Archive for Party

Under Construction: Beau’s 2nd Birthday Party (The Details)

Planning events is one of my favorite pastimes. Being able to craft a party that utilizes a beloved theme AND makes someone feel super-dee-duper special is so much fun!

My son turned 2 in June, so beginning in January, I started brainstorming theme ideas for his party. He’s not much of a napper, so I start way in advance since I get very limited time each day to design.

The funny thing? I chose a Construction/Tool theme before he was all that interested in it, and through the planning process, he became more and more fascinated with diggers and dozers and dump trucks. By the time his party rolled around, he was obsessed, so it all worked out. ;)

Let me also say this: Having a Silhouette Cameo made planning this party SO much easier. When I did Beau’s Woodland Party last year, I cut everything by hand. Oy.

LOVE my Cameo…it allowed me to cut out the heading and the pieces I needed to create some excavators. I used Sticky Doos from Hobby Lobby to give the machines some depth, and tore pieces of brown paper by hand to give the ‘dirt’ a jagged look.

Next, I created favors for each of Beau’s little friends. My mom, ever the incredible seamstress, used tea towels to make each child their own tool belt with two pockets.

I cut various construction vehicle from vinyl to create stencils for painting.

And the birthday boy helped remove the vinyl once the paint was dry.

I designed hang tags for some baggies I had leftover from a pegboard project and filled each baggie with chocolate rocks I found on Amazon.

Each tool belt was stuffed with a mini machine and a baggie of chocolate rocks.

Treats for our pals, ready to go!

Since we live out in the country, I knew I wanted to mark our driveway with a sign of some sort. I used my Silhouette to cut out vinyl letters to mask off black foamcore board.

Then, I learned the hard way (with a piece not shown here), that foamcore board does NOT like spray paint. Must be the solvents or something in the paint, but it makes the board bubble up and the paper backing peels away from the foam. SUCH a mess.

So, cue Plan B…acrylic paint. I tried a brush, but hated being able to see the brushstrokes. So I switched to a brayer I haven’t used since my college days of linoleum block printing.

Because the paper soaked up the paint, it took several coats, but it worked pretty well. Once the paint dried, I peeled off the vinyl letters and cut a black strip around the outside edge to mimic a true traffic sign.

One project I do each year is an age shirt. Let me tell you, truck fabric is NOT easy to find! We ended up with this psychedelic construction vehicles print.

But, once the vehicles were isolated, they looked pretty cute on a plain, brown tee. I purchased orange and yellow tin buckets to hold snacks and forks. I happened to have some construction stickers laying around to decorate the tins. I found hard hats at the party store and added the CAT logo in black vinyl.

 

To keep stress low as the party approaches, I always make as much of the food in advance as possible. I knew I wanted to make dipped pretzel rods, so I was excited to read they could be done up to a week in advance. So, I dipped, sprinkled, and packed away our pretzel treats.

Sugar cookies are always a big hit, too. My parents sent me this set of tool cookie cutters they found on Ebay.

I like to use this cookie recipe, as it holds a cutter shape really well and isn’t too sweet (the icing covers that!). I made royal icing in gray, brown, and yellow and got to work outlining and flooding all the cookies.

Cake decorating is a lot of fun to me, too. I had seen this tutorial about making striped cakes, and I knew it would be perfect for our construction zone theme.

Because the recipe makes two cakes, I was able to practice and perfect my angles. And my mess-making skills.

When it came time to decorate the cake, I pulled inspiration from multiple sources. I have a copy of the book What’s New, Cupcake? and it gave me the idea to create ‘trees’ from Tootsie Rolls and sprinkles.

And of course, Oreo cookie dirt! I made Beau his own little cake mound out of scraps and trimmings.

I used fondant to make miniature traffic cones, then added dyed coconut grass and chocolate rocks to round out the landscaping.

Of course, there was a dump truck, hauling a load of rocks from the quarry.

A little construction zone tape put the finishing touches on the cake display.

I knew I wanted some sort of edible “boulder,” so I made chocolate popcorn balls using this recipe. I made them late the night before the party and wrapped them tightly in cling wrap so the popcorn would stay crisp and not get soggy.

