Monday, August 30, 2010

One Year Old in a Flash - Birthday Hat and Bib

I have sort of a tutorial for you today... "sort of" because it's so easy it doesn't really require a step by step or pictures of the process.   So I just have the picture of the finished product for you and some simple instructions for making a party hat and bib out of those reusable shopping bags they sell for a buck at discount stores like TJ Maxx & Marshalls (although this project would work for really any type of fabric).

To do this project you'll need one of those shopping bags, some fusible fleece, a regular old cardboard party hat, a hotglue gun, and whatever decoration you want for the top of your hat (you could even go without that if you wanted).  If you have a sewing machine and you don't despise using it, you'll also need some double fold binding tape in a matching color... if you're not quite so friendly with a sewing machine, you could use some coordinating ribbon instead.

All you need to do is cut a big square from the shopping bag and VERY CAREFULLY fuse the fusible fleece to the wrong side (definitely do not touch the iron directly to the bag, only iron on the fleece or a pressing cloth).  Untie the elastic from the store bought party hat & save it for later.  Unstaple or pull apart (if it's glued) the party hat so you can lay it flat.   Use the store bought party hat as a template to cut the now fused fabric from the bag into the right shape (if the hat had tabs to keep it closed, don't bother cutting those into the fabric).  Here's the part where you can decide to sew or not, you can finish the edges of the hat by sewing binding tape all the way around the hat shape you just cut out, or you could just hotglue some ribbon around the bottom edge.  After this step, I embroidered the #1 on the hat, but you could skip that, or maybe applique the number, or practice your hand embroidery skills, if you don't have an embroidery machine.   Now you just roll the hat into the cone shape and run a bead of hotglue along the edge where it meets.  Then, punch 2 holes opposite eachother at the bottom edge of the hat and tie the elastic you took off the store bought version onto your new fancy version.  You could stop there if you'd like, but if you feel like it needs a little something more, you can glue or sew an embellishment into the top of the hat.  I made some curly ribbons (that may be a little post for some other day), sewed them together into a little bunch and hotglued them into the top.  You could also just hotglue a big 'ol pom-pom into the top.

I've already done a detailed tutorial for a bib, so I'll just point you in that direction for the "how to" on how I made the bib.  This was a simpler version of that tutorial though.  I used the same pattern, but I ommitted the pocket, the elastic, and the quilting and used the shopping bag for the front side of the bib (it's a great material for a bib, it's virtually water proof!) and terry cloth for the backside.

Making Liv's party hat and bib was not only a quick project, but it's a much better momento than the silly cardboard hat and plastic bib would've been!  They'll always remind me of this precise moment in time:
Happy Creating!

Friday, August 27, 2010

First Week of School Bentos

Are you ready for a little break from the party posts?  This was Elle's first week of school ever and consequently the first time I've had to pack lunches.  It was a little daunting... I wasn't sure if I was packing too much or too little, what if she changed her mind about eating something she usually eats, was it a well rounded meal, what if her teacher critiqued it... yes I realize that is entirely too much stress over a little a pre-school lunch.  And all for naught, she didn't starve or swear off any of her favorites, and I didn't get any notes from the teacher chastising me for an insufficient serving of vegetables.

Here's the thing, I'm still half asleep when I'm packing these things so I'm really lucky that I've been able to find my phone and get a picture where you can somewhat tell what foods are packed... maybe one day I'll  have the energy to set up a pretty little background & use an actual camera but not this week.  Now that that's out of the way:

This was her first day's bento.  I packed cheese crackers, topped with a fruit leather "I", a silicone cupcake wrapper with cinnamon almonds topped with a Babybell cheese with a heart cut out of the wax, half a banana with "You" written in sharpie on the peel, rolled up turkey lunchmeat, the rest of the fruit leather used as a divider, and some grapes.  This is the Sassy box and it holds a ton... a little too much even though she's a great eater.  She came home with 3 crackers, a couple of the lunchmeat rolls, a few grapes, and said the banana was bruised.

