My older boys have a special miniature Christmas tree in their room. It's decorated with ornaments loving made out of candy (thanks to Martha for the inspiration). Naturally I wanted little Brooks to have his own special tree in his room. When I pulled out what I had up in his room last Christmas I was horrified. I couldn't believe 'that' was the best I could come up with. Sure he was only 4 months at the time and I had just started back at work, but it still didn't seem like a valid excuse. After I was done chiding myself for last year's disgraceful attempt I stripped down the tree to nothing. But then I couldn't think of anything cool to do for his tree, but I put up his miniature tree anyway hoping for some inspiration. It sat there for a while as an empty slate waiting for me to do something. I finally wrapped the felted ball garland we used in our Christmas card photo shoot around the tree, but it was still very, very lacking. Maybe next year, I thought. Then one night I got the idea to use one of his toys to make ornaments for his tree. It was perfect--easy and simple, but still meaningful since the toy used to belong to his brothers and therefore practically vintage (*wink*--does 10 years count as vintage?).
Here is the toy (from Pottery Barn Kids) prior to any alterations. I am not even sure what it is called.
After dismantling the toy I settled in with some freshly baked chocolate chip cookies (can't stop baking) and ribbon to tie through the blocks. Viola! Done!
Here is the tree. I never got around to making a proper tree skirt for it. This picture was taken just before I packed it up till next year. I hope I don't take it out of the box next year and give myself three lashings for another poor attempt. It could still use a little something, but at least little Brooks seemed to like it (or he was just happy to finally get grabby with it).
I spend a lot of time thinking about our annual Christmas card. Starting in the fall I start looking at the different card websites to get an idea of the various card designs I like (my favorite sites are Paper Culture, Minted & Tiny Prints). This gets my mind thinking of possible compositions so when it does come time to shoot I am somewhat prepared. Of course trying to get one single good shot of three squirmy kids is NOT easy. For the older kids I use bribes...$5-$10 each, but only after I have gotten a good shot--they will tell you this is one of the only times I use flat out bribery. This year I made the mistake of waking them up on a Saturday morning to get the shoot done as early as possible and to accommodate the little one's happy schedule. As a result one of the twins looks a little bloated and red-eyed (lesson learned, I will not do that again). Usually I do one photo session in front of our tree and one elsewhere around our house, but this year since we lost a week between Thanksgiving and Christmas our tree was not set up so I only got one session in. Also little Brooks was not too happy at the end of our first shoot so I lost the patience to try another one. Here is the 'behind the scene' look at our photo shoot...
Here is our our card actually turned out...I went with Minted this year despite my love of Paper Culture. Next year I will go back to Paper Culture, their cards are just a little bit nicer plus eco-friendly.
I also got a little creative with the stamps this year and went with the ultra cool Ray Charles stamps instead of the expected holiday stamps. And I love the kraft envelopes offered by Minted.
I always try to sign up to bring soccer snacks right around Halloween time. This weekend we brought these goodies to the team...Brownies + Frosting + Candy Corn Oreos + More Frosting + Ghostie Topper = Total Yumminess.
Here's the progression...Start with brownies baked in a mini-bundt cake pan...
Add some Halloween frosting (I used Pilsbury Halloween Funfetti)...For this layer you don't have to make the icing look pretty. It will act as the glue to keep the Oreo on top of the brownie.
Next, add your Oreo cookie...we used the extra delicious and seasonal Candy Corn version.
Time to add more frosting...no complaints here.
Finally, add your Halloween topper. These ghosties are from Wilton (we purchased them from Michael's), but if you didn't have these you can always use some candy corn.
Done! Ready for the team!
I have always been 'artistic', but my 'craftiness' didn't surface until later in life. This means our twin boys didn't have a fancy first birthday. They still turned out okay (so far). So 10 years later when little B's birthday was on the horizon (9 months out) you would think I would have been ecstatic to plan a big bash for his first birthday, but I wasn't. I tried to figure out the root of my lack-lustre attitude, but I couldn't pin it down. As his birthday got closer (6 months, 5 months...) I still had no big desire to plan his party. Then late one night as I sat in front of my laptop waiting for some contractors to finish work in our kitchen I came across a spark.
