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Jan 8 / Erin

A Frosty Fun Snowman Birthday Cake

I could name this post so many things.  Like: Ike turns three!  Or: My First Foray With Fondant.  Perhaps: Merry Christmas, Happy Birthday, Happy Anniversary and Happy New Year!  (All would be applicable for us.)  It’s been a busy few weeks, to say the least, with Christmas fun, Ike’s third birthday, our sixth anniversary and the start of 2014.  I hope to get caught up here on the blog eventually.  And since the majority of the country is in a deep freeze this week, I think a snowman cake is an appropriate place to start.

I wanted to make Ike’s cake special because to him, at age three, birthdays equal CAKE and SINGING!  Really, as much as he loves presents, he is mostly excited about cake at this point.  After looking at different cake ideas, I decided on snowmen despite the Christmasy feel because Ike had grown particularly fond of snowmen after watching Frosty the Snowman who, of course, exclaims “happy birthday!”  Plus, it was easy and I had all the ingredients.  (BTW, I was inspired by Martha’s snowmen, I didn’t think up this idea on my own.)

This cake came together in a series of short steps over three days, though it could easily be done all in one day.  We were heading to Vermont for some family gatherings and to celebrate Ike’s birthday, so I made the fondant snowmen on Christmas night, the cake and frosting the next day, and then assembled the whole cake on Friday night once we arrived in Vermont so it was ready for Ike’s birthday on Saturday.

Unfortunately I didn’t have my act together enough to take step-by-step photos, so if you’re interested in recreating this, you’ll have to use your imagination!

Here are the recipes I used for the cake:

The marshmallow fondant was surprising easy to make using melted mini marshmallows, confectioner’s sugar and a bit of water.  It was really easy to work with, too, so I think I may be trying more with fondant in the future.  It’s like a grown up version of Play-Doh!

After I made the fondant, I separated a few small pieces and used gel food coloring to create the different colors.  I used black gel icing that comes in a tube for the eyes and mouth, and sprinkles of different sorts for the buttons.  On the outside of the cake I used blue sprinkles, sparkling sugar and cinnamon dots to create the wintery scene.  Oh, and I used tooth picks and wooden dowels to keep the snowmen standing and to keep hats and noses in place.  Tres important.

The cake ended up being a huge hit with my biggest birthday boy.  As different family members arrived, he proudly opened the fridge to show off his cake and exclaimed, “I’m fweee now!”  It’s fair to say it made his day.  We even let him eat two slices.

Have you tried making cakes with fondant before?  And, seriously, you should try the chocolate marshmallow buttercream frosting that I linked above.  It’s amazing.

Psst…looking for another cake idea?  Check out last year’s sprinkle #2 cake!

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Dec 18 / Erin

Our stockings are hung

Sometimes it really hits me that I have two children.  I mean, obviously I know we have them, but there are times when I wonder how and when, exactly, we got to this place.  Seeing our four stockings hanging in a row was one of those moments.  Holy cow.

Of course, we can’t forget Frankie the dog’s stocking, which will be hung out of reach of his sniffing nose (it’s too easy for him to sniff going up the stairs!).  But seeing our stockings alongside those of our two boys is just crazy.

It’s been fun making these stockings as our family grows.  I’ve been saving this one long piece of red satin over the years to use for the hanging loop for all the different stockings as they come.  It ties all of the stockings together since otherwise they don’t really match.

Somehow I’ve developed a taste for stockings that aren’t made with overt Christmas patterns.  I’m not sure why.  So this year I made a new stocking for Chris to replace the red and green velvet one I made for him the first year we were dating.  Ike came with me to our local fabric store and he picked out the moon and stars fabric, so now Chris’ stocking has even more sentimental charm.

And it’s Lincoln’s first Christmas, so we picked out fabric for his stocking, too.

I also took the opportunity to embellish the stocking I made for Ike two years ago with some gold ric-rac.  (BTW, ask a nearly-three-year-old to say ric-rac and you will be overwhelmed by the cuteness.)

And I gave my stocking some pom-poms.  Because I’m the mom and I wanted pom-poms.  Someone has to add a little femininity around this house of boys, right?

So, let’s now talk stockings.  What are the traditions in your house?  Do you wrap items that go into the stocking, or leave them unwrapped?  Do the stockings hide until Christmas Eve?  Or are you like us and display them throughout the month? Spill it.

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Dec 10 / Erin

Handmade gift idea: Chicken Bean Bags

If you have some kids on your Christmas shopping list this year and you’d like to do something homemade, I have just the thing for you: Chicken Bean Bags.  Because every kid needs some toss-able chickens, right?