To set off the area in the kitchen where the food would be set up, I hung a black curtain over the windows. Then I created a banner from cut letters and shapes attached to satin ribbons.

As for party ‘entertainment’, what’s better than a bunch of rocks and dirt to dig through?!

I set up our pop up tent and draped a tarp over the top for shade. Orange safety netting, marker flags, and painted signs rounded out the construction zone look.

Stay tuned for pictures from Party Day so you can see all these details in action!

Etsy, Here I Come!

It’s official!! I have an Etsy shop!

Etsy is something I’ve been meaning to be a part of for ages, and I finally bit the bullet. My goal is to gradually add more and more items as time allows (as a wife, mom, friend, event planner, and personal trainer, there’s only so much time for crafting!)

I plan to add paper goods and party-planning essentials, wall art, etched glass items, handmade books and journals, maybe even some textile pieces. The sky is the limit, really!

As I’m building up my shop, I’d love for you to swing by and check it out!

For those of you who asked about this wall art…

…there are now TWO available in my shop. Choose which frame style you like best, submit your order, and it can be YOURS in just a few days! They are ready to go, just need to be shipped to a loving home. :)

Thanks for loving Z as in Zebra and inspiring me to expand my horizons. Cheers!

Name That Glass

Even before I treated myself to a digital cutter, I knew I wanted to try glass etching. I’d heard it was really easy and I knew what I wanted to try as my first attempt.

My husband and I belonged to a Bible study where each couple in the group took turns bringing either an entree, side dish, dessert, or soft drinks.

Every Wednesday, as we threw away paper plates and plastic cups, my stomach turned. I hated seeing all that trash week after week, so I proposed we buy reusable dinnerware. I offered to take up a collection and do the shopping myself.

I found a set of glasses for about $1 each. Problem is…in a group, you set down your Coca-Cola, walk away to get seconds, and then can’t remember whose glass is whose.

So, I used my SIL’s cutter (since I hadn’t purchased my beloved Silhouette Cameo yet) to make a personalized stencil for each glass, one per group member.

I finished off the edges with masking tape to prevent any leakage from the etching cream.

I pressed firmly to make sure there were no bubbles in the stencils.

Then I gooped over each one with a nice, thick layer of glass etching cream and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. That’s it!

Then, I rinsed off the cream, peeled off the stencils, and TA DA! Instant personalized glasses!

The group LOVED these and it made it so easy to keep track of our drinks!

Since then, I’ve done many more glass etching projects: mustache drinking glasses, a monogrammed 9×13 baking dish, picture frames, candy jars, flower vases, beer mugs, etc.

These may be simple projects, but their uniqueness makes a huge statement! Etched glass is perfect for weddings, showers, parties, and one-of-a-kind gifts.

How about you? Want anything etched? Tell me your vision and I can make it happen!

Cake Pops!

I love cute party treats and cake pops are one of the items I’ve been trying to perfect.

Ever since Bakerella starting showcasing the cute little goodies on her blog, I’ve been attempting to learn the ins-and-outs of the entire process. Believe me, there is more of a learning curve than one might think!

Below are some of the examples of the pops I’ve made in the past year. Not only did I love making these for my friends, I also enjoyed stretching my mind to come up with creative ways to display them.

It’s a Boy! pops for my friends Heather and Alex. I made these to share at our Bible study group before baby Owen arrived. I was able to score a green picket fence display rack from Hobby Lobby for free! The styrofoam base works perfectly for displaying cake pops.

I also made some cake balls (minus the stick), just to give that a try. YUM!

This set of cake pops was created for my friend Mandy’s birthday party. She invited all her friends over to dreadlock her hair, and I knew the occasion called for chocolate and sprinkles!

Mandy is an amazing writer, so I wrapped a plastic container with fabric covered with words. I added a green stripey ribbon and a cork-board M.

To help the cake pops stand upright in the container, I filled it with dark chocolate and white chocolate chips.

