Fun Friday – Crayon and Sandpaper Iron-On Transfers

I am notoriously bad at crafts.  I think Pinterest is the devil because my crafts NEVER turn out the way they should, regardless of how easy someone claims the project is.  As such, I have just about given up trying homemade things lately.pinterest 2

However, I discovered a website (The Crafty Collaborative) that features several daring women who try out various crafts and recipes and then let you know the honest scoop on how “easy” they really are!  You get pros and cons from multiple ladies who are testing out the same craft so you know if it really is something worth trying!  I appreciate this on so many levels!

Their most recent art project was making a homemade iron-on design using only sandpaper and crayons!  This looked like a legitimate project to me and the ladies all testified that it was, so my kids and I sat down to attempt it too.

*To try this yourself, you will need the following items:

  • Crayons (old crayons would work great because they will get worn down on the sandpaper)
  • Sandpaper
  • An Iron
  • Paper Towels
  • A plain t-shirt, tote bag, pillowcase, etc. that you can put a decal on

I love that the materials for this project are all things that you probably have just lying around the house!  Cheap and easy? YES, PLEASE!

The kids sat down and colored a design on their individual sheets of sandpaper (we used the thin grit so it was easier to color on).

I forgot to take a picture of their pictures before I ironed, but you can see how well the sandpaper held on the colors even after transferring

I forgot to take a picture of their pictures before I ironed, but you can see how well the sandpaper held on the colors even after transferring

When they were finished, I flipped the paper over, lined it up on an old white t-shirt, and ironed it on.  It only took about 5 seconds to get the picture on the t-shirt!  Then, I put a paper towel over the t-shirt picture and ironed a few times to get the excess wax off.

A specially designed t-shirt in just 5 seconds!

A specially designed t-shirt in just 5 seconds!

Voila; new art shirts for school (we purposely tested this out on daddy’s old t-shirts because they would be used for messy art projects anyway and I was still a little skeptical of the outcome, given my history of crafting).

showing off their shirts

showing off their shirts

You do have to push down on the crayons a little harder than usual to make sure that the picture is really bright on the sandpaper or the picture will be faint (notice that my son’s shirt is not nearly as bright in certain spots because he didn’t color as hard).

And, if you want to put any words or numbers in the picture, you have to remember to write them backwards on the paper or they will show up backwards on the shirt.  My son forgot that rule and had to adjust his picture accordingly (BUT MOM, HOW DO YOU DRAW A FOOTBALL PLAYER WITHOUT THEIR NAME AND JERSEY NUMBER?! – a question that should have been asked before he started drawing seeing as though I only had 2 pieces of sandpaper at that time), which is why his looks a little wonky – he tried to turn the numbers/letters he drew into helmets on a football field, but he gets his artistic ability from his mama so it is what it is.

The whole point of my rambling is that the project was SO simple and required very little preparation, no specialty tools, little to no money, and very little work on my part – HOORAY!  pinterest 1It is definitely something that I would recommend trying with your kids the next time they get “bored” or if you need a cute gift for a grandparent or family member.

Thanks The Crafty Collaborative for reviewing this fun idea so that I was brave enough to try it myself!

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How To Tote a Car Seat Through An Airport Without Losing Your Mind (Or Spending A Fortune)

airplaneI’m the first to admit that the scariest part about flying cross-country with our three young children was thinking about how in the world we were going to get our 2-year-old (Big Trouble) to sit still on the flights.  I mean, he doesn’t sit still at home or nearly anywhere else, so why would I even think he would stay in an easily escapable plane seat?  Even though I have never used a car seat on a flight before, I knew I really didn’t have any other options if I didn’t want our flight crew to kick us off the plane.  My tiny “angel” had to be strapped in.

I started asking around and getting ideas from various people and friends and family and while the consensus was that it is a pain to use a car seat on an airplane (yes, it is, when you factor in the narrow aisles and even smaller areas for leg room between the seats while you are trying to set everything up), there are things you can use to get it around the airport without a lot of trouble; everything from specialty bags with wheels, to collapsable luggage carts, to specialized straps that you can buy to attach the seat to a rolling luggage.  The prices ranged from $19.95 to over $100.

