Friday, April 26, 2013

Glittery Initials

For my daughter's joint-birthday-rock-climbing-party, I thought that it might be fun to have an initial for each birthday girl to place near her cake on the cake table.  In addition to being a fun design element, it would allow for guests to know which cake is for which birthday girl, provide another opportunity to bring in the party palette of blues and greens (the fave colors of each birthday girl), and would later do double duty as bedroom decor and a fun memento of the event for each girl.

For this project, because I wanted the letters to be free-standing and not too big, I searched high and low for just the right kind.  I went to A.C. Moore and Michael's, but was underwhelmed by their options.  Most of their letters seem meant to grace a wreath or hang on a wall, not stand independently.  I trudged off to Joann's as a last resort and was THRILLED to see that they have a HUGE selection of letters, both hanging and standing styles, in a variety of materials, fonts, and sizes.  I found the perfect sized 3-dimensional cardboard letters for each girl and the price was great as well - with a coupon for one, I ended up paying less than $4 total.

Back at home, prep work involved removing tags and stickers from the letters and then assembling a variety of blue and green acrylic paints from my collection.  I painted each letter using lots of different shades for depth.  I painted all sides of the letters just to be safe.

While the letters dried, I used my paint plate to experiment with glitter and sequins to figure out which route I wanted to take for embellishments.  Sequins were just too much, so scratch that.  I then tried aqua glitter thinking that it would accent both the blue and green hues and bring a little unity to each letter while still letting them be different.  It was OK, but not exactly right.  Whitish-clear glitter didn't have enough oomph.  The blue iridescent flake glitter was the CLEAR winner.  It picked up and enhanced the best of the green and the blue for both hues.  My mama always taught me that you can never go wrong with iridescence and she is right every time!

After drying - I gave them overnight, but they were dry much sooner - each letter received a coat of glossy mod podge and a liberal sprinkling of that gorgeous, flaky iridescent glitter.  I let that sit for a bit and then came the top coat of glossy mod podge to seal the glitter in.  (Nothing worse than errant glitter floating about the house.)  I probably should have let the 1st coat of mod podge sit overnight - while applying the top coat, I did end up shifting a lot of the flake glitter around.  If I do it again, I'll wait longer for the glitter to set.
(Mog podge is not fully dry here - those white streaks are gone in the finished project...)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Making a tissue paper tassel garland

My daughter and a friend are having a joint birthday joint in June at a local rock climbing place.  I'm really looking forward to it overall, but in terms of decor was feeling a bit stymied about how to bring some personality and prettiness into that cavernous space.  Obviously, I can't decorate the whole building, so I decided to focus my efforts on a single table, which will be used for the cakes and favors.

The table will be in the party loft area, which is in the center of the space and is rimmed by a half wall with a top rail made of pipes.  My plan is to use zip ties to vertically mount 3ft. wooden dowels to the pipe rail.  I can then swag a garland from the dowels.  I decided to make tissue tassel garland because I have an overabundance of tissue paper and they looked pretty simple to make.  I am here to tell you that they ARE in fact very simple to make.  This may be the easiest and most impactful decor element I've ever made and they couldn't be cheaper.  I am a tissue tassel convert!

First step - assemble your tissue.  We have a party palette of blues and greens, so I pulled everything from kelly green to teal to powder blue and some white mixed in to boot.  (Disregard the red in there - I didn't use that.  I didn't use the prints either - too distracting.)
For this project, I pulled out my latest craft find - a large rotary cutting mat.  We have a second-hand craft store in town (I know - LUCKY!!!) and I got it for about $2.  Now that I've used it, I wish that I had bought one sooner.  It's so much less wear and tear on my hands and wrists, which are all ready in bad shape from all the computing and pipetting that I do at work (yes, I am a craft geek and an actual science geek as well - I'm an all-purpose geek, really...).  Now that you have your supplies, it's time to dive in.

Pull out a sheet of tissue and spread flat.  Cut it in half.  Go all the way up - I paused here to take the picture.

Take one half and fold in half.

Fold that half in half the other way.

Zip through with your rotary cutter, slicing up to about 1inch from the fold line at the top.

