Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Patch for my Favorite Jeans

American Eagle jeans are my absolute favorite brand of jeans. They are so soft and comfy!


My jeans originally came with a couple of holes, but they had "strings" across the opening and weren't gaping open.  Then one day I looked down to see an unshaven leg patch hanging out of the gaping hole in my jeans, it was then that I decided it needed to be patched. 


Perfect timing because my sewing machine was ready to go!  I grabbed a fabric scrap and made sure that it fit behind the hole:


Pinned it in place:


Turned my jeans inside out:


Double-checked the placement:


Trimmed away the excess fabric:


Unpinned the patch:


Adhered double-sided, washable, non-sticky-for-the-sewing-machine tape, made by Stitch Witchery:


Reapplied the patch:



Flipped my pants back to right-side-out:


Used a light blue thread and sewed across the patch in zig-zag stiches, making sure to sew past the patch and onto the denim:


And voila!


I can wear my favorite jeans again! 


I think I'm liking this whole new world of sewing!  

 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Valentine Swap - Instant Chai Tea DIY

I love Valentine's day. The reds, the pinks, the love, the chocolate and all things heart-shaped! So, when Alissa, from Rags to Stitches (and Caroline, from Good Times Never Seemed Sew Good) announced a Valentine's Day Swap I was excited to jump on board!


I was partnered with Anna, from Active Fingers, and on her list of "likes" was Chai tea. I love Chai tea!  I haven't had it in ages but I've always wanted to make a homemade version myself. And this was the perfect opportunity to do it!



I used this instant Chai tea recipe that I found online:

Chai Tea Mix
    1 cup nonfat dry milk powder
    1 cup powdered non-dairy creamer
    1 cup French vanilla flavored powdered non-dairy creamer
(I used 1 3/4 cups of powdered non-dairy creamer and 1/4 cup of powdered vanilla flavoring, instead of the above two ingredients.)
    2 1/2 cups white sugar
    1 1/2 cups unsweetened instant tea
    2 teaspoons ground ginger
    2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    1 teaspoon ground cloves
    1 teaspoon ground cardamom

Directions
In a large bowl, combine milk powder, non-dairy creamer, vanilla flavored creamer, sugar and instant tea. Stir in ginger, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. In a blender or food processor, blend 1 cup at a time, until mixture is the consistency of fine powder.  (I just mixed it up in the bowl, with a whisk.)

To serve: Stir 2 heaping tablespoons (I used 3) Chai tea mixture into a mug of hot water.  (It doesn't hurt to add a dollop of whipped cream either.  SO YUM!)

How To:
I stopped at Sprouts market, and picked up the necessary ingredients in their bulk spices section.





Gathered the rest of the ingredients from a regular grocery store and my own cupboard:



When I got home, I measured them out, into a big mixing bowl:

Then I mixed them all up (they smelled so good!):

Funneled the mix into a jar:

(And of course, enjoyed a cup for myself!  What!??!  I had to make sure it was edible!  Right?!  So glad I had some mix leftover for myself!  IT'S SO YUMMY!)

Then I created a label with "He Formed My Heart" font, to invoke a little Valentine's day cheer, on some blank sticker paper that I purchased at Staples:


Then shipped it off with a green heart-shaped paperweight that I found at Cost Plus World Market (love that store), since she listed green as one of her favorite colors, a little note card that I found at Hobby Lobby (just the best craft store I've ever been to!), and one of my business cards:

Swapping is So Fun!
It's so fun to get things in the mail! Anna sent me such a sweet care package!

She really listened! Coffee, tea, and a coffee cup in one of my favorite colors! Plus, an entire set of handmade note cards that she hand stamped herself. I can't wait to use the sweet baby feet cards, as I have a baby shower or two that I'll be attending this year. Perfect timing!

Thanks Anna!
Cheers!

I've also linked to Home Stories A to Z Valentine project linky party:

Home Stories A2Z


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Planning a Shark Party



When I thought about planning a shark party, I was a little apprehensive since there wasn't really a lot of shark party ideas out on the Internet, nor in the party supply stores.  This blog posting is about how I gathered ideas to throw a shark party and some tutorials on a few of the elements of the party. 

Last year, I started planning my son's rocket-themed 3rd birthday party in September; this year, I didn't start the planning of his 4th birthday party until about 3 weeks beforehand because I was trying to decide on a theme.  I was waffling between a pirate party, a dinosaur party or a shark party.  After days of indecision, I finally decided to do the shark party; first, because he plain LOVES sharks; second, because there isn't a lot of "shark stuff" in the party supplies stores, which would give me a lot of lee-way to be creative and might even give me some creations to add to my Etsy shop; and third, because a shark party should be on the fairly easy side, which was a bonus because I only had a couple of weeks to plan.


