Saturday, December 29, 2012

Birthday Party: The Cooperbowl

Well, I planned another party. This time for my 8-year-old and with a sports theme. We rented time on an indoor turf and a local fieldhouse and when the boys had absolutely played every version of football and dodgeball they made their way to the party room. 

I had decked out the party room in variations of things I had seen on Pinterest. Plus a few things I fashioned from trinkets at the Dollar Store. Sharing ideas with you here (resources where I have them). 

All Conference Cupcakes

I found these small-scale plastic trophies at Dollar Tree about 8 months ago. I knew instantly that I wanted to plop them on top of something. At the time I was thinking for a basketball banquet. But that coach decided he would rather the team go to a local pizza joint. Whatevs. So, they laid in wait for a party. I was able to buy a 4-pack for $1. I do have a cupcake stand, but on the great advice of one of my friends I left them in the plastic container the store-bought cakes came in because, "they kinda look like a stadium setting." I would absolutely do this on a cupcake, again. So cute. So easy. Super cheap. 

Crockpot Concessions -- Game Day Dogs and NFL Nachos with Cheese

I read on a crockpot blog that you can cook a lot of hot dogs at once, without water, in a crockpot. Sign. Me. Up. ( My original interest in pinning this idea was that my boys are swimmers and I could just see myself getting put in charge of concessions some day and having to figure out how to cook and sell like 100 hot dogs on one day. You could do that with this solution. Go read her blog. I cooked 30 dogs at one time, on high for 2 hours. They were perfect and plump and totally white-trash-eriffic.

The nachos were a last minute decision. What is a trip to a stadium without nachos and that weird cheese product that I love? I didn't have a recipe for this. I just threw 2 cans of Campbell's brand nacho cheese soup, 1 can of original Rotel, and one gigantic brick of Velveeta in a crockpot for 2 hours on high. This was surprisingly yummy and the kids hogged on it thoroughly. I just drizzled it over their corn chips. If I were to serve this again, and I absolutely will, I will try to find small plastic cups to serve it in. 

Playoffs Popcorn

I bought these cute popcorn boxes in my son's favorite color at Oriental Trading Co. I got mine for a screaming deal. But now they have cuter ones that actually have field hash marks on them and are only $6.25 for 24 of them. They ship flat, obviously. Putting them together is pretty easy, just allow yourself time to do that. I also stuck a foam football sticker on mine. I ordered hackie sack footballs for the parting gift bags from OTC, as well. 

Parting Gifts
I love for kids to be able to take something with them. But as a parent, I hate when my kids bring home small trinkets that get stuck in the vacuum. So, I opted for water bottles in primary colors. These bottles were also from Dollar Tree. I had looked into ordering water bottles with my son's name printed on them. That would have made them like $15/piece. So, we just decorated these with a strip of paper and the foam footballs, again. I'm not a graphics designer. So, the strip of paper is just cut from a high school football field diagram that coaches use to make plays. I used Sports Diagram

In addition to the water bottle I made small cello bags and toppers that contained the hackie sack footballs from OTC, a rope eraser from Target that looked like a basketball on the end, a bag of chocolates in sports tin foils, and a small rubber ball in the shape of some other sports ball, e.g. baseball, basketball, soccer ball. 

Most of the signs were whipped up in Word. Again, I'm not a designer. I used the font SF Collegiate that I downloaded for free. I did use a small circle that I downloaded from Ruff Draft. But I used it sparingly as it was brown and green and we had really used primary colors. But you should check that site out. They have lots of free printables that are cute as can be. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

For Piano Lessons

Our 6 yol takes piano lessons. IKEA has this cute fabric that appears to have a music ledger printed on it. I whipped up a little bag for him to tote his books to lessons. I love how it turned out -- even if it appears a little unironed in this photo. 

It was a pattern that I made based on a vinyl tote I bought at Target years ago. It's almost square, which is weird because it looks much longer than it is wide. I also lined it with IKEA dec weight fabric because the music theme fabric is very thin and see through. 

