Category Archives: Crafts

Homemade Wedding Cake

Wow! That’s really about the only thing that I can say about this experience. My good friend Kim and I offered to make a wedding cake for our friend Karen’s daughter. Her daughter Kara wanted a simple, elegant cake – Kim and I were up to the challenge!

I spent Thursday evening baking and getting the cake components together. With help and patience from my wonderful husband Jason, I made 12 cake layers and two huge batches of delicious frosting. As soon as each cake was cooled to room temperature, I wrapped them up separately in plastic wrap and popped them in the freezer where they rested all night.

Here are half of the cake layers.

"Secret ingredient" frosting.

On Friday I made two batches of my lemon curd (the filling requested by the bride) and assembled the layers. It is so much easier putting the layers together when you freeze them in advance. My “lemon goop” (as it is officially nicknamed) glued each of the four triple-layer cakes together and I used my super tasty frosting to apply a thin crumb coat to the outside. Back into the freezer they went for the night.

One layered-up cake.

Crumb coat.

Bright and early this morning (Saturday), Kim came over and helped me to put the finishing touches on the cakes. I put on the nice outer layer of frosting (which is a whole lot easier if the crumb coat is frozen) and Kim tried out different finishing techniques. We decided that simple sides and top were the way to go and Kim piped pretty little beads around the bottom edge.

The cakes in "plain" form.

After we delivered the cakes to the reception site at the groom’s parent’s house we added the final bits, some piped beads around the top and some really sweet bud roses to the tops. As pretty as the cakes were just plain with the topper, the bitty flowers were exactly the only thing that they needed.

Now, with flowers added.

These are the three pretty cakes, the fourth one was stashed in the kitchen as a spare just in case we needed more (which we did).

Kim Howell & I with our finished creations.

I am so proud of us. We did a beautiful job for our dear friend Kara. She had a beautiful wedding with lots of friends and family surrounding her and her new husband. Congratulations to them both in their new life together. We were truly honored to have created your cake for you. As I was leaving the reception everyone was complementing me on the cake and were so appreciative of Kim and I for going to the effort of making it from scratch. Not only was it delicious but it meant a lot to them that it was such a labor of love instead of calling in a professional. I wish I had snapped a photo of a sliced piece, but they were all snatched up so fast that I barely got one myself!

Here are the recipes I used:

Buttermilk White Cake

Lemon Curd

Light Fruity Frosting

This is My Time of Year

The last few days here in Mobile have been cool. Not cold, but sunny and mid-70s with a cool breeze. Perfect fall weather. I didn’t want to jump the gun and turn off the a/c too soon just to lose all the nice temperature in the house right before the weather turns warm again and have to cool the whole house again. However, we jumped on the bandwagon yesterday. I flipped off the a/c, threw open all the windows in the living room, dining room, and kitchen and let the beautiful breeze bring some fresh cool air into the house. We left the bedroom windows closed because I cannot sleep in a room that’s been filled with fresh allergens — especially since the house next door is vacant and the yard hasn’t been mowed in almost six months, it’s nothing but grass up to your hip and weed trees over there.

We left the windows open all night and I woke up to an amazingly cool & cozy home. My old slippers are still buried in a box in the garage, so I think I’ll sit down today and crochet me a pair. I found a really cute pattern a couple of weeks ago and now is the perfect time to make it. I think Jesse could also use a sweater. If I could knit him some pants, that would be a good idea too. All he has are onesies and shorts. It’s alright though, he’s all torso and not much leg, so his socks pretty much meet his shorts at the knee leaving just a hint of kneecap exposed. I think he’ll be fine. ūüėČ

Anyhow, all this rambling about the gorgeous weather here in the South, slippers, and knitting is just me being excited. The house is clean (if you don’t count a little kid clutter). I really just want to throw on one of my many sweaters that I’ve been missing and eyeing in my closet, bake some sugar cookie cut-outs¬†with Jeremy, snuggle on the couch under a blanket with my loves, watch some old kid movies (like The Land Before Time – a new favorite of his), crochet some slippers, bake some bread, and start work on a few choice Christmas gifts.

