Zentangle Bowls

I have these legacy bowls from college that are perfectly serviceable and durable, but they are definitely not my style and I am desperately waiting for them to “break” (they never will, they’re indestructible….. ) so that I can finally have an excuse to buy some fun new table settings.  I have been coveting sets of bowls that have mis-matched prints in bold colors or bold patterns.  Some that I especially liked are below:

Aren’t these just adorable?  I want some so badly, but I cannot bring myself to dispose of perfectly practical (and unbreakable) bowls.  Well, fortunately (or not) my husband accidentally broke a bowl, which, unfortunately, happened NOT to be one of the oh-so-despised bowls that I would rather it have been.  However, this did give me an excuse to get a new bowl.  I thought it may be fun to test out an idea that I had while planning the craft for my eldest daughter’s birthday party.  Why couldn’t I make something?  I have all these glazed sharpie pens.

I was prompted to find something to do when my daughter suddenly got sick and had to stay at home for three days.  In desperation, I went to Target with her and got two bowls for us to decorate.  For my bowl, I thought it would be fun to do a Zentangle-inspired, or Mandala-inspired design.  For those of you not familiar with Zentangle or Mandala art, it’s some images are below:

 

I learned from the party craft that I should try to avoid the actual eating surface because the washing would eventually cause the pattern to wear over time.  So, I had a plan, kind of.  This is what happened:

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My daughter helped with some of the simpler patterns, such as the large yellow dots.  She was really impressed with how long this took me to draw (it wasn’t that long, but to a 5-year old, it was “FOREVER”).  I’m looking forward to getting a couple more bowls to complete a set – all different patterns of course!  What do you think?

Portrait

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When my first daughter was just becoming interested in learning to color, I would sit with her each day and draw. I would draw things like her stuffed animals, house and most of all, I loved to draw her. I would often stare at her, mesmerized that she was created inside of me; this perfect, innocent little being full of life and wonder. I memorized her features,  each nuance of her face,  and I loved to express it in drawings of her with her stuffed dolls.  I had posted something a while ago here.

With my second,  I find less time to sit with my daughters to draw and pass the time.  While I have spent no less time gazing at my youngest and memorizing her every feature,  I fear I have not been as up to the task of drawing with her and for her. I wanted to try my hand at and see if I could represent her the way I had her eldest sister,  so I decided I would draw a portrait of her. I thought it would be a good little exercise to get me back into this habit.

I admit I cheated a little by taking a photo of her while she was napping. My eldest has always had a great propensity for solo activities such as reading,  drawing,  or playing make- believe.  My youngest, on the other hand,  doesn’t have the capacity to sit still longer than one minute.

I used regular drawing paper and a princess pencil I took from my daughter’s art bin. Here is the result:

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The Second is 2!

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So it’s happened.  My baby turned two.  When did this happen?  I can hardly believe that time has flown so quickly!  I don’t know if it’s because I’m so tired these days or if life is just too full of things to do, but having to even consider planning a birthday party for my daughter seemed beyond me at this point.  Planning playdates for two children seems to so difficult and this seems to be one of my shortcoming as a parent.  I look for the easy playdate where friends have more than one kid so that all the children can keep each other occupied.  Is that terrible of me?  Don’t lie, I’m sure I’m not the only one!

I am glad to say that my second daughter is quite gregarious and will run around to almost everyone after she has acclimated and flirt outrageously with them.  For this I am very grateful that she finds her happiness instead of having to have someone define it for her.

Well, I may not have planned a big party for her, but I did get my act together enough to make her cupcakes to bring to school as well as have a small gathering with family to celebrate.  For her cupcakes, I opted to make a lemon cupcake with a lemon buttercream frosting.  I have made these before for my first daughter’s first birthday, noted here.  However, instead of mini-cupcakes, I opted for large ones.  The recipe will make about 16 large cupcakes.  I used the buttercream frosting here and added half a lemon with half a lemon’s zest.  It turned out quite nice, if I do say so myself!  I also opted to use a pre-made candy flower by Wilton’s, which I got from Michael’s.