The interior has a simple pocket for the flashcards and a pencil. I'm thinking about making a few for the etsy shop. Feedback?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Knitted by Katrine

A dear friend of mine is going to start listing a few of her knitted items and original knitting patterns on my Etsy site. So, those of you who know me and know I don't knit, don't you worry... she DOES.

Watch for these in the shop and also the appliqued tea towels I made to match them. A great gift set for teacher, don't you think?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Birthday Party: 6-Year-Old's LEGO Mania

Let me first say that one of the tragedies of planning your child's birthday party, hosting the party at your house, and also being a blogger and hobbyist photographer is you rarely get to take pictures at the party. Your husband takes your camera and takes the pictures and he takes pictures his way, and it's not your way and sometimes you just have to deal with it. And sometimes, random people at the party pick up your camera and start taking pictures (this one really bothers me). So apologies in advance for some of these photos. But some are mine, so maybe those are the ones that make you cringe. Whatever. 

Now, we threw our son a party! At our house. Which was difficult. I would love to make a case for having parties at your own home. But having 10-15 boys in your house, all under the age of 7 is loud and messy. Not of enough people do it anymore for children to have party manners. Really, most children don't have inside manners anymore. They treat every space they are in like iJump or a gym. (I include my children in this, so don't you worry I ain't judging. Just saying.) I wanted to do it because this son of mine wanted a LEGO party so, so, so badly and the fine folks at the LEGO retail store even admitted their birthday parties are a little disappointing. So began a little preparation. Also, we are undergoing a major remodel -- like we gutted the entire inside of our house -- and so at this stage of the remodel there was not a stick of furniture on the walls and the walls themselves had not been painted. 

Anyway, let me explain in pictures (please see disclaimer above) what we planned, what worked, what I would do differently, and how I would tweak if I did it, again.

The spread
Our son specifically requested Jimmy John's subs. That is an excellent restaurant to order from. They deliver and they were affordable. The food is great. Let me also say this, it will surprise you how many children will NOT eat a ham and cheese, or turkey and cheese sandwich. Parents: you need to work on this. Let's also teach our children that if something is on their sandwich like white cheese instead of orange cheese that rather than cry and whine about it your child should quietly extract offending piece of cheese and leave it on his plate. Also, let's teach our children that if they bite into a sandwich that has shredded lettuce on it -- and for whatever reason your child doesn't like shredded lettuce -- they should swallow hard and just extract offending lettuce for the next bite rather than immediately spitting what is in their mouth on the floor. Because my children eat Jimmy John's sandwiches on a fairly regular basis in never occurred to me that so many would turn their noses to this fare.

My amazing friend Katrine made homemade chocolate brownie cake pops covered in chocolate candy melt and nonpareils in primary colors. So good. We also had a cake, but only so that there could be candles. This particular boy does not believe your birthday is official until you blow out candles on a cake. 

For the drinks, I followed the instructions at Distance Makes and made ninjago faces on gatorade bottles. I like how these turned out. I would not change anything about these. While I liked how Distance Makes made them in all colors, I find that if you offer choices everyone wants the same choice as the coolest kid at the party and you end up not having enough to go around. I made all of mine red but I ran out and made three of them orange. You would not believe the catastrophe that caused. If I were to do this party for older kids, I might consider doing all colors. These were big bottles of gatorade and I thought children and parents would share and I would need those yellow cups. No on split a bottle -- which was fine -- but made the cups that I drew LEGO faces on seem irrelevant. Those are much cheaper option and really easy. I don't really want 5- and 6-year-olds running around my house with paper cups that don't have lids. 

Speaking of unnecessary, I also made utensil rolls in primary colors with a cute LEGO inspired strip of paper to hold the napkin around the utensil set. But none of the boys unwrapped their napkin, let alone use it. But they were cute, easy, and I would do that, again. 

The Plan
Having working with a lot of these boys in the classroom as one of the room moms I knew we would need to keep them busy. On hand I had my husband (please see disclaimer above), a hired teenage babysitter, and a few stray moms. The stray moms are guests and you just don't put them to work. They want to chat with their mom friends and I don't blame them. So, I don't ask them to do much. 