Day 2: two pieces of cinnamon raisin toast and a piece of cheese cut with a star cookie cutter, a paper cupcake wrapper with dried fruit, some grapes, cucumber slices, and triscuts.  The little container at the top left is a monkey with a little spoon that I put some butter in for her to spread on her toast, and the container on the top right has ranch dressing for the cucumbers.  I thought the triscuts were tough enough to stay crispy next to the cucumbers, but the few that came home at the end of the day were pretty soggy... don't think I'll do that again.
This was today's bento (she's only at school 3 full days).  It's a cranberry raspberry apple sauce, babybell cheese, hard boiled egg, 2 fig newtons, cinnamon almonds, and a few grapes.  Oh and a super cutesie turtle pick and a little silicone bear divider.  She ate every bite of this one, including the hard boiled egg... which I was a little concerned about... she likes eggs like this, but she hasn't eaten one whole, they've always been cut up.

So what do you think?  Should I do a weekly bento post... in addition to whatever other posts I do... seriously I have DIY ADD!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

One Year Old in a Flash - Photo Props

For Liv's first birthday party, my guest list ranged from age 7 months to 68 years... I was looking for a way to engage them all and make it a celebration worth remembering.  Personal photo sessions with a professional photographer not only fit the bill and the theme, but also provided a thoughtful way for me to give guests a really meaningful favor.  I wanted the photo sessions to be more fun than the high pressure "everyone wear the same color & smile sweetly into the camera" type of family portraits.  Since an open bar is frowned upon at a one year old's party, I knew I'd have to get creative in order for people to loosen up and have fun in front of the camera. I came up with whimsical mustaches & mouths on sticks, umbrellas to match the color scheme, empty picture frames, and my favorite, chalkboard thought bubbles.  Here's how it all came together:

Mustache & Mouth sticks - I had to reign myself in on this one... there are so many directions you could go with this!  I went with mustaches and mouths, but you could also do eye glasses, eyebrows, maybe even hair styles or hats.  I mentioned in my last post that my Dad does graphic design, well he also happens to be accommodating when it comes to my hair brained ideas.   He created the mustaches and mouths for me, but you could also use clip art that you find and/or buy on the web, or even just draw  the graphics you want (how hard could it be to draw a mustache?!).  I printed mine on card stock, cut them out, and hotglued them to little wooden dowels that came in packs of 20 at Michaels.  I made enough to use for the photo sessions and extras as the favors for the kids at the party.  For the favors, I punched two holes in the 3" round tags Beyond Designs designed for me and threaded the dowels through.

Umbrellas - I bought a pack of 6 child size umbrellas from Oriental Trading & just painted a couple of them with fabric paint... easy peasy and they added a nice pop of color to the white background photography.

Empty Picture Frames - Well that about explains it... I picked up two framed pictures at Goodwill, removed the glass and all the insides and spray painted them in the colors of the party.
guess whose Mommy is pregnant with a boy?!

Chalkboard Thought Bubbles - We had so much fun with these & they were a relatively quick project to make!  I started with adhesive backed chalkboard vinyl that I ordered from Uppercase Living (that's a link to Gina's UL site... she's a consultant & is really great to work with!) and some mat board.  My Doug drew the thought bubble shapes on the mat board, then we applied the vinyl to the other side & cut them out with a sharp pair of scissors.  Because I used white mat board (I had it on hand from a picture framing project I did forever ago) the white cut edges didn't look great, so I colored the edges with a black sharpie to make them blend in and give it a finished look.  These needed thicker dowels than the mustaches to support their weight, but a few lines of hotglue was still enough to keep them solid... just be sure that you glue several inches of the dowel onto the back of the board so that it doesn't get top heavy and bend.

Now all you need is a fabulous photographer & a little creativity!  This was so much fun, I think mustaches on sticks and chalkboard thought bubbles will make an appearance in all our family portraits!

