…Always

I hope all the mothers out there had a wonderful mother’s day!  I certain did!  Will and Julius let me sleep in both days of the weekend, and gave me lots of fun presents!  Julius added a sticker to my card which I knew was his signature.  My favorite present was a necklace that Will got me that says “mama bear”.  I call Julius “little bear” all the time, so I am very proud to be labeled mama bear.  (Sometimes when I call him my little bear he says “roar” in a quiet whisper voice, and it is freaking adorable.)

Julius is definitely working to improve his linguistic skills.  The cutest thing he started to do recently is pick up exclamatory statements.  He’ll say “wow” or “oh, wow” or “oooh” in his cute little serious voice when he is looking at something he finds exciting.  Today I heard Julius exclaim, “wow, oh wow” while I was throwing the ball for Dany and I asked him what was so interesting.  He kept saying “oh, wow” and pointing at the ground so I went over to take a look.  It was raining and he had found a sandy ant hill and was mushing the wet sand between his fingers.  Pretty exciting.  Later he exclaimed “wow” about a dandelion that had no more seeds attached.  I really love his enthusiasm for everything, it is quite refreshing.            You know what else Julius loves?  These Yoda ears I made!  He refuses to wear hats, but he wouldn’t let us take the Yoda ears off him.  They’re very simple to make so you could outfit a whole party with them.  You should know that the wookie cookies are also Julius approved.  As promised, here are those tutorials from last week.

Yoda Ears

What you’ll need:

  • scrap green felt
  • a headband
  • hot glue gun
  • pattern here

Cut out two of the ear patterns of felt, making sure to flip the pattern for one of the ears so you have both a left and right.

Fold loosely along the fold lines marked and lightly hot glue in a couple spots to keep the shape.

Hot glue gun the base of one ear to the side of the headband, wrapping around the headband so it does not show.  Repeat for second ear on other side of headband.

Wookie Cookies

This recipe is from smitten kitchen.  The recipe is really delicious, but I think the name “Brownie roll out cookies” is extremely misleading.  They are not at all soft and brownie like.  They are really great, sturdy chocolate sugar cookies that are great for cutting and frosting.  They are nearly impossible to roll if they are cold, so I recommend ignoring her recommendation to chill them.  I first used this recipe to make chocolate mustaches for the PAX cookie brigade.

What you’ll need:

  • Recipe above
  • Semi sweet chocolate (I use Ghiradelli)
  • White chocolate
  • a piping bag and  Ateco #1 and #00 round tips (very fine).

Roll out dough and cut out cookie using a basic gingerbread man cutter.  Transfer to parchment lined baking sheet.   To make fur use a fork to swipe across the dough in short swipes.  Turn 45 degrees and swipe again across the cookie.

Bake cookies as directed and let cool completely.  When cookies are completely cool, melt 1/2 cup of semisweet chocolate in a double boiler.   Let cool slightly (about 10 minutes) until slightly warm to the touch then scoop into piping bag fit with #1 round tip.

Pipe ammo belt from under right arm of gingerbread man to above left arm, making it about 1 cm thick.

Pipe two large dots and a smaller dot for the nose.

Let set.  If you’re in a rush you can place them in the fridge for about 5 minutes but no more than 10 minutes to set quickly.

After chocolate has set, melt 1/4 cup of white chocolate in a double boiler.  Let cool slightly (about 10 minutes) until slightly warm to the touch then scoop into a piping bag fit with #00 round tip.

Pipe ammo on ammo belt as two slightly sloppy, connected dots per piece of ammo.  This really doesn’t take as long as it looks.  All the piping (white and dark chocolate) took me around 30 minutes total.

Rebel Napkins

I made these napkins so I could use plain napkins and add a non toxic stamp for a pop of color so I could compost the napkins afterwards.

What you’ll need:

  • plain white napkins
  • red non-toxic stamp pad
  • rubber stamp (Or rubber eraser and linoleum cutters)

Create your stamp by drawing the alliance symbol on a large rubber eraser and outlining it with progressively larger linoleum cutters.   Remove all the negative space around the symbol to a depth of 1/8″.

Ink your stamp on red stamp pad.  Press firmly onto napkin on a flat surface.

Let napkin dry 48 hours.

 

Posted in Crafts & Sewing, Culinary Delights, Parties | Leave a comment

May the Force be with You…

I’m going to start this one at with a sappy story (fair warning).  The other day Julius was sorting through a box of stuff I had in the basement and he came across Yellow Bunny and Michael (tiger), Will & my childhood “lovies”.  He pointed to them and asked “this?” (Which is his way of asking, “what is this?”)  I explained that they were Dada and Mama’s Sheepy and Chris the bunny (Julius’ favorite stuffed animals) and that they would be very happy if he played with them.  He picked them both out of the box and gave each of them a big hug.  I burst out crying.  Later, when I was recounting the story to Will, I had to start the story three times before I got through it.  By the end we were both crying.  I think we have the plot of Toy Story 4.  (Though if we don’t, I want some royalties, Disney, for Toy Story 5.)

