Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve Cookies

It's New Year's Eve! The last day of 2012.

How do you spend New Year's Eve?  I usually curl up on my couch and watch "When Harry Met Sally" and go to bed by 10.  But this year, I'm going to attempt to stay up ALL NIGHT with the teens from my church.  I made these cookies for their party.  Maybe the bright colors will keep me awake.  Or maybe the sugar will.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Skylanders Tenth Birthday Party

My son had some friends over to celebrate his 10th birthday Skylander-style!
When the boys arrived, they started out by making their own bag clips using shrink plastic.  We set out some Skylander books and posters for them to trace, or they could design their own.

The boys really got into this activity!  After the charms were shrunk, we added the carabiners so they could be used as bag clips on the boys' backpacks.  I think they turned out super cute!
The bag clips went into their favor bags.  I found blue lunch sacks and stuck a label on them to make the favor bags.  The label says "Skylanders: Aaron's Adventure" which matched the invitations and the banner.  The bags also contained some gold coin candy, a pencil, a bouncy ball and some Starburst candies. (To see my post about making the birthday banner, click here.)

The boys then went downstairs to play some games.  I didn't get many pictures of the games but I'll try to describe them.

1. Wrecking Ball's Tongue - I purchased some Skylander's trading cards and some sticky hands party favors at Target.  We scattered the cards on the floor and the boys tried to pick them up using the sticky hands.  They got to keep the cards as party favors.

2.  Trigger Happy's Target Practice - We lined up some stuffed balls and the boys took turns shooting at them with a nerf gun.

3.  SkyStones - We made our own version of the Sky Stones mini game in the Skylanders video game.  My husband cut some wood blocks and drew arrows on them with a sharpie.  He drew a grid on some paper for the playing surface and they used different colored chips to indicate which stones they had won.

After the games, it was time for cake!

Of course, I had to attempt a Portal of Power cake since it was a Skylanders party.  I personally think fondant tastes terrible, so I used buttercreme icing  and made a cake that was more "suggestive" of a Portal of Power rather than an exact representation.  The boys knew what it was and it tasted good!

To see my post on Skylander sheep cupcakes, click here.
 To see my post on Skylanders Elements sugar cookies, click here.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

That Crazy Elf - part 2

Our Elf on the Shelf *usually* remembered to do something silly each night.  Here's where we found him on the days leading up to Christmas.
On the ceiling fan
Having a spa day in the shower
Swinging on the tree on a SPI-belt (Spencer's insulin pump pack)
In the nut bowl with a sign that says "I'm nuts!"
Packing Spencer's lunch box with an onion, olives, bouillon, and spicy sauce
Roasting a mini marshmallow on the mantle
Riding Toothless the dragon outside
Then on Christmas Eve, he was sitting by our nativity set reading the account of Jesus' birth from Luke 2.

The Elf is fun, but the reason we celebrate Christmas is to remember Christ's birth.  You may notice there's no baby Jesus in the manger in the above photo.  That's because he's wrapped in a gift box.  The first present our kids open on Christmas morning is the one containing the baby Jesus figurine.  We like to take a moment to remember that He's the best gift of all.
(To see what else the Elf has been up to this year, click here.)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Sheep Cupcakes for Skylander Party

One of the funny parts of the Skylanders video game is the sheep.  They get in your way and you can squash them or torch them or whatever you feel like.  So for Aaron's Skylander-themed birthday, I thought it would be cute to make sheep cupcakes for the family.
They came together quite quickly.  Here's what you need: white (or yellow) cupcakes, white buttercream frosting, and chocolate cake balls.  I had some chocolate cupcakes leftover from something in my freezer, so I mashed up 4 of them with some chocolate canned frosting to make the cake balls that would become the sheep heads.  (1 chocolate cupcake made 3 heads.) Then I made a dozen white cupcakes from my favorite box mix. (We're gluten-free here so I used Betty Crocker's gluten free yellow cake mix.)  I use the buttercream frosting recipe from Wilton.

