DIY invitations for pennies!

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Y’all.  I feel like I’m totally cheating the party planning gods with this one, but it’s too much fun not to share.  But with 31-cent custom party invitations, how could I not? I hope I won’t get struck by lighting or something.

Hosting parties can get expensive, and invitations, especially for kid parties, are crazy expensive and something that will most likely be thrown away.  And since my two kids have birthdays just over a month apart, and right before the holidays, I definitely look for ways to keep costs down.  Besides, the less I spend on invitations, the more I have left for the actual party.

So when I was planning my daughter’s first birthday (which was just immediate family and a couple of close friends), I came up with the idea of designing an invitation and having it printed at the drugstore one-hour photo.  I didn’t think it would work.  But after one misfire and a second try, I got success!

Then, when planning my son’s party, I thought I’d go for it again.  It’s such a great way to get a completely custom invitation for a great price.  Each photo cost 20 cents, and then I got a box of ‘special occasion’ envelopes for less than $5 for 50.  With tax included, I had a 31-cent, fully custom party invitation.

For the designing part, I used Inkscape, a free design program that you can download.  It’s not as robust and user-friendly as Adobe Illustrator (oh, how I miss it!) or Corel, but it works for simple stuff.  But if you’re not familiar with design software, you can take any photo and print it.  You can use photo editing sites like PicMonkey to add text and details and just send it off to be printed.

What I love is that this can be so personal and be kept simple at the same time.  How about a beach ball with the party details written on it for a pool party? Or your child holding a poster board with the information written on it?  Or standing by a fire truck for a firefighter party?

I just love how they turned out.  And it’s such a cool and inexpensive way to set the tone for your next party.  Do you think you’ll try it?

Sparkle! Shimmer! Glitter! Glow!

Want to add a little bit of shimmer to your stuff? I have just the thing for you, and it’s so easy.

A couple of months ago around my birthday, I was messing around with different cake decorating ideas, and came across DIY shimmer spray. Most people were real-deal cake decorators and had fancy airbrushes, but I’m not at that level.  But a 97-cent travel spray bottle?  Yup. That’s more my level.

All I did was add a capful or two of cake decorating pearl dust to a travel-size spray pump and filled it with vodka.  Shake, shake, shake and you’re ready to spray.

DSC_0655It’s so pretty to watch!  It will settle as it sits, but you can just shake it up over and over.

It works best when you do light layers from far away. It gave my cake frosting a nice, subtle shimmer that was a great backdrop to the decorations, which were stylized  peacock feathers (kind of) that were dry brushed with pearl and gold shimmer.

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But it’s not just for cakes.  Anything can be shimmered! I got a little shimmer crazy the other day and used it on some flowers that were starting to wilt.  I spritzed them only once and it gave them a really sweet, subtle shimmer.

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I’m thinking this would be really cool as an alternative to traditional glitter, which can be so much sometimes. Sometimes you just want something a little more subdued, you know?  I can see this on some simple snowflake sugar cookies or on some pinecones this Christmas. I might be shimmering the mashed potatoes if someone doesn’t stop me.

And yes, it’s vodka, so use your discretion when using it on edibles.  From what I’ve read, the vodka evaporates.  In fact, a lot of professional cake decorators use vodka for painting and spraying – it’s pretty common, they just say it’s ‘extract’.

Anyway…I got a little shimmer-happy and sprayed my arm, and I think the evaporation thing is true.  It was dry almost as soon as it landed on my arm.

Boo! Halloween Wreath

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I just had to share this wreath.  I usually don’t do much in terms of decorating for Halloween – I’d rather focus my energy on fall décor, because I can use it for months, whereas Halloween is only doable for a couple of weeks.  However, this year is different. I don’t know what came over me, but I decided I absolutely, positively had to have a Halloween wreath hanging on my door, otherwise the world would end.  And of course, I can’t just buy something, I had to make it.

I started out with half a yard of glittery BOO! Halloween fabric that I cut into 3 inch strips across the width of the fabric with my handy dandy rotary cutter.