Well, there was no way I was going to spend a ton of money when we hardly ever fly, not to mention that a lot of these products had to be ordered well in advance and had numerous reviews citing that they are not as easy to use as they appear so I would need to practice so that I don’t hold up the line at security and getting on and off the plane.  Um, no; having to practice something hardly makes it easy.  But, we had a TON of luggage that would be going with us and there was no way anyone could carry the car seat through the airport.  So, I looked around for an alternative and, guess what?  I found it very easily for $1.50 at The Home Depot.

all of our junk on the "helpful" luggage cart (this did not include the car seat or our three kids so you can imagine the struggles)

all of our junk on the “helpful” luggage cart (this did not include the car seat or our three kids so you can imagine the struggles)

The mystery item that was the secret to my success?  A bungee cord with plastic hooks.  Seriously.  That’s it.  It is an adjustable cord that allows it to go from 24″ to 42″ so it will fit any size car seat and rolling carry-on luggage (no, it was not created especially for this purpose but I had no idea what size I would need so the adjustable worked beautifully).  And, it literally took me about 10 seconds to strap together and less than that to take it apart.  Every time.  Absolute life saver in my book.

perfection

perfection

Just flip the seat upside down, place it on top of the luggage and strap on.  Never had an issue with it sliding or falling off or not wheeling correctly, etc.  And, the cord doesn’t have metal so it’s safe for you, security doesn’t think you are going to use it as a weapon on anyone else, and it’s easily stored in a back pack or the rolling carry-on until the next use.

The car seat worked well for us and Big Trouble was renamed “Just a Little Trouble Because We’re Flying At Awful Times” for the duration of our flights to the West Coast and back home again.

california7

Strapped in and ready for Take Off!

Seriously, if you are flying and need to bring a car seat, even if you just check it at the gate so that there’s no fear of losing it along the way, this is the way to go!!!  Now, if only I could have figured out how to strap Big Trouble to the bigger luggage…..

Homemade Halloween Costume Attempt – Part I

This year, my kids thought it would be fun to make their costumes (meaning they thought it would be fun for me to make their costumes). At first they wanted to coordinate by being a washing machine, dryer and basket of laundry (obviously the baby gets no real say in his costume so he is doomed to suffer along with the ideas of big brother and sister…at least for one more year).  But, when they saw the following picture of a brother and sister Wheel of Fortune team, it was a no-brainer as to what the final costume choice would be:

wheel of fortune

That’s right; they’re going as Pat Sajak and Vanna White.  Well, the parents of these kids are obviously WAY more talented than I am at homemade projects and I couldn’t quite figure out how they made everything so wearable so I sat the kids down and we came up with some alternative ways to create similar looks.  (Fancy dress and suit are no issue but we definitely need the wheel and the board to really be able to identify my crazy kids’ costumes).

I found a plastic cake decorating wheel at Walmart – this was key because it is light weight and it already spins so I don’t have to worry about that part.  Sigh of relief.  We found some sticky foam at Michaels, useful for decorating the wheel wedges.  Sticky foam is twice the price of regular foam sheets, but it is SOOOO much easier to arrange than trying to make foam stick to double-sided tape and then the wheel too.  My laziness (and the fact that I had a coupon) steered me directly toward the sticky foam and I am convinced that it was the greatest purchase of my life.

Lots of color choices for our wedges

I sat down and hand sketched a few sizes of wedges until we found one that allowed us to have an even number of wedges fit on the wheel shape.  As I have said before, I cannot draw nor can I actually cut a straight line to save my life so some of the wedges are slightly askew, but I’m going to ask you to look past that.

the finished wheel base

As this wheel was on the smaller side (as is my son), the wedges are also a little smaller so we had some issues figuring out what to use to complete the decorating.  I wasn’t going to go out and buy packs and packs of letters and numbers because the main point of homemade costumes is saving money, right?  So, we mixed and matched from my stash of scrapbooking things and I think it turned out to be fairly acceptable.