Photographs by Elemental Image

Friday, August 20, 2010

One Year Old in a Flash - The Dessert Table

This dessert table I put together for Liv's One Year Old in a Flash birthday party is the first one I’ve ever done… I had so much fun with it, but was totally surprised at how much planning and preparation it took! From top to bottom here’s all the nitty gritty. I started by finding some fabric in just the right color teal. I hemmed the edges to make the tablecloth and took it into a Sherwin Williams store. They popped it into a little machine they have & told me which of their colors was the closest match… and it was a really really close match! I bought a $4 sample size jug of paint in that color (Tempo Teal if you’re curious). I loved using Sherwin Williams’ color match system not only because I now had the perfect color paint to match my scheme, but also because I grabbed a few Tempo Teal paint chips and picked out the right shade of pink to coordinate with it and now I had pink and teal paint chips to carry around with me to match any of the party stuff I purchased to. And if that weren’t cool enough, Sherwin Williams has a pallet for Photoshop and a color match app you can use on your iPhone… I’ll get into the Photoshop thing when I do the post about Ink Bloom.

Okay, so once I had decided on the exact colors and made the tablecloth, I needed a backdrop. I’ve looked through about a billion photos of dessert tables and if I had to pick one thing that separates the good from the not as good, it would be the backdrop. The food and things on the table are the stars of this production, but you have to give them a stage! I cut lengths of trim at the hardware store, mitered the corners, screwed them together with L brackets, and painted it with the Sherwin Williams sample paint. The morning of the party, I stapled white paper to the back of the frame (it’s the paper that comes on a roll that teachers use on the bulletin boards they decorate for their classrooms) and stuck the whole thing to the wall with 3M hook and loop. It took me a bit of research to track down bigger than average balloons, but Rick at Balloon Productions came through for me and supplied me with the 17” round balloons. I measured and stuck 3M hooks (3M is my secret weapon for nearly everything!) to the floor spaced equally apart, then tied the balloons to the hooks.

Serving pieces next. I found the flat rectangle dishes at Marshalls for pretty cheap. The pink risers are one pink shirt box that I had in my gift wrapping stash forever. One side is the top of the box, the other the bottom of the box, I just flipped them over and cut Styrofoam to fit in the inside so it would have the stability it needed to hold the cake domes and popcorn boxes. The cake domes were definitely my favorite find! I picked up the domes, the bases (I’m not even sure those bases actually go with the domes… they look like those plates with little feet that you melt a big pillar candle on) and a pair of teal candle sticks at the Goodwill store. They were $1.19 ea. and $.50 for the candle sticks. My Doug found some super grippy industrial tape at the hardware store and we just taped the candlesticks to the dome bases. I had those two big glasses from centerpieces from a friend’s wedding & I’ve had the tiered stand for years… I definitely recommend investing in one; you’ll be surprised at how often you’ll use it.

The little decorative touches and printed goods add so much to a table! I made the little bunting for the tiered stand by cutting tiny triangles out of fabric with pinking shears, hot gluing them to a ribbon, and attached the bunting to the stand with glue dots. I made liners for the rectangle dishes and the cake domes in the exact colors of the party by using Ink Bloom printable designs and the Sherwin William’s Photoshop color pallet. I printed the papers at home, cut them the right size for the dishes, and had them laminated at an office supply store. Beyond Designs designed the water bottle labels. I pulled the labels off some water bottles, printed the fancy labels, put clear packing tape over them to give them a finished look & shine, cut them out and stuck them on the bottles. The popcorn boxes are just a repeat of the little saying that was on the invitation (“My oh my how the time does fly! How could one year have already gone by?”), in the same font as was used in the invitation, printed on cardstock. I shrunk down a popcorn box template so that I could fit two to a page, printed the template on the back of the paper printed with the saying, cut them out and assembled the boxes with tape and a line of hot glue. My Dad is a graphic designer and I always coerce him into helping me out with my latest projects (love ya Dad!). He added the party hat graphic from the invitation to a picture of my Liv with pink icing on her face, I printed it off, cut the heads out of photo paper & hot glued them to lollipop sticks to use for the cupcake picks. You can buy this design featuring your little birthday cutie so you can make these picks yourself in my Etsy shop.  Little doodle frames with the name of the food added a finishing touch to the cake domes and glasses.

