Wednesday, April 16, 2014

"Frozen" Cake


"Frozen" is the biggest movie on the planet currently, right?  So, of course, my daughter requests a "Frozen"-themed birthday party and cake.  Here is the finished cake...
The first thing I did was search Pinterest for ideas.  We found this image of a cake and my daughter gave me the go-ahead.  

She chose two different flavors of boxed cake mix (because I have yet to attempt baking a cake from scratch) - blue velvet and pink lemonade.  I baked them according to package directions, leveled them, stacked them, and crumb-coated them in store-bought icing.

Somewhere along the line, I decided this cake would be the perfect opportunity to finally try using fondant, and homemade fondant at that.  I followed the instructions for Homemade Fondant found on Johanna's blog My Crazy Blessed Life.  It was easy to make - just marshmallows, powdered sugar, and water.  I added a bit of blue gel food coloring at the end and kneaded it in to make a marbled effect. However, after I rolled it out nice and thin and got ready to pick it up to gracefully drape over the cake, it was hard-core stuck to the counter.  So I had to knead it some more before rolling again (with way more powdered sugar on the counter this time) and my marbling was gone.  I did the bottom tier by itself first, then did the top, and then stacked them.  I covered the rough edges with a fondant rope.  The ice/snow steps in front were blocks of fondant and a fondant rope railing held in place at the top and bottom with a cut toothpick.


Now for the other decorations...  I made the trees out of candy clay.  I've been using candy clay for quite a while for edible cake decorations.  The recipe on Wilton's site has you use an entire bag of Candy Melts.  That makes a ton of candy clay and I never need that much.  So, a while back, I did the math to scale down the recipe.  If you want a smaller amount, use one teaspoon of corn syrup for every ten candy melt discs. (This only applies to Wilton brand Candy Melts.  Other brands may have different sized pieces.)  The instructions Wilton provides are easy to follow - but basically, it is melt the candy melts (I use microwave method), then stir in the corn syrup, then spread out on a plate or wax paper and let it cool overnight.  When you are ready to use it, you knead it a little at a time to soften it up and you are ready to go.




I shaped the prepared candy clay into a cone shape and then stuck a lollipop stick in.  I used kitchen scissors to make small snips all the way around.  When done, I stuck them into the cake evenly around the bottom layer.





















Next up, I needed some Anna and Elsa and Olaf to actually make this look "Frozen" and to meet the approval of my daughter.  This is where things got surprisingly complicated.

I planned to just go to Target or Wal-Mart and buy small Anna and Elsa toys to put on the cake like in the inspiration photo.  Not so easy.  I went to every store I could think of and couldn't find Elsa.  I found Anna at a few stores, but the cheapest small Elsa I could find was included in a larger playset and cost around $40.  I love my daughter, but I am not spending that much on a cake topper.  Sorry.  I explored every option I could think of and settled on printing my own Shrinky Dinks.  If you are not familiar with Shrinky Dinks, immediately stop reading this and go Google it and then buy some and have hours of fun.  Just come back and finish reading this blog post eventually.

So, anyway, I found these printable "shrink sheets" forever ago and tucked them away.  












It looks like Avery maybe discontinued the product, but this product on Amazon looks like it might work.  I found the images for Anna, Elsa, and Olaf on Google Images.  I used Photoshop to get them all on one sheet of plastic and faded the color quite a bit.  (You will want to experiment with this if the instructions don't give you specifics.  If you leave the image full color, it will be really dark after you bake/shrink it.)  I flipped the image and printed on the back also.  Then I carefully cut out the characters leaving a spike at the bottom of each one under the feet.  I baked them and stabbed them into the cake.
Shrinky Dink Elsa and Anna








And since my daughter wanted an "8" candle, I stuck a toothpick into the bottom of the candle for extra support and cut out a small spot of fondant for the base and placed the candle.
Elsa, Anna, Olaf, and a giant 8 candle

And with a finished cake, I had a very happy birthday girl.



The End.  And we all lived happily ever after.  Right?  Well, mostly.  Just one thing I wanted to point out.  This fondant is rather heavy.  Everything worked out just fine, but you may be able to see the fondant on the bottom cake layer buckling a bit.  Next time, I think I need to make a change or two to prevent this.  

Some options:

-roll the fondant thinner, thereby using less

-use a denser cake (at least for the bottom) to better support the weight

-put some sort of support system in the bottom cake, dowels to hold up a base for the top cake, maybe.