The babysitter and husband went through some serious training, though. I had made activity lanyards for each boy. The lanyards had small "Study Buddies" cards attached to a ring that hung around their necks. Each card was a different color, and had a title written on it. The titles represented the activities to be done at the party. The idea is that they would earn LEGO expertise badges with every activity they complete. This actually kind of worked. Of course the badges were just large LEGO stickers. 

I thought this would help kids move around to the various stations at the party. I also hoped it would help with crowd control. Truthfully nothing helps when it comes to bunching boys. They just gang together and there is no pulling them apart. But I know that most of the boys loved the lanyards. They also got to take these home, obviously.

The Activities
Free Play: This was actually two stations. On one side it consisted of a large box of LEGOs from our own personal toybox. The boys just sat on the floor and built stuff. This worked well in the beginning when guests were arriving. The other piece of it was to sit at a card table and use stickers and markers to decorate a paper crown. This crown we called the LEGO Builder Thinking Cap. I know what you're thinking, "That's dumb. Did anyone even want to wear their crown?" 

Well, I knew from experience that even boys love crowns. I volunteered during a holiday party at the kids' school. I had to present a holiday tradition. Because we are of Swedish descent I had the students make paper St. Lucia crowns and I discussed the tradition. That was so popular with 1st graders last year I figured I could try it.  Don't knock the crown. Again, this was a great ice breaker and got kids being creative rather than rowdy.

Licorice Contest: This activity was a big success. That wonderful cake-pop baking friend told me that it is something she always did as a child at parties. You basically have rope or lace licorice and you see who can eat it the fastest without using their hands. It can be a great photo op (please see disclaimer above). It did have the effect of getting kids very rowdy and pumped with sugar. If I were to do it, again, I would reserve this activity for after food. Also, I recommend that you get cherry flavored licorice. My licorice was black, but cherry flavored. When the kids saw it and thought it was traditional black licorice none of them would try it. Finally I had one boy smell it and he convinced everyone else to do it. Once one group of kids did it, they all wanted to do it. Again, and again, and again...

Car Races: This was equal to the licorice contest in popularity. I had seen a similar idea at Kirsten Can. I didn't realize, however, that all the boys would want to do it at once. If I were to do this over I would make a MUCH bigger space of this. I would make more than two tracks. Also, I staged mine on my stairs. 

But I think I like how Kirsten Can did it using a table. The kids at our party didn't do much reinventing of the cars between races. I would have liked to see more of that. But you can't force someone to be creative if they're not in the mood. And after a few laces of licorice the only thing these boys were in the mood for was screaming and running up and down those stairs.

This is also when I started to feel like I was going to pull my hair out because I grabbed the camera from my husband and realized what kind of pictures he was taking at photobooth. 

Photobooth: I love a good photobooth. We just used a posterboard, taped it to the wall and set out a basket of hats, sunglasses, silly mustaches, etc. We've done photobooth before with great success. But this one was bad. You must make sure your photographer understands the objective. You would think this is intuitive. It is not. You must instruct the photographer on how to frame the picture up. This was a much smaller photobooth than I have done in the past, and that was a mistake. Make your backdrop huge. That way multiple kids can fit in the picture and they have more fun with it. Enough about that.

Pin Head: This is what I called our LEGO version of pin the tail on the donkey. I had a posterboard on the wall that had the words MAKE MY FACE framing a blank center. Then in center we pasted up a black piece of construction paper that had glued to it a white paper with a minifig head drawn on it. I had stickers with eyes, smiles, noses, glasses, etc. We blindfolded the boys, spun them around, and let them stick facial features on the LEGO heads. Very funny results. With each new boy we pulled the minifig head poster down and put up another one. The newly faced one was used as a cover and stapled to a small coloring book I had made with LEGO images I found online. 

Make a Minifig: This station was really Part B of the Pin Head station. Once they had their coloring book they could sit at a table and color LEGO coloring pages. I was hoping this would calm some of them down. Were I to do this again I would make sure all the covers (made by the kids during pin the face on the minifig head) had names on them. Books were getting mixed up like crazy. 

Eat: Pretty obvious. But I will tell you this, no 6-year-old understands the concept of a buffet line. 

