Monkey Business – part 2

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I haven’t had a lot of time to crochet lately so I was afraid I had grown a little rusty. One of our friends recently had their first baby and they were coming to visit us at our new house. Since crochet items are such great baby gifts, I decided I needed to dust off the old crochet hooks and whip out an amazing gift for the new little baby! I checked my yarn stash and looked at the time. OK, It’s 9pm, they were coming at around 10am and the baby wakes up at 6am. I would have to work fast!

I quickly decided I wanted to make a sock monkey hat, partly because I thought it suited our friends so much. If you have been following my blog, this may look familiar as it is the hat I made my first daughter! I had one eye on the clock as I was furiously crocheting and trying not to make any mistakes so I was able to keep pretty good track of my time. I used a 9 month size pattern since the baby won’t be able to use it until this winter. I was able to make the whole hat with the features attached in about three and a half hours. That left just the pom pom for the next day. Looking good so far.

The next morning was a bustle of activities getting everything ready for the guests! I was finally able to sit and make the pom pom, attach it, and wrap the gift right before they arrived. Whew! Just made it! The hat turned out great and the baby was so adorable and tiny! I can’t wait to see her when she gets old enough for the hat! Welcome, little cutie!

Happy First Birthday!

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Last weekend marked the first birthday of my youngest daughter.  I can’t believe how quickly time flies! I can hardly remember what happened during this whirlwind of a year.  It is true that as you get older,  time seems to speed on by even faster than before. There are so many things that I wished would move more slowly so that my ability to really enjoy the moment and memorize each precious memory is forever stamped in my mind.  Nothing can ever compare to these precious moments.

We kept the party strictly to family,  which is quickly already becoming a bigger affair as everyone’s families are growing larger!  I made the same cupcakes that I had made for my eldest daughter’s first birthday,  only I omitted the lemon from the cake batter and the icing for just plain vanilla cupcakes.  I think she really liked them, she gobbled them right up!

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Things always seem much more rushed for the second child so I was only able to make a quick backdrop for decorating for the party.  Nonetheless,  it was a festive and happy time and my daughter got lots of gifts. For the backdrop, I ended up taping the remainder of a plastic pink tablecloth to the wall. Then I ran chevron streamers from top to bottom in stripes. I lined the top with crepe paper tassles and heart balloons, then I affixed my trusty birthday banner on top for the finishing touch.

Happy birthday my dear little baby.  Please don’t grow up too quickly!

The Communal Table

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One thing about living in a rented apartment is this: you never want to invest in nice furniture as you know you are only in a temporary living situation.  This held true for most of the furniture that we had previously owned and moved into our new house.  However, you get to a certain point in life where you just don’t want to settle for crappy college-grade furniture anymore.

We had owned an expandable kitchen table from Ikea for as long as I had lived in New York.  The great thing about this is that it was dirt cheap (I think it was under $50) and it could be either teeny-tiny to fit into our first apartment and seat two people, or it could expand to fit into our second apartment and fit up to 6 people if you pulled it off of the wall.  However, it was starting to show signs of wear as the laminate was beginning to pull off the edges and you could see wear spots in the center of the leaves where we had placed items over the years. Upon moving, we just up and moved this table with us because it was still in decent working condition, and to be honest, we needed to buy beds first as we were lacking in those.

Well, we had decided to host Christmas dinner this year since we have been remiss in all hosting of holidays for the past decade or so, and we needed to buy a new table so that we would have enough places for people to sit.  We figured that we would just buy a new kitchen table since our old one had seen better days and really wasn’t ideally sized for the kitchen in either of its sizes.  We looked at a lot of options: round, square, rectangular, etc. and kept coming back to a rectangle.  Unfortunately many of the tables were either too heavy in the base (the space is quite small so it needed a more delicate look) or the lighter base tables were extremely expensive.  Since this is just the kitchen area and didn’t need a fancy dining table, I didn’t want to spend too much money.  So where did we turn?  Ikea of course.

I can’t believe that even after all this time, sometimes Ikea just has what you need.  We ended up purchasing the Ingo, which is a raw wood table.  We wanted a more muted finish so we ended up whitewashing it and then sealing it with some satin polyurethane.  The final product is quite nice!  The whitewashing is extremely easy.  I forgot to take pictures but the instructions are below:

1. In a plastic container, combine 1 part water and 1 part white paint.  You may want to adjust this depending on the level of opacity you are trying to achieve.

2. Place your wood pieces on a dropcloth or newspapers.  Using a paintbrush, paint on the whitewash mixture in long even strokes.  Using a dry paper towel, white off the excess.  The longer you let the whitewash sit on the wood before wiping, the more opaque the finish.  Also, the more layers you do, the more opaque the finish will be.  We just wanted it not to look so yellow and raw.

3. Once you are happy with the level of opacity, let it sit overnight to dry.

4. Apply 1 thin coat of satin polyurethane to all visible surfaces.  Let this dry for a couple of hours so that it is no longer tacky.

