Friday, May 31, 2013

Girl Scout Journey Celebration

My daughter's Junior troop recently completed their Journey to earn their Get Moving badge.  They spent the last year diligently working on it, learning about energy and conservation along the way.  The Journey concluded with an event at a local park to celebrate their accomplishment.  Because I love parties, I volunteered to assist the mom leading the event.  She was gracious enough to let me be her collaborator on the project.  It was so much fun to share this project with her - thanks, T.!  We are kindred party-planning spirits!

To honor the journey, we stuck with an earth and conservation theme and worked to bring in lots of color as well as upcycled and reclaimed elements with some pretty vintage touches as the cherry on top and is that a run-on sentence or what?

Dirt cups:  Chocolate pudding and crumbs with whipped cream, enclosed in mason jars - the ultimate eco-friendly party tool.  T. gussied them up with cupcake wrappers on the lids for a punch of color.  She stacked them in a beautiful dark wood crate, which I totally covet!

Earth cupcakes:  Modified from this post (skipped the heart center), these were a hit.  Topped with a simple buttercream, they were quick, easy, and festive.  Side note - when I tinted the batter, I wasn't thinking and did more green than blue and it irritated me all day that my ratio of "land" to "water" was skewed.  Did I mention that I'm a geek?  Anyhoo, regarding the frosting - I did hear from some girls that the frosting was a bit too sweet.  Does anyone have a buttercream recipe that's less sweet?  Mine is 2 sticks butter, 4 cups powdered sugar (which I reduced to 3 cups), and a splash of milk and a bit of vanilla.  My favorite frosting is the cooked frosting recipe listed here - it is TO DIE FOR, but I was worried it wouldn't hold up in the heat - even the buttercream got a little flat and melty and buttercream is MUCH stiffer than this cooked frosting.  (And in case I wasn't clear - this frosting = AMAZING.)  But if you make it, do yourself a favor and do not use store-brand butter.  Name-brand butter only.  You may also want to do a practice run before trying to make it for an event.  There are some traps that can make things go very wrong.

Fruit Skewers:  T. and I split them up and each made half.  I really liked that approach because we ended up picking different fruits, which made for a nice variety in terms of taste and color.

The food table was covered in a blue cloth (originally, it was covered by T.'s creamy vintage lace tablecloth, but the high winds knocked over a pitcher of lilacs that some idiot put on the table (moi!), so we had to improvise.  Food was arranged around the aforementioned crate (me want!) and accented with some pretty pansies and a sweet little doily.  In lieu of water bottles, T. brought a beverage dispenser filled with cool water.  We supplied plastic cups which were cobbled together remnants from other parties.  We also made sure to bring recycling bins to the park.  The paper straws added a nice pop of color.  The final touch was a simple banner that T. put together with twine and vintage napkins - the napkins were draped over the twine and pinned in place.  Even in teh high winds, it held together nicely.  The vintage napkin banner was just the right little touch to bring some vintage elegance to the setting.

The girls sat picnic-style on blankets spread under trees to enjoy their treats.  The idea was to have jugs and jars of lilacs scattered around, but it was just too windy.  The lilacs were grouped in a pretty basket and used to accent the food table instead.

In keeping with their focus on recycling, the girls made jewelry from reclaimed hardware.  We have a Tool Thrift Shop in town where donated items are resold at low prices.  All proceeds go to a local senior living facility.  I was able to find a ton of washers in various sizes.  A quick coat of primer and they were ready to be enameled with nail polish.  I found several sets of mini bottles at Big Lots and Marshall's and the girls went to town making unique pieces.  We provided hemp twine in bright colors to string the finished product.