Sounds fabulous, doesn’t it?! What are you up to now that the weather has turned?

Super-Frugal Tie Rack

As long as I’ve known him, Jason has had a bag full of ties. He had a couple that would be rolled up and stored in his sock drawer so that they wouldn’t get wrinkled but the rest of them were stuffed in the bag.

A couple of weeks ago as we were going through all of the wonderful gifts we were given for baby Jesse, we took a bunch of onesies off of these super cool hangers that are 5 hangers in one. Before I threw them away Jason had an epiphany… while these little baby hangers aren’t strong enough to hold anything very heavy, they are the perfect size for ties!

baby hanger

He hung the ties on facing alternate directions to keep the weight even.

Each hanger held ten ties and we had two of these neato little hangers so he was able to hang up all of his ties. This was great because most of those had been his dad’s and he was really hoping to get them out of their make-shift storage.

Now that this is handled (and on the cheap), what will the boys and I get him for Father’s Day? Isn’t a fancy schmancy tie rack a typical dad gift?

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I’m linking this post to Frugal Friday hosted by Fishmama at her blog Life as Mom where there are loads of ideas for keeping your life frugal.

Catching Up

I have been incredibly absent around here lately. I made my big huge photo-laden post right after I returned home from a week in California, then I planned October’s menu – that’s it, all I’ve done in the past month. That is absolutely pitiful blogging and for the four people or so who read this, I am so very sorry. In a lame attempt at some excuses: 1) I was exhausted from finishing my first trimester of this pregnancy, 2) I’ve been busily preparing my son’s room for him to come home to us this week, and 3) I’ve been doing crazy lots of crocheting.

 

Item number 1: First Trimester of Pregnancy.
As I’ve mentioned from time to time on Twitter¬†and Facebook, this pregnancy has been different in every single way from my first.¬†With my first baby (Jeremy) I had no morning sickness (aside from a reaction to taking my iron supplement with a glass of milk), with this baby I was ill all day every day for the few couple of months. All that changed as I headed into the second trimester (last week) and I’m so very happy for that. I feel like my old self again and I’ve got my energy back. I had been barely getting along with cooking the bare minimum of meals I planned and doing just enough laundry to keep us in clean clothes. Now I can really clean my house, do the dishes, keep up with ALL the laundry, and I’m even feeling up to taking a walk every now and then.

When I was pregnant with Jeremy I started at a slim weight, moved into maternity pants after two months, and maternity shirts two months later. This time, I had ten pounds hanging on from that first pregnancy so my regular clothes have been sufficing for the most part. Some days I need to wear maternity pants (when I’ll be sitting a lot or cleaning a lot), but my regular jeans and tops still fit fine. Last weekend I spent a gift card on a few key maternity pieces at Old Navy when they were having a great sale on top of a military discount weekend. I will still need a few more things, but I’m waiting until the weather changes to see what kinds of pieces I’ll need. The best thing I did while there was try on all kinds of pieces to find out my size in every type of clothing item. My local Old Navy, Target, and WalMart do not have maternity sections aside from the couple of items on the clearance rack that people have purchased online and returned. So, now that I know my size I can order online without worrying that I’ll get the wrong size. Whenever I think about it I get angry all over again that over half of my old maternity clothes have gone missing (leant them out to a former friend, she leant them off to another friend, I got back most of it, and less than half of that turned up after moving across the country). I’ll get over it eventually, but it just stings every time it pops up. Once I’ve got enough maternity clothes to get me through this pregnancy I’ll forget all about the old stuff that disappeared.