Last, but certainly not least, the food! I made the marshmallows, chocolate dipped Oreos, and white chocolate coated popcorn (read about those by clicking on the names). I ordered the adorable rose flavored pink macarons from Sparkles Kitchen on Etsy, and a local bakery made the cupcakes. I wanted the cupcakes to look a little more “special” than the typical birthday party cupcakes, so I asked them to ice them with a plain round tip instead of the star tip that makes the “ruffly” edges you usually see on cupcake icing. The wrappers on Hershey’s Bliss raspberry chocolates were just the right shade of pink, and dumping those in the glasses was easy enough… I just made sure that none of the silver from the inside of the wrapper was showing… I’m just crazy enough to stand there flipping them all over!

Photography by Elemental Image

There are a couple small things I would change about the table… nothing that I’ll share though ;)… but for the most part I’m really happy with the way it turned out & it got raves from the guests! I’m already looking forward to giving the whole dessert table thing another try, I’m pretty sure it’ll be a part of all my future parties!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

One Year Old in a Flash - A First Birthday Party

Every parent says it… they grow up so fast! In just a year’s time, they go from snuggling and sleeping most of the day to toddling around the house, laughing, and calling out for “Ma Ma Ma”. The bittersweet thoughts about our last baby's first birthday & the desire to capture this fun time in my little one’s life inspired the theme for Liv’s party: One Year Old in a Flash.

Invitations are one of the best parts of party planning! They set the tone & get people excited about being a part of the celebration. I’ve worked with Ginger, of Beyond Design, on at least 5 parties in the past, & she always delivers way beyond my expectations! I told her the party would be centered around photos, asked her to make the invites casual & fun, and gave her the color scheme and party details. I couldn’t be happier with the invitation & two inserts she designed! She made some really fun graphics we ended up using for other aspects of the party too, incorporated photos of Liv on the “film strip” band that went around the invite, and even put a little frame on the envelope for the photo stamps I ordered.

The first insert told the guests we would be making a time capsule for Liv to open on her 18th birthday. Contributing to a time capsule is a great way out of town guests who can’t attend the party can join in the celebration, and the perfect opportunity to give a meaningful gift before they’re old enough to start asking for the latest Dora toy :)  The second insert let everyone know there would be a photographer at the party to take pictures of them and their family. I was really excited about this aspect of the party… first birthdays are difficult to plan because although they’re in celebration of a one year old, it’s really mostly for the adults. Mini photo sessions were a fun way to keep all the guests entertained… and who doesn’t need a family picture?!

This is probably the best time to mention that all the pictures below were taken by the very talented Dawn, of Elemental Image. She arrived early to the party to take pictures of the decor, mingled with the guests to get candid shots, did personal photo sessions with each of the families, took all the “must have” blowing out the candles, opening gifts etc. pictures, and put together a slideshow of the edited images. She worked hard,  got some amazing photos, and out guests raved about her!  This is the first time I've hired a professional photographer for a party and I'm so glad I did!  It was really nice to not have to worry about grabbing the camera at just the right moment; I knew she was getting great shots of all the important things, so I was able to just enjoy the party and our guests without having to be host and photographer.