The event concluded with the leaders talking with the girls about the highlights of the Journey followed by passing out their patches.  For a fun presentation, the patches and a seed packet with a vintage-inspired label were bundled into a colorful bandanna hobo pouch tied with jute twine.  Because the whole troop earned the same patch, there was no need to personalize the bandanna pouches.  In retrospect, we should have considered handing them out rather than letting the girls pick their own.  I noticed that while the leader was speaking, some of the girls were more focused on creeping closer to the bandannas to ensure that they could be the 1st to pick their color.  Oops!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Patriotic Rag Wreath

It's almost Memorial Day!  I love Memorial Day.  I love the cookouts and the kick-off to summer, of course, but I also really love the flags and parades (I ALWAYS cry when I see the veterans march by - thinking about what they've given to us and what they've been though to keep us free and safe) - just the whole patriotic spirit and sentiment of the holiday - honoring those who serve and keep us safe.  To all the service men and women out there - thank you.  My husband and I have not served ourselves, but we have a long history of warriors in our families, from my husband's grandfather who was a D-Day paratrooper in WWII and my grandfather who served in the Air Force in Korea, all the way back to ancestors in the Civil War (we have ancestors who served for both the North and the South, actually) and Revolutionary War (again, we both have ancestors on both sides - I find that so interesting).

So in the spirit of the holiday, I decided to try my hand at a patriotic rag wreath.  I choose this style because I am trying to be very frugal (we are saving for a trip to the Southwest this summer and a renovation to the outside of our house - looking forward to not being the ugliest house in the neighborhood anymore!) and wanted to use only items I had on hand all ready.  I'm feeling very frugalista.  I didn't have any wreath forms, but I did have an embroidery hoop.  I thought that a rag wreath would really fill out the hoop nicely.

For the rags, I pawed through my fabric bin and found some muslin scraps, a red calico with white hearts, and 2 blue calicos - one royal with a subtle leaf print and the other more of a cadet blue with vines.  I went with both, thinking that the slight differences in tone would add some more visual interest.  I ironed all the fabrics and cut many, many strips of each.  Each strip was about 7 inches long and 1/2 - 3/4 of an inch wide.  I wasn't precise with the cuts.

On a whim, I also pulled out my bin of wooden shapes and was rewarded with the perfect find - several star cut-outs in 2 different sizes.  I used 5 and painted them red, gold, and blue.  I wasn't thrilled with the red and blue, so I tried to do an antique-y layer of gold over top.  I was going for a streaky, weathered look and was only marginally successful.  But hey, it works.

After supplies were assembled, I parked myself on our soon-to-be-demolished-and-replaced-with-a-screened-porch-and-concrete-patio-deck with a frosty glass of iced tea and my rags and went to town.  Each strip was knotted once on the hoop.  I tried to be random with the colors (which is hard to do, btw.  I find myself wanting to make a pattern in spite of myself).  Every few rags, I would smoosh the ties closer together to ensure that the wreath ended up nice and full.  Be careful with the smoosh step - you could get a splinter!  I did and it was not fun.  :(

Once all the rags were tied, the painted stars had dried and I simply hot glued them on.  I used a bit of red-edged cream ribbon tied to the top to serve as the hanger.  This ribbon, incidentally, was saved from an Anthropology gift bag.  When I recycle those sorts of bags, I always save the ribbon handles.  Depression-Era-Chic, baby.  Thanks to my handy ribbon storage system, it's easy to see what I have available and I'm MUCH better about not buying the same colors over and over because I can't remember that I have them.  See that post here.

There you have it - a fun, full, free(!), patriotic rag wreath.

Summery Popsicle Wreath

I love wreaths.  I really, really do.  It makes me so happy to come home to a dressed-up front door.  I had a hankering for a new summery wreath, but wanted something different, so I started thinking about special things that say summer to me.  Flip-flops are cute but I wasn't feeling it.  Flowers - boring.  Butterflies - maybe, but I would need a butterfly punch and I wanted to try to make this from things I all ready had on hand.  I also wanted to use an embroidery hoop as a base rather than buying a new wreath form.  Popsicles?  YES!  We always have craft popsicle sticks around.  I could make them out of felt that I had on hand.  And they would be big enough to cover an embroidery hoop but not too heavy to weigh it down.