Step 1: Load the frosting in a piping bag with a #7 tip and pipe small dots around the rim of the cupcake.
Step 2:  Form the cake ball into an oblong shape and stick it on top the cupcake.
Step 3:  Pipe some more small dots around the head to help it stay in place.
Step 4:  Finish piping dots to fill in the rest of the sheep.  Then pipe two dots on the head for eyes.
(I tried to buy the frosting eyes from Michaels, but they were all out.)

Here's the birthday boy with a sheep cupcake!
To view my post on Skylander Elements cookies and party decorations, click here.
To see my post on Skylander Portal of Power cake plus party games & activities, click here.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

That Crazy Elf

Here is what our Elf has been up to so far this year.
Watching his favorite movie
Decorating the antlers to look like a reindeer
Hiding in a glass in the cupboard
Riding the chicken on top the kitchen cupboards
Playing with baby cousin's toys
Sleeping in the Kleenex box in the bathroom
Trying to look like Santa Claus
What has your elf been doing?
(To see what else our Elf has done this year, click here.)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Skylanders Elements Cookies Plus a Birthday Banner

My ten-year-old requested a Skylanders-themed birthday this year.  I made him some sugar cookies to take to school for his class birthday treat.

The designs on the cookies show each of the 8 elements in the Skylanders universe: Life, Undead, Earth, Tech, Magic, Water, Fire, and Air. 
To make the cookies, I outlined each circle with black royal icing using a pastry bag with a #3 tip. Then I filled it in with a dark blue flood icing from a squeeze bottle.  (To make the dark blue, I mixed some black icing into my royal blue icing.)  I drew the designs using a light blue icing. (I only used a little bit of the royal blue food coloring to get that shade) using a pastry bag with a #3 tip.  The consistency of the light blue icing was somewhere in between outline and flood consistencies.  Some people call it "20 second icing".  It's thick enough that you don't need to outline first, but thin enough that it spreads a little.
I also made a birthday banner to match the Skylander's theme:

The ends of the banner are a cloud shape I cut on my Cricut (Artiste cartridge from Close To My Heart).  I modified the Skylander's logo to say "Aaron's Adventure" instead of Spyro's and glued that logo to the clouds.  The banner's circles and letters I also cut with my Cricut (Art Philosophy cartridge from Close To My Heart).  In between the words, I put a picture of Zap -- one of my son's favorite characters from the Skylander's game.
Since turning 10 is a big deal, I wanted to add some more 10's to the banner.  I cut out some more clouds, circles and numbers and hung them with baker's twine to make these little accents.  Then I hung a Skylanders character poster on the wall.  This poster comes with the game for Wii, or you can do like I did, and print it from
Our Elf On The Shelf wanted to get into the birthday action, too, so he decorated Aaron's door with a "10" made out of crepe paper and then draped some more crepe paper on the stairs!  You can see his little red hat sitting on the stairs in this photo.
I'm busy planning a Skylander's party for a few of Aaron's friends and I'll post more Skylander's fun soon!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Celebrate the Release of the Breaking Dawn Part 2 with a Twilight Vampire Party

Getting ready to see the Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 in theaters next week?  Gather all your vampire girlfriends and watch Part One together at a black-and-white-themed party!

I transformed my family room into a haunt fitting for vampires, covering my kids' Star Wars posters with Bella, Edward, and Jacob.

I also covered my husband's Red Wings posters with black and white fabric and hung some white Christmas lights over that.  (The white fabric is my mother-in-law's old curtains she wasn't using, and the black fabric is a sheet.)  Unfortunately, my camera showed no love for this project and refused to take an un-blurry photo of it.

The food table was the most dramatic part. I bought a white sheer curtain on clearance and hung it with multiple strands of white icicle lights behind it to make the backdrop. I placed an arrangement of black & white flowers and white feathers along with two black taper candles on the table.

The food even fit with the black-and-white theme.  I served cupcakes, Oreos, popcorn, cheese & crackers, and chocolate fangs.

