Hello Spring Pinwheel Wreath

I am so glad that warm days are here again! Being a Florida girl, I tend to get the winter blues pretty badly. Don’t get me wrong – I love the cold weather and snuggling up under a pile of blankets, but the lack of color and vibrancy gets to me. A few weeks ago, I had reached my breaking point with all the gray, dreary days. I had to do something, but couldn’t figure it out.

And then it hit me out of the blue. I needed a pinwheel wreath. Something that would counteract all the icy weather. Something that screamed spring, cool breezes, sunshine and fun. The more I thought of it, I also pictured soft grass and lots of color in the form of a yarn wreath.

Two things stopped me: 1) I am absolutely not a paper crafter, and 2) I vowed I’d never ever make a yarn wreath after getting overly annoyed with the process on my first try after only getting about an eighth of the way around. So a yarn wreath with paper pinwheels seemed like the most intimidating craft project ever.

Still, the idea kept nagging at me, and I knew I had to do it.

I found gorgeous fuzzy yarn in different shades of springy green and white. Wrapping the wreath wasn’t so annoying this time around.  A little time-consuming, but not bad. I guess these days, after spending my daylight hours running after two kids, I welcome anything that is calm and monotonous in my down time.

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I then made pinwheels from double-sided scrapbooking paper in two sizes using 6×6 and 3×3 squares and used my sewing pins for the center.

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I sprayed the pinwheels with super high shine modge podge spray to protect them from the elements a little bit. I did two layers on the back, and then about five on the front. You don’t need to do that many layers on the front, but I loved how shiny it looked and kept doing more. It almost looks like plastic. So cool. Once they were dry, I pinned them into place on the wreath.

It needed something more, so I thought a fun ‘hello!’ would be cute. I used shrink plastic (also known as Shrinky Dinks) and my Slice cutter to cut out four-inch letters, colored them in with a purple marker, baked them and hot glued them onto the wreath.

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Cute, but… I wasn’t loving the purple letters. After a week or so, it really bugged me and I took it down until I could figure out what to do. It looked too plain without the letters, but I hated the purple. I tried painting them yellow, but it didn’t work. Finally, I modge-podged some extra paper from the pinwheels and they became orange with white dots.

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I just love how it turned out. So simple, so fun, and different from what you normally see. Most  of all, I love that it screams “SPRING!!!!”

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Show-and-Tell: Hand-Embroidered Pillow

 

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One of the things I love most about having a handmade business is the creativity that comes with it. It’s so great to talk to people and take on a challenge. And I just have to tell you about a project I got to do recently.

A little bit ago, a client wanted something special for her goddaughter’s first birthday. Something that would show the little girl how much her godmother loves her, even though they’re far apart. A shirt? Nah – she’ll grow out of that…A blanket?  I’m sure a baby girl has about a million and three baby blankets. Nothing seemed special enough.

I’ve gotten to know this S (my client) fairly well – she’s not only a client, she’s an awesome neighbor and friend. One thing that is clear the instant you meet her is that she has a huge, loving heart. This gift needed to be personal, and illustrative of how much love she has, especially for someone as dear to her as her goddaughter.

Then it hit me: a pillow! Something that the little girl can cuddle with when S isn’t around to cuddle with her. We settled on a pillow in the shape of the state with two hearts connecting the locations with a saying  on the back.

And to give it an extra personal touch, I had S write the message on the fabric with a water-soluble pen. Thankfully, S was a kindergarten teacher, and has impeccable handwriting. I then hand-embroidered over the letters, hearts and dotted line between hearts.

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I love how this turned out. It was a lot of work. A LOT of work, but I loved it. I loved the entire process of creating the template, figuring out fabric (you can’t go wrong with baby pink chevron for a baby girl, can you?), picking out the right shades of medium charcoal grey and hot rosy pink for the thread (because the standard black lettering with red hearts simply wasn’t going to work), stitching out each letter and making ‘forever in your heart’ stand out, the millions of times I had to go and spray the fabric to get all of the ink out, and finally sewing, stuffing and stitching it closed. It was all so satisfying.

As I worked on it, I kept picturing the little girl and wondering if she’d love the pillow as much as I’ve loved working on it.  Will she cuddle with it when she’s afraid of a storm? When she’s in the midst of her teenage angst, will she hold it and think of her godmother and know/feel that she’ll always have someone on her side? Will it be on her bed in her dorm room someday?

Thanks, S, for letting me be part of this beautiful gift!

Super Simple, Super Fun Camp Theme Kid’s Party

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Last November, we celebrated my son’s fourth birthday party and we had so much fun. Fun. I keep using that word, and it makes me sound lame, but it was pure and simple fun. I’m not sure how I pulled off  taking a bunch of four-year-olds into the woods, letting them play on a rickety foot bridge over a creek, and then turned around and let them have pointy sticks and be close to fire, but I did – we all did. Not only did we survive, but we had a great time.

‘Camp’ is a pretty unusual theme, but it just made sense for us. One of my son’s favorite things to do is go for a hike in the woods behind our house, and he’s been asking to go camping for months, so it seemed like a no-brainer to make this his birthday.

