Off my plate: birthday cupcakes

October 14, 2012

Birthdays are fun. Well, if you’re getting presents. Or eating cake. Or playing games. But planning them, cleaning for them, making everything can be a pain. And the mommy blog world & pinterest doesn’t always help, with their perfect photos and drapes that match the party decorations. Really, who has time for that? Things 1&2’s birthdays come at the end of summer and beginning of the school year. Their birthdays fall during the busiest time of the year for us, with the start of fall soccer season, school, and a very busy season at work for The Cat and me.

Last year we had a great combined birthday in between the dates to accommodate The Cat’s navy deployment schedule. I did a lot of extra work to make matching everything, but with the wind (and my forgetting to take pictures), not many people noticed. But we still all had a fantastic time. So I decided to take inspiration — but not guilt — from Pinterest this year. I was going to tone down the party planning to relieve some of the pressure.

Thing 1 was heading into second grade just after her 7th birthday. For the first time we let her invite friends over to our house for her party. I hate housekeeping, so getting ready for that is always a pain. I let her pick from a few themes I thought we could support easily. She choose an art party. No problem. This was my favorite offering. Projects to make and take instead of games and favors. Little to no decoration was needed besides brightly colored Dollar Tree tablecloths covering art surfaces. And, since our weather in August is fairly nice, we’d do much of it outdoors.

The only thing left to decide on was the cake. Some years I’m rather lazy and we just buy a cake from the store. After all, you can’t really do cake ahead of time, and there are just so many things that could go wrong — and usually do for me. But in addition to paring down my party expectations, I was also trying to pare down party expenses. So I decided to make cupcakes. But that part of me that strives to be Supermom couldn’t let it go at that, they had to be decorated nicely. Yes, I could let go of table centerpieces and personalized goody bags, but plain cupcakes just went to far. I went shopping for cute liners, cake mix and a can of frosting (yes, I really was slacking on this one, eh?), and found Cake Mate Writing Icing in classic colors. Perfect for an idea brewing in my head. So, I baked and frosted a batch and — after a quick photo session with the birthday girl — turned them over to Thing 1, who very nicely included her brother. They decorated them together. I think the result was pretty cool, especially with the photo mounted on a clear acrylic cupcake topper and the silicone footed baking cups. And it took no yelling from me for the kids to behave while I slaved away for their party. That puts them in competition for best cupcakes ever.

art cupcakes

The bar had been set. When Thing 2’s fifth birthday rolled around a month later, I had to include him in party preparations. He really wanted a video game party with his three local cousins. And his sister, I had to remind him. That was a bummer, because we only had 4 controllers, but he agreed to let her partake in the festivities. There were plenty of incredible video game cupcake ideas online, but I had to remember that I’d have a pre-K boy helping me. While browsing Pinterest, I came across this one I had previously pinned as a Halloween idea. Monsters, video games…close enough, right? Thing 2 thought so. So, again, I baked (in a great selection of new foil lined wrappers from Wilton and Reynolds) and frosted and he sugared and drew and placed eyes. The results, cute as a…monster.

monster cupcakesBoth parties were a lot of fun. And the cupcakes were universally praised as cute and very nummy. And I felt so much less stress that I remembered to take some photos. Looks like we could be entering into the era of a new tradition. Lazy mom parties. This is one I think I can keep up with.

Hump day crafts: drawing digistamps again

September 18, 2012

I’ve been working on drawing again — even though it’s my busy season at work, and I really should be spending time doing design and layouts. But there’s always the night before the deadline, right? I’ve been doing a few more tutorials, plus some work with Zenspirations. It’s fun, but I needed to see if I could draw something on my own. My biggest problem is scale. That and where to put limbs on humans and animals. I figured out that if I was having problems I could refer to a photo without actually tracing it. One problem solved (at least partially).

CDAC is having a digistamp challenge this month with a pets with fall (autumn) theme. I submitted a cat jumping after a leaf, but it was disqualified as being too close to the tutorial I followed. Still, I was pretty proud, since I had made some minor changes to the cat:

cat with leaf watermarked

I was pretty happy with it, and being disqualified almost made me walk away from the whole thing. Who was I to think I was talented enough to share my original art, anyway? But, after more thought, I decided to try again. Here’s what I came up with:

Autumn girl with dog watermarkedI can’t say it’s the best thing out there, but I like it. In part because it’s so personal. The idea came from a set of photos from a long time ago, although I shared one just last year. No, it wasn’t autumn (or maybe it was — hard to tell in Hawaii), and they were facing away from the camera, but the photos captured a sweet moment between my daughter and her best friend. Maybe if I can get inspired by moments like this more often I could come up with a lot more original ideas. Well, after I get caught up with work that is.