Speaking of Disney, I hope you all got to celebrate May the Fourth!  Since the date fell on a Saturday this year Will and I hosted an impromptu May the Fourth celebration!  I really have way too much Star Wars stuff.  Aside from food and drinks the only thing I purchased for the party was a gingerbread man cookie cutter.  I was planning to make wookie cookies and I really thought I had a gingerbread man cookie cutter, because who doesn’t have a gingerbread man cookie cutter? It turns out I don’t.  I have 50+ hand picked cookie cutters of different shapes (including all the states my sister in law Erin has ever lived in), but no gingerbread man.  I almost gave up, but then I found out Peter Mayhew had died and I felt I HAD to make them.  It turns out, finding a gingerbread man cookie cutter in May is more difficult than you may imagine.  I even got laughed off the phone by an employee of Party City!  (At least I made someone laugh!)

Star Wars Open House

Invitations

I used Evite (as always) which has some great free “star fantasy theme” cards.  We chose this one which seemed to be the closest rip off to Star Wars that we could find.  The text for the card is pasted below so you can peruse the links at your convenience. ;) 

May the fourth be with you as we celebrate the eminent defeat of the Galactic Empire at the Colton Cantina.  Drinks and appetizers will be served; merriment will ensue.  Trust me it will be better than a dance party at Bright Tree Village.  Feel free to swing by anytime 4-10pm or stay the whole time.  Younglings welcome.  Costumes strongly encouraged.

The response text was:

Join the Rebellion?

  • Yes!
  • Do or do not…
  • No, rebel scum.

Theme

We would never be part of the empire, so obviously the theme was the rebel alliance.  The rebels are a rag tag bunch who are not much united in uniforms with the exception of the red alliance starbird.  For this reason we chose to use red and white elements throughout the party (red and white M&Ms, red plates and tablecloth, white napkins with the starbird etc).

The napkins were very simple to make and color fast.  There will be a tutorial next week with instructions.

Activities

Laser Tag

We planned to have Laser tag but unfortunately (this whole month) it rained.  We have a dozen of the old Laser Challenge Team Force sets from my childhood.  Someday we will have a laser tag party.  I’m adding this to the activity list because it is an awesome idea if you can find these old sets at a yard sale.

Photobooth

I used the Photobooth Mini Full App** with my husband’s old phone and a tripod to create a photobooth.  For props I used a bunch of light sabers we already owned, my meditation cloak/jedi robe, the Chewbacca ears, and these easy to make Yoda ears (which Julius loved wearing – tutorial next week).  For the background, I cut out the rebel symbol in red felt (which I already had on hand) and tacked it up onto one of our white walls.

photo: Joe Kerekes

photo: Joe Kerekes

Star Wars movies

What is a Star Wars party without Star Wars movies?!  We of course own all of them (mostly in blu ray) so we prepared to have a movie playing in the man cave and on a small tv in the living room.  At the end of the night, everyone still around watched Return of the Jedi in the man cave(with a lot of audience commentary).

Everyone is enthralled with RotJ

Food

We had a lot of fun with the food.  I made the appetizers as simple as possible – almost no prep work – but we had a lot of fun naming them.  Here are the print outs for the labels.  I got to use almost all my Star Wars themed cooking equipment with the exception of some cookie cutters and my Star Wars pancake molds…

(Devoured) Roast “porg”     photo: Joe Kerekes

 

  • Roast Porg (rotisserie chicken I reheated in the oven -slightly morbid)
  • Poe’s pizza (frozen omnivore pizza)
  • Finn’s Flatbread (frozen vegetarian pizza)

    From left to right: Nerf fodder, Ackbar’s delight and Thala Siren Cheese

  • Thala-siren Cheese (assorted cheeses & crackers)

    photo: Joe Kerekes

  • Nerf Fodder (Assorted veggies and ranch dip)

    Jabba the Hummus & Pita Ships

  • Jabba The Hummus (I piped the hummus into a bowl in the shape of Jabba and added olive eyes and mouth)
  • Pita Ships (Just store bought pita bread cut into ship shapes with these sandwich cutters I apparently own – I honestly thought they were cookie cutters when I got them.)
  • Ackbar’s Delight (these are just shrimp & cocktail sauce but because I’m concerned about global welfare I had to buy the USA sustainably fished shrimp that were slightly varying in size and didn’t have any tails and were slightly ground up because they must be mechanically separated.)

    Wookie Cookies (left) and ship cookies (right – made by Ka)
    photo: Joe Kerekes

  • Wookie cookies (chocolate sugar cookies, assembly instructions next week)

    photo: Joe Kerekes

  • Rebel velvet cakes (red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.  I had to make them when I discovered I had these in the back of the closet)

Drinks

We had just as much fun coming up with drink names as we did food names.  We thought the drinks you’d find at an upscale galactic establishment would be neon in color so I found a couple that I thought fit the bill.  On top of that, I used my Star Wars ice/chocolate molds to make ice cubes using the top down freezing method which worked incredibly well to make clear ice!!  I made each of the drinks for a crowd by changing the “oz” to “cups” and serving from a pitcher.