Make your cuts as thin or wide as you like.  They don't have to be perfectly even and it's OK if you get overzealous and slice some off.  You won't miss them in the final product.  Once you've fringed it up, open it flat and start rolling or pleating the un-fringed area.  I've done it both ways and neither is easier or prettier than the other, so your choice.

Do try to shake the fringes out every couple turns or it will get twisted up.  It's harder to untwist the fringes at the end, so be scrupulous about this now.

Once you've rolled/pleated the whole thing, start twisting the unfringed area tightly to compress into a thick ropey line.  Now twist the ropey line into a loop and twist the bottom of the loop closed.
You are now almost done.  All that remains is to seal the loop.  I've seen washi tape, glue, hot glue, string, and my personal choice - tiny hair elastics.  I found 2 kinds at the Dollar Tree - black and an assortment of blues and clears - perfect for my garland.  (I saw all clear ones at Walmart, but they were $3 for 75 - no thanks, Walmart.  I will take my business to the Dollar Tree.)  I'll be keeping my eyes open for a set of clear ones at the Dollar Tree - I'm sure it's just a matter of time... 

I like the elastic approach because it's quick and easy and cheap doesn't require that I sit near a power source for the glue gun or have to wait for drying time and also no burning my hands - yay!  This means that I can twist absentmindedly whilst watching Buffy the Vampie Slayer reruns (yes, I'm that kind of geek as well.  And incidentally - BtVS is probably the best show in the history of the world.  FYI.  I resisted at 1st because - really?  It's called Buffy teh Vampire Slayer?  No thanks.  But a good friend made me watch it and OMG - it's amazing.  Smart, funny, scary, sexy, romantic, devastating, heartbreaking, thought-provoking...  I could go on...  and on...  and on... sorry).  Anyhoo, reagarding the elastics, I could also theoretically reuse them when I trash the garland.  Just pull off and save the elastics for another time.

I'm not going to string the garland until the party is closer (will use either twine or this teal rope that I got from the second-hand craft store - $0.50 for the whole roll!), so for now I'm storing the tassels in bunches threaded on pipe cleaners.  The bunches are hanging on a hook in my basement. 

I did also cut a hole in a shopping bag and drape it over top to avoid dust and fading - tissue paper fades like crazy.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Girl Scout Snack for Birdfeeder Making

I was the helping mom for my daugher's girl scout meeting last week.  They are working on completing their energy and conservation-themed journey this year and as part of that, were making an assortment of bird feeders and bird houses to place around the area.  Helping mom duties include providing a little snack and since I can't do anything like a normal person, I decided to make a snack with a bird feeding / bird house theme.  (Is anyone else obsessed with themes?  I think I missed my calling - I should be working at Disney World.)  Here's what I made...

Bird Seed
This was surprisingly delicious.  Mixed Corn Chex, Rice Krispies, hulled pumpkin and sunflower seeds, Craisins, golden raisins, and some mini-chocolate chips.  Yum!  This is now my go-to recipe for trail mix.  And it works for kids with nut allergies but still packs a protein punch.

Pretzel "Twigs"
Cheap, easy, and they really do look like twigs.

Gummy Worms
You know, for the baby birds in the nest!  Only one per girl so we didn't get into a sugar-high situation...

I stopped short of making custom water bottle labels, because that would have been excessive, but also mostly because I ran out of time.
I pre-portioned everything in dixie cups for efficiency, and while it may not have been the best approach for a meeting focused on conservation, it was definitely efficient.  In my defense, we recycled everything...

Skylanders Party Planning - Part 4, Mod-Podged Shields and Elixir Bottles

One advantage to having a late, freezing-cold spring like this one is that I haven't been distracted by nice weather and have instead been holed up in the craft room, diligently working on projects for upcoming parties.  Here are the latest projects for the Skylanders party... gussied up Dollar Tree Frisbees for the Undead element challeng and the 1st step to transform Orangina bottles into Healing Elixir bottle centerpieces.