Happy crafting!

Back to school, back to blogging

September 5, 2012

I guess I took the summer off from blogging. The spring too, if you look at the date of the last post. It’s not that I haven’t been doing fantastic things I’d love to blog about. It’s more that I’ve been so busy doing fantastic things that I haven’t had time to blog. That and I’m lazy. But I’m sure that’s a secondary reason. Pretty sure, anyway.

So what have we been busy doing? Well, we started hiking with the kids. Which, in reality, means that we went out 2-3 days this summer and hiked — sometimes driving hours for that perfect view (and lots of DVD time in the car).  Still, that’s 2-3 days I couldn’t blog, plus a few more because I was fiddling with Photoshop actions, which I discovered this summer. Why, yes, you can see the results of both:

No, my camera can’t actually capture that blue of the mountains. But Lovely & Ethereal and Boost actions from Pioneer Woman can.

We also did a lot of sports. Thing 1 tried basketball in the spring. She surprised everyone (herself included) by making 2 baskets during the season. Not bad for a first grader. And, of course, soccer. I may not have mentioned it, but I’ve been part of a soccer family for over 30 years. And so my husband and kids are stuck being part of a soccer family, too. Things 1&2 are a little small to travel to tournaments every weekend (thank goodness!), but we still had practices and mini Wednesday tournaments every week. Some weeks the kids liked it:

and some weeks, not so much:

But even though they don’t always want to play, they always want to socialize. This was our first real summer full of playdates. Here, there, everywhere. Playdates don’t lend themselves well to blogging time. But the kids do enjoy them.

Yes, there have been other things. The Cat is on shore duty, so hanging out with him is up near the top of the list. Oh, there are plenty of other things up there too: work, crafts, cleaning, landscaping…the list goes on. But today the school bell rang the death knell of summer.

Which marks a whole new list of things I need to get to. Hopefully, blogging will make it to the top of that list occasionally.

Hump day crafts: Angry birds for the kids

March 7, 2012

Things 1 & 2 are addicted to Angry Birds. If a stranger said he had an iPad with that game on it, they would go anywhere with him. I blame G’ma and her new iPad she got for Christmas. It has a great cover with stand, so the kids frequently get to play on it when they visit.

At home, they don’t get to play so much, since I am not as willing to hand them my small, easily misplace-able iPod. But they still whine for it. So, when I want to get the kids off electronic devices, what do I do? Turn to the internet, of course. Make and Takes came to the rescue with Angry Birds pom poms. Hooray! The kids loved them. They don’t play with them as long as they do on the iPad, but that’s understandable, if disappointing. I guess we are in the 21st century after all, so I better get used to my kids wanting to zombie out in front of screens whenever they can. (Sigh.) As long as I can teach them to stay away from strangers with Angry Birds at least I’ll be doing a little part of my parenting job.

And now, photos from Thing 2’s lo-tech Angry Birds game:

  Setting up the game. He did not want my help or suggestions on how to set up the cups and craft/popsicle sticks.

Direct hit!

Happy crafting!

Hump day crafts: drawing digistamps

February 9, 2012

I mentioned my new drawing tablet in the baby shower post earlier. My wonderful sister got it for my for Christmas. It’s not one of those expensive brand name ones, thank goodness, because it’s affordable and works great!! (Find it here.) I’ve been wanting to work on my drawing skills and this is perfect for it. I do my drawing in Illustrator, because I’m not so good at it and it helps me hide that fact.

So, now I’ve got my drawing tablet, but I was either too lazy or too busy to do any drawing. Then up on my radar popped a digital drawing challenge. Over at the Crafters’ Digital Art Center (which I had joined awhile ago) they started challenges for anyone — even beginning artists — to enter digistamps. I was too chicken last month, but I’m gonna put some up this month. Yup, that’s what I’m gonna do. Uh-huh. Alright, already, I’ll just do it. The theme this month is “Critter Comedy or Crazy Characters”. Here’s the first simple one I drew with a baby bird checking out the new arrival:

Simple, yes? Still, I like it. I’m kind of working on trying out different styles I like to see what ones I really feel like I can pull off. My next one was based on a tutorial (like the earlier baby) from DragoArt.  Yes, I’m working through the kids section. Those other ones are really hard! So here’s my crabby valentine:

crabby valentine watermarked

Silly, yes? Well, maybe that’s my style. I guess time will only tell. For a bonus use, I’m using this crab on The Cat’s Valentine’s day card:

You can join CDAC to check out all the other digistamps and even join in the challenge. Have fun!