Figuring out what food to serve is my least favorite part of planning a party. BUT, I’ve found a way to make it fun for me, dessert tables! You know the amazing Amy Atlas right? Well, I don’t mean personally… unless you’re Martha or Oprah or Kelly Ripa… I mean you’ve seen her incredible work right? She designs and brings beautiful dessert tables to life. I drool over her blog on a regular basis and incorporated some of her ideas into the dessert table I put together. There’s quite a bit to cover with this table, from the backdrop, the food, the serving dishes, the printed pieces, etc, so I think I’ll dedicate a separate post to the dessert table and just give you the basics here (check out the post about the dessert table here). I made the easy stuff: marshmallows, chocolate dipped Oreos, & white chocolate coated popcorn. I ordered the most adorable rose flavored mini macarons from Sparkles Kitchen. A local bakery made the white cupcakes with pink frosting (you can buy a file to make those cutesie cupcake picks of your own birthday kiddo in my Etsy shop), and the Hershey’s Raspberry Bliss wrappers were just the right color. Neat rows of water bottles with custom labels, that Beyond Designs made, filled out the table.

We didn’t just have desserts though. I also served fruit kabobs, deli wraps, and hummus with pitas. And lemonade… just because I love this jug!

Next to the food, I set up a little station for the Time Capsule. It had the time capsule box itself (not pictured), some stationary I printed using the really remarkable Ink Bloom product (separate post on that coming soon) & some pens so that people could write a little note to include in the time capsule if they had forgotten to bring one to the party, as well as a little card with some suggestions about what type of things you may want to include in your note (i.e. predictions about the future, advise you would share with an 18yr old etc). Also in this area was the embroidered name blocks made by Childmade. You don’t see them here, but there are wire picture holders attached to the top of the blocks which held 3 5x7 pictures of the birthday girl. Lastly, I set up a 6’ kids table and chairs on the balcony, covered it in a roll of white paper, & put crayons out so that the kiddos could draw a picture to include in the time capsule… and it doubled as a good spot for them to eat.

The d├ęcor for the party was pretty simple. The Cottage Market made 12 glittery clothes pins for me, in the colors of the party of course, & included some twine which I strung between two 3M hooks (3M hooks are my secret party weapon!) along the stairway. A picture from each month made for a sweet banner & a really neat way to see how much Liv had grown over the year! I also decorated with 17” round balloons… I loved the impact those big balloons made, but it took some work to find them! After lots of research and calling all the wrong places, I finally found Rick at Balloon Productions. He not only does awesome large scale productions, he also supplies the local car lots with… you guessed it, 17” round balloons! He was so nice and humored me my request for just the right shades of pink and teal balloons. Lucky you if you’re in the Tampa Bay area, Rick is great to work with and can fill pretty much whatever balloon request you can dream up!

The last little bit of decoration was to the birthday girl’s highchair. I made this little banner at the, certainly by now, famous scrapbook shop, Whim-So-Doodle. They have a workroom at the back of the shop where you can use their die cut machine and punches. I saved a lot of money on this little project by using their tools. I picked out three sheets of paper, punched three scallop circles from one sheet, 3 smooth circles from the second, and die cut the letters out of the third. They even had that adorable ribbon for sale by the yard. It all cost me less than $7. Also pictured here is Liv’s cake eating garb, the party hat & bib I made from one of those reusable shopping bags they sell for a buck at TJ Maxx (more details to come) and the too cute for words ruffle butts Sherbet Baby made.

I can’t decide if the dessert table or the photo sessions/props were my favorite part of this party! I set up a space for the photo sessions that was out of the way of the rest of the party. To create the backdrop, I rented a pipe frame (it’s the pipe from the “pipe and drape” rental companies rent for use in creating walls/dividers in convention centers) and draped two lengths of white paper from a roll over it down to the floor. You can find the roll of paper at office supply stores; it’s what teachers use to cover those big bulletin boards they decorate for their classrooms. I had almost as much fun making the props as everyone did playing with them (do you feel another blog post coming on?  Check it out here). We had moustaches & mouths on sticks, chalkboard thought bubbles, empty picture frames, & umbrellas.