Chop-Chop's Shields
As mentioned in this post, I bought some blue Frisbees with plans to turn them into "shields" for the Undead element challenge.  Chop-Chop has a shield that he flings at his enemies - at the party, the guests will fling the Frisbees at an as-yet-to-be-determined target and hopefully not at each other.  Anyhoo, I found an image of Chop-Chop that I modified in Photoshop Elements.  (I subtracted the background - that is all that I know how to do in Photoshop.  Pathetic, I know.)  I then pasted the image into PowerPoint, fiddled with the size a bit, and printed on cardstock.  Traced a circle with a cereal bowl, cut it out, and got out the mod-podge.  This is how it looked just after mod-podging.

This always happens with mod-podge and I always get panicky ("OMG - this looks terrible!  I've ruined it!"), which is silly, because it always ends up fine.  The Frisbees ended up looking like this...

Perfect and beautiful.  Thank you, mod-podge.  I am pleased.  I will work on my panic issues.

Elixir Bottle Transformation, Step 1
As mentioned here, I was originally going to fill the Orangina bottles with blue fluid and serve them as drinks.

This was before I served said Orangina at my egg hunt and nearly everyone took a bottle home with them.  I thought about starting over and buying more, but Orangina is kind of expensive and, let's be honest here, I really don't need those calories, soooo I modified my approach.  Instead of serving drinks, the 4 bottles that didn't walk will become centerpieces.  I plan to fill them with a funky arrangement of colorful balls on pipe cleaner stems (more on that later).  For the 1st step - turning the bottle blue - I found a cool idea on Pinterest to use diluted glue and food coloring "paint" to make glass look like sea glass.  Note, this treatment will not be waterproof!  It was, however, very easy.

Place 1 part glue and 1 part water in a small cup.  You don't need a lot.  Add liquid food coloring until desired shade is achieved.  Mix well with a paint brush that you won't mind throwing away.  Using the paint brush to paint on an even coat of the glue mixture.  It will look a little blotchy, but don't panic - it will dry to a nice even frosted look.

Love it!  Next step is to make a label that looks like an Ankh for each one.  Photoshop, here I come.  In about 10 hours, I should have figured out how to make a label.  Hopefully.  Probably not, though.  (Seriously, am I an idiot?  Is Photoshop hard for anyone else?)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Rock Climbing Party - Part 1, Chocolate Pebbles and Boulders

I've posted several times about the upcoming Skylanders party because that is an at-home party and will require a ton of prep work.  We do have another special party coming up before that one, however.  My daughter's 10th birthday rock climbing party is fast approaching, June 1st!  We're holding it at a local rock climbing facility and we're doing our 1st ever joint party with one of her friends.  (Their birthdays are only a few weeks apart and they both wanted to climb, so BLAM-O - joint party!)  It's been fun having another mom to plan with and bounce ideas off of (my husband is NOT interested in party planning.  Like, at all.)

Since the party is now about 6 weeks away, it's time to kick things into gear.  I have some fun ideas for favors which I'll be sharing, but I wanted to post this find because I'm so excited about it.  I was at the grocery store yesterday (Wegmans, which is the best grocery store ever.  It's a fact.) and in the bulk foods section, I found not one but TWO kinds of chocolate rocks.  Score!  I really wanted some for the favor bags, but I am not a fan of buying wholesale candy online - the shipping is ridiculous and the volumes you have to purchase are also ridiculous.  Imagine then my delight when I saw these chocolate pebbles...

... and these chocolate boulders!

THEY LOOK JUST LIKE ROCKS!!!!  I find this amazing.  ABSOLUTELY AMAZING.  Since they are in bulk, I can buy exactly the amount that I need.  I will pop them into little cello bags and voila, the perfect rock treat.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Lego Storage

We are crazy for Legos at our house.  Both my daughter and my son love them.  My husband and I love that the kids love them, but what we do not love is stepping on Legos - that is no good.  We have several storage systems in place to combat this torture. 

For what I think of as "general" Legos - these are the ones that don't come with a specific set and are used for free play - we have some regular Rubbermaid/Sterlite tubs, a nifty sorting bin with removable compartments, and my personal favorite - the giant Lego head. 

My problem with these solutions, however, is that they don't allow for a way to keep kits and instructions together.  It drives me nuts to spend big bucks on Hagrid's Hut or a Ninjago Rattlecopter and then see the pieces scattered and the instructions lost.  Not to mention mopping up the tears because the kids want to recreate these structures and can't because some crucial, tiny piece is lost in the playroom.  My solution...