I have to say, this party was a lot easier than I thought it would be. This is why I’m posting about it – at the end of the day, after everyone had gone home, I looked around and said “Man that was fun!” It didn’t cost a fortune, we all had fun, and I was able to enjoy it just as much as my guests. It was so much easier to host a full-blown kid party than I thought it would be.

I kept the invitation simple – just a burlap background with simple writing on it, and printed at the drug store one-hour-photo lab.  You can read more about my invitations in this post.

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Party day came, and we were so excited! We hung primary color bunting across our back yard and our front porch, and covered tables and our kitchen island in primary colored table cloths (the plastic ones for easy cleanup).

Can I say one thing about the plastic bunting? It was actually the inspiration for the color scheme, mostly because it was $1 for a nine-foot length. We bought 5. They are still hanging in our backyard and I love them. It’s giving color to my otherwise winter-gray backyard. And I’m probably annoying my neighbors so, BONUS!!! Just kidding, I love my neighbors, and I’ll take down the bunting once there’s some green in the yard.

We set up our back yard to have different activities that you’d do if you were at camp:

First, my favorite: These canoes made from cardboard boxes were so cute and fun. The kids had a blast racing and running around.  We sectioned off our side yard by hammering some 50-cent dowels into the ground and hot gluing some blue plastic table cloths to them to create a ‘lake’ area. Ideally, I would have filled the area with blue balloons, but a couple of our guests abhor balloons and the popping noise, so I was nice and refrained.

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A camp party planned by yours truly would not be complete without a craft station, right? Surprisingly, it was a big hit! We made pinecone birdfeeders, and it was really easy to set up.  My son and I foraged in the woods for pinecones a couple of weeks before the party.  Then, I tied some yarn from my craft stash to them so that the kids could hang them.  I set them up in a basket with a squeeze bottle full of corn syrup, a bowl of birdseed, a box of zip top bags so the kids could have something to take them home in, and a box of wipes for cleanup. The kids squirted corn syrup on the pinecone and scooped birdseed over it so it would stick. The whole thing cost $6, and I have a ton left over. Normally, they’re done with peanut butter, but I wanted to avoid any allergy issues.

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We also set up what we called ‘marksmanship’ which was really just a bean bag toss game that we had that we tied between two trees. To round off our camp, we set up some sports equipment, and of course, the playground was available.

I didn’t schedule the activities. I welcomed everyone, and they were all free to play and go from station to station as they pleased.

After we played for a little bit, we took the kids on my son’s favorite hike down to a stream and let them play in the woods for a little bit.

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My son loves hiking in the woods behind our neighborhood. It was so cool to see my son, who can be shy at times, be so proud and comfortable as we hiked down the trails. I had planned to just go to the stream, but the neighborhood kids know the area well and all ran down the stream to a cracked, rickety footbridge, so all the kids followed down and we spent most of our time with our hearts in our throat waiting for a kid to fall in the water and/or the bridge to fully break. But nobody did, and the bridge survived. And I think the kids loved it.

After the hike, we headed back to the house for hot dogs (super easy prep: baked in the oven at 350 in disposable roasting pans until heated through, and then kept on the warm setting until needed), chips, cupcakes (store-bought!), and my favorite part of the whole night: the s’mores bar.

Y’all. We need to talk about this whole ‘s’mores bar’ thing. I’m here to tell you to think outside the graham. Somewhere in my planning, it struck me that it doesn’t have to be graham crackers. I started to think about different candy and cookie options. Why only grahams? Why only plain chocolate? And then I had to go for it.  I had graham crackers, chocolate chip cookies and shortbread cookies. And for the candy, I had regular chocolate, snack size peanut butter cups (not the small ones that are sold in a bag, but not the regular size you’d get at the candy stands in the checkout line) and rolos.  I could have gone crazier. I thought about having sliced bananas, strawberries, nutella, sprinkles to dip them in… but it was a camping-themed party for four-year-olds, and I went simple(ish).

I hope that if I make it to heaven, I’ll be greeted with this, my favorite combo: chocolate chip cookies with rolos and the requisite torched marshmallow.  Behold the beauty:

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Confession: I was so wrapped up in the party that I forgot to take pictures of the s’mores bar(and pretty much everything else), so I totally made myself a s’more just so I had a photo for this post.  We all suffer for our art, don’t we?

Setup couldn’t have been easier. I just set everything out on my countertop, lit a couple of sterno fuel cans, and said “Everyone, enjoy!” And they did. You know how a lot of parents normally don’t try cupcakes at parties and act all like “Oh, I’m too grown up for that. I’ll let the kids enjoy.” ? Well, they won’t pass up a s’more bar.

This was such a fun and easy party, the way all parties should be. And the best part of it was that my son had an awesome day.

Before I wrap this up, I want to thank the ladies at All Wrapped Up Parties for this awesome post about why you should consider hosting a party at home, because it got me to finally click ‘publish’ on this post. As I read it this morning, I was fist-pumping in the air going “AMEN SISTAHS!!” So thank you, Julia and Alexis!

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?