Crazy colored cocktails

Is that Han Solo frozen in carbonite? Why yes, it’s clear as ice!

Dagobah Drink

  • 1 oz. Midori Melon Liqueur
  • 2 oz. sweet and sour mix
  • 1 oz. lemon juice
  • lemon wedge

Pour all ingredients into a glass filled with ice, stir, and garnish with a lemon wedge.

Electric Elephant

  • 1½ oz. gold tequila
  • 1½ oz. lime juice
  • ½ oz. Blue Curacao
  • ¾ oz. simple syrup
  • lime wedge

Pour all ingredients into a glass filled with ice, stir, and garnish with a lime wedge.

I found these at Job Lot a few weeks before the party! How timely!
photo: Joe Kerekes

Favors

Who can resist giving out party favors?!  I bought a pack of Star Wars valentines after Valentine’s day for like a nickle.  I replaced the candy (which was some nasty Sweetarts knock off) with red and white M&Ms (Will painstakingly picked the blue M&Ms out of USA themed M&Ms we found at BJ’s – who was getting ready for Memorial day I guess?).

Danielle hands down won best costume. Her hair was perfect!!

  • **A note on Photobooth Mini Full… Some of you may remember that for our prom party 8 years ago I made my own photobooth using an open source photobooth GUI connected to a webcam on my computer and I wrote a shell script to process the photos into strips and send them to the printer.  The photostrips actually looked really cute and the whole thing only took me a couple of hours to set up.  Of course now every device already has a camera on it so I figured there must be an app to do the same thing.  Of course there is!  After reading lots of reviews  I decided to purchase the number one rated photobooth app on the play store “Photobooth Mini Full”.  It sort of works out of the box, but took me at least 2 hours to get something to look halfway decent and do approximately what I wanted it to do (there is no option to auto print the photos like I did at the prom party and no way to select a photostrip size) since there are WAY too many options and no instructions on what any of them do!  Yes, you read that right, it took me the same amount of time to figure out how to use this app for my purposes than it did for me to hack together my own photobooth from scratch in 2011.  Good news, there is an option to save off your “photo montage” including settings, so you can just buy the app and upload this one so you won’t have to waste 2 hours figuring out settings!  It was only $6, so I really shouldn’t complain so much, but figured since I don’t get paid by anyone for my opinions, I can give you my honest ones.

 

Posted in Culinary Delights, Parties | 1 Comment

Impossible Task

Well I hope your Earth week was wonderful.  I discovered Impossible meat this Earth week.  As you may or may not know, Will and I have been trying to eat vegetarian more this year (specifically 2 days a week minimum).  It’s going pretty well so far, but I got into a rut over the last month by making the same 4 things over and over again because they’re quick and easy and I have most of the ingredients on hand.  So back to the impossible meat scenario – while I am cutting down animal meat consumption, I’m really not sure I can give meat up forever right now and succeed (unless forced to).  I have an attachment to food.  Eating comfort foods from my childhood and cooking Will’s favorite meals to perfection are two of the reasons I don’t think I could become a full blown vegetarian.  Something like impossible meat could help me here.  The main thing I’ll have to get over is that I pride myself on being a fairly daring, non-picky eater.  On the days of the week when I eat vegetarian, I get that FOMO feeling when someone orders an exotic sushi dish and offers me a bite.  On top of all that, sometimes the way I do vegetarian is not particularly healthy!  I really hate when manufacturers of a vegetarian product replace a natural ingredient with partially hydrogenated so and so or more sugar to replace the meat flavor.  Gross.

All that being said I salute all of you who have gone full vegetarian!  Thank you for saving the world.  Someday I’ll need some advice on how to make the transition myself, but I’m not there yet.  Meanwhile if any of you vegetarians or non-vegetarians want to try a meat lover approved version of vegan lentil soup, please give the below a try.  The best part of the recipe below is it’s one of those “fix and forget” recipes that you can throw in the crockpot in the morning, and come home to for dinner in the evening.

Vegan Lentil Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 14.5oz can tomato sauce + 4 cans water
  • 2 tsp dried oregano \
  • 3 bay leaves (remember not to eat these)
  • 3 tsp of veggie better than boullion or 3 veggie boullion cubes (better than boullion imparts a very tomato-ey flavor to the soup.  
  • 1 lb bag of lentils, soaked overnight then rinsed.  
  • 5 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 4 sticks celery, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped

Mix all ingredients into a crock pot.  Cook on low for 10 hours.  Stir then add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with crusty rolls topped with butter (or earth balance vegan butter spread). 

After I wrote this blog post I somehow can’t find any pictures of my lentil soup, even though I am positive I took some.  I will update with some photos in the future.  In the meantime, here’s little bear:

Posted in Crafts & Sewing | 2 Comments

Snack Attack

Happy Earth Day!

Julius was dancing to the Captain Planet theme song this afternoon and it made me smile.  I think we all need to channel our inner Greta Thurnberg and more openly speak out for our planet, not just today but every day!  I want my child to be able to experience the same wonderful world I did with the same assortment of beautiful plants and wildlife, abundance of food and clean water and safe breathable air.  Oh and bees, did I mention bees?!