These cake pops were made for my SIL’s baby shower. A baby girl, could you guess?! :) It was fun playing around with different combinations of sprinkles and decorations. Again, the display was from Hobby Lobby (free), with a coat of pink paint and a sparkly tulle bow.

I failed to get a shot of the last batch of cake pops I made. They were for a wedding shower, and I made round ones and also tried my hand at shaped ones. Hearts. Not as easy as I anticipated.

I only took the best-looking pops to the shower. These were the “defects” left behind to be consumed by my family. ;)

This photo shows a couple of the things that I need more practice to perfect…funky-shaped hearts and cracked candy coating (and there are so many variables that can cause cracked coating, argh!)

But, considering that Bakerella herself only ever shows 5-10 pops at a time, I’m sure even she has at least a few duds in every batch of 48. :)

 

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Mum’s the Word

If you want to make some impressive-looking cookies without slaving away in the kitchen all day, here’s an idea for you!

First, you’ll need the cookies themselves. Cut your cookie dough using either a circle-shaped or flower-shaped cutter and bake according to the directions.

Next, grab a bag of miniature marshmallows and some colored sugar. Place the sugar (I used orange, yellow, and hot pink) in shallow bowls. Grab a scissors and cut each mini marshmallow diagonally, allowing the cut side to land in the bowl of sugar.

The sticky side that is exposed from the cutting will get covered in sugar (though you may have to dab each one in the sugar a little bit to make sure they get as covered as possible.

Each marshmallow half becomes a ‘petal’ and how many you need will depend on the size of your cookies.

Next, frost your cookies one at a time. I used royal icing for these particular ones and did the outline/flooding method.

Once you have a cookie covered in icing, start sticking on the marshmallow petals. I like to begin around the outside edge and work my way towards the middle, but you might find a different method you like better. Feel free to experiment! This is supposed to be fun! :)

Repeat the process, one cookie at a time, until your batch is complete. Arrange on a pretty platter and prepare to awe your friends!

Another idea for decorating cookies, is to use nuts. I had some extra sugar cookies, but no more marshmallows, so I scoured my cupboards to see what I could find. The result: slivered almonds and candy-coated sunflower seeds (from a local bulk candy shop).

For these cookies, I covered the tops in a dark chocolate ganache instead of icing. I then placed the almond “petals” around the outer edge and filled in the center space with the seeds.

Decorating cookies couldn’t be easier! People will tell you how beautiful they are and you will know how simple they really are to put together! ;)

I See London, I See France…

A friend emailed me a photo of some cookies entitled “When Men Bake”…ha!

I printed the picture and used it as inspiration to create some memorable cookies for a friend’s bachelorette party/personal shower.

I called up one of the other bridesmaids, and we spent an evening chopping the tops off of heart-shaped cookies, piping and flooding designs with royal icing, and giggling. A LOT.

The photos don’t do them justice, but you can see we worked very hard to make some unique undies.

My favorites were the “sets” that we displayed on this white platter. Too cute!

Who knew cookies could be naughty? ;)

Memory Books

Perhaps you remember the photo album I made for my niece, Ensley Grace last year.

Well, 2011 saw the addition of more little babies into our extended family. It was only fair that they get their very own memory books, too!

Today’s post is a showcase of the baby photo albums I’ve made this year.

***

My newest nephew, Ethan Craig, was born on August 3. Let me tell you, boyish fabric is hard to find!! Even the prints that are blues and greens are usually paisleys or florals. Then there’s camouflage and trucks, but there’s not really any fabrics in between the two extremes. That said, I was able to find a geometric patterned one for Ethan’s album.

I just love these circular letters! They worked so well with this fabric, too!

Despite the fact that this album is for a boy, I couldn’t resist adding a little bling to the spine. :)

Black ribbon ties hold the memories inside.

***

Niece Madilyn Rose arrived on October 21st…the first girl in a household of three older brothers! As you can imagine, her mommy was excited to finally have a baby to dress in  frilly, girly PINK things!

Her book was ultra-girly as well. Lots of pinks…the letter brads, the tie ribbons, and the rhinestones!

