Last Minute Halloween Prep

fall-sunrise-alaynascreationsLife can get crazy-busy very quickly and it is so very easy to let it take us for a ride – which is exactly what has happened to me in the two months or so since my husband got home from deployment.  First, we spent a few weeks all wrapped up in enjoying having him home and doing all of the family stuff still on our bucket list.  Then we jumped into a massive remodel of my parents’ kitchen (so many blog posts to write!) before the husband had to return to his civilian job.  Plus, school started before that project was completed and we have all been doing our best to get back into the normal routine of work/school/extra-curricular activities.

And now?  Now we are knee-deep in October which is Birthday Month around here (7+ birthdays to celebrate – more on that soon!) and I suspect things are going to keep moving just as quickly.

Which brings me to today’s project, or rather yesterday’s project – my son’s class party for Halloween.  His teacher has developed her own traditions and one of them is performing a Mad Scientist show for other classes in the school.  I’ve known about this for weeks – after all, I’m the Room Mom this year and my job was to organize the parent helpers and donations to provide lunch for the class in the middle of their busy day of Mad Scientist shows.  So it really shouldn’t have been a surprise when my 9-year-old came home the night before the party talking about turning a shirt into a lab coat.

I guess I had just figured that a pair of safety goggles and some crazy hair would be a “good enough” costume (and really that would have been fine) but my little guy wanted something a bit more.


(ah boys – he was dead convinced that Mad Scientists don’t smile and I couldn’t manage to get him to pose any other way)

An old shirt and a Sharpie saved the day.  In less than 5 minutes (and $0!) we were able to transform a shirt he no longer wanted to wear into a lab coat by simply drawing a few lines on it with a marker.


It turned out cute, he was pretty excited about it  – and after seeing all the other kids, some with full wigs and everything, I was glad we put in the little bit of extra effort.

Tyler received plenty of compliments on his costume and it had me wondering…I bet that’s not the only costume that could be pulled together in a pinch with just a shirt and a Sharpie.  Any ideas for other options?!


April Showers Bring May Flowers – Spring Tulip Wreath Tutorial


That cliché about April Showers?  Yeah – totally true to form this year.  We have had a very wet April and just come off more than a week straight of rain and snow (sometimes both in the same day!) and today’s wonderful sunny weather has been such a welcome change.  Hello May.

Spring is my favorite season from the slightly warmer weather and everything starting to turn green and grow to that uncontrollable urge to freshen things up.  Around here Spring Fever has turned into what I am now officially terming Spring DIY Fever.  Forget the Spring Cleaning, over the last few weeks I have been systematically giving my parents’ house an update.  Painting walls, patching holes, even minor electrical fixes – all by my little self!  As of last week I have completely repainted all of the rooms in the basement and have moved on to the upstairs bathroom this week.  (Tons and tons of blog post fodder there – bet you can’t wait!)

April Showers Bring May Flowers Tutorial for Spring Tulip Wreath
In among all of that I have missed working on some smaller craft projects so I took some time out from the DIY and whipped up a knock of version of the Spring Tulip Wreath my mom has been eyeing at Pier 1.  Or does that count as DIY too?  Either way, I did it and am happy to share not only the wreath but also a quick tutorial for the wreath to – just for you!  And did I mention it costs less than $20?

Make your own spring tulip wreath similar to Pier 1 for under $20 AlaynasCreations

First item of business was of course, to acquire copious amount of tulips in shades of pink and white.  The cost for silk flowers can add up really quickly so I hit up the dollar store.  They actually have pretty decent flowers for $1 a bunch, but selection can vary quite a bit.  The store only had 2-3 bunches of tulips so I picked up the most tulip-looking bunches of roses I could find too.  The cashier thought he should point out that Valentines Day was long over – guess he doesn’t run into crafty wreath makers like us often enough 😉

Materials needed:  1 grapevine wreath frame from the craft storeand 10-15 bunches of flowers.  At $4 for the grapevine wreath base and $1 per bunch of flowers that puts your total cost under $20 – as promised!

Spring Tulip Wreath altered dollar store silk flowers alaynascreations

Once I sat down to work with the flowers I decided the roses could use a little tweaking to look even more tulip-like so I removed some of the interior petals, cut off that spiky green stuff around the base of the flower and removed the leaves.  Not bad for a quick fix, eh?