Then I hot glued one end of a strip to my wreath form (those cheap straw ones that come wrapped in plastic) and wrapped it around until I couldn’t wrap it around anymore trimmed it and glued it so the glue was always on the back of the wreath.  I repeated the process until the wreath was covered.  It took me four strips, and I almost needed a fifth.

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Then I decided I needed a little ghost family.  There are a lot of steps for this, but it was pretty easy.  It took me about 20 minutes.  I’ll list the supplies for this part:

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– 2-inch foam balls
– skewers
– foam block or something to hold skewers up (I tried an empty tissue box, and it wasn’t quite strong enough, but I made it work)
– watered down modge podge (I had 1/4 of a medium sized bottle left, and I filled it with water, shook it, poured it out, and added 1 1/2 more bottles of water to it, although I probably didn’t need the extra 1/2)
– container for the modge podge (I used an old wipes container)
– 8×8-inch (or so) squares of cheesecloth (about 4 or 5 per ghost)
– gloves (nice, but not required)

Here’s how to do it:
1. Put a skewer in each ball so it looks like a lollipop.  Stick it into the foam, with plenty of space for you to work.

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2. Soak a piece of cheesecloth in the modge podge and wring it out.

3. Lay it over the foam ball, but a little off to the side. Repeat with three or four more pieces, laying each one opposite from each other.

4. Do the same thing for all the foam balls.

5. Let them dry. This is what they will look like when they are drying (and when they are dry):

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The modge podge will stiffen the fabric and keep it from fraying, but it will still look flowy.  You’ll be able to work it a little bit, almost like wire mesh. Just an FYI- I don’t think modge podge is supposed to attract killer bugs, but a bee kept dive-bombing me and the ghosts while I was working and then a preying mantis nestled itself between the ghosts while they were drying and jumped at me when I moved them. So just watch out if you work outside. Also, if you’re wondering what I was doing with  the foam brush, I thought that by brushing more modge podge on the top, it would help it stick to the foam, but it didn’t.  I ended up putting a dab of hot glue where you can’t see it.

So the ghosts are done! Yay! Now to mount them onto the wreath you’ll need:
– hot glue
– metal floral hooks (97 cents for 100 of them at Wal-Mart)
– craft knife

Here’s what you’ll do:
1. Glue down the cheesecloth to the foam ball by lifting off the cloth, putting down a blob of glue and quickly putting the cheesecloth back in.  **Make sure you put the glue towards the back of the ghost’s head, but not dead center in the back so that you leave room for the floral hook.  Think of where a ponytail would go, if that makes sense.**

2. With the craft knife, cut a slit as wide as the floral hook in the back of the ghost.  I twisted the knife a little to make it wider. {little side note story: I used a small pink Swiss army knife that my brother gave me for Christmas when I was in middle school.  I still use that thing almost every day, can you believe it?}

3. Shove the hook into the hole so the pointy ends stick out, making sure they’re far enough in so that they won’t go through the wreath.

4. Decide where you want the ghosts on the wreath, and stick them in.  They are pretty solid, but I went back and hot glued them in just to be sure.

5. Trim up any jagged edges on the cheesecloth.

Finishing it up:
Break out your craft stash and go to town! I used googly eyes and puffy paint to add eyes and a smile to each ghost.  Then I used some leather cording, felt and more puffy paint (yay!) to make a little pennant banner that says “BOO!”

I used some of the cording, hot glue and floral pins to hang the wreath. I also used scraps from the fabric to cover up anything on the back that might be unsightly so that it had a nice, finished look all around.

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Do you decorate for Halloween?  I want to see your projects!

Hello, Fall! And a little more…

It’s officially fall!  Woo hoo!

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Everywhere I look, there are signs of fall…pumpkin spice everything, boutiques stocking up on warm colors, a chilly breeze in the mornings and the leaves on the trees are losing just a bit of their vibrancy as they begin to change from lush green to warm shades of red, gold, orange, purple and yellow.  I love it!

And even though these are signs that the year is winding down, I feel like it’s just starting for me.  Is it the same for you?

Fall is the start of so much – school, football season (Go Gators!), party season (we have tons of birthdays and holidays in the fall! Not to mention block parties and town festivals!).  Then there are the visits to corn mazes and pumpkin patches, and all the fun stuff that happens in the fall. And that crispness in the air after the muggy hot summer gives me a new lease on life.