It’s not too bad, right?

Naturally, I did my best to make sure you could tell that this is homemade and not professional by making a few things crooked and by using a white crayon to write “bankrupt” because I didn’t have a white out pen.  I didn’t want anyone to get intimidated by my mad skills! In any event, this actually looks amazing considering that I did most of this while my little one was desperately trying to ruin my work help with everything.   Now we just have to add the spinning arrow and figure out how to attach the whole thing to the suit a la Flavor Flav’s clock so that his hands are still free to receive candy. (I wish I could figure out the hidden straps from our inspiration costumes, but I’m really quite tired and unimaginative, not to mention unskilled – feel free to give me any ideas if you have them!)

We recently moved on to constructing a puzzle board out of a large sheet of green foam which, at the last-minute, my daughter decided needed to be cut like the big board instead of just going with the rectangle shape.  Again, I need to remind you that I cannot cut straight lines, especially with an almost 2-year-old attempting to grab the scissors from me and slice my throat every 3 minutes.  Please don’t judge because my daughter hasn’t recognized that this isn’t perfect and she is VERY tiny so using plastic of any sort would probably have been too heavy.

yeah, I missed the top of the green board thanks to her new shape cutting scheme, but I think it might still work for trick or treating

We plan on just punching some holes in this bad boy and sticking some string through it so she can wear it around her neck while only slightly covering her “beautiful” dress.  (I am letting her wear a dress that was given to her by her older cousin because she has been begging me to wear it for a year, even though it is 2 sizes too big and completely inappropriate for every day use thus far – but for Halloween fanciness purposes, it is perfect). She is more excited about the dress than the letter board.  Go figure.

Everything is still a work in progress, but the fact that I have the main parts done before October 30th is an accomplishment in itself.  And, for the record, my toddler will be going as a Wheel of Fortune contestant.  Partly because the kids wanted him to fit in with their theme, and partly because he is not the type to enjoy any costume that involves headgear (as nearly all costumes do) or anything that he could possibly strip out of.  He will have a coordinating name tag and a shirt that says, “I’d like to buy a vowel”.  Yeah, that shows you the extent of my creativity.  Poor 3rd kid………..Stay tuned to see how it all comes together (or falls apart) as we approach Halloween!

Fun, Yet Practical Baby Gifts!

In previous posts I have mentioned my love of creating baby gifts out of practical items that every mother can use.  I have made items for craft shows and private parties, along with numerous personal parties for friends and family.  I don’t make a lot of money doing this, but it’s a fun escape from the craziness of mothering 3 little ones.

Recently, I have had a few people contact me for tips on putting together cakes and other baby goodies in original ways and I would love to share them with you.  The prices of most of the diaper cakes on the internet are ridiculous so if you are even the slightest bit crafty, you can absolutely make a fun, practical gift yourself for a fraction of the cost.  I am no professional designer, obviously, but I truly believe you can tell when someone’s heart goes into a project and that means a lot to people in this age of generic gift giving!  So, please feel free to use/tweak my ideas for your personal use and share pictures with me if you are inspired to create something magical!

diaper wreath for a hospital room door

  • Tip 1: If the person you are making the gift for has a baby registry, scour it early on in order to see if they have established a theme for their nursery because it will help you in deciding how to decorate.  The registry may also include specific items that the parents are looking for that fit the theme (such as rattles, bottles, pacifiers, etc.) and you can purchase those to use in/on your cake if you so desire.  You are purchasing from the registry while giving the gifts a unique twist so it’s a win-win.

    lady bug theme using items from a registry (including head bands, brush/comb, nail clippers, socks, etc.)

  • Tip 2: If you know the expectant mom very well, think about her own personal tastes and incorporate those into a gift.  I have done this for friends and family via the “pregnancy craving” route, which is why so many of my non-cake creations are still food items.  Some foods are easier made than others, but I’m convinced anything is possible if you have time to try!