... small Dollar Tree snap-top bins.  These are sold in sets of 2 for $1.  I love the bright colors and the secure locking lids. 

They are sized just right for most of our Lego sets and you can fit the instructions right in there with the Legos.   They stack nicely (vertical storage!) and fit well on the shelves in our playroom.
For larger sets, I just look for larger containers.  8x10 Rubbermaid Take-Alongs are great for those and can also often be found at Dollar Tree.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Skylanders Party Planning - Part 3, Flameslinger Archery Targets

I'm plugging along on the Skylanders party - now three months away.  I try to do a little bit every week in the hopes that I won't be crazed and overwhelmed in July.  My latest accomplishment was finishing the archery targets for the Flameslinger Archery Game that I mentioned in the 1st party post:  Skylanders Part 1

I was initially thinking that I'd just alternate red and white like a regaular target, but then I realized that these targets present a great opportunity to bring in some more of the party color pallette of purple, orange, lime, teal, and aqua.  I love having elements at a party do double-duty and here's a great example - games also serving as decor.

I plan to suspend these targets from trees in our yard - will punch holes on either side and thread fishing line through - holes on each side will keep them from spinning... I hope.  I love how bright and colorful they are!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Possibly the best hostess gift ever given...

We have a friend who is one of the most thoughtful, helpful people I've ever met.  She's the kind of friend that comes over - unasked - before the party to help you set up, jumps in to help with the kids when she sees that they are getting unruly, and stays late to help clean-up and actually helps (instead of standing around chatting) - and you know that she doesn't mind one second of it.  In other words - she's one-in-a-million.

She is a crafty gal as well and the last time she came over, she gave me what is possibly the best, most-thoughtful hostess gift evah...  a bottle of homemade vanilla extract.
Why is this the best hostess gift evah, you may ask?  I'll tell you...  because it's something that I need that I will actually use.  I don't know about you, but I go through a ton of vanilla and other extracts because we do a lot of baking and eat a lot of pancakes (my pancake recipe calls for vanilla).  Also, unlike a something like a bottle of wine, which may not be the kind that I like (riesling or petite noir, in case you were wondering), vanilla extract only comes in vanilla.  And unlike flowers, which are lovely but will eventually die and make me sad AND create a mess that I need to clean up, I will have this little bottle for at least a few weeks and will think of her kindness every time I reach for it. 

Thanks, S.!  You rock!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Fascinators and Favors for a Classy Bachelorette Party

My best friend's little sister got married last fall - best wishes, A.!  We feted her with a bachelorette party in September - a weekend at Harrah's in Atlantic City.  Now, I was reluctant to go back to AC, since I had gone before and was not impressed - between the ciggie smoke and feral cats, it was a bit sketchy.  I have to say, though, that Harrah's was very nice.  Our rooms were gorgeous and the hotel was fairly high-end.  It rivaled some hotels I've seen in Las Vegas.  Our weekend consisted of some pampering at the Red Door Spa (I had a body scrub and it was worth every penny), cocktails as we lounged by their fabulous pool (so chic - and the passion fruit margaritas were to DIE for), and a fancy dinner followed by gambling for the younger girls and a PJ's and junk TV for the, ahem, more mature ladies (I just can't party like I used to - and incidentally, you know you are getting older when you chat up the bartender to 1-figure out the best drink value for your buck and 2-compare notes on bifocals because neither of you can read the drink descriptions on those tiny menus). 

Anyhoo, the fancy dinner came with a dress code - little black dresses for everyone.  But we still wanted to do something extra to identify ourselves as part of a special group (bachelorette party) but while still looking classy.  My solution?  Fascinators.  They are huge right now and so much fun to wear.  The options are endless and I knew that I could make a ton for a small amount of money.  Here's how I did it...

Source Materials

Alligator Hair Clips - found at Joann's (12 for $2 with coupon!).  They are lightweight and almost flat with a good, strong grip.

Felt Triangles - I had felt on hand (free!), but you could make a ton from one sheet from any craft store - they are usually about $0.25 around here.  Just cut several small triangles.  The color doesn't really matter since you will be covering it up.

