Archive for the ‘Crafts’ Category

Xander Day

09 Aug

One year ago today, my son lost his best friend.  Xander‘s last act upon this earth was holding a 3-year-old girl above the water so that she could breathe, while he drowned.

Xander’s parents have been such an inspiration to us over the past year.  They have found the strength not only to move forward in the midst of a heart-wrenching tragedy, but also to use their son’s memory to make the world a better place.  They strive each day to emulate Xander’s compassionate nature, and have continually worked toward saving lives and making a difference in the lives of others.

In a similar vein, we wished to honor Xander’s memory today, and decided to implement what we have started calling “Xander Day.”  Jens and I both took off work today, so we had a full day at our disposal.  Every member of our family brainstormed to come up with acts of kindness we could carry out throughout the day.


We made and delivered teacher gifts.


We purchased school supplies for underprivileged kids.


The kids helped me bake cookies, which we put in these cans as gifts.


We delivered the cookies to neighbors.


The kids helped Jens make a donation to The Water Project

We also made donations to Goodwill.  We took a big box of shoes and clothes, Kaelin donated some books, and Koren picked out some toys to give. The kids even managed to do kind things for each other.  Koren took the initiative to go ask the hostess for a coloring page for Kaelin while we were at lunch, and Kaelin later volunteered to help Koren clean a mess he had made in the pantry.

It’s been a busy day, but one full of blessings.  Many of our neighbors weren’t home, so we branched out and met some people on our street that we don’t know.  We even discovered that one of our neighbors knew Xander as well.  And it warmed my heart so much to see the kids doing things for each other, and also making other people smile.  Today was an example to us that sometimes God can make blessings bloom in the midst of tragedy, and I hope that we are able to continue this tradition as we honor Xander’s memory in the future.  As always, we’re keeping Xander’s family in our thoughts and prayers, and look forward to spending some time with them soon.

And now I need to go put up the leftover cookies to keep my kids from raiding them.


Dino-Mite Party Decor

16 Jun

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Koren has themes already picked out for all his birthday parties through the age of 12.  This was the year of the Dinosaur Party.  I was super disappointed that the Herd Museum doesn’t have their Dinosaurs Live! exhibit up this time of year, but we probably would have melted in the heat anyway.

I thought he would want to outsource the party this year, but upon hearing about the possibility of a Dino Dig in our back yard, decided he really wanted to have it at home again.  I was fine with this because I have a feeling that our years of having home parties are limited and it will be all Pump it Up or Chuck E Cheese in the future.

Out of fear that the cake would melt in the sunroom, I opted to have the food in the dining room this year, which meant covering up my purple wall.  A few paper plates and table cloths did the trick.



I’m annoyed that I didn’t get better pictures of… well, anything.  But I was running behind schedule and having to take pictures in between greeting the guests and everything was kind of a blur.


The cake was fun, and I finally figured out how to do palm trees that are structurally sound (enough) and look decent. As long as I can keep the cat from playing with them.





Our standard “plywood-over-a-coffee-table” worked nicely this year also, with JUST BARELY enough room for all the attendants.  We moved our actual dining table out to the sunroom, where it served nicely as a come-and-go crafts table.


I usually don’t bother with party hats, but these little triceratops were too cute to pass up, and stood up when placed over a punch cup.



And of course, food.  This was a big party day, and a lot of the kids (including mine) were attending multiple parties this day… so I couldn’t in good conscience have nothing but cake to offer.


…Ok, so maybe Jello Jigglers aren’t exactly a healthy alternative, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to use my dinosaur cookie cutters.






We had very little food left over, which made me very happy.  I hate having to find room to store a bunch of leftovers after a party.

And last but not least, party favors.  I put the kids to work assembling these, so I hope everybody got the same distribution of goodies inside.



Craft Project

08 Oct

Koren had a day off school today.  I’m finding that the problem with having kids in two different schools is that they have different days off.  I’m really looking forward to only working around ONE school calendar next year.

Anyway, I was able to work from home this day, but still had to work.  So we went to the craft store and stocked up on projects to keep him busy.  He chose a pirate ship, so we spread out the activity map and he painted and painted. (What?  Doesn’t everybody do craft projects in their underwear?)

When Kaelin got home from school, she helped also.

The finished product:

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Posted in Crafts


Ahoy Matey! Pirate Party Decor

09 Jun

For Koren’s fourth birthday, he chose a pirate theme.  My goal was to go for “cute pirate” rather than “scary pirate” for obvious reasons.  I originally intended to stay completely away from any skull and crossbones imagery.  Unfortunately, I soon discovered that it is pretty much impossible to throw a pirate party without the famed Jolly Roger.  Still, I tried to minimize it as much as possible.  After an obscene amount of time spent on Pinterest, I narrowed down my ideas and ended up with the following:


The Setup - before the chaos ensued.