For me, the start of fall ushers in a whole bunch of fun memories.  My husband and I met in the fall, and our kids (and even our dog!) were born in the fall.  We moved into our house and amazing neighborhood in the fall, which was the start of our ‘family’ life together.

And this year, fall also means a new start to The Teal Magnolia.  After a tiring pregnancy and giving myself plenty of time to settle into being a family of 4, I am ready to get my creative juices going again and give my sewing machine a little more love.

For starters, coffee cuffs!

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I figured that I’d start back up with the product that got me started in the world of handmade.  Plus, with all the fall lattes going around, what better way to stake claim to yours? Don’t forget that these also fit different types of cups, including pint glasses and party cups (depending on the style), so don’t forget to bring yours along to those football parties, block parties and Oktoberfests. Seriously, these are awesome on pint glasses.

So if you have a chance, stop by my online shop and check them out.  I’ll be adding more products bit by bit.

I hope fall is as exciting for you as it is for me.  What’s your favorite part of fall?

A bit about buying local and handmade…

Here it is. My latest acquisition. I love it.

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I always have a problem keeping track of what I need to get at the store. It seems that even though I am psycho about my grocery list (perhaps a totally different blog post), I seem to forget some items I need because I never write them down when I see I need them.

I also want a place to jot down quick notes, like what time it was when I put something in the oven or when the baby fell asleep for her nap.

So it seemed like I needed a big dry erase board for my kitchen, but I didn’t want one of those that looked like it belongs in a dorm somewhere. I’m unfortunately way past my college days. And I’ve seen some ceramic ones, but they aren’t as pretty as I’d like them to be and not nearly as large. I wanted something pretty and shiny and unlike anything else I’d ever seen. And then it came to me: GLASS!!!

My mind immediately went to my pal Sandra at Artistic Impressions by Sandra A. Wills. She is a local glass artist from my tiny town that I’ve gotten to know over the years. We actually met at a childbirth class years ago when I was pregnant with my son. I ran into her again at our town’s farmer’s market where she had a booth with her beautiful art and I’ve been a fan ever since. Can I just say I am in love with her pendants? And if you look closely, my daughter’s room rocks one of her night lights (over by the lamb rug). Fused glass night lights!  Amazing, huh?

So I talked to her to see if she had anything like what I was thinking. She wasn’t in the dry-erase board business, but she was excited to tackle that project. She sent me some pics of different types of glass, we talked about where I wanted it to go and how I wanted to hang it, etc. The result is a gorgeous big message board that is custom fit to my space in colors that I love (they just happen to be University of Florida colors – Go Gators!)

And that is what I love about local and handmade. You get to know the people behind the pieces. It’s not just buying a thing – it’s buying a story and strengthening roots in your little slice of the world. You know the people, the stories behind the products, and you always end up with something unique, and in this case, tailor-made for you. Each item has depth and charm that you just can’t get anywhere else.

Here’s another look of my message center from further away:

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It’s made life much easier, and in a much cuter way. Thanks Sandra!

My first quilt!

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For a bit of time now, all my creative efforts have been steered in two directions: 1. planning two parties that were happening within a week of each other, and three states away from my home; and 2. making my first quilt as a baby shower gift (this baby shower being one of the parties I planned).  Hence the reason why all has been quiet on the blogging front.

Now that the parties are over, the quilt has been given and I’m caught up with laundry (ha!), I can blab all about it!  If you follow me on twitter and instagram, you might have gotten a sneak peek or two, but now I am showing it off in all its glory!

I can’t say I’m a quilt enthusiast, but I have a few quilts on my sewing bucket list: sorority t-shirt, son’s baby clothes, and now daughter’s baby clothes. Really just ways to be able to see and use all these things I’m hanging on to. But I’m not a ‘tradaditional’ quilt kind of girl. So I started looking into more modern quilts where the designs are simple and clean and the fabric is shown off and I don’t have to slice and dice it into tiny squares. Who has time for that anyway?