    “sushi” made from layette items, diapers and washcloths

    “sub” made from blankets, diapers, washcloths and socks

    “lollipops” and “candy”

    fuzzy sock “cupcakes” (or “ice cream” if you add a spoon to the package) for the mommy

    diaper “cupcakes”

    If the personal tastes are of the non-edible nature (such as flowers or shoes), you can try to create something in that genre too.  I’ve always wanted to try to make a diaper jewelry set, just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

flowers made from a layette set

baby bootie made from diapers

  • Tip 3: Don’t forget the dad when creating the gift.  Everyone always oohs and aahs over the mommy and her growing belly, and rightfully so because it is no joke to be pregnant, but sometimes the dads get lost in the shuffle and it takes them a little longer to really get the feeling that they are about to become a parent!  I like to make a little daddy diaper kit that is silly, but funny, and helps the dad feel like part of the process too.  You can also get little bibs or clothing with sayings like, “I love daddy” or “daddy’s little helper” which you can include in the project in order to let the special guy know he is thought of as well.

    silly items included in the diaper changing kit (goggles, gloves, mask, tongs, diaper, wipes, powder, hand sanitizer, and diaper bag)

    all wrapped up with a cute poem (if you are interested in the wording of the poem, send me a message and I will get it to you)

  • Tip 4: If you can’t come up with a specific theme, there is nothing wrong with going down the traditional blue or pink path (or green/yellow if the gender is unknown).  It may seem less creative, but despite a lot of parents wanting to break down gender barriers, there’s only so many times you can deal with a stranger asking “how old is he?” when you have a brand new little girl – or vice versa.  Having a little pink or blue lying around can help avoid the mix up in the beginning when ALL babies look like little, wrinkly old men. (Be forewarned that some people are just dumb and still won’t get it, regardless of the obvious color scheme you present, but we’re going with the assumption that most humans will understand).

    twin “generic” cakes

  • Tip 5:Don’t use adhesive that will ruin any of the items that you are giving as gifts.  I have seen diaper cakes that are absolutely stunning in person, but they use so much glue/tape to hold it together that a lot of the diapers are ruined in the process.  This kind of defeats the purpose of giving diapers (or clothes or blankets, etc.) as it should be something that is easy to take apart and use immediately!  **8 oz. Bottles are the perfect item to place in the center of the diapers to hold cake tiers together with no adhesive.  Large cloth diaper pins (or safety pins) work well when you want to wrap a cute towel or sheet or blanket around something without destroying it.  The holes never show when you take the pin out and the items will stay in place.  Also, if you are wrapping up diapers individually in rolls, the little, clear plastic hair bands that you can find in packs of 500 at any store work FANTASTIC for holding the roll together and maintaining the integrity of the diaper at the same time.  Tying ribbon or tulle around the edges also helps to keep everything together during the transport of the gift and can also allow a safe surface to glue or tape tiny decorative items to, if need be!**

    everything is held together by hidden rubber bands, ribbon/tulle, and diaper pins!

  • Tip 6: Don’t overdo the decorations if you are making a cake!  It is so tempting to keep adding toy after toy and bottles and socks and all other sorts of goodies to the outside of the cake.  However, it’s difficult to attach all of these things in a permanent way and even if you can manage to do it, the cake starts looking really cluttered and overwhelmed.

    I got a little carried away with this basketball-themed cake…

    …and it continued on to the back of the cake

    The good news is that a lot of the items that you will want to include can be hidden within the layers of the cake (onesies rolled up just like the diapers; fork/spoon sets  pressed into the center of a diaper and hidden with a nice pair of scratch mittens; the top of a bottle covered in a cute skull-cap, stuffed animal, or bath mitten, etc.).   When it comes to decorating, less is more; just remember to add a tag listing all of your ingredients so the recipient knows everything that is included!