Tutorial How to Make a Spring Tulip Wreath like Pier One for Under $20
Step two:  grab a grapevine wreath form, heat up your glue gun and start layering the flowers onto the wreath form.  I just picked a place to start and worked my way around the circle, making sure to vary the colors and flowers for a random effect.  I removed the leaves from the tulips, but I do like the look of the greenery in among the flowers so I kept the rest of the leaves on the tulips and added in some grassy pieces that had been in some of the flower bunches.

Pretty soon the wreath looked like this:
Making your own Spring Tulip Wreath is easy and inexpensive using this tutorial AlaynasCreations

Spring Tulip Wreath Tutorial is quick and easy and inexpensive AlaynasCreations

Pretty.  I might have to make one for myself next year.  I just might…

Oh and in case you haven’t thought about it – this would make a wonderful Mother’s Day gift, wouldn’t it?  That’s coming up in less than a week – can you believe it?!

As always, if you create your own wreath I would love to hear about it and see photos.  Comments always welcome 😉


Bunco Water Bottle – White Elephant Gift

Bunco Diva Water Bottle White Elephant Gift

Outside my window the first snowflakes of the season are slowly floating down.  It doesn’t look like it will amount to much, but the snow, combined with the drop in temperature we have experienced lately are just more reminders that fall is on its way out and winter will be here much more quickly than I am comfortable with.  Life is crazy busy right now and there is so much I would like to get done before the weather sets in.  *sigh*  I don’t think it’s all going to be finished.  But.  When I do find a little time to get ahead of things I like to take advantage of it.  Today is one of those days.

My mom started a Bunco group years ago – back when it was really trendy in our area.  I can’t remember if I was in high school or college at the time, but that group is still going strong 15-20 years later.  After I moved back home last year I subbed at Bunco a couple of times and when a spot for a regular member opened up I was asked to join.  The game itself isn’t hard, nor do I think winning one of the prizes is really the point – though sometimes they do have some great prizes!  The appeal, for me, is to have a reason to leave the kids at home and have some dinner and a few laughs with a great group of women I may not regularly spend time with otherwise.

We had our latest Bunco Night this past week and it caught me by surprise when they started talking about Christmas party plans for the next get together.  A white elephant gift?!  It’s been years since I had to bring one of those to a party.  And while I love the idea of a fun and quirky gift, I also like gifts to be useful so I came up with the idea for a Bunco themed cup of some sort.  I drug my husband along to TJ Maxx with me last night during a super-rare date night in which we had a little time to waste between dinner and the movie and was happy to find this great water bottle – and for only $4 too!

Embellished Water Bottle before photo Simply add vinyl for a easy and inexpensive yet custom gift

One of my favorite tricks when I want something customized and unique is to add a quote or lettering in vinyl.  It’s a pretty simple thing to do with a die cutting machine and I have a Silhouette which I love to put to work on projects like this one.

Bunco Diva Embellished Water Bottle DIY gift

I chose to add the words Bunco Diva and a few dice shapes to round out the design.
*In case you are wondering, the font for the lettering Lounge Bait (found it free HERE) and the dice are dPoly Block Dice dingbats (found HERE).  And did I mention to be sure to use OUTDOOR vinyl?  By using outdoor vinyl and making sure you get the vinyl on really well, these can be washed on the top shelf of the dishwasher without any problems.

Customize your own water bottle or cup using vinyl and your silhouette machine

Bunco Diva Customozed water bottle for gift idea

I would have added some feathers, as I was in that kind of mood 😉  but as I didn’t have feathers on hand I went with a fun glittery bow.  Now I just need to decide what to put inside the bottle – any ideas?  I may just end up stuffing it with chocolate if I don’t come up with a better idea before the party.  For now, I’m patting myself on the back for being on the ball with this single Christmas project – and we will just ignore the fact that there are at least 50 more things on the list that will need attention, won’t we?  What’s on your project list?  Have you started any Christmas prepping yet?

Christmas Gift Idea using vinyl lettering and an inexpensive water bottle or cup Bunco Diva for Bunco Christmas party

Want to Check Out More Silhouette Projects?