This could be a getting older thing or I could just chock it up to having done the baby-making thing before and I’m more in-tune with my body this time around, but I am FAR more sensitive to food than I was last time. With Jeremy I was eating cookies and milk for breakfast, huge lunches out in Downtown LA everyday, and crazy things for dinner like mac-and-cheese, Hamburger Helper, and carrots with ranch dip pretty much in a steady regular rotation for nine months. This time I’m hearing cravings LOUD and CLEAR for what they really are – my body telling me what it needs more of. I hear “Feed me Skittles and Snickers” and I respond with “I know you really are craving sugar, but you get it in the form of an apple and only one cookie.” Also, as I learned last night, it also tells me without a doubt what it doesn’t want more of. Since we shop almost exclusively at Sam’s Club, we get great deals on meat. Late last week we had a big ol’ pot roast, yesterday I made a huge beef stew. As we sat down to the table I dipped into my bowl and while the stewed potatoes and carrots were delicious with the thick broth, I could not force any of the beef chunks into myself. My stomach lurched at the very idea of it. I posted it up on my Facebook today and got some very insightful responses from my friends Stephanie and Drew. I think the beef we’ve got will be extra trimmed before cooking and after that’s used up we’ll be sticking to chicken and turkey. I suppose I’ll need to learn to enjoy fish to keep things rounded out. We usually buy chuck roast for the nice marbling throughout but I think we’ll be switching to a leaner cut like round roast from here on out.

 

This was our sonogram on 9/11/09 (Jeremys 3rd birthday). See that little arm sticking up there in the middle, waving hello!

This was our sonogram on 9/11/09 (Jeremy's 3rd birthday). See that little arm sticking up there in the middle, waving hello!

That sonogram above was 5 weeks ago. Jason has been wonderful about accompanying me to our monthly check-ups with my OB-GYN.¬†We went to the doctor again last week and everything checked out just fine. The baby’s heartbeat is still fast and strong.¬†We’ve had two ultrasounds since the beginning and at our next appointment on November 6 we should be able to find out the gender. So excited!

 

Item number 2: Readying Jeremy’s Room/The Nursery.
There’s not a lot to say here. As soon as the pregnancy test popped up positive Jason put together the crib. It was the one we bought for Jeremy and we thought for the future in buying a convertible bed. Jeremy used it as a crib and then we converted it into a toddler bed with short side rails. It can also be converted into a day bed and eventually a full size bed. However, since we’re starting back at the beginning, it’s back to a crib. Then, a few weeks ago we purchased a bunk bed for Jeremy (also thinking toward the future and knowing that we’re not stopping at two kids). While I was in California Jason put the bottom bunk together (Jeremy’s way too young to try out the top bunk), luckily we purchased beds that can be assembled together or separately. Over the last month I pulled out all Jeremy’s clothes, washed them, put them away, put new sheets and bedspread on Jeremy’s new bed. I had to sort through all of his clothes that will fit from those that are too small because they were all jumbled together. I also put Jeremy’s jungle theme bedding on the crib. If we wind up with another boy it’ll be perfect. It would also be cute for a girl, but I’d probably get something pink and purple and girly for her. We’ll see. For now at least the crib isn’t naked and all of Jeremy’s stuffed animals are comfy in a made bed.

Jeremys side of the room.

Jeremy's side of the room.

Babys side on the left and Jeremy on the right.

Baby's side on the left and Jeremy on the right.

Jeremys stuffed menagerie.

Jeremy's stuffed menagerie.

 

Item number 3: Crochet Crochet Crochet Crochet Crochet.
I’ve been crocheting Christmas gifts like a mad woman. We’ll be spending a good chunk of money to take four of us out to California for about 10 days at the end of December, so our gift budget is smaller than ever. We realized this early and I spent a full day cataloging my stash of yarn and searching for items I can crochet as gifts. We also parred down our list of giftees to just parents, grandparents, and siblings. Our extended families will understand. That said, I have 9 gifts to make in the next 10 weeks. I’ve got two completely finished and another one very very close to finished. Those three were the most time-intensive and complicated, so I’m glad they’re behind me. That leaves 6 rather simple projects in 10 weeks. I wish I could post photos, but just in case any of my family actually stumbles onto this site that I’ve told many of them about, I wouldn’t want anyone discovering their Christmas gift. I promise to take photos and post them just after Christmas. I have always been really horrible about remembering to take photos of what I’ve crocheted and all but two items have been given away as gifts.

I will share one photo. About 18 months ago I started crocheting a big stuffed monkey for Jeremy. It took me forever to finish it because I kept getting bored of the same old stitches back and forth back and forth and put it away over and over again. I finally finished it just in time for Jeremy’s second birthday but I left off the face. It was creepy for sure but Jeremy didn’t seem to care much as long as the monkey was cuddly. On Jeremy’s second birthday the monkey was as tall as he was.
Just the other day I finally gave that monkey a face of yarn-covered button eyes and stitched-on nose and smiling mouth.