Just about half the guests were adults and the other half children, so two favors were in order. The kids took home a moustache or mouth on a stick with a favor tag Beyond Designs made that said “Thanks for a picture perfect first birthday – Liv”. For the parents, the tag was a mini “Polaroid” with the details for ordering a 5x7 print from their photo session on the Elemental Image site. I decorated little binder clips with stickers and ribbon to serve as picture holders.

Last but not least, I always dress us all to coordinate with the party… everyone does that right?! Mom in pink, Dad in teal, Big Sis in a twirl skirt I made with this super easy tutorial from the sewing genius, LiEr of Ikat Bag, and the birthday girl in a dress I designed using elastic thread shirring. I’m in love with this fabric line (Art Gallary's Sugar Collection) I bought from Fernandina Fibers and used for the girls’ outfits… but that’s a post for another day...

You made it! That's all the highlights from Liv's first birthday party... by this point, I would definitely be getting the "wrap it up" sign from off stage as they try to play me off the stage with the music.  So this is me leaning into the mic as it disappears into the floor to say "Thank you to my patient husband for weighing in on every minute detail I brought to you, caring because I do, and being my favorite second set of eyes.  My amazing photographer Dawn, you not only made this party look even better than it was, having these wonderful images to remember such a special celebration is a true gift.  And to Ginger, for turning my collections of concepts into the sweetest printed materials & our best collaboration yet!  I couldn't have done it without you guys!"

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Chocolate Dipped Oreos

I’ve been thinking that I didn’t want to get into all the handmade projects from the party (and there are TONS!) until I get a chance to show you the whole party at once, but a silent blog just won’t do. So, I have another sweet treat for you, chocolate dipped Oreos. I can’t decide what I liked best about these… how yummy they are, how easy they were to make, or how great they looked on the dessert table! Here’s what you need to know:

There are a few options for chocolate you can melt to dip these in. I purchased the Wilton chips that come in a bag first, but then stumbled onto this package of Candiquik at the grocery store. It comes with a microwavable tray and it worked perfectly, I definitely recommend it!

It wasn’t quite as easy to find the sanding sugar I needed to add a pop of color to the cookies. The grocery store only had packages of sugar in a variety of colors, or in Christmas colors. Lucky for me, Williams Sonoma is just a hop, skip, and a bridge away. The have really beautiful colors to choose from, but they only come in relatively large amounts… so you’ll have an excuse to do more baking & use up all that left over sparkly sweetness.

That’s it, just three ingredients: Oreos, Candiquik (you’ll need two packages per package of Oreos), & sanding sugar. The only other things you need are a brush (I used a basting brush but you could also use a new clean paint brush), a fork, and some wax paper.

Step 1: Brush the Oreos off. Yes you really should do this step! Brushing each side of the Oreo and the edge will ensure you don’t get little chocolate bits/dust in your pristinely white melted chocolate.

Step 2: Melt the chocolate according to the directions on the package.

Step 3: Put an Oreo in the melted chocolate and using a fork, scoop the chocolate over the top of the Oreo to cover the entire thing. Scoop the Oreo up with the fork, swirl it around a little so that the chocolate smooths out, and run the fork against the edge of the tray to remove the excess chocolate.

Step 4: Place the dipped cookie on wax paper. Sprinkle a tiny pinch of sanding sugar over the top of the cookie and let dry.

Seriously. Seriously. Yummy!!

Pictures of the finished project coming soon... hopefully!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Homemade Marshmallows

Did you know you can make marshmallows?  I've ordered some from a seller on Etsy that were super yummy and decided to try making them myself for the dessert table I put together for Liv's first birthday.

There are two primary methods for making marshmallows so after reading a ridiculous number of recipes and reviews I decided on this one for strawberry marshmallows.  They turned out perfectly! They're surprisingly easy to make you just have to have a stand mixer & candy thermometer.   I also tried a couple different ways to cut them, and a big knife sprayed with cooking spray was the best and easiest way.

They looked great neatly lined up on the dessert table, but they would also be super cute packaged with a chocolate bar and some graham crackers for a yummy smores... dontcha think?!

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