My Silhouette Challenge buddies and I are all sharing projects on our blogs today, so peruse the projects below for a wealth of Silhouette inspiration!

DIY Birthday Bib Simple and Stunning Winter Art Glittery Chipboard Gift Tags Happy & Vibrant Greeting Cards Bunco Water Bottle - White Elephant Gift Monogrammed Christmas Onesie Beautiful Thanksgiving Decor for Under $5 Wine Sippy Cups with Funny Sayings Thrifted Jewelry Box Makeover DIY Decorative Vinyl Christmas Gift Jar Harry Potter Reindeer Candle Hurricanes with Washi Tape Plaid Star War Paper Play Ships Glitter & Paper Christmas Banner Upcycled Measuring Cup

1. From Wine to Whine // 2. Creative Ramblings // 3. Adventures in All Things Food // 4. unOriginal Mom // 5. Small Stuff Counts // 6. Alayna’s Creations // 7. Single Yet Married Mom // 8. Comfort and Yum // 9. Tori Grant Designs // 10. Cutesy Crafts // 11. The Crafting Nook // 12. Whatcha Workin’ On? // 13. Architecture of a Mom // 14. Havalah // 15. Create & Babble // 16. A Time For Seasons

Linking to:  Made By You Monday, Snickerdoodle Sunday, Merry Monday, Tip Me Tuesday, Lou Lou Girls,

Cupcake Ruffled Apron – Easy Sewing Tutorial

Ruffled Cupcake Apron for Cupcake Wars Birthday Party Easy sewing tutorial

Phew!  Birthday month is over and what a busy, fun October is was!  But before I put it completely behind me and dive headfirst into all things Christmas I wanted to share a little bit more about how we made these adorable Cupcake Ruffled Aprons for Kaitlyn’s Cupcake Wars Birthday Party (which was a total blast!  You can check out the rest of the party details HERE).

Easy sewing tutorial for ruffled cupcake aprons All you need is an inexpensive apron from the craft store and some fabric for embellishment

We started off with an inexpensive white apron from the craft store.  This not only made the whole sewing process easier and faster, but with a 40% off coupon on a pack of three it was probably less expensive than buying the fabric and sewing it ourselves.  Then I took my time wandering around the fabric section and selected some fabric that went with our party theme and colors.  I ended up with a yard of the striped fabric and 1/2 yard of the other four fabrics.  This was more than enough fabric for all four aprons.  If you are only sewing one apron you would need 1/4 to 1/3 yard in each of three different fabrics.

Sewing Tutorial for semi homemade ruffled apron for Cupcake Wars Birthday Party ruffle detail

Isn’t the glitter in the fabric pretty?  I thought it was perfect for preteen girly girls.

On to the sewing process!  We decided that 4″ was a good length for the ruffles so I cut the fabric into strips 4 1/2″ wide, three strips per apron (one of each color).  One strip turned out to be the perfect length to go across the apron when ruffled so no piecing was needed for that.  I simply ironed the bottom of each strip 1/4″ for the hem, turned it another 1/4″ and ironed it again, then gave it to Kaitlyn who sewed the hems herself.  (Did I mention she is 12?  She loves this crafting stuff)  We did the same method for hemming the edges of each strip and since the top of each ruffle wasn’t going to be seen we simply zig zagged along the top edge of each fabric strip.  Once all the edges were taking care of, we sewed on a couple of gathering threads along the top of each strip (about 1/2″ down from the top) and gathered the fabric.
In order to sew the ruffles on straight, I drew a line with a pencil 3 1/2″ from the bottom of the apron, a second line 3 1/2″ above the first, and the third line 3 1/2″ above the second line.  This allows the ruffles to overlap each other.  Experiment a little bit with yours to make sure that the spacing allows enough overlap so that your upper edge with the gathering threads is fully covered.
The guide lines need to be drawn on both the front and the back of the apron.  You use the lines on the front of the apron when you are pinning the ruffles on to keep it straight.  We found that it was easier to sew the ruffles on with the BACK of the apron on top as it goes through the machine, which is why you need to draw a second set of lines on the back of the apron.
Start with the bottom ruffle and pin it on the apron (keeping the pins pretty close together so the ruffles won’t move) then sew it on.  Repeat with the second and third ruffles.