Among everyone I talk to on a daily basis there is a strong opinion that “my actions won’t offset the actions of the rest of the world.”  To that comment I always respond, “if everyone thinks that way, they certainly won’t.”  We all have to stop thinking in such defeatist terms.  Just one person role modeling small actions to save the planet can set off a cascade of others becoming green, even if it is in small ways.  For example, just last week one of the parents at daycare asked about Julius’ diapers.  They are having another child and wanted to know what kind of diapers we use and where we got them.  Whether or not they choose to go cloth, you cannot believe the joy I had in sharing that note about diapers!  Then this morning my co-worker told me he uses the reusable snack bag I made him for Christmas every single day.  I gave him a high five (and probably would have given him a bear hug if there wasn’t a crowd in the hallway).  I can’t make this stuff up, you really can make a difference.  Think of what you do to reduce your impact on our beautiful planet and spread the word!  No action is too small!

So that snack bag I mentioned?  You may remember that I mentioned after Christmas that I made my friends at work reusable utensil sets!  Well I also made them matching reusable snack bags to go along with them!  They are similar to the lunch skins sandwich sized bags and are made with food safe PUL (I used Eco PUL).

The utensil/bag set I made for Roger and Amy!

Reusable Snack Bag

What you’ll need:

  • 16″x7″ Eco PUL or other food safe PUL
  • 16×7″ cotton fabric of your choice
  • 7″ of 3/4″ velcro hook and loop fastener
  1. Fold cotton fabric, right sides together, into a 7×7″ pocket with a 2″ flap.  Pin along sides of pocket.  Repeat for PUL (shiny side in).
  2. Using a size 10 needle, stitch sides of bag (not the flap side) using 1/4″ seam allowance.
  3. Turn the cotton pocket right side out and place inside the PUL pocket.  Pin along the top front of the bag.  Stitch.
  4. Turn the bag right side out (cotton outside, PUL inside).  Mark where the velcro needs to go.
  5. Open the bag out again, stitch hook side of the velcro in place (only through cotton).  Turn bag right side out again.
  6. Fold the sides of the flap under 1/4″ on the cotton and the PUL  so the unfinished edges of PUL and cotton are sandwiched inside.  Pin and stitch.
  7. Pin the top front of the bag.  Stitch.
  8. Fold the unfinished edge of the flap down twice to form a double fold hem.  Pin and stitch.
  9. Stitch the loop tape portion of the velcro to the edge of the flap.
  10. Snack away!

Thanks for reading. I hope you’ll think about all the ways you can help lower your environmental impact this Earth day and every day.  Please tell me in the comments below what you do to reduce your impact to Mother Earth and you will be entered into a random drawing to win a reusable utensil and sandwich bag set!  Drawing will be held on May 20th.

Posted in Crafts & Sewing | 8 Comments

Towering Tots

I am so excited to share this project with you today!  It is a project that I have been planning for a while now, and I’m really happy with how it came out.  Of course, it all started with a habit of Julius’.  Julius just LOVES to be part of the action (who doesn’t?).  He wants to help me clean the house, put away dishes, wash the high chair, put on makeup (yes really, so next time my make up looks like a 2 year old did it, maybe don’t judge too harshly).  Especially, he wants to help me cook and work in the kitchen.  The biggest issue with this desire is that he is far too short to reach the countertops or frankly even see the countertops.  This means he is constantly whining to be picked up and held while I am doing any task in the kitchen.  Enter the tot tower.

The “tot tower” or “learning tower” is basically a step stool with a railing surrounding the second step so your toddler doesn’t accidentally topple off it.  Some of them are simply modified Ikea step stools.  Others allow you to adjust the second step depending on the child’s height so it can be used for many years.  While I’m not sure the step stool option is less stable since it should be resting against a cabinet anyway, I wanted the option of the adjustable second step.  Except for the dowels and the screws, I did not purchase a single piece of wood for this project.  I did attempt to put the whole thing on locking casters so it would be easier to move around the kitchen, but the casters were a pain to lock and made the whole thing feel less secure so I scrapped them.

Julius LOVES the tot tower.  I demonstrated how to use it and he had no problem getting up and down from the tower.  Most often we bring it in the bathroom for him to wash his hands and then I move it to the kitchen for him to help me make food or watch me cook.  The funniest use of the tower I’ve seen yet is when Julius was eating some goldfish, a favorite snack of Dany.  In the past Julius has had issues with Dany stealing snacks right from his hands while he is walking around.  Last week, Julius climbed his tot tower and ate his goldfish from the tower, laughing at Dany.  (Poor Dany.)

Julius avoiding Dany the snack stealer.

Check out this dance

The tower took me 4 or 5 days after work to complete (including drawing up the plans), but I’m by no means an experienced woodworker.  Someone with more skill would probably be able to complete the project in less time.

