some decorations. I didn't go all out on this, but I did make a pretty festive table, if I do say so myself.

The only Mario themed item I purchased was the candle on the cake.

I found green and red items with white polka dots, which I felt referenced the 1-up mushrooms pretty nicely without being too literal. Green cups were reminiscent of the green pipes in the game. I intended to cut out some white Mario clouds and tape them on the blue table cloth, but didn't get that done. (Bad Mama.) Our question mark blocks and Yoshi's egg pinata really made an impact. After I took pictures, I remembered that I had made some star power-up balloons, and I hung them up around the table as well. And, of course, there's The Cake:

Not only did it look pretty cool, it tasted pretty good as well. 

My sister brought some Mario mushroom cupcakes. She intended to use
white chocolate candy melts for the white spots, but made these last minute
and couldn't find them, so she substituted mints. My weird kids, who don't
really like cake, love picking the mints off and eating them. 

We decided that pizza would be on the menu, after all Mario and Luigi are from Brooklyn, and I'm sure they love a good slice. I didn't take pictures of the pizza - which is probably a good thing because just looking at it would make you hungry. My husband has discovered that he rather enjoys cooking, and he made 4 varieties of pizza (from scratch): pepperoni (of course), buffalo chicken/bleu cheese, barbecue chicken, and spinach and tomato/alfredo. Delicious! There wasn't a scrap of pizza left after the party, although there was plenty of cake... Makes me think my family prefers my husband's cooking over my own... it might have something to do with my penchant for making casseroles and being "infinitely creative in the kitchen," lol. 

While we finished up in the kitchen, the kids entertained themselves with a game of Memory - matching up characters, power-ups, and items from the Mario games. 

I found a bunch of these images online and put together
a Microsoft Publisher document with 18 different cards.
I had them printed at Office Max when the Mario Cubes
were printed. 

This was a more effective way of keeping the kids entertained than I thought it would be. After everyone ate, we cracked open the pinata and the kids filled up on candy. 

The two halves of the egg made wonderful hats afterward.

Mama didn't get around to making my son the Luigi costume he wanted (Bad Mama), so
he decided that he was Luigi On Vacation. Because Luigi has other clothes, Mom, duh.
There were mustaches in each Mario cube. These were fun, although somewhat frustrating
because we had some mustache malfunctions - the paper backing would not come off
properly, so some of the kids had to tape their mustaches on.

And, of course there were presents...

Dad picked out these awesome Mario Karts for each Princess. Cousin Lucy
crocheted them the Minion hats. (Message her on FB if you wish to buy one.)

And the best thing... all was quiet in the aftermath. The girls loved every gift they received and spent several hours playing quietly with each other.

They have carried their La La Loopsy purses around everywhere since
the party.

Thanks to all who attended! We had a fun time and the girls felt special, which is as it should be. To anyone reading, feel free to take and adapt any of these ideas for your own Mario party :) And, as always, I'd love for you to share what you do on my Facebook Page.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mario Kart Cake

I went to our local party store to find Mario cake decorations and pretty much struck out. They had one Mario candle, and that was it. A store that has items for just about every possible Disney character, comic hero, occasion, etc. SHOULD have Mario stuff, or so one would think. One was mistaken, obviously.

So I bought the single Mario candle and I bought a little set of race car candles. 5 candles in all - the girls are turning 5, so we're good there. It's not perfect, but with these candles I figured we could approximate a Mario Kart cake.

I did a quick Google search for Mario Kart tracks and jumped right in. I didn't have a plan, per se, but I had a pretty good idea of what I would do. I saw a couple cakes online with figure 8 tracks, so I got a few circle shaped cake pans and got to baking.

These are all different size pans, so they didn't all come out of the oven at
the same time. The cupcakes were an afterthought - I had extra batter.
After all my cakes cooled, I removed them from the pans and took a large knife to cut the tops off, evening them out. I glued them down to a cookie sheet with icing, bottom side up.


I cut a little bit off one circle so I could wedge them together really well.
My children, who don't typically like cake, enjoyed eating all the scraps I cut off when fitting all the little cakes together. This bodes well for tomorrow's festivities.

Decorating supplies: lots of icing, brown sugar, coconut caramel drops,
food coloring, edible Easter grass, and candles.
I bought three tubs of icing because it always seems like I run just a little low and end up with thin spots on the cake. I'm happy to report that I only used 2/3 of the icing I purchased for this project.

I was going for a really saturated green color, and ended up using all the
green food coloring. It didn't occur to me until after I had started spreading
icing on the cake that I could have added blue and yellow color to make it
a little more green. Oh, well. 


I just used a regular butter knife to spread the icing on.

