Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Project: Some Valentine Dinner Fun

My good friend Melissa, over at My Creative Stirrings came up with this cute idea and I thought I'd spread the love. I'm always looking for fun things to do with my kids to make the holidays special, and this is perfect.  After all, its usually all the little things added up that make special times so memorable.

To see her instructions click, here.

You fill a bowl, or a vase in my case, with strips of paper.  Each paper has an "activity" listed on it.  There are 14 strips.  You pick one at dinner each day to add a little fun and valentine flair to your meal.  She has some really super cute ones.  So go on over and check it out!

In the meantime, here is my version
 Wordstrips cut,
 and piled in a vase,
that is tied with a cute ribbon and some hearts.

Hooray for holidays!  I failed horribly at sharing our Christmas fun with you - and since its too late now, I will have loads and loads to share next year.  Maybe I'll post a little Christmas in July.  But I'm determined not to fail quite so miserably for this holiday.  So stay tuned for more Valentine fun!


Project: Girls Lighted Bed Canopy

Warning: Super fun project ahead!  You will be a terribly cool mom if you make this.

I have a couple of little girls that are scared of the dark.  Okay, for the one is more of a TERRIFIED than a scared.  It is this never ending fight to get her to go to sleep.  Finally one day in December, as I was putting her to bed with 2 night-lights ON her bed (the flower ones from IKEA), a 4 foot lighted Christmas tree AND an outlet night light - I started to see the ridiculousness of the situation.  I knew I had to come up with a way to help her feel safe as she fell asleep at night.

So I began the lighted canopy.
 First, I had an old mesh canopy from Wal-Mart that I dismantled.  That isn't required though.  I found some cheap chiffon curtains at goodwill, and had some others that were sitting in my closet because I don't really need them at this house.  Just find lots of curtains really.  Any color or material works, it just depends on how you want it to look.  The curtains make your life much easier because they are already cut and hemmed.  But you can start from scratch with fabric if you'd like.
 The canopy I took apart had a little, kind of flimsy, metal frame.  I was going to make a rectangle wooden frame, but ended up just using this.  I really need to buy a saw!!  I still think the wood frame would be prettier, probably easier too.  Then you could just feed the curtains onto it, hook the last corner together and mount it to the ceiling.
 But the metal frame works.  It has a little connector, and it works well.
 I gathered the tops of all of the curtains.  For a tutorial see the previous post, or click here.
 I created a casing for the frame.  Cut a strip of material your desired length (the length around your frame).  The width will depend on the size of your frame.  Make sure it is large enough to fold each side in,
 then fold it in half and sew the one side together and still fit your frame inside easily.
 I pinned all of my gathered curtains to the casing
 along with this cute little trim - from the old dismantled canopy.
Thread them on your frame.  I used picture hanging wire, criss-crossed across the circle to hang it from.  Again, how you hang it will depend on what your frame is made of.  If it had been of wood I would have just mounted it directly to the beams in the ceiling.
 Then hang your creation!  I used strands of white Christmas lights - *after Christmas sales!*- winding them up through the frame and down the legs of the bunk bed.  
 We cut shapes out of card stock and the girls had a lot of fun decorating them with glitter.  I just taped ribbon to the back and tied it to the top frame.  And added a little extra ribbon hanging here and there.
 Who wouldn't want to sleep under lots of sparkly stars and hearts?
 I used a strand of tube lights under the top bunk, on 3m hooks.  My older daughter only plugs that strand in in the morning.  She wakes up ridiculously early and reads until everyone else wakes up.  Now she has the light to do so!
Oh, I also hung one of the flower night lights on the wall behind the canopy.  And now the canopy is hooked to the wall switch, (love the outlets that do that!) so its super easy to turn on and off and...

My girls LOVE IT!!!  

And I do too, because we don't have any more "but Mom, I'm scared" at bedtime.  Who wouldn't feel all warm and cozy sleeping under that?

Just a few more little projects and I can show you the complete "before" and "after" of their room.  The difference is amazing!


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Project: How to "gather"

For the longest time I would refer to my sewing skills as "I can sew a straight line?  Nothing fancy like gathering or anything like that though..."

If only I had realized how EASY gathering is!!  I was terrified to try.  But it is so simple its almost painful.  So here's how.

Set your stitch length to the longest possible stitch.  I don't know how it works on the new machines.  But on my old Bernina that I inherited from my Grandmother (they last forever!)  You twist the knob - 4 is the largest, 0 gets you nowhere  :0)

 Start your stitch, depending on how much you want sticking above your gather.  I was sewing mine onto something else, so I didn't want a lot.  Note:  DONT BACKSTITCH!  You know - what you do at the beginning and end so your seam doesn't come undone?  Don't do that....at the beginning or at the end!

When you are done, take a look at the end.  You will see that you have one thread above the fabric and one below it.  (Bobbin thread and top thread).  

Take a hold of the bobbin thread - thats the bottom one - with one hand, and slide your material away from it with your other hand.

 And you have a gather!
Continue to work your fabric through along the thread.  If it gets too bunched up work from the back and loosen them up.

When I get close to the end, I switch sides and gather the end up.  That way I don't accidentally pull to hard and start to pull my thread out!

Tah-Dah!  See, wasn't that easy?