Embellished apron for Cupcake Wars Birthday Party sewing tutorial waistband detail

In order to cover up the top of the final ruffle, we decided to add another strip of fabric as a sort of belt or waistline.  So, cut a strip out of one of your fabrics – 2″ high, by the width of your apron (plus 1/2″ for hem allowances).  I folded over the sides 1/4″ (this gives you a nice clean edge on both sides without hemming) and ironed it down.  I also ironed a 1/4″ hem along one side of the fabric strip (let’s call it the top).  Using the second (unironed) side of the fabric strip, we sewed it up-side down on top of the top ruffle.  This allowed us to then fold it over, right-side-up, along the seam and iron it flat.  It is then a simple matter to top-stich along all four sides of the fabric strip to form your belt.

Ruffled Cupcake Apron detail photo of ruffles added to inexpensive craft store apron easy DIY sewing tutorial

The final touch was the cupcake applique.  Kaitlyn did the entire applique herself, so trust me it’s easy (as long as you get the fusing on the correct BACK side of the fabric).  We just printed off some cupcake clip art to use as a pattern and traced the outline of it onto the backing of the Iron-On Adhesive (we used an adhesive product similar to THIS).  If you are unfamiliar with the use of iron-on adhesives, they are pretty easy to use.  You just iron the adhesive onto the back of your fabric (holding the iron on for the number of seconds specified in the directions), peel off the backing paper, then iron your applique directly onto your project.  The key to this process is that after you trace your stencil onto the backing paper, roughly cut around it leaving just a little space outside the lines of your stencil.  Once you iron the adhesive to your applique fabric, cut along the lines of the stencil before removing the backing paper.  This gives you a cleaner line along the edges of the stencil than trying to cut the fabric to match the shape of your adhesive.  As you can see, we cut two different pieces for the applique using one fabric for the top of the cupcake and another fabric for the bottom.  Then just placed them on the apron and ironed both pieces on at once.
Finish it all off by top-stitching around the edges of the applique.

Cupcake Applique for ruffled apron Party favor for Cupcake Wars Birthday Party

Then have your adorable, newly-minted 12 year old proudly model her creation! 😉

Cupcake Ruffled Apron party favor for Cupcake Wars Birthday Party easy sewing tutorial

Cupcake Wars Birthday Party Aprons were made specially for the party with ruffles in colors and patterns that coordinated with the party theme The birthday girl helped do a lot of the sewing herself

And there are the happy bakers at Kaitlyn’s Cupcake Wars Birthday Party.

Ruffled Cupcake Apron for Cupcake Wars Birthday Party Easy sewing tutorial DIY

As always, if you are inspired by this project and use it to create something of your own I would LOVE to hear about it!  (and see photos!)

Linking to:  Tip Me Tuesday, Learning From Each Other, Made By You Monday, Merry MondaySnickerdoodle Sunday,

How to Take Your Fall Front Porch from Halloween to Thanksgiving

Pallet Pumpkins A tutorial for making your own set of these fun easy and inexpensive pumpkins for your front porch fall decoration

We’re on the final countdown to Halloween!  T-minus four days and counting – give or take.  Halloween costumes are ready, pumpkins are purchased and ready to carve, and we are narrowing down our options for Halloween activities (Pumpkin Plunge at the pool anyone?).  I’m kind of glad that Halloween falls on a Saturday this year – and that the forecast does not include rain!
I know that when Monday comes along I will be over Halloween and I will be more than ready to pack away the decorations and move along to the next holiday so I try to keep this in mind when I do my crafting and decorating to make the switch as easy and painless as possible.  I have a couple of not-so-secret ways to do this – want to hear them?

Halloween Witch Front Porch Decorations includes deco mesh wreath and swag pallet pumpkins wooden sign and witch broom

That was my Halloween front porch last year (or more likely the year before).  You’ve seen the Witch Wreath and Boo Swags (here) and the Wooden Home of the Wicked Witch sign (here) before.  My best and easiest trick is mounting one of those 3M Command Hooks on the door.  They are supposed to be removable without damaging anything (and they are) but that hook just lives on the door so I can easily switch out the wreath.