  • plenty of hidden treasures, but in a subtle way

I hope these little tips and pictures will come in handy and I hope you are inspired to make your own fun baby creation.  It seems to always be baby season these days, no matter who you are, so it’s fun to mix things up for each shower you are invited to attend!  If I can help with any specific questions that I haven’t answered here, feel free to ask!

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Teacher Appreciation Week

This is the first year I have had a child in “real school” and for that reason, I am fairly new to the whole process of teacher appreciation week (TAW).  I didn’t know if I was expected to do something for TAW and for the end of the year or if you choose one or the other.  After some input from my more experienced mommy friends, I decided to go with tiny gifts for all of the teachers in my children’s lives with an additional bigger gift for the 3 main teachers at the end of the year (which happens to fall just 2 1/2 weeks after TAW, go figure).

I am an inherently generous spirit who derives great pleasure out of giving gifts to others, but since Publisher’s Clearing House has yet to show up with my check, I am on an extremely limited budget when it comes to these teacher gifts.  So, what to do?  Head back to Pinterest (just can’t get away from there!).

I knew the gifts had to be at least ‘semi-homemade’ so I kept my search to simple things that seemed genuinely sweet (even if a little bit corny) and things that wouldn’t break the bank.  Here’s a few ideas that worked for me and the websites that have the amazing FREE printables to go along with the ideas!  Hopefully they will help inspire someone else who is searching for ideas for their kids too!

  • “Tea-riffic Teacher” water bottle – I kind of combined 2 ideas here (printables from Domesticated Lady and DIY instructions for a powdered drink package holder from Crystal & Co.) because I liked them both but you can actually just use one or the other if you prefer.  This idea involves printing a cute bottle label that says “for a TEA-riffic teacher” and adding a powdered package of Snapple to the package, either via the easy DIY holder or by simply tying it to the mouth of the bottle.

    water bottle label

    ok, this didn’t turn out quite as pretty as I hoped, but I ran out of time. It was easy to do by hand, though!

  • “Fortunate to Have You As a Teacher” Box – I happened to have some tiny, colorful Chinese takeout boxes that I got at a clearance sale at Michael’s a long time ago that I thought would be cute containers for gifts and this idea seemed like the perfect match!  I just printed out the lovely free printable from eighteen25 (via a guest post on How Does She)and purchased a bag of fortune cookies from the grocery store.  It’s a silly little gift, but it still says we took the time to think about you!

    fortune cookies

    little tag inside

    finished take out box with initial letter and thank you tag

  • “A&Wesome Teacher”drink gift –  This idea came from a blog on Nothing But Country originally intended for a Father’s Day gift, but the author was brilliant enough to realize that this would work for teachers too and she provided FREE printable labels!  I tweaked it a little because I used a box of freezable root beer pops instead of the actual soda bottles, but it can go with anything A & W themed!  We will be giving this one to my son’s PE teacher, who spends a lot of time outside!

    perfect for a man teacher!

  • “We Need S’more Teachers Like You” – One day each month I am asked to bring a small snack for my son’s class to enjoy.  I have done granola bars, fruit snacks, crackers, pretzels, etc., but when I saw this idea for s’mores on the glue sticks and tape website, I knew I had to make it for his class, especially since my day to bring snack falls on Teacher Appreciation Day! (The great thing about this site/gift is that she also provides tags for other people who you might need to give a little gift to every now and then and it’s so simple!)  I used a tag from Me and My Insanity for the snacks because they were smaller and easier to print.  I added some cute “owl miss you” labels from Lisa Storms to the chocolate in the bag.

    little packs for the kids and a bigger pack for the teachers

    “owl miss you” chocolate wrappers

I’m still working on the end of the year gifts for a few more teachers, but these turned out to be just what we were looking for and very easy to put together!  As always, Pinterest came through for me, even if it still made me feel inadequate because I was once again just stealing borrowing ideas from other, more creative people (we still have that love/hate relationship).

DIY: Find It!