Looks happy now, doesnt he?

Looks happy now, doesn't he?

So, that’s everything that’s been going on in my world this last month. Now I’d better get to baking those snickerdoodles that I promised Jeremy. He comes home tomorrow and I’ve got to have something sweet for him to snack on his first day here. I considered cupcakes, maybe next week. While they bake I need to get cracking on my crocheting for today too. I’d like to finish the project I’m nearly through with so I can get started on the six projects I have left.

Handpainted Child’s Stool

Several of the children in my family received a wooden stool when they were between two and three years old. All of them were handpainted by a wonderful old woman in our hometown. Each was different but they all looked uniform. They all came from the same blank so they were all the same size and shape. Here is a picture of my 25-year old stool:

It was personalized with my name and a very sweet little poem:

“This little stool is mine

I use it all the time

To reach the things I couldn’t

And sometimes things I shouldn’t.”

As you can see, the years have been rough on this treasured piece of my childhood. There is a significant crack that my mother patched with a piece of clear packing tape.

My 2 1/2-year old son Jeremy has fallen in love with my stool. I keep putting it away to keep it from being broken any further, but he always drags it out from wherever I’ve stashed it. He loves to “help” me do dishes, cook, and do all number of things as long as he can stand on the stool (even washing his hands!).

In my wanting to foster this creativity and helpfulness in him, I decided that he needs his own stool. The talented lady who created the stools for my sister, cousins, and I passed away more than fifteen years ago. I can only mark her absence by the fact that my youngest two cousins (who are now 13 and 15 years old) did not receive stools as children but my 19-year old cousin did.

I could probably have just purchased a simple wooden stool from the craft store and painted it all a basic color, but I want my son to have a stool with the same amount of love and individuality as the stools we received as kids. A plain painted stool wouldn’t be special to him like my stool is to me. Even my two oldest male cousins took special care of their stools. When the legs eventually gave out, they removed them and hung the stool tops on the wall with the family photos. No, a plain stool will not do for my son.

I could probably have searched out a local artist to paint a cute design on a simple wooden stool for my son. But alas, I am not flush with money and cannot afford to pay someone for an original piece of art, so matter how special the gift.

So, it lands to me to create this item that I so fervently want to give my son. I like to call myself crafty, but my skills do not lie with the liquid arts. I’m better with yarn (crochet) and thread (cross-stitch). I have, however done well in the past with stain and a woodburning tool, so I figured that if I take a lot of care with this project, that I could achieve success.

So, here we go…

Step 1: Purchase the necessary craft items.

Pre-assembled wooden stool (I chose a 10″ diameter), fine sandpaper (220 grit for me), desired shade of wood stain (I chose Golden Oak),¬†graphite paper, sharpened pencil,¬†acrylic paints (I picked up my set of twelve colors for $6.99),¬†paintbrushes, and ¬†a¬†can of ¬†varnish to seal your work.

Step 2: Sand your stool.

{Pretend there is a photo of my diligent sanding job here. My camera ate it.}

Be sure to get it nice and smooth without any standing grain or rough spots. The stain will absolutely darken any inconsistencies more than the nice soft spots.

When you’ve sufficiently sanded your stool, wipe off the dust with a clean cloth. Or you can ask your little person (who’s been standing by watching with much interest) to help you do this.

{I had an awesome photo of my 2 1/2-year old son helping me wipe the stool clean of dust. Darn camera ate it too.}

Step 3: Follow the directions on your stain. You can use a can of spray-on stain, but my craft store didn’t have any and I wasn’t up to a special trip to the hardware store just for that.

I chose to apply my stain with a folded-up section of paper towel instead of a paintbrush.

Step 4:  Let the stain sit for at least 8 hours to make sure it is completely dry. If you have quick-drying stain, go with the directions on your container. After the stain is set, apply a layer of sealant to the stool. This will protect the wood from the acrylic paint seeping into the grain of the wood. Allow the sealant plenty of time to dry.