The inside pages were a fun orange-sherbet color. I LOVE how this turned out with the outside pattern. This book may be one of my favorite combos that I’ve done. In fact, I liked the cover fabric so much I bought extra yardage so I can use it again in future projects.

***

In addition to the books I made for our family members, I was also hired to design books for other people’s loved ones.

This gender-neutral jungle book was created for a grandma to house all her photos of her grandkids.

The inside paste pages were chocolate brown, and each page held 4×6 photos, 2-up.

The spine was made of reinforced Davy board wrapped in leafy cardstock. The two patterns complemented each other perfectly!

Ahh, the memories that will be contained in these pages. Makes my heart smile just thinking about it.

Photo albums are among my most prized possessions. I treasure the memories they contain and I would love to make a one-of-a-kind album for someone special in your life! Email me for more details.

Woodland Birthday: Part 2

The day of Beau’s first birthday, I woke up excited and nervous. Sort of the same way I felt on the morning of my wedding. Is that weird? I’m sure some would say it is.

I’d also like to mention how much of a thrill I get out of planning a party on a limited budget. It forces me to get more creative! Maybe that’s why it reminded me of my wedding…I did the same thing with that event: achieved the biggest WOW possible for just a fraction of what other brides spend.

At any rate, I had been planning Beau’s woodland party for months and wanted everything to be perfect!

I’m SO GLAD I thought to book the amazing Abi Martin as the party-day photographer. There is no way I would have been able to corral my kiddo, play the part of hostess with the mostest, AND capture all the details and precious moments of the party. Abi is not only a talented photographer, she is also incredibly fashionable, VERY personable, and a dear friend to my family. Abi, thank you for capturing our day. I am speechless over these photos.

Beau’s birthday banner was one item I was able to create WAY in advance. It’s hard to tell, but I added glitter glue around each letter. I also attached each circle to the ribbon using tiny brads. That way, the skunk and the number could be changed out for future parties, or I could even sell it to someone with a different name! :)

Remember my sketch from Tuesday’s post? Messy though it was, it helped me pull off this spread:

I LOVED deciding which snacks we should include for this theme. These chocolate nests were one of the first things I thought of. Because one of our guests has a peanut allergy, I substituted butterscotch chips for the peanut butter called for in the recipe.

I framed 12 photos, one favorite from each month of Beau’s life, and interspersed them among the decor.

Stanley the Gnome helped hold down the fort.

I found this cool jar at a Hobby Lobby outlet store here in town and filled it with rocks, moss, and a doe and her fawn.

Here’s a shot of the goody bag contents: one finger puppet, one bird whistle, two colored pencils, two magnets, all contained in a burlap bag.

And since I believe in EVERYONE getting a party favor, I made acorn cookies for the adult guests.

Another shot of the food table, this time, with my cake topper included as the centerpiece. You’ll notice the cake stand is perched on top of  a log. FREE! from my in-laws’ woodpile! :)

Me and my birthday boy. He’d just woken up from his morning nap, so he looks a little stunned. But, MAN, if he isn’t just the cutest thing I’ve ever seen! :)

The cupcakes below are exactly what I envisioned as I was planning out the food table. I’d never covered cupcakes in fondant before, but the technique worked perfectly for creating smooth mushroom tops. The white polka dots were made out of royal icing that I blopped out and dried several weeks in advance. The risers were borrowed from my friend Mikie and covered in green Canson paper that I cut to look like grass. The cool thing? Mikie used these same risers (sans grass) last summer at the baby shower she co-hosted for Beau and me.

For those who aren’t huge fans of fondant, we also had a handful of buttercream-topped cupcakes with paper toppers I made.

To balance out the sweetness, I made sure to include some good ol’ Chex mix!

Another easy (read: inexpensive) centerpiece I made was a 14″ tall cylinder vase full of acorns (picked up off the ground at my in-laws’ house!) and topped with a friendly gray squirrel.

“Trail Mix” is a necessary component of any woodland party, wouldn’t you say? I made Fawna’s version using peanuts, sunflower seeds, raisins, mini marshmallows, and Reese’s Pieces. Sweet AND salty. Mmm.

