I think I had a similar post title right after Bo's birthday party this summer. Or maybe it was before the party, when I was still frazzled.
Anyhow, the most clever thing I've done in the last few days was to hang wool blankets on the curtain rods in our bedroom. It was an idea I think I found in Domino's green issue last year (correct me if I'm wrong, folks). Keeps the cold air out and makes me feel like a hibernating bear in a cave. J is loving the whole blackout effect--what is it with men wanting it pitch black when they sleep?
The project did involve a tiny bit of sewing. I added ribbon loops to the tops of the blankets so they could hang from something.
But instead of showing you a photo of Army green wool blankets hanging over my windows, I'd rather treat you to some eye candy from around the Internet. Enjoy ...
From Ohdeedoh, this simple nursery. I'm loving the granny blanket and the sweet little jumper hanging from the wall:
Last night's woodland-themed first birthday party for Magpie was a success--simple, small and a little bit silly. The kids looked adorable in their elf hats and were great sports about wearing them for a photo (I want to get some parental permission before I post those pictures here).
I hung the "hip hip hooray" banner I'd made for Bo's birthday this summer.
The cake saga ended with a fun and easy solution. After our oven broke, I gave up trying to do anything too complicated. I ordered two round cakes from a grocery store bakery, asked them to frost them very simply with light pink, and then I fondanted them up the night before the party.
I'd never even eaten fondant before, let alone work with it (I understand it's all the rage at weddings today, but when most of my friends and I got married fondant was still something only to be enjoyed on the pages of Martha Stewart Weddings).
I followed the simplest recipe ever, found here, but it's not even as complicated as that write up makes it seem. Just put a cup of mini marshmallows plus 1 tablespoon of water in a bowl and microwave it for 20-30 seconds. Stir it up with a spoon. Add 1 1/2 to 2 cups powdered sugar. Stir until you have a gummy paste. Pull off a blob of it, add a bit of food coloring and work it in. It helps to grease your hands with a little bit of shortening, and feel free to add more powdered sugar if the fondant gets to moist. Then make whatever shape you want.
I'm sure there are fondant purists who would cringe at a recipe that calls for marshmallows, but from what I hear real fondant tastes terrible and what I made wasn't bad at all (it tastes like super sweet marshmallows, as you can imagine).
I can't take any credit for the look of the owl cake. I found these photos on Flickr of a cake made by a real baker and just did my best to come within a mile of the cuteness she achieved. Take a look at her other stuff while you're there. A.dor.a.ble.
I was just dinking around with the "B" cake. Doesn't exactly have a woodland theme. (FYI--Magpie's real first name starts with B.)
Anyhow, we have a hiatus on birthdays for a while (minus a couple of gifts that need to be made, including a Waldorf doll I might attempt for a little girl this weekend). You know what that means ... crafty Christmas is up next! Oh, boy.
I'm thinking of making it a 100 percent handmade Christmas this year. To me, that means that all the gifts we give will either be made by ourselves or purchased by a local artisan or on Etsy. Anyone else attempting this too (or am I the only crack head on the block?)? Wish me luck. I'm probably a few months behind already, so we'll see.
After seven+ years as a journalist, having my byline in the newspaper doesn't faze me. My first clip--a story about couples who met through their dogs--was published in The Boston Globe back in 2001, and that was quite a thrill. But I quickly realized that my byline is there for only one reason--so people know who to call when they're grumpy.
There's something different, though, when my photos appear in the paper, especially when they're shots of one of my craft projects. It's more personal, I guess, and I always get a little red in the face when I open the paper in the morning and see my amateur photography, hoping the real photojournalists at the paper aren't rolling their eyes at my latest attempt.
Bo could care less about any of it. When I showed her the pumpkins we carved in today's edition of the Spokesman-Review, she was like, "Yeah? So what, Mommy?" At least she isn't embarrassed by her mother yet. That'll come later, I'm sure.
In case you're looking for a unique way to carve a pumpkin this weekend, here's an excerpt from today's story and a photo tutorial. Just don't call me if yours doesn't turn out right.
(A) pumpkin-carving alternative involves scraping an image into a pumpkin rather than fully slicing and removing pieces of its flesh. This enables you to create a more detailed picture on your pumpkin than you might otherwise achieve.
The first step is to find a simple drawing of an image and either print it out or photocopy it. Consider nature-inspired drawings of leaves or animals, such as squirrels or owls.
Clip art programs and coloring books are good sources of images because their drawings usually have simple lines. There are several free coloring books online, including at familycrafts.about.com.
For this project, purchase a pumpkin that’s big enough to accommodate your drawing and that doesn’t have deep grooves. Wash and dry your pumpkin before beginning.