Tot Tower

What you’ll need:

  • #8 1 1/2″ wood screws
  • 4 – 30″ 1×4’s
  • 4 – 15.5″ 1×3’s
  • 2 – 10″ 1×3’s
  • 4 – 17″ 2×2’s
  • 1 – 7″x13.75″x3/4″
  • 1 – 7.75″x13.75″x3/4″
  • 1 – 10″x15.5″x3/4″
  1. Cut all pieces to size as mentioned above.  If you were smart, you’d probably sand all pieces first and round edges. I was not smart, so I didn’t do this until much later.
  2. Assemble each side of the tot tower following the diagram above.  You’ll want to keep the two 1×4’s parallel while you screw on the 10″ 1×3 to the top, followed by the 17″ 2×2 at the bottom (make sure the 1×4’s only span 10″ on one end of the 17″ 2×2).  Finally attach the second 2×2 in a similar manner but below the 7″ line.
  3. Repeat for second side of tot tower, making sure to make it a mirror image of the first.
  4. Attach the two sides of the tot tower together using the 4 15.5″ 1×3’s.  3 will be attached to the back (see diagram portion marked back view) and the 4th will be attached to the top front to complete the railing (see diagram portion marked top view of railing).
  5. (Note I did it in this order, but if I were to do this again, I might do this step before the next step because it was very difficult to screw the unattached tot tower pieces together). Attach the 7″x13.75″x3/4″ step to the 7″ extension of the 2×2’s.
  6. Attach the 7.75″x13.75″x3/4″ riser to front of the 4 2×2’x.
  7. Using a 1 1/8″ auger bit, drill 3 holes on each of the 4 30″ 1×4’s at 11″, 14″ and 17″ from the floor.
  8. Using a band saw, remove 3/16ths of wood from the dowel along it’s length to create a flat surface.  Cut the dowel into 2 15.5″ segments.
  9. Also using a band saw, cut corners out of the 10″x15.5″x3/4″ platform board to specifications marked in diagram labeled “platform”.
  10. Sand everything, making sure to round corners everywhere.
  11. If desired, stain and finish with wax/poly or paint.
  12. Insert dowels into holes at desired height, with flat portion up.
  13. Place platform board on top of dowels.
  14. Drill a pilot hole through the top of the platform board into the center of the dowel below.  Use screw to secure.  Repeat with second dowel.

I filled the empty 1 1/8″ holes with champagne corks!  My co-worker gave me a bunch of champagne corks and I finally found something to do with them!  They fit perfect and don’t fall out, and I can move them once I move the dowels down.

Watch Julius climb the tot tower!

Posted in Home Improvement | 2 Comments

Mug Shots

Will and I put an offer on a house last week.  We didn’t get the house and the whole experience was very stressful as there were several offers and we were the runner-up to the winning offer.  I’m not kidding when I tell you that I was a nervous wreck and didn’t eat for two days!  It felt as if we were gambling away money we didn’t have.  (I guess that is technically what we were doing.)  The process brought us down to Earth and made us realize that we don’t need a new house any time soon.  We love our house!  We are lucky to have such a wonderful house!  The flat, quiet yard, the nice dry basement with my work shop and our breezy screen porch all make me smile.  Plus, it is close to our amazing daycare and only 4 minutes from the grocery store!  Besides, I still haven’t finished all the curtains or renovations I’ve planned (we’ve only lived here 8 years, cut me some slack…)  On top of all that we started realizing that in order to stage our house we’d have to move a lot of stuff into storage.  Intimidating.

You know what isn’t intimidating?  Setting up my new Cricut machine!  I’d been putting it off for a while, but the advent of Danycon made me finally jump into action and get it working.  If you don’t know what a Cricut is, it is a die cutting machine – it basically cuts/embosses/writes on a variety of mediums using a variety of tools.  You adhere your medium to the mat (which has a sticky front), feed the whole mat into the machine, select a pattern and then send the pattern to the machine to be cut/embossed/written.  The machine really is plug and play, and the software is extremely intuitive.  I am floored at how easy it is to use.  For its maiden voyage I decided to make a stencil for the coffee mugs below using the Cricut to cut out some letters from vinyl (this vinyl was just some leftover shelf paper I’ve used for both this project and this project).  From start to finish the stencil cutting took me a total of 30 minutes from the setup of the machine and designing the pattern to finally cutting and weeding the stencil.  You read the correctly – 30 minutes from unboxing to working stencil.

It is so easy to use that I bet it would deceive someone into thinking that the similar looking 3d printer or embroidery machine would be just as easy to use.  I believe I understand now why my co-worker who owns a Cricut was flabbergasted when I explained how complicated it would be to design and embroider a pattern using my embroidery machine and embroidery software.  I really hope he believed me and didn’t think I was just brushing him off!  The Cricut though – anyone can do it!  Can you operate a printer?  Yes?  Then you can operate the Cricut.  I promise I’m not being paid or given anything to evangelize Cricut (though maybe I should be)!  I just know a good user interface when I see it.

If you don’t have a Cricut you can cut out the lettering yourself using an X-acto knife as I did in this post.  It will take you quite a bit more time.