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When my eldest daughter learned that I was going to be making cupcakes she insisted on helping.  It was quite hilarious how she helped me with the icing.  For every cupcake iced and flower she placed, she would then help herself to a small taste of icing.  And with each taste, she would exclaim “I love helping you make cupcakes mommy!  Mmmm!!!”  What a comedian!  Although, I must say, she was surprisingly exact in measuring the perfect amount of batter needed for cupcakes.  I may have to employ her services in the future.  Haha!

Anyways, the cupcakes were quite delicious and my youngest daughter was quite enthusiastic about the blowing out of the candles.  She actually blew the candle out too quickly the first time, requiring us to re-light them before we finished singing happy birthday.  And, she was singing happy birthday to herself for about 3 weeks straight. What a great age this is, toddlers are like little comedians!  Happy birthday my wonderful, funny, intelligent and daring girl!

A Royal Endeavor

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If you saw my last post, you got a peek of the castle cake I made for my daughter for her 5th birthday party.  I’m going to try and describe my step-by-step on how I created this with things I learned while making this.  I used buttercream instead of fondant because I’m not a huge fan of the taste of fondant.

Step 1: The Base

I used (2) layers of 8″ round vanilla cake for the bottom and (2) layers of 6″ round vanilla cake for the top.  I made a double recipe of buttercream frosting, which was able to assemble the whole cake, all layers, and provide a crumb layer for the base.  Recipe below:

Buttercream frosting:

1 Cup butter, softened

4 Cups confectioners sugar, sifted

2 tsp vanilla

4 T milk

Cream all ingredients together.

Make sure before assembly that all cake layers are cooled and the tops are cut so that they are all flat. Between the bottom 8″ round layers and the 6″ top layers, I put a 6″ round cardboard layer wrapped in foil and supported by barbeque skewers so that the weight would not crush the center of the cake.

Step 2: Turrets

I ended up using two types of ice cream cones.  The pointy cones were the tops of the turrets and the tower portion were a combination of the flat sugar cones.  With the pointy cones, I made a royal icing recipe, watered down, and spread it onto the cone.  Then I covered it with rainbow sprinkles and set them on wax paper to set.

I didn’t need anything special for the individual towers.  I simply attached a point cone to a flat cone using frosting first, let it set, then attached that with frosting to the base cone turned upside down.  For the top of the cake, I use a barbeque skewer for the tallest turret that went through the cake and both cones (plus frosting) to provide more stability.

For the top turrets, I wanted to have a hierarchy of the towers so I ended up cutting of the base of two of the flat cones so that you would see the gradual rise of turrets.  I think that the effect turned out quite nice.

Step 3: Assembly

I have never been able to get a really smooth buttercream iced cake.  However, after a lot of research, I found that in order to accomplish this, you ice the whole cake, and then you use a cake scraper, heated with hot water and wiped clean, and run this around the perimeter of the cake.  As you do this, the heat will soften the butter in the icing and give you a perfectly smooth base layer.  It was quite amazing and I will definitely use this method again.

Step 4: Decoration

I basically made this up as I went along.  I cut a graham cracker for the door and then I just iced away.  I thought the top would look more like vines climbing up a tower.  I think though that the main attraction was the turrets so I didn’t want to make it too busy.  I ended up with seven turrets in total since there were seven girls at the party.

This was by far my most ambitious cake challenge yet, especially since I am by no means a professional cake decorator.  I did have a lot of fun though, and I definitely learned a lot.  What was the craziest cake you ever made?

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DIY Color-Me-Mine

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So birthday season upon us and I’m always on the lookout for new and creative ideas suitable for kids, especially as I was planning my daughter’s birthday party.  I had seen, a while back, an article about ceramic sharpie markers that could be used on an everyday lamp, plate, cup, etc. that would spice up an otherwise ordinary piece into something more unique or extraordinary.  In doing a little research, I learned that you could use these markers, bake said piece in an oven, and they would become a permanent part of the ceramic piece in question.  Wouldn’t this be a perfect craft for kids?