I think I was the only one that noticed it (and then pointed it out to everyone) and the cake didn't collapse or anything, so it all worked out, but just a word of warning...

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Fuse Bead Princesses




After a full week of snow days from school, we finally got out the fuse beads today.  All of the princesses are based on photos we found online.  My daughter came up with the pets on her own.  

Pascal - the chameleon from "Tangled"
Clover - the rabbit from "Sofia the First" and a carrot for him.
Pascal, Clover, and a carrot before melting



Rapunzel was done a month or two ago.  She is based on an awesome photo we found online.  That one had various shades of yellow/golden hair.  We weren't that ambitious.  We added her friend Pascal today.


Merida from "Brave" and Cinderella and her mouse friend Gus before melting.


Sleeping Beauty and Sophia the First before melting.

Snow White and Jasmine before melting.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Hive Baby Blanket




I learned to crochet while my sister was pregnant with her second child.  I didn't have a lot of money, but I had time.  (That was before I had two children of my own.  Now I don't have money or time.)  I started making some granny squares and at some point decided to make enough to make a blanket for my sister's baby.  She wanted to wait to find out the baby's gender until the delivery room, so I needed to find a yarn that was gender-neutral.  I have never been a fan of straight up pastels - pink, yellow, blue - for babies, so I needed to find something a little less traditional.  I ended up with Red Heart Super Saver Yarn in Watercolor.  In my opinion, this yarn is/was perfect.  The price was right for a project that involved several skeins.  And I thought the color was great for either a boy or a girl and I thought it wasn't so babyish that an older child would refuse to use it.

So that was over 9 years ago.  My sister loved the blanket and showed it off to everyone who visited her in the hospital.  She ended up with a second boy and I am pretty sure he still has the blanket somewhere.

Fast forward a year and a half and I am pregnant with my first baby.  I found out I was having a girl, so I started work on a pink blanket.  And I still haven't finished it.  Oops.

While I was pregnant, my husband's sister announced she was expecting and she wasn't going to find out gender in advance.  I got to work on a blanket using the same yarn as before in a different pattern.  She ended up with a girl.  Blanket was a huge success.

Then my brother and his wife decided to start having babies.  They didn't find out gender with any of the three.  Blankets for all, same yarn, different pattern.  They ended up with three boys.

Somewhere in the middle of that last batch of boys, I had a boy of my own and knit him a blue blanket.  Daughter is jealous because I finished his but not hers.  Oh well, she will get over it.  (And I have made her a ton of other stuff in the meantime.  Don't feel too sorry for her.)

So, anyway, for that last baby, what will likely be my last niece/nephew, I searched high and low for the perfect pattern.  And by high and low, I mean I searched Pinterest.  And I came across this gem - The Hive Knit Dishcloth by Being Spiffy.  (Head over to her site and show her some blog love.  This pattern is only possible because of her.  I am not creative enough to come up with stuff on my own.)  I fell in love.  Yes, it is a dishcloth, but I loved the pattern.

I did a few test swatches to make sure I understood the pattern and to see what the back would look like and test out a few modifications.  One thing I decided to change was to "tack down" the vertical bars so you can't stick your finger through.  I actually like that you can stick your finger through, but since I am making it for a baby, I thought it might be asking for trouble if little fingers can get in there and stretch and tug and tangle all my hard work.  So I changed the middle row of the pattern (rows 7 & 17) slightly so it attaches.  And, just for fun, I left one in the middle of the blanket somewhere unattached.

The night before leaving on vacation in July, I cast on the starting row.  Standard cast on, nothing fancy.  However, I have a serious problem with casting on and knitting too tightly, so I always hold two knitting needles together and cast on around both.  When I have the right number of stitches, I pull out the extra needle.  (That's a bonus tip,  You are welcome.)  I knit most of the two hour drive to our vacation destination (don't worry, my husband was driving not me), and I knit for a little while in the hotel, and I knit a good chunk of the way home.  And it felt like I made NO progress.

In August, I knit for most of the six or seven hour train ride to and from Chicago.  The minions on my fingernails helped.  (Also, I highly recommend Amtrak when traveling with children, but that is a whole other discussion.)