As I was perusing a bento box website for panda stuff for the twin's birthday I spied a cute little octopus/squid figure. By the time the contractors finished I had already recreated the little guy (now termed 'octosquid' -- couldn't decide if it was an octopus or squid) in Adobe Illustrator and added a sailor hat and cupcake to make him ready for the invitation. From that point on the wheels for B's first birthday party were set into motion. I guess I just had been lacking some serious inspiration. We did not have a big bash and instead kept the party very small. Even though the party was small I did not skip out on any details because those are the fun things to do!
For B's *Octosquid Party* we set up a small dessert buffet with brownies, sugar cookies in the shapes of sea horses, lobsters and hearts (my octosquid cookies turned out disastrous so I couldn't use them) and mini red velvet cupcakes--all lovingly baked by me. The centerpiece of the dessert buffet was an octosquid cake baked by A Touch of Sweetness Bakery--it was so cute and so delicious! I love having homemade cakes, but I found it to be really liberating to have someone else bake the cake because I got to focus on all the other desserts. For our birthday meal we had Japanese fare with sushi and gyoza from our local Japanese restaurant, rice noodle salad and regular salad with sesame ginger dressing. As for the decorations we reused the tissue paper backdrop from the Washington to Rome Goodbye Party (only had to replace the pink and gold with blue crepe paper) and reused the tissue heart (again replacing the pink tissue paper). And finally the favors were little octopus snack containers I picked up from Target and filled with swedish fish and sixlets.
Here are some pictures from the *Octosquid Party* followed by some more details...
As soon as I settled on the octosquid theme I knew I wanted to bring in some Japanese influence (little B is a quarter Japanese after all). I started with the color palette making it blue and white with a hint of red. Then we settled on sushi for the meal. I really wanted to order from our neighborhood Japanese restaurant, but I figured it blow our budget so I looked at other options (Wegman's and Harris Teeter). Two days before the party I decided to stop by our neighborhood Japanese restaurant and price things out anyway. I was really surprised that it wasn't much more than the grocery store options. Plus by going with the Japanese restaurant I was able to order exactly what I wanted and didn't have to go with a pre-selected platter and on top of that it tasted so much better. I pre-set the table with our serving platters and headed out to pick up the sushi right before it was time to eat to ensure that it was fresh. I bought a cheap pack of wooden chopsticks which came 6 pairs to the pack but they were all loose. washi tape to the rescue! It only took a few minutes to pair them up and keep them together with a small piece of washi tape.
B's bib was made by my sister with fabric I had printed at Spoonflower. This was my first time having anything made at Spoonflower and in general I was happy with the result. The colors on the fabric were not as vibrant as I expected, but the printing still looked good and the fabric was a nice material.
We had to celebrate Father's Day early, which meant last night. This was a good thing because the boys and I were busting at the seems in anticipation of our Father's Day celebration so we could present him with the (almost) perfect gift. Hubby for whatever reason loves The Hangover movie poster. Since I won't allow it to be hung in our finished basement he has a copy of the poster hanging on the inside of the door that leads to the unfinished area of our basement (and to the beer fridge). It has fallen down a few times and he has dutifully hung it right back up, most recently with heavy duty poster tape to ensure its proper placement for eternity. In pondering what I could do for Father's Day the idea hit me to recreate The Hangover movie poster with our kids. I soon as I thought of it, I knew he would love it. I picked a Sunday when he was working to be the photo shoot day. Prior to that I gathered the props (sunglasses, baby carrier, fake blood, etc.) and prepped the kids. The older ones were good to go, but the baby was a different story...I crossed my fingers. On the day of the shoot I gave the older boys the carrot (fro yo) and the stick (no video games for a month) to ensure speedy cooperation. Then I turned to the baby, he was a mess and was already rocking pink eye (and unknown to us, an ear infection). He refused the baby carrier (darn). He refused the sunglasses (damn). We carried on. I managed to get 4 snaps with the kids posed before baby B went nuts. Luckily one shot was decent enough. I originally planned to Photoshop one of the boys in as Bradley Cooper, but it didn't look right (damn, again). Even with the little disappointments along the way our version of The Hangover poster still turned out not bad. Hubby loved it (so predictable) and we loved that he loved it.