Around the room were other small touches, like white candles, a white feather boa, and the sheet music for Bella's Lullaby was placed on the piano.  I made little collages of Bella and Edward from each of the previous four movies and hung them on the wall leading down into the family room.

I had prepared two quizzes for my guests: one to sort the vampires into their various covens, and one to match the vampires to their special gift.

The guest with the most correct answers won this gift bag filled with vampy prizes. 

After the party, my guests received a little party favor bag. 

I made some wrappers featuring each of the book covers in the Twilight series and used them to cover some Hershey's Nuggets candies.  I think they turned out cute, although the shiny silver wrappers made it difficult to take a picture!

Here we are at the party!  Some friends even dressed like members of the Volturi.  I love that the camera decided to give us all red eye and I didn't bother to fix it.

To see my black and white invitation to this party, click here.

To see last year's Twilight party, click here.

To print your own copy of the quizzes, here they are!

Free printable vampire quizzes for Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 party activity.

Friday, November 2, 2012

DIY Wizard101 Wraith Halloween Costume

My Spencer, the same kid who wanted a Wizard101-themed birthday party this past summer (see post here), wanted to be a Wraith for Halloween.  He likes to stretch my creativity.

The robe is pretty straight-forward.  I used the Simplicity 5512 Costumes for Kids pattern and some black fleece.  (This pattern is awesome, by the way.  I've used it for a number of costumes for my kids over the years!)
The staff was also fairly easy.  I already had a wooden dowel from Home Depot leftover from something.  I cut a crescent moon shape out of cardboard and taped it to the top of the dowel.  My husband reinforced it, and made it look cooler, with silver duct tape.  We didn't have time to paint the dowel black, but it worked.
The wings were the biggest challenge.  I'll try to explain how they came together the best I can! 
The Wraith in Wizard101 seems to have wings made out of feathers.  Well, feathers are expensive.  So I used some creepy-looking fabric that I had snapped up as a remnant.  The fabric came with "holes" in it already.  (In retrospect, I thought that a black garbage bag would have worked, too.  You could really shred it and it might look more like feathers than the fabric did.  And it would be waterproof!)
For each wing, I took a strip of the fabric and sewed it on three sides like a pillowcase.  I just stitched on the top of the fabric -- I wasn't going for neatness here.  Then I snipped the edges with pinking shears.  I draped the "pillowcase" over a black hanger with the open side at the bottom.  I had left a  gap in one side seam for the hanger hook to stick out.

My husband figured out how to attach the hangers to something Spencer could actually wear.  He took an old backpack that we had gotten free from somewhere and cut off the backpack part leaving just the black straps and black back.  He pierced a hole in the strap fabric to insert the hanger hook (which he had straightened) and held it there with a zip tie.  (See photo below.)  He also attached the hanger to the back of the backpack with another zip tie at the bottom of the wing.

To keep the wing tops separate, he stuck a wire between them. The wire was taped to the hangers and poked through the fabric.  You can see the wire in the photo below, but it wasn't noticeable when Spencer wore the costume.
Once the wings were all attached to the backpack, I went after them with the scissors and made the fabric into more of a wing shape and I cut strips in the fabric to better resemble feathers.
Here's another look at the wings and the robe hanging on a hanger.
At trick-or-treat time, with the skull-like face paint, Spencer looked downright terrifying!

Quick Mantel Change

Ever notice how time seems to fast-forward once school starts and it doesn't slow down until January?  Yeah, me too.  Before my  kids were in school, I spent a lot more time at home and could play around with flower arrangements and whatnot on my mantel while the kids threw toys around.  Now that they're in school, I feel like I'm never home and my seasonal decorating has taken a back seat to soccer practices and volunteering in the classroom.

Once the end of September neared and I saw that my mantel still sported the red, white, and blue from the summer (see my post on the USA banner made from old jeans!), I figured it was about time to change it up for fall.  But I didn't want to go full-on Halloween; I wanted something that I could leave up there for longer than a month.