I scoured the internet for hours researching ideas for a shark party, and when I came across ideas that I liked, I pinned them to my "Shark Party Ideas" Pinterest board.  If you haven't heard of Pinterest, it's just one of the best ideas on the internet!  It's basically a virtual cork board, where you "pin" ideas/photos that you find on the internet onto your individual "boards".  Before Pinterest, I used to email the links to myself, of the ideas that I found on the internet and then make separate email folders for each idea type.  It worked, but you couldn't look at all of your ideas in one place.  These Pinterest boards are so nice, because you can actually see all of the photos of all of your ideas in one spot, instead of grouped up as a lot of links in an email folder, like I used to do.  Brilliant!

The Shark Invitations:

First on my agenda were the invitations.  I wanted to design and make my own paper invites.  But then I found this idea online and thought how cute it would be if I could get him to pose with all of his shark toys and maybe even get him to wear some goggles.

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But in order to do this, I would have to set up and take the actual photo, get it developed, pick them up, address them, stamp them and then send them off in the mail.  That would have taken a lot of work and I didn't have a lot of time.  (You will see that this is a recurring theme throughout this party planning.)  So I decided to send an online invitation, via Pingg, instead.  Here it is:


I found an old photo of my son sitting on a fake shark, from when we went to the shark exhibit at the "Aquarium of the Pacific" last year.  I uploaded it into Picasa and edited it by adding the white shark silhouettes and the "You're Invited!" lettering in "scary" shark font, which were available in Picasa (UPDATE: Picasa no longer exists, please use www.PicMonkey.com instead.)  Then, I uploaded the finalized photo into "Pingg", and then updated the party info.  Pingg is similar to Evite, but has different features, such as your own webpage for your invitation, plus there are ways to link to social media, like Facebook, etc. 

I was really happy with how the invitations turned out, so I hit "send" and set about planning the party!

Party Layout:

Our house is small and to have a ton of guests in our house takes a bit of planning.  For last year's party, I'd set up different "stations" around the house because I knew our guests had to be spread out, simply because we didn't have enough chairs in one area.  I used the entire ground floor of our house, including the front patio and the attached garage.  In the dining room, I covered the table with paper and made it a coloring station, complete with crayons and markers, and had printed out shark-themed coloring pages.  I Googled "shark-themed coloring pages" and tried to pick out the most friendly-looking shark coloring pages.  I didn't want to scare any of the kids!  I also had an ocean scene foam activity kit set out for the kids to use. 


The living room wall was papered with this great ocean scene that I picked up at Joann's Fabrics, in the "teacher department".  I got a discount on it because one of the corners was torn. I always ask for a discount of there is any damage to an item I'm buying.  The worst they can say is "No", and you'll be helping them by taking damaged product off of their hands, so they'll most likely say "Yes".  Here's what it looked like, but it was on a 15 foot roll of paper, which we papered the living room wall with:

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We had set up some play areas out in the garage, as well.  My hubby put up blue tarps on the sides of the garage to simulate being under the sea.  My grand plan was to tape up long strips of green streamers and hang them all along the sides of the garage to look like seaweed, and I had lots of time.  No, not really.  I ran out of time.  

I had the "Feed the Shark" game and we set up the old playhouse/slide set in the garage, and I set up chairs around each station, so the parents could hang out and chat, while their kids played.


I had a bucket of helmets, knee and elbow pads and orange cones set out near the garage door opening and had bikes, scooters, skateboards and roller skates set out for the kids to play with, in the alley.  I recruited some of the parents to bring extra bikes, helmets, etc, to ensure we had enough.




Shark Decorations:

I love pennant banners, but I didn't think they would look good as decoration for a shark party, so I racked my brain and thought I could make a triangular-shaped pennant banner that looked like sharks:




While scouring the internet for shark party ideas, I came across these other really cute ideas:

"Beware of Sharks" Signs:

I found these signs on line, and though they were originally created for a shark/scuba party, I thought they'd be cute for a plain ol' shark party:
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I thought I could probably create my own signs, so here's what I came up with:






I used royalty-free shark clipart, my Keynote software (PowerPoint or Word or Pages would work, too), and Picasa for the font, and then printed them out on yellow cardstock.  Drove down to my local Home Depot and found some wood scraps in the scrap bin for 50¢ (not 50¢ each, but 50¢ for ALL OF THEM - score!) for the stakes, adhered the printed signs with a glue stick to cardboard, then used my hot glue gun to attach the signs to the wood stakes.  I put a sign out near the street to direct the arriving party goers, and then put the rest here and there along the driveway, so they could follow the signs to the house.