And when I got the news that my brother and sister-in-law are having a baby, I thought it would be great to make them a quilt, because every baby needs something handmade, no?  When I found the Lucy’s Crab Shack collection by Sweetwater (for Moda fabrics), I knew I had to do it.  They love the whole beachy/kite thing.

This ‘pattern’ is about as easy as a quilt pattern gets.  I had this idea in my head, but found this tutorial that was exactly what I wanted, only I used a 1/4 inch seam allowance. Using precuts made it so easy.  It keeps me from doing too much cutting and too much math.  My quilt was six rows of five charm squares, instead of six rows of six squares like the tutorial because there were a bunch of pink squares in the pack, and that wasn’t going to fly.

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One cute thing I did was put the baby’s last name initial in one of the squares.  I used my Slice to do it.  I got it months ago and still hadn’t used it, so I was excited to give it a try.  I like it!  I’m thinking some initials on coffee cuffs might be coming up soon.  What do you think?

Also, by personalizing it, it made me unable to keep it.  If only I had kept my maiden name…

After I cut out the letter, I stitched it onto one of the charm pack squares, just inside the cut line.  As the quilt gets washed, it will fray and fluff a little and give it even more texture.  I’m excited to see how it ‘ages’ with time and a baby using it.

After my quilt top was sewn, it was time to contemplate the actual quilting of the thing.

Since it’s my first quilt, I thought quilting it with straight lines on the diagonal would be a safe bet, but I wanted that crinkly feeling that free-motion quilts have.  So I started looking at the fancy stitches on my machine to give it more ‘movement’ and lo and behold, my machine has a stitch that looks like a kite tail!  How perfect is that for this quilt?

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To keep track of my lines, I laid out my quilt and made diagonal lines on it with a water-soluble fabric marking pen.  It’s a bit unnerving to take a blue marker to white fabric, but I promise it comes out!

Then I took the whole thing to the machine and started stitching.  After a little bit, I thought I needed more rows, so I went back and sewed in between my original lines as well as on my lines.  I think I ended up with stitch lines about every inch or so.  It was tricky getting that much fabric around, but rolling it up on the sides helped.  I think a walking foot is in order, but I’ll chalk up any imperfections as ‘charm’.  This is definitely not factory-made.

Here it is half-quilted.  If you look very closely, you can see the blue lines on the left side.

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It looked so awesome when I was done, but now I had to bind it, which was the part that scared me the most.  Luckily, one of my son’s classmate’s mom is an amazing quilter and agreed to teach me this final step.  I was really excited to learn until she told me I had to hand-stitch this thing.  What?!?!  But I’m always up for learning something new, especially if it’s sewing-related, so I figured I’d hand-bind it this time and see if I liked it.  I can’t say that I did.  It’s really simple to do, but it just takes too long. Seriously.  I had a 12-hour car trip and still didn’t get it done (I didn’t stitch away the entire time, though).  I barely got it done in time for the baby shower.  A big part of me wanted to just glue it shut and be done with it, but the crafter in me wouldn’t go for it. However, I will admit that it is a nice, clean way to finish the quilt if you take your time.

stitching the bindingWhen I was finally done, I rolled it up so that the “R” showed, and tied it with a torn strip of the backing fabric so it would be all frayed and cool-looking.

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I am so glad I took the plunge and made this quilt, and I’m glad that my first quilt will be for my soon-to-be nephew.   It was fun to make, I got up close and personal with my machine, made a new friend and made my sister-in-law cry.  I think that’s a win on all fronts!

Baby Girl Nursery Show and Tell

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Get ready for a picture-intense post. I finally got around to taking pictures and writing about our nursery. I love this room.  I really do.  Sometimes, during those middle-of-the-night feedings, I try to come up with ways to get my hubby to agree to switch rooms so that this could be our master bedroom.  No joke.

I just love the soft, dreamy aqua with shades of pink and clean white.  It’s bright and fun, yet calming and soft at the same time. It’s definitely very girly but not too fussy and frilly.

But I think what I like most about it is how personal it is.  Everywhere I look, there’s something I made, or something from my childhood, or a reminder of a loved one.