Obviously I had to test it out.  I started by purchasing a small box of these enamel sharpie markers:

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I found these to work really nicely.  If you didn’t push the tip in while you were drawing, the paint flowed smoothly and fairly evenly across the surface.  I would probably get a finer tip in the future for my own use, but for kids I think this is the perfect size.  Next, I took an Ikea mug that I had no particular affinity to and started doodling.  This was the result:

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Once I finished doodling, I set the design by baking it in the oven set at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  This was actually really fun and when my daughter saw what I had drawn, we ended up having a little craft party where she and daddy also got to decorate mugs.  So, now we all have our own personalized mugs and we found the perfect activity for seven little girls.  Win all around!

And Now We Are 5!

I figured that turning five years old was the next big milestone birthday after turning one.  Kindergarten!  Losing teeth!  Summer Camp!  The list goes on and on.  In recognition of this, I wanted to celebrate an extra special birthday for my eldest daughter.  I asked her what theme she wanted and she said she wanted a Queen themed birthday party… not a far cry from the princess party she wanted last year.  And, she wanted a cake, not cupcakes.  Similar to last year, I gave her the choice of inviting six friends to attend to keep it small.

This year her birthday party ended up being the day before Easter, so it was almost a no-brainer to have an Easter Egg Hunt as one of the activities.  After a lot of thought, I ended up deciding on a DIY color-me-mine activity that I’ll post about later. Decorations this year followed a pink, orange, yellow and white theme and I decided to use a combination of tissue paper globes, DIY circle bunting, crepe paper streamers and helium balloons.  Altogether it ended up having a very nice spatial feeling that photos can never quite capture.  However, the main focus for me this year ended up being the cake.

I’m not a big cake decorator.  I have never taken classes.  The only thing I know about making cakes was watching my mom make amazing cakes as a child.  She took classes on cake decorating and learned how to make all sorts of beautiful flowers with icing.  She taught me how to assemble a cake and ice it.  I learned about decorating through watching.  We always had the most amazing cakes as children, all made out of my mom’s imagination.  I remember, as a child, running downstairs in the morning for the days leading up to my or my brothers’ birthdays, to peek into the refrigerator and see what progress my mom made on the wonderful cake she made for each of her children each year.  It was a magical feeling and built up the anticipation for the big day.

So.  Queen party. Cake. Castle cake!  I immediately looked to Pinterest and found some really great ideas.  There are any number of ways to make a cake. I’ll post later about more details on how I constructed this.  Suffice to say, this took me about a week to make since I had such limited time to dedicate to it. However, the effect was wonderful and the delight and joy that I saw on my daughter’s face as well as the faces of her friends was well worth the time and effort.

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Happy birthday my big girl, don’t grow up too fast!

Label Love

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You never really realize how much stuff you accumulate with kids until they take everything out of its hiding place and you see everything strewn all over the floor  This is only exacerbated in a larger space because the items get spread all over the house across multiple rooms and it is up to you to pick up the pieces, put the all together in the right games/ kits/ puzzles/ etc. and then put them all back in their proper place.  Something that I realized very early on was the need for some sort of storage bins to organize everything.

Since I’m slowly figuring things out, I didn’t want to splurge on really nice bins or anything.  I found these really cheap but serviceable plastic bins in the $1 section at Target that would do the trick.  Once I got them and started to place the various toys in bins, I quickly realized I was going to need some sort of labeling system so that not only I, but my husband and the kids, would remember what goes where.

I am really interested in typography and the various different methods of representing information.  Variations on how you write the message with color font, size, shape and pattern, will ultimately influence the user on what they are understanding.

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I thought it would be fun to try my hand at whimsical typography for labeling these bins. I wanted to have a visual shape to the words, so that my kids can recognize what goes where since they are still too young to read.  I think the most difficult part for me was how to categorize the various bins, especially the “general crap” bin.  How do you distill that into one word that isn’t “crap”?  Well, I got through it eventually, although it took me longer than I would care to admit to finish all of the labels!  Here are images of some of the tags I created.  I got some craft scissors I wanted to try out so I decided to use them for the borders of the labels, but I’m not sold on it yet.  I may end up cutting it down to a straight rectangle.  We’ll see how I feel in a couple months…. What do you think?

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