Step one was making a pattern for the popsicles.  I folded a piece of card stock in half and trimmed it into a rounded rectangle.

Then I cut out the felt, 2 pieces at a time.  I went with bright, fruity colors - orange, grape, watermelon, mango, lime.  Using a strand of embroidery floss in matching colors, I ran a seam around the sides and top, leaving the bottom open to stuff.

I didn't have batting to stuff them with and give them some dimension, so I filled each with a folded scrap of fleece and it worked nicely.

After stuffing, I inserted a popsicle stick and used it to push the fleece filler up to the top.  Then it was time to seal the bottom with the stick included.  Just another quick seam and done.

The embroidery hoop was wrapped with a colorful strip of fabric.  I didn't fuss about the raw edges - left them as is.

Arranging the popsicles on the hoop was the most challenging part.  I was afraid to commit to gluing until I was sure it was OK.  I ended up overlapping the popsicles slightly, which meant that I had some exposed hoop at the top, but I liked it that way.  I think that if I had filled all the way around, it would have needed some more support to keep the top of the wreath from pulling forward.

Finished with a skinny ribbon bow to hang and voila!  An original, fun, free(!), colorful homage to the cool queen of summertime treats. 

Skylanders Party Planning - Part 6, Flame Arrows

The Skylanders party planning continues!  I made the flame arrows for the Flameslinger Fire Element game mentioned here.  These were super easy, super fast, and I think the kids will LOVE them.
First, I assembled my supplies - 12 Dollar Tree suction-cup arrows and packs of metallic cellophane shreds in gold and red.  Then it was time to fire up the glue gun.  For each arrow, I used 4 gold and 4 red shreds and draped them over my fingers.  I fiddled with the shreds to get it so that they were all different lengths and then pinched in the center and twisted a bit. 

I wedged an arrow between the edge of the counter and my fancy and not at all unsightly "glue gun tray" and dispensed a blob of hot glue onto the arrow near the suction cup. 

Working quickly, I applied the center of the twisted shreds to the glue and wrapped one side over and the other side on top and pulled them taut.  Once the glue sets you are done.

They are stored in a bundle with a plastic bag on top to keep them from getting dusty.  It took me about 10 minutes from start to finish.  Not too shabby!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Rock Climbing Party - Part 2, Favors and Personal Growth

So my daughter's joint-rock-climbing-birthday-party is fast approaching and we're putting the finishing touches on everything.  This has been a lot of fun to plan and also, an unexpectedly good learning / personal growth opportunity for me.  Working with another mom who does not share my over-the-top tendencies has made me realize some things about myself.  Here's the story...

For favors, I was planning:
  • Pop Rocks
  • Carabineers
  • Water Bottles
  • Rock Candy
  • Pet Rocks
  • Custom Artisan Cotton Candy Clouds
  • Chocolate Rocks or Boulders
  • Rock-Shaped Bouncy Balls
  • Gumball Rocks
When I showed the other mom the list, she was agog and said that it seemed like a lot and that the kids would probably be happy with just Pop Rocks and a Carabineer.  This was the thought that popped into my head:  "Who cares?  It goes with the theme!"

This is probably not a healthy line of thinking.  I realized that I have gotten to the point where I am focused more on the theming than the desires of the guests.  Not to say that my favors wouldn't have been well-received - I'm sure that they would have been.  But I'm now trying to make a real effort to scale back on the volume.  Meaning, just because I have several good ideas doesn't mean that they all have to be used.  To that end, favors for this party will be:
  • Pop Rocks
  • Carabineers
  • Water Bottles (which is included in the venue's package)
I think that the kids will love them, they still fit the theme, and they won't break the bank.  To put my own spin on it and to utilize my new found technique of cutting fabric on my Cricut (yes, you can cut fabric on the Cricut - huzzah!), I made personalized muslin pouches for each guest.  It was cheap and easy and didn't even take that long.