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I’ve blogged about bits and pieces of it, but here’s the whole shebang put together:

First, I’m going to do a little sketch of the layout of the room (totally not to scale). When I was looking for inspiration online, I could never get a feel for the whole room because I couldn’t see the layout. And this room is kind of weird because every wall has either a door or a window, plus an air vent that blows directly where most people would put a crib or bed, so furniture placement is a little tricky.

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Looking to the left when you first walk in is the wall of quotes that I blogged about here.  Right in front of it, tucked into the corner, is the glider that I redid with the quilt that came with the crib bedding thrown on top.  I kept the window simple – it has a pink curtain that’s supposed to block out light, but all it does is make the room glow pink, which I don’t mind too much.  Because pink is awesome. {Did I ever mention that I had a pink wedding cake back when nobody did any color at all on wedding cakes? yeah…I luv me some pink}

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Next to the window is the changing table and hutch that I spruced up (see this post). My little girl absolutely loves it and spends her diaper changes trying to touch the dots.  Let’s hope the sealer I used can stand up to baby fingernails!

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I filled the shelves with all sorts of things that make me smile.  Most of the stuffed animals were mine, including the purple and yellow ‘hazmat’ rabbit that I got when I worked with a fire department and did a ride-along with the hazmat (über cool firefighter slang for hazardous materials) unit for a day.  I also have the last pair of pointe shoes I used when I danced, a ceramic poodle that used to be in my bedroom when I was little, a little acorn that my son picked up for his baby sister on a walk, the wire bicycle that held flowers that were delivered to us when we had her, a bejeweled Eiffel tower coin bank, and a bunch of other things that make me smile, as well as the useful stuff: diapers and wipes, lotions and potions, etc.

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If you keep spinning towards the right, you see the crib. The poor embattled crib that barely survived my son’s teething days (cosmetically, of course. it’s still sturdy and super safe).  Why didn’t anyone tell me about teething guards?

The bedding was the inspiration for the room.  I was having such a hard time finding anything that I liked.  Everything was princess, flowers, PINK or just not right. Then I saw this and fell in love with it.  It’s Pixie in aqua by My Baby Sam.  I love paisley, polka dots, pink and aqua, and shazam! there it was – my favorite patterns and my favorite colors in one set.  It’s like the nursery gods smiled upon my soul.

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Above the crib, I hand-painted a pink frame with swirly edge, hoping for kind of a parisian-ish metal street sign kind of vibe. It’s a simple design, but I am so proud of it. There was no template or guide. Just imagination, a ruler, some chalk, painting supplies and nerves of steel. Inside the frame are letters spelling her name that I got from www.craftcuts.com because I got it in my head that I wanted all lower-case letters with a serif and those aren’t sold at craft stores. I’m a font nerd, by the way.  Their customer service is awesome and helped me figure out what size I needed, and even double checked with me after I placed my order to make sure that I was getting what I wanted.

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I decided to bypass the traditional mobile and make some pom poms in different sizes to match the room and as a nod back to the polka dot motif in the bedding. I cut about a million and a half circles folded them up, hot glued them onto foam balls and then fluffed them.  I used fishing line and command hooks to hang them.

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The final wall is pretty bare. It has three prints of very chic ladies in some of my favorite cities in the world.  I wanted to add a bit of a world-traveler vibe to the room, and loved these prints.  I love looking at those during those night-time feedings and thinking back to when I visited those cities and how I hope she’ll get to see them someday (and hopefully take her mama along!). That part of the room is pretty bare right now, but I foresee there being a little art table there or maybe a ballet barre or a dress-up area there in the future.  For now, the fluffy white lamb play mat will do.  And that’s cool, because I love it.

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The final piece that I want to share is the lighting.  My grandmother let me have one of her chandeliers from her house before she passed away last summer and my in-laws completely took it apart, cleaned it, replaced any hooks and wires (as well as the actual electrical wiring) that needed to be replaced, painted it and put it back together.  I love love love love love it.  Not only does it remind me of my grandmother, but it is so pretty and sparkly and adds so much to the room.

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Well, there it is.  My little baby girl’s room. I put so much heart and soul into it, and even though she may not appreciate it, I love being in there.  I still have a couple of things I want to add, and of course, things will change as she grows, but I’m pretty proud of how it turned out.