My sister-in-law's due date was mid-September and I was really hoping to have it done so I could give it to them right after the baby was born.  Well, baby Owen was born and the blanket was still not done.  New target completion date was Baptism, which still hadn't been set.  I knit off and on, whenever I had time in the evenings and on the weekends, and I finally finished it in mid- to late- November.  Baptism was December 1.

I love how the blanket turned out!  But mostly I was glad it was done.  If I had it to do over again, I would use two strands of yarn held together and use larger needles so that it would go faster.  Or I would magically become a faster knitter.

So, without further ado, here is that pattern.

The Hive Blanket

With US size 7 needles, co multiple of 8 plus 2. [I cast on 170.]

Row 1: Purl across.
Row 2: Knit across.
Row 3: Purl across.
Row 4: K1, {p3, slip 2 purlwise (yarn in front), p3} across to last st, k1.
Row 5: K1, {k3, slip 2 purlwise (yarn in back), k3} across to last st, k1.
Row 6: K1, {p3, slip 2 purlwise (yarn in front), p3} across to last st, k1.
Row 7: K1, {k3, p2, k3} across to last st, k1.
Row 8: K1, {p3, slip 2 purlwise (yarn in front), p3} across to last st, k1.
Row 9: K1, {k3, slip 2 purlwise (yarn in back), k3} across to last st, k1.
Row 10: K1, {p3, slip 2 purlwise (yarn in front), p3} across to last st, k1.
Row 11: Purl across.
Row 12: Knit across.
Row 13: Purl across.
Row 14: K1, {slip 1 purlwise (yarn in front), p6, slip 1 purlwise (yarn in front)} across to last st, k1.
Row 15: K1, {slip 1 purlwise (yarn in back), k6, slip 1 purlwise (yarn in back)} across to last st, k1.
Row 16: K1, {slip 1 purlwise (yarn in front), p6, slip 1 purlwise (yarn in front)} across to last st, k1.
Row 17: K1, {p1, k6, p1} across to last st, k1.
Row 18: K1, {slip 1 purlwise (yarn in front), p6, slip 1 purlwise (yarn in front)} across to last st, k1.
Row 19: K1, {slip 1 purlwise (yarn in back), k6, slip 1 purlwise (yarn in back)} across to last st, k1.
Row 20: K1, {slip 1 purlwise (yarn in front), p6, slip 1 purlwise (yarn in front)} across to last st, k1.
Repeat Rows 1-20 until you reach the size desired length of the blanket. [I think mine was 403 rows total.] End with Finish Rows 1-3.

Finish Row 1: Purl across.
Finish Row 2: Knit across.
Finish Row 3: Purl across.

Bind off knit-wise.
To edge left and right sides, crochet across once, then crochet back in back loops only. (Or use your own favorite edge.0
Finish off and weave in ends.


And that's it.  I hope you enjoy this pattern.

And here are some photos of the finished product.
Close up of the front


The crocheted edge


The back of the blanket


Front at an angle - I love this pattern!





Front of blanket - I love this pattern!


The blanket is finished!!!


The whole blanket - complete!  (Just ignore that it looks uneven on the sides.)

All folded up, ready to wrap.

Baby Owen with his new favorite blanket

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Knit Mini Minion



I don't know about you, but we are obsessed with "Despicable Me" in our house.  And I can't wait to see the new movie.  I found a crochet pattern for minions and made a few, but we all know that the smaller something is the cuter it is, so...  I made up a pattern for a knit mini minion.  And every time I give one to someone, someone else requests one, so I am posting the pattern here so everyone can make their own.

A few notes before I get started...
1.  I used standard 4-ply worsted weight yarn split in half (using 2 ply).  You could use a smaller yarn, if you want.  I just used what I already had on hand.

2.  I used size 0 knitting needles.  You could use larger needles and larger yarn and make a larger finished product.

3.  Minions have different hair, different heights, and one or two eyes, so make yours your own.

4.  I think I've made five of these so far and I tend to alter the pattern slightly each time for one reason or another.  I have photos included of three different minions if you are wondering why the photos don't match up.

Mini Minion

Finished Measurements
Each minion is about 1½ to 2 inches tall
Needles
US 0 or 1 (2.25 mm) double-pointed needles (set of 4), 2 spare needles (size 1 or smaller)

Legs

With black, cast on 6 sts and distribute them onto 3 needles to work in a round.
Knit 1 round in black, switch to blue, knit 3 rounds.
Break the yarn, and place the sts onto 2 spare needles with the first 3 sts on one needle and the last 3 sts on second needle.