Next, cut a circle out of the bottom of your pumpkin or on top around the stem and scrape the pumpkin’s inside clean. Pay special attention to where you plan to scrape your image. Because you will be removing a shallow layer of the pumpkin instead of carving all the way through the pulp, you’ll want a fairly thin wall for the best illumination.
Now pin your paper image to the outside of the pumpkin using
a few pushpins.
Using another pushpin, puncture through the paper along the
drawing’s lines. You will be transferring the picture from the paper to the
pumpkin by poking hundreds of small holes very close together. Resist the urge
to peek behind the paper as you go, which could shift your template and distort
Once you’ve traced the entire drawing, remove the paper and
discard it. Using a small scraping tool, such as the puncture tool on a wine
key or can opener, carefully scrape away the pumpkin’s skin along the dotted
lines. If you don’t already have a suitable tool in your kitchen, retailers
sell pumpkin carving sets.
Once all the lines are scraped, rub petroleum jelly on your
pumpkin to make your carving last longer.
Finally, carve a hole, about 1 inch by 1 inch, on the back
of the pumpkin to allow oxygen to reach the candles. Light two candles then fit
the pumpkin over the top of them or place the candles inside the pumpkin if you
cut a hole around the pumpkin’s stem instead of its bottom.
If your carving doesn’t illuminate enough, add more candles
or a bright battery-operated light or scrape away more of the pulp behind your
It's been a busy week here at Penny Carnival, but I've managed to make five of the elf hats for Magpie's woodland-themed birthday party on Sunday. Four more to go. Just to recap, I made these following Amy Karol's pattern in Bend the Rules Sewing. They're going to be the party favors. Do the brown leaf ones look boyish enough for the little fellas? Will the girls balk if their hats are gray instead of pink? As the mother of two girls, I get so dang sick of pink.
I also finished the gray dress that was supposed to be Magpie's party outfit, but hello huge mondo. She just had her 12 month check up and she's on the way big size (her head circumference is off the charts! Poor kid takes after her mom and her papa) but she's still not big enough for this enormous dress I sewed her. Looks like it's going in the closet for a few months. Hopefully I'll have time to whip up a smaller version by Sunday.
The little yo-yo flower wasn't part of the original plan. It's covering the result of a disastrous encounter the dress had with the sewing machine as I was trying to make buttonholes.
Putting a glitch in my cake debate is the fact that my oven broke. Hmmm ... I have a Plan D brewing.
Today is Magpie's real deal. Her official birthday. Her bash isn't until Sunday and she doesn't know better anyway, but this is the day I get to remember her coming into the world and into our lives.
Magpie was induced, like her sister, and like her sister it took a couple days for the pitocin to work. We thought she'd be born on October 19, but I think my body knew that 10-19-07 doesn't have the same ring to it as 10-20. Bo's birthday is 7-7. We like to keep the numbers simple, I guess.
There were lots of starts and stops to the labor, but when she finally was ready it didn't take long to push her out and at 12:34 p.m. (1,2,3,4) she was in my arms. A much different experience than with Bo, who was rushed to the NICU without a pause to meet her mama. (That explains why later that day when I went to visit Bo there I gazed longingly at the wrong baby for several minutes. Oops. She has been making up for our lost first moments together ever since.)
Magpie is much more independent than her sis, scooting her way around the house as she pleases with her octopus-like crawl. She usually plays sweetly at my feet while I sew, only once throwing me for a loop after sitting on the sewing machine's pedal.
Most people who approach us in the store call her a zen baby or comment on what a calm demeanor she has. She does have a sort of chilly-chill persona, and I can't wait to watch it evolve over the years.
Happy birthday, my sweets.
I stayed up late last night painting a wall in the kitchen with chalkboard paint, a project I started about a month ago. The green I chose was supposed to look more vintage schoolhouse than the result, which I would call Fenway Park Green Monster green. But hopefully it will look more chalkboardy as we fill it up with scribbles and such. Here's a start to a woodland scene I hope to fill in by Sunday's party. I used an overhead projector and some coloring book images for help.
Yes, your vote matters in that other election that's happening right now, too, but I'm talking about helping me decide what sort of cake to make for Magpie's first birthday party. Priorities, folks. Priorities.
Remember, it's going to be a woodland-themed party. Think fairies, sprites, elves, squirrels, mushrooms, owls.
You have three options. Choose wisely (pun intended).
A) This three-dimensional owl cake, which was found here.
2) Owl cupcakes, from the book "Hello, Cupcake." Photo courtesy of my sister.
This option exists only in my head. It's a round, 10-inch, two-layer cake frosted simply and left plain on top, but all around the sides are the little critters (fairies, trees, squirrels, etc., see list above).