Paint colors (all from Behr)
Walls: Adriatic Mist
Hutch backing: Poetic Princess (and plain white acrylic paint for the dots)
Frame for letters on the wall: Palace Rose

Letter Race!

Inspiration struck me a couple of nights ago during a middle-of-the-night feeding.  I was thinking about how to keep my son busy and work on letters and numbers, thinking about the stuff he does at preschool, and how I can recreate them at home.  And I wanted something that will get his energy out because it’s been a little too cold to take the baby outside in the mornings when his energy is at its highest.  Then I wondered if I could combine all of this, making learning some sort of full-body experience. So this is what I came up with:

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Letter Racing!

It’s so simple and easy.  I wrote letters on cards that I had lying around, but you can easily do it on regular paper and cut it into pieces (about four per page).  I did the letters in his name and then a few others.

My son and I then taped the letters to the front door randomly.  We went to the end of our entry hall so we were facing the door.  I wrote a letter on his LeapPad (a chalkboard, dry erase board or scratch paper will work as well), had him try to guess it, and if he didn’t know it, I said it for him.  Then I asked him to run to find it and bring it back, making a big deal: “Go! Go! Go! Run!”  “Yay! You got it!”  “Yes! That’s the C!  Awesome job!”

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We did this until we had collected all the letters to his name. Once we had them all, I wrote his name on the LeapPad (I had done one letter at a time before) and worked with him to put the letters in order, asking him what letter came next.

It’s such a simple game, but he loved it!  As soon as we were done, he taped all the letters back on the door and wanted to play again.  This time, we didn’t even need the LeapPad.  I just asked him what letters we needed, and helped him figure it out when he got stuck.

He got a little upset when I had to stop to feed the baby, and made me promise we’d play after lunch.  Yes, darling, I promise to make you play a fun educational game.  Sheesh.

When we played in the afternoon, I realized how many variations of the game there can be.  I had him go to the letters in different ways (crab crawl, hopping, etc.), I asked him to match letter sounds (What letter says “Ssss”?), I had him put the letters back on the wall one at a time…  The more we played it, the more changes we could make to make it fresh.

He was so excited to show my husband what he learned that day when my husband got home! We had another round of letter racing, and then something kinda creepy happened.  When we were done, our son started to put letters back on the door.  I got distracted drawing on the LeapPad (oops) and my husband was taking care of the baby.  He looked up and said “Did you have him do that?!?”  I looked up and saw this:

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Yup.  My son spelled “robot” completely by accident. He had no idea he had done that.  He’s a bit of a perfectionist, so it doesn’t surprise me that he put them in a straight line in the band between the panels of the door (he’d done that a couple of times during the day), but it’s kind of creepy that he spelled out a word.

All this excitement and all it took was a sharpie, some paper and some tape.

Applesauce Spice Quickbread with Cinnamon Crunch Topping

applesauce spice breadHappy Holidays!  I hope you are having an amazing season, whatever you celebrate.  I love this time of year… everyone is so happy and friendly, we’re all looking back at the good stuff that happened this year, and planning ahead for a bright future as we start another one.

To keep the good times going, I wanted to share a recipe with you.  My applesauce spice quickbread is so, so good.  It’s also easy to make, and the ingredients are probably already in your pantry.

I wanted to make my neighbors something special this Christmas.  I originally set out to make banana bread, but getting that many bananas to be ripe at the same time was a pain.  Then I wanted to make something with apples and spices because I’ve been on an apple kick lately, but didn’t want to peel, core and dice that many apples.  So I thought “Why not applesauce?”  and set about making it work.

I wish I had thought of this sooner.  It is so good.  It’s soft and moist (ugh, I hate that word!) on the inside, and crunchy on top thanks to that heavenly crumb topping.  I have to be honest here.  After the first bite, my husband and I looked at each other a little confused.  He said “It’s really good, but I don’t really know what it is.  It’s not like anything I’ve tried before.”  and then went on to devour a second slice.  And that’s part of what I love about it.  It’s so unexpected.  It takes you somewhere new and unexpected, but somehow it’s still familiar and comforting because it is, after all, apples and spice – what could be more comforting than that on a chilly winter night?  You have to try it.