Well, even if these bean bags are not the most sought after gift, they sure are cute.  I made these a few weeks ago for my nephew’s third birthday and they are perfect to link up to the Dare to DIY Homemade Gift Challenge!

I gave my birds some super cute tail feathers because, well, why not?  Actually, you might recognize the trim from Ike’s robot costume, and the fabric is from leftover squares from Lincoln’s quilt.  I’m all about using up those scraps leftover from other projects!  Plus, I like the idea of non-traditional chicken colors—helps build the imagination, don’t you think? (I’m not a child development expert, though, so don’t take my word for it.)

These are super easy to make if you have beginner sewing skills.  You essentially cut and sew two squares together, inserting the beak and other chicken parts into the seam before sewing.  Then you fill the chicken with rice and a small amount of polyfil before closing up the last seam.

You can see a full tutorial here (the pictures are so good and the instructions are clear, so there was no need for me to repeat the tutorial here!)  My chickens look a bit more complex because my fabric squares were made of two triangles, since they were left over from a quilt project.  And I added the “tail feathers” to the back (which made for a very easy way to close the last seam).

I’m planning to whip up another set for Ike’s stocking since he seemed to like them.  What do you think?  Any kids on your list that could use some chickens?  Oh, and if you’re looking for homemade gift inspiration, head on over to visit Michelle at Decor and the Dog for lots of inspiration at the Dare to DIY Homemade Gift link party!

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Dec 4 / Erin

Candy Coated Christmas Shelves

It’s that time of year when most bloggers are showing off their festive mantels and I’m all like, “Hey!  I don’t have a mantel to decorate but I have styled shelves!”  You have to work with what you’ve got, right?

This year I’ve opted for a sweet pink and green theme for our three hallway shelves, featuring bright green ornaments, pink wrapped gifts and a little tassel and burlap garland that I whipped up (and will formally share on the blog another time).

I really like traditional Christmas decorations and colors for the majority of our house, so it’s fun to have this one small area to play with a different theme.

Poor Ike was a little dismayed and confused to learn the wrapped presents were empty.  A few more years of watching me decorate and he’ll no longer ask questions, I’m sure.  (“Just ignore my crazy mother,” he’ll say.)

Need some other mantle or faux mantel ideas?  Head on over to Our Fifth House or  Ten June to see other bloggers who are participating in the Holiday Cheer in the Blogosphere Mantel Party!

Hope you’re enjoying the start of the holiday cheer!

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Dec 3 / Erin

Elf Hack: Make your Elf on a Shelf Bendable

Felix the Elf on the Shelf is back in the house!

I’ll be honest.  I’m a total sucker for the Elf on the Shelf.  It is so much fun for the kids me.  And the kids.  Luckily Ike is still young enough that just moving the elf to a new spot each day is enough excitement, but this year I wanted Felix to be able to hang like all the cool elves I see in fancy pictures on Pinterest.

So, I hacked him.  A little bit of surgery, if you will.  Which you will once you see how easy this is.

If you’re new to the Elf on the Shelf like I was last year, you might be disappointed when you try to set up your elf in lots of fun poses.  The doll on its own flops around and doesn’t do more than, well, sit on shelves.  But, with a little bit of wire and trickery, our Felix the elf was climbing the curtains in no time.

(By the way, I saw about 100 tutorials for this online, so please don’t think I am creative enough to have thought of this myself. I just wanted to be sure that tutorial #101 got posted.  You’re welcome.)

Step one is gathering some simple tools:

  1. Wire (I purchased some beading wire at A.C. Moore)
  2. Scissors to cut the wire
  3. A seam ripper or small scissors to make your incision (scalpel, please)
  4. Your elf

Next, pull out two or three stitches in the hands and feet of the elf.  The wire is skinny, so just make enough space for the wire to slip in.

Then cut pieces of wire that are as long as the arms and legs, creating a small loop at the end so it doesn’t poke through the fabric.  Push the wire in until it is completely hidden by the fabric.

At this point you could sew the seam back together, but I left mine and you can’t really tell.  Call me lazy, but since the kids aren’t supposed to touch the elf, they’ll never know the difference.

Now our Felix the elf is hanging all over the place.

You’d never know he just had wire surgery, right?

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Dec 2 / Erin

Thanksgiving Table: Feather place card

This is an official truth in blogging post.

Truth #1: I purchased pheasant feathers at a craft store to make place cards for my Thanksgiving table.

Truth #2: I did this, in large part, so that I could participate in week two of the Dare to DIY Challenge: Dare to Entertain.

Truth #3: I didn’t actually use the place cards and only made one to share in this post because my dear, sweet husband told me that feathers are disgusting.