Step 5: While your stool is drying, choose a picture, poem, whatever you want to paint onto the seat of the stool.

I chose a cartoonish ship with a pirate boy sailing the high seas. I went through scads of websites offering free clipart. Then, once I found the right picture, I scoured my beloved Random House Quotationary for just the perfect saying to write next to the pirate boy. I chose a snippet from Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi, “Now and then we had a hope, that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be pirates.” For those of you who don’t know my family and I in real life, we really enjoy participating in Rennaisance and pirate-themed faires. For the past year and a half that my son has been coming along, he has been enthralled with pirates. I wanted to remember this special phase in his childhood by marking his fascination in the stool design.

Step 6:¬†Transfer your image(s) to the stool using graphite paper and pencil. Another option is to purchase a stencil-making kit from the craft store. You can print out your design on the thick plasticy-paper and cut them out (or, if you’re into scrapbooking, you can use one of those fancy schmancy Cricut machines). I chose not to do that because the stencil pages were expensive and I don’t need to reuse my design afterward. I think they may be a good option for if you wanted to repeat this design somewhere in your child’s room as a theme, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do.

Here is my design having been completely transfered. The lines of the little pirate boy are very faint because there were two layers of paper to push through as well as the graphite paper. Next time I’ll remember to keep the design to a single page thickness.

Step 7: Color your paper design.

Borrow some of your kid’s crayons and color-in your design on paper. It’s a lot easier to change the colors on paper if you’re not happy at the start than it is to change the colors in paint. This makes the painting process a lot simpler.

Step 8: Paint your design.

It sounds simple, but it’s the step I’ve been both dreading and looking forward to. In my project, the design is the most integral piece of the whole thing – meaning, there’s a lot riding on my unpracticed ability.

Once I got into the painting, I got over my worry that it wouldn’t look exactly like the clipart. The ship looks great, the little boy is a bit more cartooney than he started out, but he’s cute. My child isn’t expecting my artwork to be professional quality, so why should I? Years down the road he will just remember that his mom made this for him out of love and be darned with my non-professional painting ability.

After the main design is dry, go back and add the little details. In my case, the edging around Jeremy’s name, the skull and crossbones on the top flag, the words of the quote, the stool’s legs, and some love notes on the underside.

(The legs are blue, but the lighting in my kitchen is pretty dark here.)

Step 9: Wait for the paint to dry.

Sorry, that doesn’t sound like much fun at all, “Like watching paint dry,” but it needs to be completely dry before you seal it. If you use spray-on sealer, it will create little pock marks in semi-dry or tacky paint. If you use paint-on sealer, it will smear the paint. Either way, if you don’t wait, all your hard work will be ruined and you’ll have to sand it off and start over.

Step 10: Apply sealer to the entire stool.

You can use varnish (as I am), lacquer, clear spray paint, whatever your heart desires, as long as the product can be used on wood and over acrylic paint. There are some products that won’t work on either or both of those mediums, so check to be sure you buy the right kind.

Step 11: Wait for the sealant to dry.

Again, no fun. As cute as they may be, you don’t want little feet, hand, or butt prints stuck on your new piece of art, do you? (Well, unless that’s the design you chose.)

Step 12: Deliver your new piece of usable art to it’s new owner.

That’s it! After the sealant is completely dry, hand this over to your little person and let them enjoy it to their heart’s content.

Jeremy loved his new stool. Too bad I messed up my flash settings when I snapped this photo of him smiling. He was being goofy and it’s all out of focus. Oh well.

I hope you enjoyed my little tutorial on creating a wonderful little stool for a child. My sister, cousins, and I used our stools throughout our entire childhoods. They served as the requisite stepping stool for the kitchen and potty, and any other place out of small reaches, chairs for when we’d eat dinner at the coffee table instead of the dining room, ottomans when we got too big to sit on them, tables for our Barbie/stuffed animal tea parties, and hundreds of other uses. I don’t think our moms and grandparents knew back when they bought us these that they would be so treasured and hold so many wonderful memories. They probably just thought they were getting us cute matching stools.