I made a "dirt" track out of brown sugar, rocks from the caramel coconut drops,
and some foliage from the edible Easter grass.

I can't wait to put the candles on the cake and see what the final product looks like! I'll post pics tomorrow :)

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Yoshi Egg Piñata

In planning for the girls' upcoming Mario party, I tried to come up with some simple yet fun Mario themed activities. A piñata seemed like an obvious choice, and I chose the simplest design: a Yoshi egg. We used a balloon for the form and covered it in papier mache. If you haven't made a piñata before, it's pretty simple:

1) Make your form - we used one large balloon.
2) Cover in papier mache. We used a mixture of flour, Elmer's glue, and water to adhere newspaper strips to the balloon. 2 layers was sufficient. It took a while to dry, so you will want to do this a few days before your event.
3) Pop the balloon - we stuck a pin through the hardened papier mache.
4) Cut a hole in the side of the piñata. I cut a hole the size of my fist, but it really just needs to be big enough to fit the candy in.
5) Fill with candy. Attach a string or something to hang it with. (You may want to reinforce the area where you attach the string with cardboard so it won't pull through.)
6) Tape hole closed. I used masking tape.
7) Paint or cover in paper. I did both - we painted it white, then covered it in white and green tissue paper. I marked the circles with a non-water soluble marker (a Sharpie), cut fringed strips of tissue paper, and attached with Elmer's glue.


I cut about a 2.5 inch section of the tissue paper. I just left it folded,
like it comes in the package, and that allowed me to cut many layers
at once. Then I cut fringes.

I found the most efficient way to place the paper is to fold it in half,
put a line of glue on the piñata, and place a 1-3 inch section
of paper.
This step took for-ev-er. I worked on it in 4 different sittings. I think I made both princess dresses in less time than it took to put the paper on the piñata. It went a lot quicker after I figured out that I could fold them in half to glue them down - before I was trying to place the strip folded like a "V" standing up with the point on the glue. Didn't work so well. Gluing the pieces folded and flat, however, was easy. And after the glue dried I was able to fluff up all the fringes for an even texture.

Ta-da! Yoshi egg, filled with candy :)


Friday, May 9, 2014

Princess Peach and Daisy Party Dresses

So, our Mario birthday party isn't exactly a "Mario" themed party... it is a Princess Peach and Princess Daisy party. My girls wanted to have (another) princess party, and Mama said, "Why don't we pick a specific princess?" After some discussion, the girls settled on Peach and Daisy. If you are not familiar with them, they are 2 of the princesses from the Mario video games.

Peach is the one wearing pink... and Daisy is the one in yellow.
(Image source: http://colettestirling.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/peach-and-daisy.jpg)

It has become a tradition in our home to dress up for our birthday parties in costumes fitting with the theme. I've kept my eyes open for dresses that could be converted into Peach and Daisy dresses, but no luck. So I trolled the Internet for a tutorial, and again didn't find anything helpful right off the bat. So I widened my search terms for any kind of princess dress and hit the jackpot.

This Cinderella dress is just the perfect shape for a Daisy or
Peach dress!
 I found a Cinderalla dress tutorial on a blog called Make It & Love It. Cinderella's dress is obviously a different color, but her gown has little poofy sleeves and those side flounces that Peach and Daisy's dresses have. Plus the tutorial was great. Check it out HERE.

Because the Make It & Love It tutorial was so complete and easy to follow, I'm not going to rehash the steps we took in making these dresses. I will say that I recommend you drink your coffee first if you are going to start sewing at the crack of dawn (read: 10:30 AM) when your kids wake you up saying, "Mama, Mama, Mama! Sew my dress now, sew my dress! Mama, when are you going to wake up and sew my dress?" I narrowly escaped having to rip out a bunch of stitches... but only because I cut Daisy's dress apart and re-attached the flounces.

The girls are pretty pleased with how these turned out. They were
playing pretend even before the dresses were finished. I think that
Bowser is still locked in one of my closets...
These aren't perfect, but I've come to believe in the principle that "good enough" and "finished" is better than a perfect idea, or even a perfectly executed project that takes too much time. These are costumes for a kids' birthday party, not gowns for the Oscars. 

The finished Peach gown.

The finished Daisy gown.

I decided to paint on the colored blue and green jewels that adorn the front of the gowns instead of sewing them. Why? I suck at sewing circles. This was much easier - I made a stencil with contact paper, adhered it to the front of the gown, and added acrylic paint. When the paint was dry I peeled the stencils off. Easy peasy.

Now all I have to do is make their crowns. I'm thinking I might make them out of cardboard (who's surprised?) and hot glue them to the tops of headbands. I will post pics when (and if) complete.