I sure need some coffee…

Stenciled Mugs

What you’ll need:

  • glass paints (I used folk art multisurface)
  • spouncer or paint brush
  • White coffee mug (I got mine from the Dollar Tree)
  • contact paper
  • Cricut die cutting machine or X-acto knife
  1. Cut stencil out of vinyl using cricut or X-acto knife.  The stencil should read right side up when viewing the non-sticky side of the stencil.
  2. Remove the area where you would like your stencil to show.  For the ease of stencil removal and artistic liberty I completely removed the center of o’s, e’s, a’s and other closed letters. 
  3. Stick the stencil to the coffee mug. 
  4. Use the spouncer or a paint brush to completely fill in the negative space of the stencil.
  5. Remove the stencil gently.
  6. Let dry for 1 hour then place mug on a cookie sheet in a cold oven.  Turn oven on to 350 degrees F.  When the oven reaches temperature, bake for 30 minutes then turn oven off and let glasses cool down slowly as the oven cools down.  When the oven is at room temperature it is safe to remove the mug.  Mug should be top rack dishwasher safe for occasional use or hand washable.*

*Note:  The first year I followed these instructions to cure the project and the corgi on the mugs wore off quickly in the dishwasher.  This year I tried the above method from here.  They seem to be fairing better in the dishwasher so far.

I’d like to give a shout out to the amazing support I received from a helpful gentleman at ASmallOrange, my hosting provider, while I was writing this blog post.  You went above and beyond!

 

 

 

 

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Danycon 2019

I have the silliest Julius story.  The other day he kept pointing to the counter and going ah-lah-lah.  I took everything off the counter, handing it to him.  He eventually gave up and had some milk.  After Julius had been playing with his toys for 30 minutes or so I asked Alexa to set a timer for me.  He bee-lined back to the kitchen counter and started pointing and saying ah-lah-lah again.  I finally realized he wanted to talk to Alexa.  Poor Julius can’t quite pronounce Alexa to Alexa’s understanding level (mine either) but he did enjoy Alexa saying hello to him.  I put him back on the floor and he again proceeded to point and say ah-lah-lah.  This time however, he did a little dance.  I finally realized that he wanted Alexa to play music.  When I asked her to play music he was overjoyed and danced around like a crazy man.

Do you know what always has me dancing like a crazy man?  Danycon!  This Danycon was the BEST YET.  We had such a fun time getting to see our families and playing board games.  Will even updated the program to include categories of games and suggestions for each time slot.  This definitely helped us play many more games than previous years.  Below are some highlights from Danycon 2019!

Welcome Bags

Danycon wouldn’t be complete without Danycon swag!  In addition to the embroidered bags I gave away (my favorite ones yet) I also appliqued the Danycon logo onto shirts this year.  I think they are my favorite Danycon shirts yet!  (This is getting to be a trend.)  The game we gave away this year was “Liar’s Dice”.  The sets were very inexpensive to make (and not nearly as time consuming as last year’s copies of Secret Hitler.  Per set we simply needed to purchase 25 dice (5 sets of 5), and 5 plastic cups (I got mine in sets of 4 from the dollar store).  Finally I printed instructions from bgg.  I used these instructions and tweaked them to fit on half a page.  The total was less than $4 a set (and could have been about half that if I had purchased dice in advance).

Friday

Dinner

  • Frozen Pizza Extravaganza!  Since people were arriving at different times I bought 10 different types of frozen pizza and we kept putting them in the oven until everyone was full. 

Saturday

Breakfast

Lunch

  • Soup and sandwiches – I made random vegetable soup and laid out an assortment of deli meats, cheeses and breads. 

Dinner

Sunday

Breakfast

Lunch

  • Salad and sandwiches (everyone just ate leftovers)

Dinner

Tournament

For the tournament this year we did games that were “multiplayer solitaire” basically games that could play any number of people.

Final Tournament Standings

Fold it

We used the same set of 4 cards (2 easy 2 difficult).  For each card, each player had to hit the lap button on Will’s stop watch to record their time.  Each player’s total time for all 4 cards was recorded and then they were ranked by lowest time (#1) to highest time (#8)

Take it easy

Lexi drew tiles and wrote down the order each one was drawn so everyone competed with the same set and same order.

Railroad ink

Will just read off the die results from the first game in the same order so everyone had an equivalent game.

Everyone’s place in each game was summed and became their final standing.  This caused a battle between two of our former Danycon champions – Erin and Bailey!  They went head to head in one round of Galaxy Trucker!

A grueling flight through space for the championship face off!

Surprises

This year was full of surprises!  Mark and Erin put together a truly horrifying escape room!  It was the coolest thing EVER!  And after seeing that dead skeleton in my bed I had nightmares for days!  Will and I surprised everyone with a DnD adventure that we created with some fun twists!  Will and I intend to publish it at some point on here so you can run it yourself, so I won’t ruin any surprises!  The key though is that you need two separate groups with two different DMs.  We’ve already come up with some great ideas for the next adventure at Danycon IV!

This haunts my nightmares!

Cousin Love!

Finn loved Dany! And Dany loved Finn!

Danycon 3 Photo!