About a year ago, my mom bought the game “Find it” for my son.  He absolutely loves the game and for weeks would challenge me to beat him!  There are various versions of this game available for purchase at the store so he always asks me to buy another one so he can search for new items.

Instead of spending the money on another store-bought version, we decided to make our own!  I searched the web and Pinterest to find out if anyone else had ever attempted this (of course they have, my creativity is always late to the game).  So, we took a cue from the creative people on Pinterest and saved a few of the liter sized sparkling water bottles that we had in our stash, bought some rice, and combed our house for any random toy items that would fit inside the bottle.

this is all you really need.

It just so happens that all of those little accessories that come with barbies, games, lego sets and other gifts that kids lose immediately upon receiving turn out to be quite handy when you are trying to make this game!  Hooray! Free junk to hide in our rice!  We gathered all of the trinkets up and took pictures of them so we would know what we were looking for in the bottle.

old buttons, charms, silly bands, craft supplies, etc.

Then, we rotated back and forth between adding rice and adding toys so that things could be distributed evenly.

starting our layers

We filled the bottles up to the top before we realized that you do need to leave some room in there so things can shift around (hey, it’s trial and error).  Luckily, dumping out a little rice is a quick fix and then you can seal the lid and get ready for finding fun!

You can see little goodies peeking through 🙂

These were so easy to make and the kids loved them so we plan on making more to give as gifts in the future.  We are going to print out a picture of the items in each one and decorate them with cute tags for that project, but that’s for another day.  For now, this was an easy game to make and should provide hours of fun at a tiny fraction of the cost of the original game from which this was inspired! (AND, it helped clean out some of the teeny toys that I always find myself stepping on all over the house!  Yeah!)

Alice In Wonderland Party Prep – Part 2 (Food)

Continuing on with my party planning woes, we now come to the food choices.  Our party was around lunch time so I knew we had to serve more than just snacks, but my daughter wanted “Alice-specific” food, not my usual go-to choice of pizza (which is what we did at the pirate party and it worked out wonderfully).  So, I headed back to trusty ol’ Pinterest for ideas.

Surprisingly, there aren’t a lot of themed foods (other than cake/sweet stuff) for most of the Alice in Wonderland parties out there.  People generally suggested finger sandwiches because of a tea party theme and things that said “eat me” and “drink me” on them and those ideas would work just fine for the main part of the meal, but I needed more, which meant that I was actually going to have to come up with some ideas on my own!  Blerg!

I sat down with my older two kids and we tried to come up with healthy-ish food that could be named after individual characters (It was also important that it be food that mommy could make herself without struggle and without having to throw it away when it didn’t turn out – this is always a challenge, even for a simple dinner).  It took some time before the menu was finalized, but our totally cheesy, themed menu was finally complete!  Here’s what our lucky guests got:

  • Drink me: In my fantasy world, all of our guests would have received antique glass bottles with a magical elixir and a tag that said, “drink me” on it!

so cute....but as it turns out, quite expensive

However, once I went to the craft store and searched online for something like this, I quickly realized that it would just cost too much (and would probably be dropped by one of the children, thus resulting in a trip to the emergency room) so I tried to find something comparable, but more practical.

not nearly as pretty, but these are made of plastic and could be purchased in 6 packs at the grocery store...they still say "drink me" 🙂

I also thought it would be cute to personalize some “wonderland water” bottles for the adults in case they weren’t interested in the “mad hatter punch” or “looking-glass lemonade” (told you it got quite cheesy with the labeling of the food), but I’m not great making my own labels, nor did I want to pay someone else to do it, only to have them get wet in the ice and peel away like I have seen at so many other parties.  So, I used checkerboard duct tape!

Note to self: this could also be used for a Cars party that may occur in the future

I must give credit to Pinterest because I never would have thought of this myself since I am certainly not a connoisseur of fine utility adhesives, but they make so many patterns now that I just went with it!  It worked much better because it was easy, cheap and water-repellent!