The Decorations

As I mentioned before, my house is a shambles. Our decorations' main aim was to hide varying degrees of construction. I did make a small banner using scrapbook cardstock (precut) with letters glued to it. The letters were simply copy paper in which we printed HAPPY BIRTHDAY MASON in the LEGOthic font. Then I punched holes in the top of each card and merely threaded the letters on to yellow grosgrain ribbon. The ribbon is very long because I originally thought I was going to be stretching it across an arch that divided our former dining room and living room. But that arch got cut out of the house the day before the party. Yes, I actually demolition-ed a wall while decorating for a birthday party. I'm smart like that.  

I repurposed all my Knut Day party decorations. These consist of a large yellow table cloth and Olympian blue table runners (both from IKEA). Next to the car races I hung some checkered flag banners that were left over from a edible car derby held at the school. And at each station I had posterboard with the title of the activity (which matched the lanyard) printed on paper in LEGOthic font. Easy peasy. Not really elegant, but it didn't seem to matter to the boys. I also bought .99 plastic table cloths in bright bold colors and covered each station with a different color of table cloth. 

I had wanted my boys to build cake plates and pedestals for me out of LEGOs. I thought they would enjoy the assignment, but they would have none of that. So, I dumped about 500 LEGO pieces in an apothecary jar and put it in the center of the table. 

I also lined up all the goodie boxes on the pony wall between two rooms.

The Goodies
I loved the parting gifts. I had found paperboard boxes at Target for a $1/piece earlier in the year. They were meant to be Rubik's Cubes, but I thought they were LEGO-esque. I filled them with the birthday boy's favorite things -- a ring pop, 2 LEGO pencils, a small notepad, LEGO erasers, a minifig, and a very special set of crayons. 

I made the crayons using a minifig ice cube tray. This is being done all over, I see it on Pinterest all the time. I melted crayons in a pyrex measuring cup in the microwave and poured them into the molds. (Here is a tutorial, which I did not use.) I made over 100 of them in more than 6 colors. I made a set of 6 for each child at the party. I also made a set of 4 for each of the 23 students in his kindergarten class. If I never melt another crayon again, that would be better. 

I stuck the crayons to a yellow piece of cardstock. Then I inserted the cardstock into a sandwich/snack bag. The bags had a face printed on them -- I found them in Target's dollar spot -- and with the yellow card in the bag they looked loosely like a LEGO face.  

There were also razzles and candy sticks on hand for anyone who was getting low on sugar. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012


A few scenes from our Hoppy Easter crafternoon.

Bunny masks and matching ears.
Masks taped to drinking straws. Ears worn as hats during egg hunt.

Utensils project.

The bunny tails -- which I wanted to be powdered sugar donut holes. But I couldn't find donut holes the night before Easter. Go figure. I guess I'm not the only one surfing Pinterest.

The spread, well some of it.

Carrots! I have seen these with jelly beans, Reese's Pieces, Cheetoz, and my favorite Goldfish.

Friday, March 16, 2012


Let’s talk about fun things we find on Pinterest, shall we?

First I saw this cute licorice concept and I almost peed my pants because it’s really cute. This has happened to you before, so don’t go acting like it hasn’t.

Then I started talking it through… looks easy… I’ll just pick up some multi colored licorice… toss in some gold foil wrapped candy… use this awesome printable… all good.

Oi! As with so many things on Pinterest, the really great stuff is posted by really amazing artists and designers. Evern with their spring board of a great idea, you have to fidget the hell out of the project to make it work for you and with what you can find.

Step number one. For St. Patty’s sake, do you know how many places I looked for plain cellophane bags just the right size for 4 vines of licorice? I found super big ones, super decorated ones, but never super perfect ones. So, I settled. My bags were fairly big (could accommodate lots and lots of licorice.

Then I began step number two. Find colorful licorice. Oh Jeez. My pursuit of the colorful licorice did lead me to an offshoot of this project that I ended up loving as much if not more than the original plan. But let me tell you, Wal-Mart may say they have rainbow twizzlers in stock, they do not. I ended up buying mine in bulk at a specialty foods market and spending about $24 on licorice and had enough to make more than 20 items – about 18 more than I had planned to need.