It was going to cost me over $100 to rent a bunch of kiddie-sized tables and chairs for a few hours, so I sent Jens to Home Depot for a cheap plank of plywood. We placed it over a coffee table and covered it with a tablecloth. In lieu of chairs, I used foam puzzle floor mats for the kids to sit on - which also helped protect the carpet.

Kids' table, complete with Ship Sale Sandwiches (thanks Mom & Dad for the PB&J cutouts!) and Scallywag Shish Kabobs

Cake Table with cardboard ship's mast. I'm pretty pleased with the ship's mast, which is part of a cardboard ship I plan to assemble for Koren to play with in the near future. Kaelin got a cardboard tower playhouse as souvenir from her Tangled party, and it was something both kids were able to appreciate for months after the party.

Cake Table

The Cake. See the previous post for details on this bad boy.

"Oz-ARRRG-ka" water ... Get it??? ARRRG! That was Jens' idea. I can always rely on him for a good pun. Or a bad one.

Fish & Chips (Goldfish crackers and carrot chips)

Cannon Balls (chocolate donuts)

Jolly Roger Jello (blue jello with an orange slice, a recycled idea from Kaelin's Tangled Party)

Because you can't have a pirate party without Pirate's Booty.

Blackbeard's Berries - these were a hit with the kids.

It kind of bugged me that my bowls said "POPCORN" on them, so at the last minute I sliced up some thank you notes and taped over them. Because I'm a little obsessive like that.

Pirate's Loot Table

I was pretty pleased with how everything turned out.  After weeks of planning and assembling, it was finally time for the festivities to begin!



Oh Baby!

08 Apr

Last weekend we enjoyed a surprise baby shower in honor of my cousin Julie who was in town visiting with her sisters.  It was kind of a double surprise:  Julie didn’t know she was having a shower…

And none of the sisters knew their mom (my aunt) would arrive, having made a covert op flight from the east coast as well.

The shower was tons of fun and everyone had a really good time.  Even the kids:


I was asked to make a diaper cake for the event.  But I got a little bored with the idea of another diaper cake, so I decided to go for a diaper stroller instead.

It went surprisingly well, considering that I was kind of making it up as I went along.  I watched a few tutorials on making diaper strollers, but became frustrated when I saw the ladies hot-gluing diapers into place.  Isn’t the point of a diaper cake so that the mom-to-be can actually USE the supplies that go into it?  I’m happy to say that every inch of my diaper stroller is useable for actual baby care.

Because I clearly have too much time on my hands (huh?) I also volunteered to make a cake to match the diaper stroller:

The colors look a little odd because of the lighting.  But you get the general idea.  Oh, and cake pops, because when you have extra cake laying around you have to make cake pops.  I’m pretty sure that’s a rule.

Even though I hate cake pops.

Unless they’re chocolate.

Honestly, I was a little disappointed with the finished cake.  It wasn’t my best creation and from up close looked kind of … sloppy.  Jens says I’m too much of a perfectionist when it comes to my cakes.  But I have STANDARDS.  And this one didn’t quite measure up.

At least it seemed to go over pretty well with the guests.


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Posted in Cakes, Crafts, Family, Photos


A Tangled Birthday

27 Oct

I hate the Disney princesses.  Not the movies or the characters.  Just the general commercial end of Disney.  Everything is PINK! and BUSY! and HIDEOUSLY UGLY!

I don’t understand why an empire as big as Disney can’t hire designers capable of making a t-shirt/toy/party decoration that doesn’t look like somebody threw up half a dozen Easter eggs and a bottle of Pepto Bismol.

So when Kaelin told me she wanted a princess birthday party this year, I had to intervene.  I told her she could pick ONE princess.  I can only handle one princess at a time.

She picked Rapunzel.  And thus, we embarked on a Tangled Birthday adventure.



Rapunzel is actually a great Disney princess party theme because the biggest supporting character is a guy.  So it can still be relevant to little boys that might attend the party, and we had several.

The other thing I like about a Tangled party is that you can totally get away with minimal or no pink in the decorations.  I went with purple, and pulled in some green and yellow for our theme colors.

A little Mardi Gras perhaps, but I still think it worked well.

In the movie, yellow suns on purple bunting are strung throughout the kingdom, so I spent a few dollars on a purple pennant banner and spray-painted a sun on each flag using a stencil I cut out of matte board.  An easy project that yielded great results.


In addition to the bunting, I also hung lanterns from the ceiling, because you know, FLOATING LANTERNS!

I brought in the “sun” theme again on the table with little yellow paper cups, which I filled with berries and grapes, because I just can’t bring myself to fill kids up with sugar and cake without providing at least SOMETHING that contains actual nutritional value.  I also put vegetables and ranch dip in a frying pan on the cake table.  Nobody touched them.