Hump day crafts: baby shower

January 25, 2012

So, my little adopted sister is having a baby this spring. And she and her boyfriend just moved into a house. So, a party was in order. G’ma was planning it, which meant I was helping. So I designed this invitation:

Well, that’s the front of it anyway. I printed them on double-sided matte photo paper, so they looked good! Yes, I drew the baby, but I’m not really much of an artist. I followed this tutorial using my new drawing tablet for my computer, and then had to do a lot of fixing in Adobe Illustrator. I’m showing this next pic, so that you know that you, too, could do this, because I am so not an artist. Here was my original version of the baby after following this tutorial:

Yup. That’s what the baby started out looking like. But after some retracing, fills, adjusting lines, adjusting points, adding ovals to fill in the eyes, I finally got to my finished baby. No, he’s not perfect, but I was pretty proud. And to make the most of the time I spent on him, I put him on everything. Mini candy bar wrappers, mini peanut butter cup circle stickers, and even table decorations.

Per request, I also put together a matching banner:

…and a few games, including dress the baby (with a talking baby doll) and pin the thing on the baby:

Then, just to save a few bucks and clear a few extra things out of my craft room, I made about a dozen prizes (my other sister added a few more). Some were fun, like “my sippy cup” wine glasses and beer steins and a mustache mirror, but of course I didn’t take photos of those. But here are two I did capture:


Yes, it all was a lot of work. And, although it may sound petty, I was upset occasionally about spending so much time on it. But, when it was done, I had fun and was glad I’d put the effort in to help people enjoy it. After all, isn’t that what half of crafting is about?

Happy crafting!

Food Friday: walking tacos

January 21, 2012

Hey ho, there Web world wanderers! My finished posts have been infrequent, but I have a bunch of drafts I’ve been working on that will be up soon. I just have to finish up the photos and decide if I should backdate them to when I actually wrote them. Ah, the difficult decisions of a blog owner. But all that is neither here nor there for you, so let’s get to what you’re here for: walking tacos.

How have I missed these? According to Urban Dictionary, they were on Letterman back in 2007. But I didn’t hear about them until last month. I read about them over on my favorite forum, SmartBuyGal, and, although details were sparse, thought it was a brilliant idea for our Nine O’clock New Year’s Eve Party. (At 9p.m. here, we can watch the ball drop on the east coast internet feeds.) In a very uncharacteristic move, I did not google it at all before the party. Simply bought some small bags of chips and taco toppings. Getting all Fritos bags was difficult, so we had a choice of Fritos, a couple kinds of Doritos, plus whatever else came in the pack. It was a hit! So much so that we’re having them again this weekend at a baby shower.

I totally forgot to take any photos at the party, but I did snap this photo (with Thing 2’s impatient hand sneaking in for his cup) a week later. The Cat was gone for dinner and I didn’t want to put a lot of effort into cooking for a hungry Thing 1 and a picky Thing 2, so we did 2 minute walking tacos by crushing up chips in a cup and adding Old El Paso Tortilla Stuffers and some nacho cheese. Quick and easy!


quick and easy walking tacos


Food Friday: Christmas goodies

December 23, 2011

I love Christmas for a lot of reasons: buying presents, getting presents, decorating, happy people, and, near the top of the list, baking and eating Christmas goodies. Yum, yum, yum!

This year, at 4 and 6, Things 1 & 2 were finally old enough I didn’t mind them helping out in the kitchen. We started out with snickerdoodles:

Unfortunately, I used the Joy of Cooking recipe, and it uses so much butter that they melted off the side of the baking stones. Refrigeration helped some, but I ended up later adding flour and what-not to bring it in line with my BHG cookbook recipe. That worked. Hooray for cookie number one finally working out!

I made a few other things: my own version of Festive Winter Bark with cranberries and pistachios in white chocolate for holiday colored bark; chocolate bark; gingersnaps; chex mix; muddy buddies; and I can’t remember what else, because my mom and I share what we make, so I forget what I did and what she did. I just remember what I else I’ve been eating: fudge, peanut butter kiss cookies, krumkake, swedish teacakes…the list goes on. In fact, tonight the kids made a new one we found somewhere online: candy cane coated pretzels. We dipped twisted pretzels in almond bark (chocolate and vanilla) and then crushed candy canes:

This was the perfect thing for them to help with from start to finish, plus they were delicious! Love the sweet, salty, minty thing these have going on.