The “gold” at the end of the rainbow was far easier to come by. I used both rolos and Hershey’s Nuggets with Almonds. I also considered using Lindt truffles and Ferrero Rocher.

The main lesson I learned about making this project was this, there are a lot of things that come in rainbow colors or in rainbow packaging. I considered using everything from Rainbow Goldfish to Skittles (the sour ones came in a green box). I did like the individual twisted twizzlers for my single serving size option.

The labels were easy. I used both sizes offered by the talented And because my craft room is actually unavailable to me due to remodeling, I just used whatever ribbon and papers I could pull out of storage. I assembled most of the bags and toppers with a stapler and then used ribbons and the printables I found online to hide the staples.

Before I forget, let’s talk about smaller servings. I found the rainbow twisted Twizzlers in a single serving size, individually wrapped package and picked them up as a back-up in case I never found bulk licorice. Once I had them I decided I’d use them for the same treat on a different scale. I loved them as a handout in for my 5-yol’s class.

My favorite embellishments were the sparkly shamrocks I found at JoAnn’s. They were fabric mesh adhesive just like a Band-Aid and were so easy to use and very sticky. I think, however, this is a seasonal item so stock up now. (I found them while standing in line by the dollar items.)

This project helped me fall in love with rainbows, again. Now, I’m off to bake those cupcakes with the rainbow airheads on top.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Thank You Pinterest

If nothing else, Pinterest is good for pilfering. Or as some moms, crafters, do-it-yourselfers, and artists say, inspiration. When I ran across the monster Valentine's box posted several times I had to try a version for my own sons. They love them and I can tell they will be proud to march them into class tomorrow morning for the annual trading of meaningless scraps of paper and old-tasting candy.

I pinned the ones from Last Minute Mel, but ended up using the tutorial from Giggles Galore. I didn't use the tutorial per se. But I printed it out so that 7-year-old could make his own box. He did a great job and really only required my help when it came to cutting the foam teeth and pushing pipe cleaner through the styrofoam balls.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Custom Order: Henry's Debut

I've had a very special assignment, sewing the outfit worn by my newest nephew on the day his parents introduced him to their church and the world.

I only wish I could have been there in person and not states away to see him in this little suit.

I followed an older Simplicity pattern. I wouldn't call it vintage but it was a reproduction. I used basic white Oxford weave and made the pin-tucks with contrast red thread. I haven't had much success with a snap setter, so, I sewed plastic snaps in the legs for easy diaper changing.

The buttons on the front are for show and feature little red rocking horses. Basic clear acrylic buttons make the opening in the back. The pattern called for shorts, but it is winter, so I lengthened the legs to make trousers. Happy with the result.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

8 Dozen

So here's something not a lot of people know about me: I keep a fairly significant amount of food storage. I don't keep it for the reasons you may think. Simply put, I think it's easy. I can always find something to make for dinner, even when we're snowed in. But recently we decided to finish out basement which has meant I had to find a temporary home for my sewing studio and clear out the food storage. I still haven't found places for all my fabric, but I've made a dent in the food.

My most recent project was finding ways to use all the cake mixes. I decided to follow a cookie recipe for cake mixes because I can go through a lot of cookies via the lunch pail. Here's the recipe I followed:

1 package of cake mix (any flavor)
1 large egg
1/4 cup of oil
1/4 cup of water
1 cup of chopped nuts, raisins, oatmeal, coconut, chocolate chips, M&M'S® etc. (anything you like in cookies)
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Combine cake mix, egg, oil, and water. Beat until well blended. Stir in remaining ingredient (s).

Drop by teaspoon about 1 inch apart onto greased cooke sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes or until done.

I thought I might share with you some of the yummy combinations.

1. Lemon cake mix with cherry chips
2. Devil's Food cake mix with mint chocolate chips
3. Golden cake mix with cinnamon burst chips (mini)

I believe my favorite combination might be the cinnamon one. So, go out there and make some weird cookies. Let me know what works for you!