Needle and thread - again, color doesn't matter.  You are only using it to tack the felt onto the clip.

Hot glue sticks and gun - THE craft room essential

Feathers - I had sticker shock from the price of the "fancy" feathers.  There are tons of kinds, but you pay a premium for ones with designs, or from rare birds, or with different textures.  I couldn't afford that, so I bought a big bag of multicolored craft feathers for $3 and committed to trying to modify them to look special and not like a kindergarten Thanksgiving craft project.

Bling - I was initially looking for brooches or sparkly buttons to mount on the fascinators and then I realized how much that would cost.  So, I made my own brooches using a big bag of cheap, assorted rhinestones from Michael's ($8 with coupon).  You get a TON in those bags.  Some are goofy looking, but a lot are really nice.  I just hot glued them onto some paint chips from the hardware store that I had laying around.  Additionally, I wanted to make some beaded wire for more movement and interest.  I had some iridescent plastic beads on hand (from Walmart), and I also splurged on some swarovski crystals for the bride ($4 with coupon).  I wanted her to really sparkle!  I all ready had beading wire on hand.


1. Sew the base
Double up your thread and tack a felt triangle onto a clip.  Be sure to open the clip before you start sewing.  I would stick a pencil in the "jaws" to hold it open as I sewed.  Some tutorials out there have you hot glue the base onto the clip.  That didn't feel secure enough to me.  Sewing took a few minutes longer, but it was worth it.  I'm pleased to report that we didn't lose a single bit of bling all night.

2. Choose your colors and layout
For mine, I put the big feathers on the bottom and built up from there, inserting smaller accent feathers and beaded wire next, and topped the whole shebang off with rhinestones.  Whatever you want to do, now is the time to decide, not when you have a hot glue gun in hand!

3. Pre-make accents
Now that you know how you want it to look, take the time to make your special accents

Feathers - craft feathers can be modified in several ways.  I recommend practicing with colors you have a lot of 1st and once you feel comfortable, then move on to the feathers you intend to use in your fascinators.
-CURLS:  feathers can be curled by sliding the central rib over the edge of scissors (like you do with curly ribbon) - go over it several times until it starts to curl.  Be gentle with the 1st couple passes to avoid snapping the rib.
-STRIPPING:  The fluffy feathers at the bottom can be stripped off the rib, leaving the more uniform feathers at the top.  Just grab the fluffies and pull against the direction of growth and they should strip off neatly. 
-SHAPING:  You can trim the feathers into oval shapes, diamonds, zigzags, whatever.  It just takes some patience.  You can also combine curling, stripping, and shaping to give yours an even more unique look.  The turquoise feathers above, for example, were stripped of lower feathers, shaped into diamonds at the tips, and curled slightly.

Brooches - Cut out a base on sturdy paper or paint chips like I did.  I did some in circles and some in rectangles, but I liked circles the best.  Glue on your rhinestones as desired.  Let dry before trying to attach to the fascinator.  The turquoise one above has a brooch that I made.

Beaded wire accents - Snip off a length of bead wire about 10 inches long.  String a bead and slide to the middle of the wire.  Bend the wire around the bead and feed both ends through the bead once more.  This keeps the bead in place.  This is now the tip of your wire.  Repeat this process, spacing your beads a few centimeters apart.

4. Get glue-gunnin'
Once you know how it's going to look, start hot glueing.  Go one layer a a time and give it a few minutes to set before moving on to the next layer.  I always have tweezers and a chopstick or pencil or something handy when I'm hot glueing - I'll use it to place small accents or to maneuver items without burning myself.

5. Enjoy turning heads in your fabu fascinator!

SWAG, Baby!

Because I love to craft and I tend to go overboard AND I don't know when to stop, I also made some little gift bags for the girls.  Simple brown paper bags dressed up with fabric rosettes and ribbons in the bride's palette of peridot and teal.  I filled the bags with treats, snacks, tiny bottles of wine, and personalized water bottles - just the thing to make our hotel rooms more comfy.  I thought it would be fun to contrast our bachelorette party hijinks with images of proper 50's housewives, so I made some tags for each bag juxtaposing these ladies with modern sayings.  They were a hit!
Here's the bag with just the treats - the wine was all ready in use...  :)