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Tote-ally Amazing Bag

Right now I’m procrastinating.  I’m putting off lugging a quarter of a ton of wood to the attic as flooring.  So I’m writing this blog post a little early (though you won’t read it for another couple days).  I know what you’re thinking, the Colton household has amazing Saturday nights, count me in for the next lumber haul.   To be completely honest, the lumber lugging procrastination is just additional procrastination from pillow making, which in turn is just additional procrastination from cutting wood for my next Julius project (not related to the attic wood).  When you’re like me you have artful levels of procrastination that you label as “to do lists”.

One thing I actually did NOT procrastinate on this year was Danycon prep.  I made the shirts almost a week before Danycon started (instead of the day before) and I finished the bags I think a solid night before guests arrived.  Though I may be remembering wrong, because I do have a vague shadowy memory of me staying up way too late before Danycon started, though I think it involves cleaning all our bathrooms.  The bags I made this year I am really proud of.  I’ve liked all of the bags that I’ve made for Danycon, but these ones are extra fun.  I based the pattern off the bag I got when I became a member of the NRDC.  I know what you’re thinking, the NRDC sends out junk mail and tote bags, isn’t that self defeating?  Yes it is, but they don’t.  They only send you the tote bag if you check a box and everything else is email.  I battled internally for a while if I should check the box for the tote bag and waste the resources I was donating to protect.  What tipped me over the edge was the bee on the bag.  I guess bees are my weakness, I’ll log that away for later when I discover my super powers.

Anyway, the bag I got from the NRDC is actually a pretty nice bag.  It’s a big strong tote bag that you could use to cart books from the library, groceries from the market or board games from your cubicle.  I turned my favorite Dany silhouette into a machine embroidery pattern for the shirts and bags this year.  I think it really makes the bags look complete, and gives you that subtle pop of corgi you’re always looking for.

Danycon bags waiting for their owners!

Sturdy Canvas Tote Bag

What you’ll need:

  • 18″x40″ rectangle of canvas fabric
  • 44″of 1″ thick cotton webbing (cut into 2 22″ pieces)
  • materials for embroidery (if desired)
  1. Serge each 18″ edge of fabric to prevent unraveling.
  2. Fold canvas rectangle in half to form an 18×20″ rectangle.  Stitch down both sides adjacent to the fold with 1/2″ seam allowance.
  3. Serge along these two sections to reinforce.
  4. Mark a 3.5″x3″ rectangle in each of the bottom corners of the bag (3.5″ side is into the seam allowance, so effectively creating a 3″x3″ square within the non seam allowance portion of the bag).
  5. Cut out rectangles.  Starting with one side of the bag, pull the points of the two negative space rectangles you just created apart so that the two seams meet and the unfinished edges line up.  Pin.  Repeat for second corner of bag.
  6. Stitch along the areas you just pinned.  Serge along each seam to reinforce.
  7. At the opening of the bag, turn the fabric over 3/4″.
  8. Mark at the 5.5″ mark and 6.5″ mark and the 11.5″ and 12.5″ mark along the top edge of the bag.  Place one edge of one length of cotton webbing inside the 5.5″ & 6.5″ marks, so the edge touches the serged edge of the flap.  Pin. Ensuring the strap is not twisted, place second edge of cotton webbing inside the 11.5″ and 12.5″ marks.  Pin.  Turn bag over and repeat.
  9. Stitch 1/2″ from the top of the bag and again 5/8″ from the top of the bag, encompassing the cotton webbing.
  10. Turn bag right side out.
  11. Decorate as desired!
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Luck of the Irish

Happy (belated) Saint Patrick’s Day!  As you know, everyone’s Irish on St. Patty’s Day, but being legitimately Irish my family feels inclined to celebrate with corned beef and cabbage.  When I was a kid I remember leprechauns wrecking havoc in the classrooms by turning chairs topsy turvy and hiding gold coins or a pot of candy in the classroom.  Maybe they smelled my Irish blood.  This year the leprechauns must have sensed that Julius is 1/32 Irish so they decided to pay him a visit.

I decided to make Julius a silly shamrock stuffed toy, which Will dubbed “Lucky”, from some green velvet I had leftover from the hat shop.  It was fun making the pattern for the embroidered face.  If you’d like to make yourself a shamrock (with or without a face) make sure you do a good job clipping around all the curves.  For Julius’ pot o’ gold at the end of the rainbow I used a plastic cauldron I have from halloween, stuffed with gold paper.  Because we don’t give Julius (much) chocolate yet the pot of gold had some rainbow stickers and finger paints from the Dollar Tree.  The rainbow was made from streamers also found at the dollar store.