5. Steel wool the surfaces to get out any air bubbles and smooth the surfaces.  The table’s wood is not a great grade so it is a little rough.  The steel wool will help with this.

6. Wipe down the surfaces to remove all the steel wool dust.  Let it dry completely and apply 1 more thin coat of polyurethane and let it dry completely.  Assemble the table and you’re done!

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Panda Party

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My daughter recently celebrated her fourth birthday.  As a part of her birthday, she asked if she could bring cupcakes for her classmates.  I don’t mind bringing goodies for the kids to celebrate a birthday.  I actually think it’s quite nice and fun for the kids to be able to celebrate something in school and I know that my daughter was so excited to turn four like all of her friends.

I wanted to make something special for her so I looked at my trusty pinterest and found the cutest pin of a panda cupcake.  The link didn’t work but the images were enough for me to be able to figure it out for the most part.  I didn’t have a lot of time so I decided to use a cake box mix and dress up the cupcakes really cute.  When my daughter saw the panda cupcakes I had started before she went to bed, she was very excited, exclaiming how cute they were.  When she woke up in the morning, she saw all of the panda cupcakes and excitedly said “Mommy, there are so many more cute pandas!”  She couldn’t wait to share them with her friends at school.  I hope it was a memorable celebration!

Buttercream frosting

1 C butter, softened

4 C confectioner’s sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 T milk

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and beat until well incorporated.  If the mixture is too thick, add more milk.

Ingredients:

Buttercream frosting

Icing piping bag with a wide circular tip

small bowl of granulated sugar

semi-sweet chocolate chips

chocolate sprinkles

Instructions:

1. Bake chocolate cake batter in mini cupcake tins, as directed.

2. Using your icing piping bag, pipe the frosting onto a cupcake, as smooth as possible.  I piped from the edges and moved into the center and then piped extra icing in the center to really give the cupcake a rounder shape.

3. Taking the iced cupcake, roll the icing in the granulated sugar until completely covered.

4. Starting with the nose, place a chocolate chip sideways a little lower than the center of the cupcake.  Follow with two chips with points down as eyes and then two chips with flat side facing up as ears.

5. Using tweezers, place the chocolate sprinkles to form the mouth.

6. Using a very thin piping tip, squeeze small dots onto the eyes.

Voila!  You have cute little panda cupcakes that are fun to look at and yummy to eat!

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Dressed to the Fours

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This week-end was my eldest daughter’s fourth birthday.  I cannot believe that she is four already! Time really is flying and if you blink, things seem to just zip on by!

This was the first birthday party that we were going to have at our new house.  Life is finally starting to settle down and reach a routine and nothing marks an important milestone like the first birthday party in the new house!  I have been to many types of birthday parties and I have to admit that the thought of throwing a birthday bash for a class of 20 children was extremely daunting.  I decided instead to opt for a smaller, more intimate party, similar to the birthday parties I had as a child.  I told my daughter that she could invite four of her friends, one for each of her four years.  It ended up being five friends, which was still manageable.  I thought this would be much more personal and would give the parents an opportunity to get to know one another in a more relaxed atmosphere.  Days are crazy enough with school drop-offs and pick-ups that we never get any opportunity to see any of the other parents, much less talk to them!

We started preparing for the party weeks in advance. My daughter told me she wanted a princess party that was pink, purple and blue.  She wanted to have each of her friends come wearing a princess dress to do princess activities. You can recall in my previous post that my daughter and I had made a heart pinata. For some reason the thought of a bunch of 4-year old girls dressed up as princesses trying to bust open a pinata was so hilarious that it immediately went on the To-Do list.  I figured you couldn’t have a princess party without wands, so I set up an activity for each girl to make their own magic wand.  Since we were doing hearts as a theme, I ended up making heart-shaped “princess” cupcakes.  And finally, I thought, what better way to end the party, than with a special princess goody bag, which was actually a Chinese brocade jewelry bag that held all sorts of little goodies for the girls!

The nice thing about having a house and having no furniture is that you can designate a “party room” and you don’t have to worry about shuffling things around.  We spent Saturday afternoon decorating the room.  We made balloon streamers and crepe paper tassle buntings, and I made a curtain out of streamers as well.  All in all, the room was very festive and the party was a great success!  I think all the little princesses had a great time and I was correct that watching a bunch of princesses earnestly trying to crack open a heart pinata was pretty funny.  I think that the parents had a lot of fun helping to break that thing too!

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Tassle bunting – tutorial here

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Streamer Curtain – I used the same technique as a photobooth wall and just added tie-backs, tutorial here.

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Princess Heart Cupcakes – I was inspired by these images of cookie designs as well as zentangle designs such as these.

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Magic Wands – I wrapped a 1/2″ wood dowel in white grosgrain ribbon and secured with hot glue.  Then I attached some curling ribbon, where each girl selected a color, and finished it off with a silver glitter snowflake ornament.

Paper Hearts

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I can’t believe that my eldest daughter is turning 4 years old in a week!  I still remember when I brought her home from the hospital and now here she is, going to kindergarten in a year, forming complex-(ish) sentences, and growing like a weed before my very eyes!