This would be great for Christmas breakfast.  Make it the night before, but don’t bake it.  In the morning, add the crumb topping and pop it in the oven before you open presents.  The house will smell all apple-y and spicy and warm.  Talk about tidings of comfort and joy!

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. allspice
1 egg
1 cup applesauce
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Cinnamon Crunch Crumb Topping (below)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a loaf pan.  I usually use the disposable aluminium ones.

In a big bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder and spices (feel free to tweak these to your taste).  In another bowl, mix the egg, applesauce, sugars and oil.

Pour the applesauce mix into the flour mix and stir until combined.  Pour into a loaf pan.  Top with crumb topping.  Don’t be shy about he topping.  I make sure every bit of batter is completely covered. I think skimping on crumb topping is a sin.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out with some crumbs.

Cinnamon Crunch Crumb Topping
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon (or more)
4 tbs. butter, melted

Mix the flour, sugar and cinnamon in a bowl.  Pour in the melted butter and mix with a pastry blender or fork (or if you’re like me, your fingertips) until there are big crumbs and some finer crumbs (kind of sandy).  You might need to add a spoonful or so more of flour to get it to the consistency you like. I like the mix of the big chunks that give you a lot of crunch and the small sand-consistency crumbs that let you make sure that every surface on the loaf is covered.

This crumb topping recipe makes a ton, so I’d double the quickbread recipe and give it to a friend.

Super Fun Mid-Week Kid Birthday

So my little boy has turned three years old.  Wow. I cannot believe he’s grown up so quickly! I have to say, I was a little stumped about how to celebrate his birthday.  Three seems to be a big year – they are finally old enough to really enjoy all the fuss, so it’s really fun to celebrate.  But how?

As much as I wanted to give him a real party (and had almost the whole thing planned out before the baby was born), I realized that it was too much for me to take on at the time.  But I still wanted to make him a cake and celebrate.  I just needed the perfect inspiration, which was escaping me.

After asking around on facebook, a friend who thought I was having a party suggested setting up a cupcake bar so the kids could do whatever they wanted to do to their cupcake.  And I liked the idea of him decorating the cake, but wasn’t quite 100% sold on it.

Then it hit me how absolutely perfect that was.

I mean, what does a soon-to-be-three-year-old want more than anything in the world? Especially one whose whole life has been turned upside down in every which way within the past two months?

Control.

What my son likes most in the world right now – more than Cars stuff, chocolate chip cookies, trains and playing in leaves combined – is calling the shots, and with good reason.  In the past few weeks, his whole world has been flipped about ten times over.  All his friends moved to a new classroom without him, his favorite teacher left the school, he’s been potty training and let’s not forget about a new baby in the house and the constant in and out of visitors that’s resulted from that and then to finish off this crazy time, he’s moved up to the next classroom which is structured completely differently from his previous one.  Just in time for the craziness of the holidays… it’s no wonder he’s trying to make everything go his way.

So I ran with it.  I decided he’d have as much control of his birthday as he could.  The day before his birthday, he helped make his cake.  Cooking is one of this favorite activities, so he was in heaven.  I made it even more personalized by dividing the batter and letting him choose colors to dye the batter and then letting him fill the cake pans by pouring spoonfuls of the different colors so we got a crazy supercolor marbled cake.  That night, I frosted the cake.

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The following day – his birthday – I set up the cake on the table with all sorts of stuff to decorate: glitter gels, Cars sugar decorations, edible dinosaur decals, sprinkles and tiny chocolate chip cookies the size chocolate chips.  When he came home from preschool, he saw his birthday table and his eyes popped open wide.  Just what this mama wanted.

decorate

We decorated the cake while dinner was cooking (and I use the term ‘cooking’ very loosely – I popped a frozen pizza in the oven because pizza is his favorite and I’m not superwoman so I wasn’t about to cook from scratch that day).  We had so much fun and he was so proud of having done up his cake. And as an added bonus, we got some quality family time in what would normally be a hectic weeknight where we didn’t really connect.

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What do you think of this confectionary masterpiece?

finished product

slice