I also used this idea and made little boats out of oranges and blue Jello.  The kids kind of got short-changed on the Jello though because I completely overestimated how many cups 2 large boxes of Jello would fill (hint: it’s NOT 24).  I should have bought at least 4 boxes.

For favors, I tried to stick with things that were somehow remotely related to the movie.  It was harder than it sounds.  I caved and bought ugly Rapunzel party blowers.  Rapunzel likes to paint, so we went with mini paint sets, which were popular. For the magic flower in the movie, everybody got a “grow your own” flower pot.   The girls got tiaras, while the boys got Tangled balloons.  And everybody got bubbles and glow bracelets, because you can never go wrong with bubbles and glow bracelets, right?

To make sure none of the boys got sent home with tiaras, I put Rapunzel stickers on all the “girl” favor bags, and Flynn stickers on all the “boy” bags.

Instead of birthday candles, we opted for party poppers.   I covered them with silver paper and set a “roof” on top of each one to make it resemble a tower.  At the end of the “Happy Birthday” song, everyone got to “pop” their tower and confetti exploded all over the room.  Messy, but nothing a broom can’t handle.  And they were a huge hit with the kids.

It’s funny, when you’re planning a Tangled party, you start seeing “towers” – or things that could be turned into towers – EVERYWHERE.  For instance, I got a daily deal for half off a cardboard play house:

I took one look at it and thought: “That’s not a shuttle, it’s Rapunzel’s Tower!”

 And so it was.

Thanks to the talented Thomas Swinden, who spent hours painting it for me, it made a great addition to the party decor and the kids had a blast playing in it throughout the party.  And now Kaelin has a lasting birthday present to play in.

Stay tuned for my escapade with the Tangled Tower Cake


Baseball Cake

25 Jun

For Koren’s birthday cake, I decided on a baseball theme.  I started with a dome-shaped cake using Wilton’s Sports Ball cake pan.

I iced the dome, then covered it with blue fondant that I made out of marshmallows.  I find marshmallow fondant to be much more edible than the store-bought kind.

I cut the bill out of cardboard and covered it with the fondant as well, then fastened it to the hat.  I then added embellishments such as the button on top and used a needle to mimic the stitching on the hat.

I cut the home plate out of sheet cake and covered it with white fondant.  I then piped multi-shaded green “grass” onto the cake board with Wilton’s “hair” frosting tip.

I added a layered fondant patch to the front of the cap and placed it onto the base, using a piece of cardboard to support the bill and keep it lifted.

I then added some baseballs – which were essentially cake balls covered with marshmallow fondant.  I drew “stitches” on with edible markers.  I did learn that you have to be picky with the brand when you’re using edible markers.  I tried to be thrifty and started with Betty Crocker markers but they bled so badly that I had to go back and spend the big bucks on Wilton markers.

The glove was kind of a hasty afterthought because I had an extra dome cake and didn’t know what to do with it.  I drew the features on with icing and used a needle to imitate the stitching.

The finished product:


The result:

Everything but the cap was eaten at the party, and the rest was finished off at a gathering a couple of days later.  Overall verdict: Success!


Valentine’s Day

14 Feb

I received an unexpected compliment today, when another mom at the kids’ school told me I was a mom who had it all together.

I can assure you, this is the first time such a thing has ever been said about me.

She was referring to the fact that it was Valentine’s Day and I had the kids dressed in red and had brought a basket full of handmade Valentines for the class.

True Confession: the fact that the kids were wearing red today was nearly pure coincidence and had more to do with where I am in the laundry cycle (I recently washed reds) than any superb planning on my part.

This was my first year of attempting the handmade Valentine project, and it was nearly a disaster.

The goal was homemade sugar cookies individually packaged with a hand-made header.

They look simple enough, right?  Until my mixer broke and I had to hand mix the cookie dough.  Like, with my hands.  I have never worked so hard for a batch (or three) of cookies in my life.  Sugar cookie dough is tough and by the end, my arms were sore.  And did you know that when you can only bake 6 giant cookies at a time, it takes FOREVER to bake 40 of them?

Then I found out that the class had more kids than I was originally told, and I had to make some additional headers… which wasn’t a huge deal until my printer quit functioning.  So about a quarter of the class got hand-written tags.

Overall, I think the project turned out to be a success, even though it was more work than I intended.  I’ve even mastered the oven in this house, which doesn’t close properly, cooks about 50 degrees above the temperature it’s set at, tends to burn the bottom of the pan, and generally sucks.  And Kaelin had a ball being the designated Sprinkles Girl.  At least, when I wasn’t having to stop her from shoving handfuls of sprinkles in her mouth.

Happy Valentine’s Day!  I hope yours was as pleasant as ours.