Since moving to a new town last summer, life has begun to reach a sense of normalcy.  We are slowly getting into a routine and beginning to meet some people in the area.  Since we had a really big birthday party for our daughter last year, we decided to keep it smaller this year, akin to the birthday parties that we used to celebrate growing up.  I let my daughter choose five of her friends to invite so we can have an intimate party here in our new house.  After committing to this type of party, I dug into the recesses of my memory to try and remember what kinds of activities we had at our birthday parties back in the day.  I remembered that my mom used to make piñatas  for us as an activity and we always had a lot of fun making them and then trying to break them.  I thought it would be a fun activity to make a small piñata with my daughter as we had never done this before.

Surprisingly, when I told her the plan, she knew what a piñata was from one of the shows that she likes to watch.  She got very excited that I knew how to make one and happily dove into helping me.  I let her choose what she wanted, what color, and what candy to put inside it.  she had such a blast making it. She loved the messy beginning where you paper mache the balloon and she was very excited as the piñata dried and began to take shape. I can’t wait to see her little friends and her trying to break this thing.  I have a feeling the parents are going to get in on some of the action!  This is going to be fun!

For those of you who have never made a piñata, it’s really quite simple.  It only takes a little time:

Items needed:

balloon

kitchen twine

newspaper shredded into 1″ strips

1/2 C flour dissolved in 3 C water – should be a little thick

tissue paper

Elmer’s glue

candy

Step 1: Place the inflated balloon on a bowl to hold it still.  Dip the newspaper in water/flour mixture and run the strip of paper through your fingers to remove excess water/flour.  Place on the balloon.  Continue until the entire balloon is covered in newspaper, about 2 layers.  Set aside to dry completely.

Step 2: Once dry, tie kitchen twine around the balloon securely and tie a loop at the top of the piñata.  This is where you will hang the piñata from.  Continue to glue on at least 3 more layers of the newspaper and water/flour mixture.  Set aside to dry completely.

Step 3: Cut tissue paper into 2″ strips.  Fold in half and then cut along the folded side about 3/4″ inch down so that it is one long strip of tissue paper with parallel cuts along the folded edge.  Do this for all the tissue paper you will attach to the piñata.

Step 4: Draw a line of glue along the piñata.  Attach one side of the tissue paper along the glue and press down.  Draw another line of glue along top of the tissue paper edge that you just glued.  Fold the tissue paper over so that it forms a loop and glue the free edge on top of the first glued edge.  Continue until the entire piñata is covered.  Leave a small area on the top of the piñata so that you can cut a hole to fill with candy.

IMG_7297Step 5: At the top of the piñata where you have left it without the tissue paper, take a utility knife and cut a V-shaped slit.  This will pop the balloon inside.  Push the V flap in and push candy into the piñata until desired amount is in the piñata.  Let the V flap close and tissue paper over it.

Voila!  Your piñata is ready to party!

 

The Bright Spot

Owning a home takes a lot of patience. I keep wanting everything to be done immediately, but it takes time to figure out how the house is going to reflect the personalities that live within it. I have spent countless hours trolling websites looking at images of things I like and don’t like to try and figure out how I want our home to look.

The previous owner had hired an interior designer. While it was not exactly to my taste, it did possess a “put together” feel. One of the countless items that they had installed were a number of light fixtures throughout the house. The owners were mostly trying to align with the “Victorian” style. The fixtures are mostly heavier and hung lower than I am accustomed to seeing. Not to say that some of the fixtures aren’t lovely, but the wall sconces in the living room are especially not my taste. The moment I walked in the room, I thought the wall sconces and the pendant were extremely heavy and much too large a scale for the room.

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Old Fixture – too ornate and very heavy

I spent a lot of time thinking about and looking for fixtures that I felt would be properly scaled in the space as well as something that would align with my family’s and the house’s “style”. I finally landed on these cool industrial looking fixtures featuring a bare Edison bulb in an oil-rubbed bronze finish. I was lucky enough to find these on sale for half the price of retail at an end of the year sale so I snapped them up and they proceeded to sit around the house for a good two weeks before my husband and I got around to pulling off the old fixtures and wiring up the new ones.

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New Fixture – oh so pretty!

For those of you who aren’t afraid of simple electrical work, this was easy as pie. To remove the fixture, you just turn off the circuit to the light, pull off the old fixtures by untwisting the caps and disengaging the wires, and removing the old mounting plate that screws into the electrical back box (which is secured to a stud in the wall). Then, you mount the new mounting plate w/ the proper mounting screws (we ended up having to get new ones from the hardware store because the ones the fixture came with were way too long), twist the black wires together and cap them, twist the white wires together and cap them, screw the ground wire to the mounting plate, and then attach the fixture.

I am much happier with these new fixtures. Not only do they seem much more appropriately scaled, I feel that their aesthetic just fits the space more nicely. What do you think?

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I think I’m in love….