Repeat for second leg without breaking the yarn. Place the first 3 sts on one needle and the last 3 sts on another needle.
Place the two legs side by side on their needles with the working yarn attached to the rightmost stitch on the back needle.


Transfer the stitches from the spare needles onto the adjacent working needles, so that the first 3 sts of each leg are on the needle in front, and the last 3 sts of each leg are on the needle in back.


Pick up a third needle, and beginning with the sts on the front needle, knit one round, flipping the needles around to work the back needle. This will join the legs together into one round.

Torso and head

Distribute the 12 sts onto 3 needles to continue working in rnds as follows:
Rnd 1: With blue [Kfb, k2] 4 times: 16 sts.
Rnd 2: Knit all sts.
[2 overall top rows - make sure spacing is right, may need to knit one blue st before starting next round]
Rnd 3: With blue, k5; switch to yellow, k3; repeat once.
Rnd 4: With blue, k5; switch to yellow, k3; repeat once.
Rnd 5: With all yellow, knit around.
Rnds 6-18: Knit around.
Rnd 19: [K2tog] 8 times: 8 sts.
Break the yarn. Use needle to weave through remaining sts, pull tightly to close.

Eyes & Goggles

With black, embroider eyes with 4 sts for each, spaced about 2 sts apart, if making two eyes.
With white, embroider around the black.
With gray, embroider around the white.
With black, stitch a strap around from the side of the goggles, around the back of the head, and to the other side of the goggles, if two eyes.

Arms - Make 2

With black, cast on 3 sts onto one needle.  Knit one row of I-cord.
Switch to yellow.  Knit 6 rows of I-cord.
Break the yarn and draw it tightly through the sts with needle.
Sew to side of body and weave in loose ends.

Overall straps

Use blue to stitch overall straps from corner of overalls, over arm, and connect to back overall corner.  Repeat for the other side.


Hair

Use black to make hair as you wish.


One of the earlier versions

A view from the side

My first mini minion... with two eyes

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Scratch Off Tickets

I came across this on Pinterest a while back and then this more recently. When I saw the first one, I thought "DIY scratch off tickets?!? No freaking way! I must do this!!!" But then I had to wait until the right project came along. And I found it.

Each year, I coordinate a weeklong employee appreciation event at my work. And this will be the third year in a row that I will have people play "Minute To Win It" games for fun and prizes. In previous years, people would choose their challenge by pulling a folded up paper from a jar. That was just not going to cut it this year.

Scratch off tickets, here we come!

Supplies:
Something to use as tickets
Clear packing tape
Acrylic paint in any color, I chose silver
Liquid dishwashing soap, I used Dawn

The first thing I did was decide what was going on the tickets and got those printed out.  I made mine in Excel, nine to a page.  I printed them and cut them out, then cut out a slightly larger piece of colored paper to glue on the back, but don't glue it yet.

Next, I pulled a long piece of packing tape from the roll and laid it sticky-side-up on my desk.  Then, I placed each ticket along the edge of the tape so that the tape covers the part I want to scratch off.  I trimmed the tape to the edge of each ticket then took an old gift card and ran it over the tape on the front of the ticket to really get the tape smashed down.

Now, get the slightly larger backing paper and glue it to the back.


Following the instructions from the other blogs, I mixed one part acrylic paint to one part dishwashing liquid.
Stir together slowly, so as not to generate too many bubbles.

Now, it is time to paint.

Mine really beaded up after a few seconds.  I let it dry for a while, but not completely, then painted it again which added more paint, but also spread out the first paint evenly again.

Now, let it dry completely.  Then paint over it another time or two until the area is completely covered.


After it is completely dry, you are ready to go.  Grab a coin and scratch it off!


We also have a few employees that work for us from offices in other cities.  Since they couldn't be there in person to play Minute To Win It games, I sent them a scratch off card of appreciation.  Same process, different words.

Decide what you want to say and print it out.


Cut the cards.  Put the packing tape over the area to be painted.  Glue the backing paper on.

Paint.  Paint again.  Let it dry.


Ready to scratch off!  Enjoy!


A few other ideas I came across while researching this idea were Save The Date cards for weddings, a gender reveal announcement during pregnancy, Valentine Cards, reward cards for children with what prize they earn underneath.  The possibilities are endless.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!!!