Cut your muslin into strips large enough to double over and have seam allowance on the sides and a wider allowance at the top to hold the drawstring.*

Fold in half.  Zip a quick seam up each side.

Iron your seams flat and fold down the top far enough that you will be able to thread your cording through.

Stitch around the folded top almost all the way around - leave a small opening for the cording.  Thread the cording through and knot the ends.

Iron heat bond** to the back of your fabrics to be cut for initials.

Peel off the white paper backing*** and then apply to the Cricut sticky mat.  I put my needle to 5, pressure to highest, speed to lowest.  I used the Classic Font cartridge and did 2" letters.

Once cut, apply letters to muslin pouches and iron on.

*When you decide on the width, think about whether it will be big enough to fit on your sewing machine.  Mine were too small and I had to do the seam around the top by hand.  Not terrible, but not ideal either.

**Be careful with this - it's easy to get confused and iron the heat bond to your ironing board cover or worse - to your iron.  Don't try this if you are tired or distracted. 

***Don't forget this step - you will have a huge mess on your mat if you don't remove the paper.  Also, your letters won't cut well.

Skylanders Party Planning - Part 5, Mod-Podge Woes, Faux Leather Treasure Chest, Neon Balls, and a Portal Punch Possibility

I'm chunking through my Skylanders Party to-do list - whoo hoo!  The party isn't until July, but we have big vacation out West planned for June, so I'm trying to be proactive.  Next up...

Treasure Chest
This chest was a thrift store find.  It was originally cream with grapevines and a bit of a crackle finish.  I just attacked it with some brown spray paint. 

I LOVE that the crackle finish is still visible but now looks like textured, pebbly leather.  I will pretend that I knew all along that this was how to make spray paint look like leather.  It will be our little secret.  Kay?
Next step is to rub the nail heads and clasp with some dull gold glaze.  Once done, this will hold the party favors and the kids will need to do a treasure hunt to find it.  I all ready wrote and printed the clues.  Sample clue:  Find your way to a very tall tree, around the trunk you'll find clue #3. 

I wrote all the clues in verse 
could anything be worse?
Than someone who thinks she's a poet
and doesn't really know it
that she's not?

For the Wrecking Ball Tongue Grab Magic Element Challenge, I found 2 large flat platters at the Dollar Tree.  I thought that these would work to hold the gems to be grabbed and the shallowness of the lip wouldn't interfere with the game.

To make them more fun, I mod-podged on pictures of Wrecking Ball with 2 different catchphrases. 
I'm having a lot of trouble with my mod-podge lately - lots of wrinkling.  I think that I need to switch to card stock instead of regular copy paper.  So be forewarned - these are not perfect.  I just have to accept this with a sigh and move on.

For Trigger Happy's Coin Toss Tech Element Challenge, I found some red and gold bins at Dollar Tree and hit them with some mod-podge as well.
Wrinkled again!  Doh!  The kids won't mind, right?

And finally, I modified and gussied up the Dollar Tree boomerangs originally shown here with some brown paint and mod-podge.  You can see one in the front here:

Meh.  Not my best work.  But I think that the kids will get a kick out of these more so than a plain old tray, bin, or boomerang.  Note that the boomerangs are meant to fly with a helicopter attached, but the kids tested them and they work just as well sans copter.

While I had the drop cloth out for the treasure chest, I also took some time to paint some foam balls found at Dollar Tree (again with the Dollar Tree!).  The idea is to use my frosted glass bottles and make funky centerpieces.  I used bright green, orange, aqua, and purple to turn these plain balls into...

...these bright balls.  Aren't they fun?

I might do this again and make a wreath - I love how colorful they are.

And finally, at a store you might have heard of called Dollar Tree, I found this little foam ring, which doesn't look like much, but will hopefully work for my vision of a Portal Punch

The color changing pumpkin light fits PERFECTLY in the middle and my punch bowl will be supported on top.  If this works, if will be fabulous!