I am now selling these signs in my Etsy shop, in a digital file version: HERE

Wearable Shark Fins:
This was one of the ideas that I came across while researching shark parties on the internet when I couldn't decide on the theme.  These shark fins really cemented the party them idea.  I thought they were SO CUTE!


UPDATE:  I am now selling a PDF Tutorial on how to make these shark fins, in my Etsy shop: HERE 

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I tried my hand and here's the version I came up with:


I was so happy that they actually stood up on their own!!  I was nervous that they were going to fall to the side:









UPDATE:  I am now selling a PDF Tutorial on how to make these shark fins, in my Etsy shop: HERE

Some of the adults wore them, too!




Shark Party Hats:

Shark party hats!!  How brilliant!  I really love this idea!  This is the original photo I saw while searching for ideas online.  Plus, bonus: the blog posting came with a tutorial!  (Click on the word "source" below this photo for the tutorial):

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I picked up some party hats at Party City, then set to work and made these:


The kids LOVED them and scrambled to put them on when we gathered around for the cake:



The Shark Cut Out:

What's a party without a shark cut-out?

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I had reached out to my Freecycle.org community, to find ideas for shark parties or places to purchase shark items, and one lady wrote back and included a link to her Picasa web album account of photos from her grandson's shark-themed party.  I was super-impressed with the shark cut-outs, so I asked her if she still had them and if so, if I could buy them, but they moved to MA she said and they either got rid of them or took them along with them.  But I knew I had to have one.  It'd be the centerpiece to the party, and it'd be the last game I'd been looking for and would make the perfect photo op.  So I asked the hubs if he'd have time to make this shark, but with everything else on his to-do list, he said he might not have time.  So I thought of my carpenter neighbor/artist, and decided to ask if he could recreate the cut-out shark and HE DID!!  In a matter of HOURS!!  I had emailed him, then left to do some errands in the morning, saw him on the way out and asked him to check his email, then I came back home a few hours later and THIS had been delivered to my house!!!

The shark prop that my amazing neighbor made.
Are you kidding me right now??  My jaw was literally dropped to the ground.  For HOURS.  I kept going over to look at it, again and again.  I couldn't believe how amazing it was and how skilled my neighbor is!!!! And what a great guy to take time out of his day to help make my son's party amazing!  And I love how the cut out was a decoration, and photo prop and a game!  I immediately set out to make "chum" bean bags so we could play "Feed the Shark"during the party.

The only issue was that it was the night before the party and I had NO RED CLOTH!!!  I frantically searched my tablecloth supply.  No red tablecloth.  I checked my towels.  Nope.  I even checked my clothes.  Nothing suitable.  Then I'd remembered that I'd dressed up as a "podium girl" a couple of years ago for Halloween.  This particular "podium girl" was the Tour de France "King of the Mountains" podium girl, who wears a white dress with red polka dots:


I'd taken a white tank top and a white skirt, then attached red cloth circles to the entire outfit:


I dug up the costume and immediately started taking off all of the dots.  Believe it or not, I had run out of time making this costume that Halloween and ended up safety pinning the dots onto the outfit, instead of gluing or sewing them on, so they were a breeze to take off.  A trip to the store for some "beans" to fill the bags with, and a few minutes later, I had these:

Pre-cut circles, from red terry cloth
Supplies: red cloth circles, glue gun, measuring cup, "beans", funnel
Sandwich two circles together, then apply glue most of the way around one of the circles, leaving about an inch for the opening.
Using the funnel add the "beans", filling about 3/4 full.
Hot glue the circle closed
Voila!

I wanted to write a "1", "2" & "3" with fabric paint, to the chum bean bags to make it a bettin' man's game, but again, I ran out of time.  Seems to be a reoccurring theme here.  So many ideas, so little time!

I created a "Feed the Shark" game sign; again using royalty free shark clipart and font from Picasa, printed it on a piece of 8x10 card stock and taped it to an old paint bucket and the game was ready to go!  Or you can download a copy HERE

Game
Photo opportunity
Decoration

FOOD:
I didn't get a photo of the food table, but one of the items I served was tuna fish sandwiches cut into triangles, to resemble shark fins.

My mother-in-law taught me how to make the best tuna salad recipe ever:

1 can of tuna in water, water drained
1 cup of mayo
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon of celery salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper
2 Tablespoons of dill, or to taste (don't be afraid to add more, add lots of dill - it's the key!)

Mix well in bowl.

Food Tent Labels:

I also created these shark party food tents and set them up on the food table!  I printed them out on yellow cardstock to go with the "Caution sign" design element, and they match the "shark party favor tags" that I used with the party favors (see end of this blog posting.)


Cut out, fold in half and write the food item under the word "Caution:" in the caution sign.