Last year I found a sweet chocolate bunny mold at Target. It was cute and cheap, so I bought it. Actually I really like the Easter merchandise at Target. They have great stuff year after year and I am always excited to check it out. But, I digress, back to the chocolate mold...I bought the mold but didn't have a strong inclination to actually use it until the boys asked to make something for Easter. It seemed like a perfect task for them, all we needed to do was melt chocolate and squeeze it into the molds. The first bunnies the boys created turned out a bit messy, but by the second one they both got the hang of it. After the bunnies hardened we wrapped them in cello bags and tied them with ribbon. They came out super cute, the boys were really proud of their efforts. I put the extra bunny pops in a milk glass vase with Easter grass and some faux eggs and thought it made a lovely Easter decoration. Hopefully we can find some time to make them again this year.
Here is a quick and easy project to make a little St. Patrick's Day badge to sweeten up any outfit or gift. All you need is some ribbon, double sided tape, some festive cupcake wrappers and a printed copy this clip art from Martha.
To make this St. Patty's Badge, start by flattening out a cupcake wrapper. You may have to crinkle up the middle to get it to lie flat. Next, take another cupcake wrapper and fold it in half. Use scissors (pinking scissors or scalloped scissors preferred) to cut about 1 centimeter off the edge. Open it up and crinkle up the middle to get it to lie flat. Do this again for your third cupcake liner, but cut a little more off the edge. Here is how the three wrappers should look once you are done with the cutting...
Using your double sided tape adhere the wrappers together, largest to smallest. Top with the clip art from Martha after cutting out the circle images. Next, take a piece of ribbon and place a small piece of double sided tape in the middle and fold so the ribbon forms a 'V'.
Finally, using your double sided tape again attach the ribbon to the back of your badge and enjoy!
Thanks to Urban Comfort for the initial inspiration.
This year I promised to make the boys their Halloween costumes since I was home on maternity leave. We started brainstorming in early September and were originally going to do something with an election theme until we came across the idea to be nerds--not just the Model UN/Math club types but also the candy.
To make the costumes I purchased appropriate sized cardboard boxes from staples that would fit around the boys. I then cut foam core boards to match the width of the cardboard boxes. Then I used markers and acrylic paint to create the nerd candy box design. Since the proportion of my foam core boards didn't exactly match the nerd candy box I found it best to start with the largest design element (in this case the 'nerds' lettering) and then add everything else with an appropriate scale. Specifically I used makers to outline all the lettering and the nerds figures and then painted the rest. The sides and back of the cardboard boxes were painted either pink or purple to match the front. We used gorilla glue to attach the foam core to the cardboard boxes. And then finally we used ribbon in a suspender configuration to keep the boxes on the boys. To make the bow ties I followed A Lemon Squeezy Home's tutorial. I also made a purple candy nerd costume for Baby B, but don't have any good pictures of it.
My previous post was all about the baking projects I have in mind to try for Halloween. However, sometimes you don't have a lot of time to bake, but still want something sweet, festive and not store-bought. The solution, Jell-o's Oreo No Bake Dessert. I would usually turn my nose up at the bright blue box while cruising through the baking aisle at the grocery store, but something recently made me dump it into my cart. The bright blue box sat in my pantry till one day the boys were 'bored' and wanted a project. The *Oreo Cream Pie* turned out to be the perfect treat to make with the kids. There are four steps to build it. The first step is to melt butter--so easy it the kids can do it with a blindfold on. Second step is to mix the oreo crumbs with the melted butter and tamp it down to form the bottom layer of the dessert--again, perfect for the kids. The next step is to mix the pudding mix with milk using a beater--this step gets a little messy and is best for the adult to handle, but it is over in 3.5 minutes. Finally, spread pudding over the crust and top with crushed ores and refrigerate. To make it festive we added some additional crushed up Halloween Oreos, Halloween sprinkles and a candy corn pumpkin. The taste is quite delicious and has quickly become a favorite in our house.