  • Sandwiches: I knew we would be doing some kind of sandwiches because if I couldn’t get pizza, that’s about the only other thing that could be done easily.  So, we decided on basic PB&J for the kids and chicken salad from Costco for the adults.  But how could we make this part of the theme?  For starters, we named the sandwiches “Tweedledum’s PBJ” and “Tweedledee’s Chicken Salad” – I really am so clever (or so desperate).  Then I saw a cute idea for creating a sandwich checkerboard with playing card suits toothpicks.

so cute and clever

I was pumped to make this, purchased dark and light bread, etc.  For some reason, it didn’t occur to me until 2 hours before the party that I didn’t have a square platter.  I had some large square plates, but they wouldn’t fit enough sandwiches for everyone, so we just worked with what we had and it turned out something like this.

a round checkerboard - things get a little crazy in Wonderland

  • Fruit: I wanted to make sure that I had something somewhat healthy to serve along with all of the usual sweet party goodies so I bought some grapes and some apples (we won’t debate how fruit also has sugar so not really as healthy as it seems since it’s the thought that counts).  How could we tweak plain apple slices and grapes to fit our theme?  Here’s how.

grapes on flamingo toothpicks = mini croquet sets

Apple slices, peanut butter, and marshmallow teeth = cheshire cat smiles

Neither of these were quite authentic, but the idea behind them was solid.   Yeah, that’s what I am going with.

  • One more nibbling food: I wanted to grab one more little thing to make sure there was an array of food, so I went with some buy one, get one free baked lays (I am also sticking to my theory that baked chips = super healthy snack) and labeled them “red queen bbq” and “white queen plain”.  Perfect.

    dueling chips

  • Cupcakes:  Believe it or not, Alice in Wonderland is not a popular enough theme to warrant grocery store chains having special cakes with those decorations.  So, you either have to order a specialty cake from a small bakery (which generally costs a fortune) or make something yourself.  I am an awful decorator and can only bake with a boxed mix.

    the absolute best thing ever invented

I freely admit this limitation because I think it will lower your expectations and then you could be pleasantly surprised with the outcome.  There was no way I could pull off the topsy-turvy cake covered in fondant that so many others seem to have mastered with very little effort.

wouldn't it be nice to be this talented?!

And, I wasn’t about to spend the time and money trying, only to end up baking cupcakes at the last-minute because I failed miserably.  So, I made the logical decision to just go ahead and bake the cupcakes because that’s where I would end up anyway.

It would have been very easy to print out cupcake toppers with different colorful characters (all of which can be found online with very little search effort – shout out to others on the web with talent that share their printables FOR FREE; I appreciate you more than you know) but of course that would have been too easy.  We had to try for something a little more difficult.  Originally, we were going to attempt this cute little guy from the family go website.

looks simple enough

But, once I started piling up all the different ingredients it would have taken to decorate 3-4 dozen cupcakes, it would have been easier to just get a cake from a baker.  Ugh. Then my daughter came up with the idea of having white rabbit cupcakes since it was almost Easter and we were seeing a lot of rabbit stuff around town.  Sounded good to me.  I found some gummy rabbit teeth candy and bought some plain white icing, cotton candy for the noses and chocolate covered raisins for eyes (again, pretending that these raisins are healthy to make myself feel better).

It was a master plan….that I could not seem to execute on my own.  The ears wouldn’t stay put, the teeth looked funky, etc.  Fortunately for me, my mom was able to come early so she could help me salvage what I could and I think they turned out okay, considering how I had almost destroyed them earlier that morning.

exact replicas of the white rabbit

I did get tired of decorating after a while and I figured most of the adults would want a more basic cupcake (or at least I hoped they would) so we just put some heart toppers that I had leftover from Valentine’s Day on the rest.  Good call on my part.

heart cupcakes that I wisely displayed in cute cupcake stands to distract from the fact that I had gotten lazy

  • Eat Me: And, of course we had to somehow incorporate the “eat me” idea, so we filled some heart-shaped boxes (also left over from Valentine’s Day – way to go me) with some candy and wrote ‘eat me’ on the lids.  Mission Accomplished.