Here’s the cake topper from Tuesday’s post. Doesn’t he look right at home on top of that two-layer chocolate cake? :)

 

Whenever I host a party, I’m always looking for new ideas for cute displays. I used B’s party as an opportunity to try another technique I’d seen: creating paper cones to hold snacks.

Interesting side-note: this “grass” is actually the bottle drying rack we received as a shower gift when Beau was born! I just added a thin hunk of styrofoam to the base so I could insert the sticks that held up the cones.

I also made my little birthday boy a shirt, using scraps of fabric that my mom and mother-in-law already had in their attics. I’d only made two other shirts before, and the design for them was much easier. I was curious to see how easy it was to create a character using multiple pieces and interfacing. It worked well! And now that the shirt has been through the wash a few times, the canvas I used for the beard and eyebrows is beginning to fray a bit around the edges, making it that much more beardly. :)

Seeing as how it’s been over 100 degrees every day for the past month (or since time began, it seems!), I made sure to have icy-cold drinks. I had a simple ice-water-with-lemon combo in a huge cookie jar I’ve had for years and I made cherry limeade punch in a cool drink dispenser I borrowed from my friend Natalie.

I received many compliments on the punch. And it couldn’t have been easier to make! I used this recipe, with a slight alteration. I started with a double batch, following the recipe as written. Then, because it was a bit tart for our liking (and I needed to make sure we had plenty), I added an additional two bottles (2-liters each) of Sprite. Perfect!

Beau’s little pals were so cute in their swim suits. Check out this guy: such a poser! :)

One of my artsy-mom friends has the cutest kiddos! We were so glad they could come to our party!

We had a puddle pool available and B and his little friends had the best time filling up cups, containers, and squirty fish.

After swimming, it was time for cake! And, boy, did Beau like it when we all sang “Happy Birthday to You.”

He started with a small nibble of fondant, before realizing that the entire cake in front of him was not only destructible, but tasty, too!

And he wasted NO time tearing it up!

The last picture is one my sister Sonny captured. It’s so fun to see the pure joy on his face!

Oh, what messy fun it is to turn one!! :) I love you, baby boy. It’s an honor to be your mama. Mwah!

Woodland Birthday: Part 1

In my last post, I mentioned how much I LOVE planning parties. So, you can imagine my excitement when 2011 started and I realized my baby would be turning one year old.

In June.

Nevertheless, I began brainstorming early because, as any artist-mom knows, there isn’t a lot of free time for being creative (unless coming up with an idea for dinner counts).

The first thing I did was choose a theme. I had seen enough buzz on Facebook to know that many of my fellow moms were doing zoo, farm, or jungle themes for their babies’ first birthdays. I wanted something a more unique for B’s first birthday party, but I liked the idea of an animal-based theme. So, after plenty of lost sleep (WHY does my brain go 100 MPH when I’m trying to fall asleep at night?!), I landed on “woodland” as my focus.

I scoured the web for ideas and began constructing my inspiration board. I found photos of things I knew I wanted to include and also made a list of buzzwords I felt related well to the theme:

I knew I wanted to make favor bags for all of B’s little friends, so I began by contacting a friend of mine who had used burlap for her wedding (table runners, etc). She had scraps that she was more than happy to part with, so my mom sewed little square bags to contain the favors (picture coming in Thursday’s post).

Then, I began ordering a few specific items off Amazon, including these warbling bird whistles (probably more familiar to us parents than our kiddos!) The whistles came in four colors and we made sure no siblings received the same color.  I included a note with the whistle so people would know to “just add water.”

I found a picture of woodland critters online that I thought were darling, so I used the image as a template and re-drew them in Illustrator so I could use them throughout the party. I made these magnets using flat gemstones. Each guest got two magnets in their goody bag, and, again, no siblings received the same ones.

I also managed to find some really awesome colored pencils that were made from twigs! Each guest got two pencils apiece.