I better get going on other Christmas things. Happy holidays!

Hump day crafts: First craft show coming up

December 1, 2011

Oh my goodness! This is a busy week! Not only is it a deadline week for my job over at the Bremerton Symphony, but my sister and I are putting up a table at a craft bazaar at a local church this weekend. Talk about stress! So as not to add to it, this will be a short post. Just thought I’d share a couple of things I’ve been working on and actually had time to take photos of.

Cookies for Santa set. I used the font Buckhorn and a Santa I converted from a coloring page. (I shared the Santa file over on SmartBuyGal forum, because they are so nice over there.)

Night before Christmas charger. This file was shared on SmartBuyGal by a wonderful woman. The font is Christmas Card II. The charger was a DollarTree find.

And, my favorite, the “you’ll shoot your eye out” tumbler. Part of me hopes this one doesn’t sell, so I can keep it for myself. This is a direct steal from the SBG forum.

Wish me luck and happy crafting!

Hump day crafts: circus birthday and photo booth

November 16, 2011

We combined Thing 1 & 2’s birthdays this year — at least for our public party. We wanted to postpone T1’s until The Cat’s submarine got back, and by then it just seemed easier to throw one big party. Easier, ha! I always think these things are going to be simple, but they just have a way of snowballing out of control.

We started with a carnival/circus theme. This was all because we had one bean bag throw game with a clown on it. Such humble beginnings. It ended up being a mini-midway full of games, a photo booth (complete with clown wig), plus a park full of activities. Not to mention the food and decorations.

Our photo booth was popular, even though it was too windy to put up the photo background. People who didn’t care just sat in front of the presents and others moved in front of the trees. We just left a basket of props and Thing 1’s camera on the table, and it was a help yourself activity. The photos that came out of that are my favorite of the day.

carnival photo booth

Another surprise hit were the balloons. First we got out the rocket balloons. Those are too cool. I highly recommend them for outdoor parties, as long as you have a volunteer to keep pumping them up. We had a teenage boy who patiently pumped while all the younger kids ran like crazy to catch them on their way down. Lots of fun for the preschool through primary grades crowd. We also had balloon sculptures. Nothing fancy. I bought the supplies (balloons and a pump) and printed lots of instructions. I practiced making 1-2 things so I could do it or teach someone else. To my great surprise, one of the families was very skilled at making hats, flowers and what-nots with the balloons. And they were more than happy to help. Hooray! This was a big hit for the kids and the adults who wanted to learn simple balloon sculptures.

We also had face painting, thanks to my sister’s tireless help. Well, I guess she did get tired, but it was time to shut down that booth anyway. Each kid only has so many public cheeks you can paint.

carnival party fun

Besides those ongoing activities, we had a midway full of carnival games. For this, I am eternally grateful to my brother-in-law. While I was trying to set up everything, he asked what he could do to help. Silly boy. I assigned him the games. We had a ball toss, with a clown board with holes, a spin the wheel, and knock down the milk bottles (actually water bottles). He did great at organizing them. And the kids got to win the prizes that filled their goody bags.

Of course, being the busy birthday mom, I didn’t get all the pictures I wanted to of my creations. Like all the circus themed signs for the food and tables. And the cake pops — my first try. They were red, white and blue with red and blue sugar sprinkles. Actually, those probably didn’t actually look that great up close, but from afar they looked cool, and they tasted great!  These were my inspiration.

The cake pops, kettle corn, apple slices, chips, and cupcake cake from Safeway weren’t going to be enough (we had 60-70 people stop by!), so we also picked up cupcakes from Safeway — in our circus colors, of course. I had made these picks to add to the extra cupcakes, with a little help from SVGShop over at MyGrafico. (Hint: sign up for emails about sales.) And, yes, some joker did stick them in the ground when they were done with their cupcakes.

carnival cupcake toppers

This was an extremely fun party. And I had so-so-so-SO much help from friends and family once we got to the park that the day was easier than I dreamed. I hope they all enjoyed themselves as much as I did.

Happy crafting!

(note: although this was published in Oct 2012, I kept the original 2011 publish date, since I had just let it languish in drafts until I collaged some photos.)