You can now purchase the digital file of the food tents in my Etsy shop: HERE

We also had a shark watermelon!  Read on...

The Shark Watermelon:

Then I also wanted to make a shark watermelon, but yet again I was running out of time, so I recruited my neighbor again to carve it for us.  It came out fabulously and the birthday boy loved it:

Eef, and another one of his masterpieces.



Drink:
I wanted to make "chum lemonade" for the party.  It's delicious and simple to make.  Here's the recipe:

* cans of frozen lemonade concentrate
* water
* small BOX of frozen WHOLE strawberries - 1 box per gallon of drink is plenty

Make the lemonade as directed, and place into a clear drink dispenser.  Then add the box of whole strawberries.  Mix just a little. 


Recipe Card - Free Download: HERE

Download and print the recipe card above for the "Shark Chum Lemonade": HERE

You can see how red the lemonade got.  That was purely from the strawberries; no food dye necessary.  It's DELICIOUS and it looks like there is real bloody chum floating in the lemonade!

The Cake:
Ah, yes.  The cake.  This past summer I really, REALLY got into baking cakes.  I spent hours and hours, week after week, month after month, for the entire summer, baking cake after cake after cake.  You get the picture.  After I made my last cake of the summer, The Western Cakes, I knew that would be the "piece de resistance" of all the cakes I'd made, and that was it.  I was officially burnt out.  And as much as I wanted to do an incredible, sculptural, spectacular cake for this birthday party, I just couldn't.  I was tired.  Very.  Very.  Tired.

So I searched online.  There were a lot of shark cakes that I really liked:

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I didn't feel like I had the skill level or, frankly, the energy to make one.  Then I came across this terrific candy-coated cake, with a little tiny shark on it:

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It was perfect!  My son just LOVES candy.  What 4-year-old doesn't?   I ended up making this "aquarium" cake and cupcakes; complete with gummy sharks!  Here's my version:


I think I got a little heavy handed with my version, but the fact that it was decorated with candy, especially gummy sharks, sold me on the idea!  Christian's been known to go a full day on nothing but candy.  I of course used my Gramma Jewel's Red Earth Cake recipe, and used the Sprinkles Vanilla Buttercream frosting recipe.  I ended up tinting my frosting blue, to simulate water, but I do like the white frosting version, as well.  I made a cupcake for each child with the candy, and then also some cupcakes without candy for the adults who didn't want crunchy things in their cake. 

Shark Party Favors:

Before each child went home, they got to fish their own party favor out of a bucket with a Huck Finn type fishing pole, that (again) my neighbor put together.  (Yes, he saved the day yet one more time!)


The party favors were shark squirt guns, soft shark bath squirters and a couple of shark loofahs.  I made the shark party favor tags to match the signs and tied them on with some gray and silver string.  I put a zip-tie loop on each favor, so that the kids could hook the fishing hook into the loop and pull it out of the bucket:


The digital file for these party favor tags are now for sale in my Etsy shop.

I think everyone had a good time and the best part was that I wasn't running around with my head cut off this year! 

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Here are some more shark party ideas that I wanted to do, but just didn't have...  you guessed it, time.

The Shark Entrance:

I SO BADLY wanted to make this in the front of our garage:

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But then I saw this video, and changed my mind.  WOW:




The Cake Backdrop:

I also really wanted to make this backdrop for behind the cake.  That shark cracks me up!  Again, time got the best of me:

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All in all, it was a successful party and I think all of the kids had fun.  I'm sort of glad I ran out of time on all these things, because it forced me to make things simpler, easier and to delegate and recruit help.  Thank you to everyone who helped me to make this party so spectacular!


FREE Shark Links and Downloads:
 
Here's a summary of all of the FREE Shark links and downloads listed in this blog posting:




Shark-Themed Coloring Pages: HERE
"CHUM: Feed the Shark" sign - For Feed the Shark game: HERE
20 Shark Coloring Pages - Hammerhead, Basking, Great White, Mako, Lemon, Thresher, Tiger, Whale, Nurse, Frilled, Carpetshark, Pacific Angel, Prickly, Whitetip Reed, Blind, Sixgill, Sevengill, California Horn, Common Sawshark, Megalodon: HERE 
Shark Party Hat Tutorial: HERE
Shark Chum Lemonade Recipe: HERE

Here is my Shark party Pinterest page: HERE.  You'll see several more ideas that I wanted to do for this party, that I thought were so great, but I didn't have time to complete.

Here's the link to the Shark Fin Tutorial and is for sale in my Etsy shop: HERE

I'd love to see your comments and links to your own blog postings about your own shark parties!  Thank you for reading my Shark Party posting!


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