One of my favorite items in the goody bags were some woodland finger puppets. I found the instructions for sale on Etsy and ordered both sets of woodland animals (10 in all). My mom made two of each critter and I’m kicking myself now for not getting a photo of all of them together! Each child received one puppet. The leftovers (below) will be going in a time capsule for Beau to play with when he’s older.

Next, I began to focus on the food table (isn’t that everyone’s favorite part of a party?) I knew I wanted to make some signs describing the food, and though I’d made table tents in the past, I had always wondered if they could have a more 3D aspect.

They CAN! After messing around with some scrap paper, I felt confident that my little woodland signs could be more like pop-ups than flat pieces of paper! Most people probably wouldn’t notice the difference, but to me, this experiment was a big success!

Naturally, I wanted to have a great cake for Beau’s first birthday! What sort of baker would I be if my own son didn’t have a cool smash cake to destroy?! Since I have limited experience with fondant, I enlisted the help of my friend Anya, who is a fondant figures GENIUS! She came over to my house and gave me a lesson in figure-making. Since the party details didn’t include the eager beaver, I decided he would be perfect for the cake topper.

I did learn how to cover the cake board on my own, and added some chocolate-covered chow mein noodles as a dam…they also served to hold up the beaver’s tail since our 100-degree weather and high humidity kept making it want to break off! (ACK!)

And, of course, no party of mine would be complete without some sort of schematic. HA!

Since the party was going to be held at my in-laws’ house, I transported all my decor the night before and planned how I wanted the table to be set. Naturally, in my rush to get out the door, I had left my camera at home. So…I drew a sketch that would embarrass my art school professors. :)

But, it got the job done and made the day-of prep MUCH easier. It also gave me a spot to write down what else I needed to grab from my house…something that would not have been possible with a photo.

Come back Thursday and see how all the elements came together! I couldn’t have imagined the party would go so well!

Shower for Arica

Have I ever mentioned how much I LOVE hosting parties and showers?! Well, I do! So you can imagine my excitement when my sister had her first baby and my aunts and I could start planning a shower!

My sister Arica is very eco-minded and I had great ideas for her shower based on that ‘theme’. I wanted the decor to be very natural and earthy, so I began with a limited color palette (brown, white, and green, plus some subtle blue accents).

I created large and small paper pinwheels, as well as double-sided circular cutouts that spelled “DANE”. I knew my sister would love that her decor could either be reused or recycled, rather than thrown in the trash. ((In fact, she did take it home after the party and put it up in Dane’s nursery!))

Rather than playing the typical (read: wasteful) shower games like “Guess what kind of melted candy bar is in this diaper” (yuck!), we opted to do more sentimental, lasting activities.

We bought this plant, a green charger, silver Sharpies, and black river stones. Each guest was asked to share advice or a prayer that would help Arica navigate her journey through motherhood. Then, they wrote a one word summary on the rock and placed it in the dish around the plant. It was so neat to see the variety of advice: humor, joy, patience, perspective, wonder, wisdom, etc.

Everybody knows that the FOOD TABLE is a big draw for a lot of shower guests. :) And, since that happens to be one of my favorite parts, I planned out things that not only fit the theme, but thrilled my sister as well. We had a variety of healthy snacks as well as sweet treats. Could fruits and veggies be more “earthy”?! :)

Despite loving healthy snacks, I also love SUGAR! :) And…sugar happens to be one of my favorite media for designing. The following cookies were probably my favorite detail from the shower.

I got this baby bottle drying rack at my own baby shower last summer and thought it would fit perfectly with our theme. I also had some lollipop sticks and wired silk leaves from a past project, so all I needed to do was bake and decorate the cookies!

This particular design was my favorite:

Though this one was pretty neat, too. It was fun coming up with all the different color combos and details for them.

Marigold, perhaps?

In addition to the cookie lollies, I also made some bagged cookies that guests could take home as favors.

Arica: So excited to watch you develop as a mom. It’s been a wild year for the two of us hasn’t it?! Beau is so lucky to have a cousin like Dane, and I am lucky to have a sister like you! Thanks for letting me plan your special day! Love you!