But, if for some reason you don’t think feathers are disgusting, you could totally make a fun, cheap and easy place card holder for your next dinner party.  I paired mine with some pussy willow branches and a gourd for a simple fall feel.

To make the place card I used a single feather and attached a hand-cut leaf shape with my name.  I cut the leaf out of a brown paper lunch bag using pinking shears.

Pinking shears are the best.  You’re really not supposed to cut paper with them, but when you’re just making one disgusting feather place card, it should be okay.

Okay, so now that you know I essentially faked this whole blog post, you can head on over to Maybe Matilda to check out all the real Dare to Entertain posts!

Hope you had a lovely, feather-free Thanksgiving!

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Nov 27 / Erin

Day 5: Set your Thanksgiving table

I am taking a quick break from my Thanksgiving prep for some last minute tips on setting your Thanksgiving table (my last segment of my five-day Thanksgiving series).  The big day is nearly here and the finish line is in sight!

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I’ll be honest, setting a proper table isn’t a high priority in our house.  We barely set the table each weeknight—usually it’s grabbing plates and silverware as we walk to the table.  But, I do take the opportunity each Thanksgiving to dress up our little dining space.

Some years I’ve been able to set the table the day in advance (which is fun and festive, and saves time on Turkey Day).  But, since we don’t have a separate dining room and we’ll be having five guests in our house for the long weekend, we’ll need to use that table for other meals.  But, there are still a few things you can do to prep even if you aren’t setting your table until Thursday.

  • Practice your centerpiece and table setting.  This might sound silly, but it will help you remember to dust off your candles holders, wipe the spots from your wine glasses and iron your napkins.
  • Make place cards if you’re using them.
  • Roll or fold your napkins so they’re in a place you can easily grab them.

    napkins ready

  • Set out all the silverware you’ll need in a place that is handy.  We use our nice silver the day of Thanksgiving, so I cleaned it and put it in a convenient place.

silverware ready

If you’re like me, you might need a quick reminder on which way the knife faces.  I always refer to a post that I wrote four years ago with a handy table setting diagram.

And now you should be all set for Thanksgiving!  Enjoy!

Psst, if you’re just catching up, check out the first four posts for menu planning, ingredient inventorying, grocery list making, and timeline planning.

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Nov 26 / Erin

Day 4: Thanksgiving game plan

People!  Thanksgiving is just two days away.  As in the day after tomorrow.  Do you have your game plan ready?

Day4Gameplan

I do, but just barely.  Thank goodness I’m doing this little Thanksgiving series—it is really helping to keep me on track as I plan our feast for five adults, two toddlers and two infants.  (Yeah, we don’t plan on sleeping.)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it may sound like prepping for Thanksgiving is a lot of work and is stressful, but I find that dividing the tasks into reasonable chunks to be completed over the course of a few days is the key to a relaxing and stress-free Thanksgiving Day.

turkeydaytimeline

It’s not too late for you to get your game plan in order.  All you need to do is think about the end result.  Picture your perfect Thanksgiving dinner—picture all the food you want and the table you’ll set.  Then outline the steps you need to take to make that dinner happen and spread the steps over a couple of days.  Here is an example of the general timeline I’m using to prepare our Thanksgiving menu.

Tuesday: Make pie crusts and refrigerate them.  Wash the sheets for the guest beds

Wednesday Day: Send the kids to daycare and clean the house!  Decide which serving dishes will be used for which dinner items and make sure they’re clean.  Iron table cloths/napkins if needed.

  • Bake: pies, breads, spinach artichoke dip
  • Make: cranberry sauce
  • Prep: butternut squash (peel and cut) and Brussels sprouts (wash and halve)

Wednesday Night: Help my sister make the birthday cake, prep stuffing ingredients, set the crock pot for overnight oatmeal so that we have breakfast.

Thursday:

  • 9:00 a.m. – Prep and stuff the turkey
  • 10:00 a.m. – Turkey goes in the oven!
  • 11:00 a.m. – Put out snacks and heat up spinach artichoke dip
  • 1:00 p.m. – Set the table
  • 2:00 p.m. – Make mashed potatoes and butternut squash on the stove top
  • 3:00 p.m. – Prep the Brussels sprouts
  • 3:30 p.m. – Turkey out, Brussels sprouts in!  Make the gravy and carve the turkey.
  • 4:00 p.m. – Dinner time!

I kind of can’t wait to get started.  How about you?

Be sure to tune back in tomorrow for the last installment of this mini series: setting the Thanksgiving table!

And, if you’re just catching up, check out the first three posts for menu planning, ingredient inventorying and grocery list making.

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