I went with owls.  You can't go wrong with owls, right?  They go with both Halloween and fall in general.  Plus they're all trendy right now and I have quite a collection of them.  I arranged some birch logs (thanks, Dad!) and my owls and a feather boa on the mantel.

When Halloween got nearer, I made it a bit creepier by draping a skull printed on cheesecloth-type material over the mirror.  His red eyes went nicely with the red candles that were still sitting there from summer.

Now that Halloween is over, I took down the skull and red candles.  I put up a brownish-orange candle and matching pumpkin instead.  And I put my little fall snowman in the front.  In less than 5 minutes my mantel went from Halloween to Fall/Thanksgiving.
Yes, I live in a part of the country where snowmen are perfectly acceptable as fall decorations.  And I like it that way!
Now that I think about it, all the white in the birch logs and owls might work for Christmas and winter as well!  Considering how busy December is, I'm guessing I'll make it work!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn part 2 Party Invitation

Only a few weeks left until the premiere of the Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2!  Whenever a "part 2" of a movie comes out, it's almost required to get together with friends and watch "part 1", right?  Yeah, I think so, too.  So I'm planning a little black and white soiree next week for all my Twi-hard friends.  Here is the invitation I made for the party.

To make these, I purchased a package of blank black cards and envelopes from the craft store.  I layered a piece of grey cardstock and a piece of black & grey dotted cardstock on the front with a lacy ribbon where the 2 pieces join.  The flower was made by punching circles from pages in my Twilight book. (Yes, I destroyed a book.  But I still have the digital version on my e-reader!)  I found a tutorial for making the book page flowers on Under The Table and Dreaming by Stephanie Lynn who actually made book page flower ornaments!  Then, to finish it off, I hand-wrote the word "forever" on a scrap of black cardstock with a white gel pen, snipped the ends like a little flag, and tucked it in under the flower.

For the inside of the invitation, I typed up the party details in Photoshop Elements and printed them out on white cardstock.  You need a white gel pen to address the envelopes, or maybe white stick-on address labels.  Obviously, regular pen won't show up on black envelopes!

The invitation is just a preview of the party to come!  I'm sticking to a black-and-white color scheme and I plan to use some other book page crafts for the decorations.  I'll be sharing more over the next couple weeks.

To see last year's Breaking Dawn part 1 party, go here.

(Edited to add: to see this year's Breaking Dawn Part 2 party, go here.)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pink Ribbon Cookies

Since 2007, my mother-in-law has been fighting (and winning!) her battle vs. breast cancer.  I made these cookies for her.

The cookies, of course, feature the pink ribbon that has come to symbolize breast cancer research and awareness.  The heart is to let her know how much we love her.  And the wings symbolize the hope that there will one day be a cure for this disease.

I bought the heart-with-wings cookie cutter on clearance after Valentine's Day one year, and I thought it was perfect for this.  To decorate cookies like this, start by outlining the heart with white royal icing using a #3 tip.  Then outline the wings with pink icing and a #3 tip.  Flood the hearts with thinned white icing and flood the wings with thinned pink icing.  After the white dries (overnight), pipe on the pink ribbon using a #7 tip.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Just Ducky First Birthday

My sweet niece just turned one.  She doesn't say very many words yet, but she can say "duck!"  So I made her a rubber ducky birthday cake and cookies.

The cake was a 2-layer round cake that I covered in baby blue frosting.  I drew the ducky outline with a toothpick and then piped the yellow and orange frosting with a star tip.  The eye is an M&M.

She thought it was pretty interesting.

 And even checked it out with her toes!
I was in a big hurry, so this is the only picture I took of the cookies.  They are chocolate cookies with yellow royal icing.  Once the base layer was dry, I piped on the eye and wing detail with the same yellow icing.  I like the tone-on-tone look.

My boys made up a few games to play at the party.  Here is the birthday girl after she found all the duckies that were scattered around the living room.  So nice to see she has her ducks in a row.