I have lovely penmanship

All in all, we had a perfect amount of food, most of it tasted much better than it looked, including the cupcakes, and it was a lovely buffet.  Considering my food abilities and artistic talent, I’d say it actually went better than expected!

But, next year, we’re getting pizza.


Alice in Wonderland Party Prep – Part I (Decorations)

Well, my daughter’s Alice In Wonderland party was this past weekend and I will say it was pretty successful.  Thankfully, she is only 5 and just being the center of attention for a few hours is all she needs.  I desperately tried to make decorations that matched the theme, while staying on our very limited budget.  Of course, nothing turned out like the ideas that I found on Pinterest, no matter how simple the projects seemed in theory, but I have learned to accept my limitations.

Therefore, here’s a glance at what I did in the many weeks before the party, side by side with what I was trying to accomplish and how it all turned out.  It should give you a laugh.  But, in my defense, I did stay on budget thanks to my minimal DIY skills and power shopping months in advance so it turned out to actually be one of the least expensive parties we have ever done (currently patting myself on the back for the money aspect)! Enjoy.

Idea #1: Incorporating playing cards: I decided early on to just use a basic black/white/red “queen of hearts” idea for the food table so that I wouldn’t have to buy expensive plates, cups, etc.  As I have stated numerous times before, my creative ideas tend to flow hand in hand with my “how cheaply can I do this and still kind of pull it off?” brain.  I hit up Walmart’s generic party supply aisle and was quite pleased.  I now knew I had to use the playing card characters as inspiration to kind of pull it all together.  There was no way I could build the life-size men out of wood like some other parties I have seen,

An ideal decoration (obviously found on Pinterest)

nor could I realistically sit there and make a ton of tiny ones like those shown on the “children’s craft” ideas on the Disney website.  So, I decided just to buy a cheap deck of cards and string them on some left-over red and black ribbon (shout out to Becky who laughed when I told her that I would be recycling the pretty ribbon that she used at her son’s party earlier this year).

my spectacular card strings (used for the food table and the hearth on the fireplace)

I also ended up making “menus” for the food out of the leftover cards.

see my playing card labels...yeah, I'm that good.

Total cost: $.50.  Yep, I’m pretty awesome, even if my outcome wasn’t nearly as spectacular as it could have been.

Idea #2: Mad Hatter hats: I really wanted to be able to buy everyone huge mad hatter hats to dress up in at the party, but the cost of these hats really adds up, so I went with some tiny green hats (leftover from St. Patrick’s Day) that came in a multi-pack and let the kids decorate them with various art supplies I had lying around the house.

Some kids loved it, others could have done without it, but they ended up being cute decorations too.

Idea #3: Character tables – Alice in Wonderland is all about being eclectic, which totally works when you are on a budget, so I wanted to try to incorporate some of the other characters, even if they didn’t quite match the red/white/black general theme.  This turned out to be more difficult than I originally thought since our tiny city doesn’t have a Disney store and I didn’t want to spend a fortune ordering random stuffed animals and things we would basically only be using for 2-3 hours.  So, we improvised (I’ll elaborate on some of the homemade items in a minute).

White rabbit table (a white rabbit, a clock and the key to wonderland)

queen of hearts table (a heart "tree" and painted roses)

the caterpillar table (our version of the caterpillar and homemade mushrooms)

Idea #4: Talking flowers – I love the talking/singing flowers from the Disney version of the movie so I tried to find some ways to make something even remotely close to that and originally, this is what I was going for:

so cute in the little tea cups

However, I wisely tested this with some googly eyes on random silk flowers I had around the house and nothing made them stick to the flowers; not the adhesive already on the back, not glue, not tape, etc.  So, I found another plan: hanging cardboard flowers which the eyes did stay on!  These served double duty as they also welcomed the guest into the party room.  (Found a 6-pack on sale for $1 at Target! So lucky!)