A few things to note.  If the material isn't sliding, DON'T pull harder.  Go to the end of your gathers and slowly work through them until it starts moving again.  If you break the thread you have to start over!  Also, the tighter you pull it, the tighter the gather.  I know that's kind of a "duh", but its worth mentioning.  And lastly - like I mentioned before, don't pull too far and pull your end thread into the stitches.  You have to start over then too.

OOOHH!  I can't wait to show you what this was for.  Its pretty much awesome!


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Project: Flower Pot Redo

I don't know about all of you, but I've been up to about a million things in the past couple of months and just haven't had much time to talk about them!  I am slowly...ever so slowly...trying to make my little house feel a little more like home.

I love palm trees.  Especially as I sit enduring a "stark" and "gray" winter in Chicago - I spend a lot of time dreaming of the sun.  I just needed a palm tree!  Really - I think it was a need.  It makes me happy.  Who doesn't brighten a little, or at least think of the sun, when they see a palm tree?  The tree was inexpensive.....planters (nice ones anyway) are another story!
 This sad little foam-ish pot has been sitting on my front porch with dead flowers since we moved in.  Don't know whose it was, but its mine now!  And it was in as much need of a makeover as I was in need of a pot.
 A few coats of spray paint made it a beautiful shade of shiny apple red!!  LOVE it!
My palm tree loves it too.

Now I just need to add some turquoise or something somewhere.....


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Project: Game Board Themed Birthday Party

My daughter woke up one morning so excited!  She had had a dream about her birthday party and they had played all her favorite board games.  Now THAT I could do!

"Twister" Invitations
 Her invitation was based off of the game Twister.  I just pulled out our do-a-dot markers
 and let her go to town!  She loved that she got to help me with the invitations.  I just picked out green, red, yellow and blue cardstock (8.5 x11) and cut them in half - so they were 8.5 x 5.5 and then folded them in half.  She created the twister mat on white cardstock rectangles and I printed the party details on another the same size - both slightly smaller than the folded card.  One was pasted on the front and the other on the inside.  Then I added the "Game Time" to the front and it was done!!  Easy peasy!

"Candyland" Cake
 The cake took a bit longer than the invitations, but it was so much fun!  I decided not to start entirely from scratch and just grabbed a cake at Costco and remade it.
 I used the Wilton color spray for the green.  Then I cut starbursts in quarters for the path.  I wish I had grabbed some of the tropical flavored ones so I would have had blue and green too. 

 I crushed up candy canes and mint circles for the "Peppermint Forest".  For all of the white/snowy lands I sprinkled coconut over the white frosting

 Gumdrops for "Gumdrop Pass" and Dum-Dums for "Lollipop Woods"

 Cut up Twizzlers for the "Licorice Forest"

 Leftover peanut brittle from Christmas and some almonds (Shhh - don't tell!) for "Peanut Acres"

 Coconut and Marshmallows with some blue sprinkles for "Snow Flake Lake"

 Mini Reeses Cups, chocolate chips and Shell topping for the "Chocolate Swamp".  This cake had to be refrigerated so the shell topping worked great.  If you don't need to refrigerate it though, I would recommend melted chocolate instead.

I made the "Candy Castle" out of waffle cones and skittles.  I'm sure you could probably make this much cuter than I did.  Just use your imagination!!  

I printed all the people off of the internet and laminated them.  Then I taped them to toothpicks to stick them in the cake.  This cake was a huge hit!  The kids loved picking which land they wanted their piece from.

Goodie Bags
 The party attendees were all girls, so I threw together some flower clips for the goodie bags.  For a tutorial on how I made them click here.  There was also squiggly straws, bouncy balls, candy from each of the candy land places....it was a little random.  A little deck of cards or a travel game would be cute to go along with the theme as well.  I just put them in brown paper bags tied with ribbon (forgot to take a picture!).  Any kind of bag works though!

I put some jars filled with candy in the middle of the playing tables and the winners got a bottle of bubbles from the dollar store.  If they had already won one, they had the option to share with a friend who didn't have one.  I'm proud to say that they ALWAYS chose to share over getting another one.

The girls ranged from 6 -8 years old and two of the favorite games were Jenga and Twister.  It was so much fun to hear their squeals and laughter as they played the games. It was also interesting to see how many of them had never really played board games before!  So sad that such a treasure is being lost to so many kids.  It was a fun night full of good old fashioned fun.  And pizza then games, cake and ice cream, and presents made the perfect 2 hour party.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Project: Simple flower hair clips

Flower hair clips are such a cinch to make its a shame that anyone ever pays $6-$8 for one!  

For starters, get some silk flowers, jewels, and clips - on sale! - at your local craft store.  Things are always better when they are on sale :0)
 Pull the flowers off the stems
 Take the center out of the flower
 Starting with the bottom layer of the flower, hot glue it onto your clip
 Keep glueing the layers to each other until you get to the top

Glue a jewel, or lots of little ones, in the center and voila!  You are done!  Now take all the extras and gift them or sell them.

I made these as part of the goodie bags for my daughters birthday party and it seriously took me about 20 minutes to make 8.
 As a side note:  Honestly, the biggest reason why I started making the flowers instead of buying them is because of the clip itself.  I can't tell you how many flowers we've lost to the black hole of the school playground because they were made on an alligator clip.  So I make mine on "French Clips".  Haven't lost one yet!  Oddly enough, I usually find them near the jewelry/bead section at the craft store.  Not with the ribbons etc. like the other clips.