Lucky Stuffed Shamrock

What you’ll need:

  • 14″ of 1.5″ wide ribbon (for bow tie)
  • black and white embroidery thread (optional)
  • 1/2 yard of green velvet
  • Pattern
  1. Cut out pattern (make sure you flip the pattern so you get a front and back piece, or the shamrock stem will not line up).
  2. Embroider eyes and smile using pattern here and a 4″x4″ embroidery hoop if desired.
  3. Pin shamrock right sides together.
  4. Stitch around edge of shamrock, leaving a 3″ gap on the flat part of the bottom-most leaf on one side.
  5. Clip curves and indents, nearly to the stitching.
  6. Turn right side out.  Stuff.  When satisfied with stuffing, close with an invisible stitch.
  7. Cut ribbon into 10″ and 3.5″ segments.
  8. Fold the 10″ ribbon so the two unfinished ends overlap in the center.  Fold under the ends of the ribbon so it forms a sort of triangular shape.  (See picture.)  Stitch through overlapping ends to hold together.  This is the back of the bow tie.
  9. Pinch the middle of the ribbon to form a bow tie shape.  Stitch from one of the pinch to the other to secure.  This is the front of the bow tie.
  10. Fold the 3.5″ segment of ribbon so it is 3/4″ wide and ends of ribbon are in the middle.  Press (under scrap fabric).  This will form the bow tie “knot”.
  11. Fasten unfinished edge of bow tie knot to the bow tie with a couple stitches. 
  12. Wrap the segment of 3/4″ wide ribbon around the bow tie center, so the other unfinished edge ends at the back of the bow tie.  Stitch to secure.
  13. Attach bow tie to shamrock above stem using needle and thread.
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Take a Swag

This past weekend was Danycon 2019.  Everyone has left on their flights now, so sitting at home in the quiet is quite bittersweet.  Will and I think it was our best Danycon yet!  I, of course, will have several posts about Danycon and Danycon prep in the coming weeks.

Before I tell you about today’s project I have to relate a cute Julius story to you.  In the past, we’d know Julius was awake and ready to get up because he’d cry and wail.  In the past month or so, however, he’s started becoming a much more cheerful waker.  Usually he’ll babble a bit, and if we don’t come get him, he’ll raise the decibel level until we come in.  The other day, though, when I was home alone with Julius I woke up to the sound of him singing!  He was saying the word “ba” at different pitches.  I’m not sure how long he was doing it for, but I listened to him for a few minutes before deciding to go in and thank him for the serenade.  It was completely adorable.

In a complete non-sequitur, remember that chocolate mishap I mentioned occurring during the last ladies’ night?  The one where chocolate got on the floor, ceiling and curtains?  I told my friend (who accidentally caused the chocolate fiasco) that there was no need to clean the chocolate off the curtain, because now I finally had an excuse to make the the kitchen curtain I’d been putting off for so long.  She didn’t believe me, but I really was telling the truth!  I’d bought the fabric to make new kitchen curtains at least 3 years ago (definitely well before Julius was born).   The weekend after the mishap I buckled down and made the curtain.  I think it came out pretty good, and it was actually very easy to make.

Draped Swag Curtain

What You’ll Need:

(For a 42.25″ wide window*)

  • 1 yard of home decorating fabric
  • 1 yard of lining fabric
  • 4 curtain clip rings
  • 4 knobs
  • 4 hangar bolts in bolt thread size of knobs
  1. Create a 70″x 13″ rectangle of home decorating fabric by matching patterns and stitching together (or if you intend to make more than one curtain like me, use more than 1 yard of fabric and cut one continuous 70″ long strip)
  2. Create a 66″x 9″ rectangle of lining fabric by  stitching together (or if you intend to make more than one curtain like me, use more than 1 yard of fabric and cut one continuous 66″ long strip)
  3. Press 1.5″ under of every edge of decorating fabric.
  4. Miter corners.
  5. Line lining fabric up with one long edge of decorating fabric (note I used an extra 1/2″ of seam allowance so in my picture the lining fabric isn’t perfectly lined up with the decorating fabric, but yours should be).  Start the lining fabric 1/2″ before the mitered fold line.  Pin.  Repeat for 2 other sides of fabric, leaving one short end opened. Stitch.
  6. Turn right side out and press the unfinished short end of the lining fabric under so only the fold shows.  Flat catch stitch the short end of lining to the selvedge of the decorating fabric.
  7. Insert 4 hangar bolts in or above your window frame so the spacing is equidistant.  You will probably have to pilot drill a hole so the screw end of the hangar bolt goes in easily.  Use the knob to turn the screw into the hole.
  8. Mark your curtain at 6.75″, 25.25″, 43.75″, 62.25″.
  9. We left 3.5″ in between each swag to fold and clip onto the curtain hook.  Fold at each mark, keeping the lining on the inside of the fold.  After the fold is about an inch deep, fold in the fabric on either side of the fold making a pleat.  Adjust so this second set of folds sits about .5″ below the first fold.  Clip here.  Repeat for other markings.
  10. To hang curtain, unscrew knob, place curtain ring over hangar screw and screw knob in place to secure.

*If you would like to make your curtain wider for a wider window, simply measure the width of your window, then calculate the number of knobs you will use.  Your final curtain length will be (1.11 * width/(#knobs – 1) + 3.5″) * (#knobs – 1) + 10″.  You can then add 3″ length for the decorative fabric in step 1 (1.5″ seam allowance per side) and 1″ length for your lining fabric in step 2 (.5″ seam allowance). In step 8, you will mark your curtain at the same intervals, adding 18.5″ until you reach the end.

 

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