Fall front porch decor make the switch from Halloween to Thanksgiving

I made the fall wreath a couple of years ago during one of my neighborhood craft days.  It was my first attempt at the “curly” version of the deco mesh wreaths and I had a lot of fun putting it together.  I love the shiny gold and bronze mesh.  The only drawback was that it turned out HUGE.  It stands away from the door at least a foot and would reach out and grab your clothing or hair if you brushed up close to it.  But I think the size works really well for the scale of the front door and the house.

Happy Fall Y all Curly Deco Mesh Wreath in glitter Gold brown and bronze

Thankful Wooden Sign Rustic and easy to assemble sign for Thanksgiving and Halloween

If you’ve been reading my blog the last few weeks I’m sure you’ve clued into my second trick – double-sided crafts!  When I designed that wooden witch sign on the front porch I knew that I wanted to put a Thanksgiving quote on the back.  I did this for a couple of reasons.  1 – because holiday decorations can be big and bulky and take up a lot of storage space when not in use.  2 – because I liked the look of the wooden pieces on the back of the sign and wanted to highlight them.  And 3 – because it makes switching the decorations as easy as turning it from front to back (duh!).  Two seconds – instant transformation.
(I have the full tutorial for the double-sided wooden sign in an earlier post HERE if you want more details)

Double Sided Wooden Fall Sign for Halloween and Thanksgiving DIY Tutorial

Thankful Grateful Blessed Wooden Front Porch Sign for Thanksgiving Decorations

I don’t know if you noticed, but I also turned the pumpkins around so that the carved part was facing the wall.  We typically carve our pumpkins only a day or two before Halloween so as long as the teenagers in the neighborhood don’t go out pumpkin smashing, the pumpkins will stay looking decent for a couple of weeks.  Depends on the weather of course.

Pallet Pumpkins are a great addition to any Fall Halloween or Thanksgiving front porch decoration

The piece of my Halloween decor that didn’t require any maneuvering at all were my Pallet Pumpkins – aren’t they great?  Nice and rustic – and cheap to create!  (You can find my tutorial for the pallet pumpkins HERE)  Those stay out on the porch from September through Thanksgiving.

And as a finishing touch, the mailbox got a little swag of its own with deco mesh and ribbon left over from the wreath.

Fall Mailbox Swag using curly deco mesh and glitter ribbon in gold green and bronze

Easy as that!  I think the whole Halloween to Thanksgiving transformation took less than 10 minutes, and that includes hunting up the Fall wreath and putting away the Halloween ones.

Fall and Thanksgiving Front Porch Decor includes wooden pallet pumpkins deco mesh wreath and double sided wooden sign for Halloween and Thanksgiving

Quick Review – the keys points to making the switch from Halloween to Thanksgiving decor easy and painless are:
1.  Keep Command Hooks on the front door for wreaths and anywhere else you normally want to hang decorations.
2.  Double-sided decorations make the transformation as easy as turning your decor from one side to the other.
3.  Use items that are multi-purpose and can be used for more than one holiday.  For fall I use pumpkins, but the same concept would work well with lanterns, vases or urns, baskets and crates.
4.  Instead of decorating every surface, pick a few key spaces and decorate those every holiday.  You could decorate your front door and mailbox outside and maybe your mantle, entry console, and dining table for the interior.

How about you?  Do you switch out your Halloween decorations for Thanksgiving?  Or do you just let the Halloween stuff stay out until you’re ready to put out the Christmas lights? 😉

You may want to check out some of my other fall decorating ideas!
Double Sided Wood 2x4 Craft for Halloween and Thanksgiving Beware of LIttle Monsters Thanks for little blessings  DIY 2x4 Pumpkins Make your own wooden pumkins with this easy tutorial  Witch Hat Centerpiece
Double-sided 2×4 Halloween/Thanksgiving Craft
2×4 Pumpkins
Decorating with Witch Hats

Linking to:  Learning from Each Other, Lifestyle Link Up, Pretty Pintastic Party, Link Party Palooza, Made By You Monday,

Cupcake Wars Birthday Party

Cupcake Wars Birthday Party Ice Cream Shoppe Theme includes supplies for all sort of your favorite ice cream flavors

I scream, you scream, we all scream for…CUPCAKES!
My little girl turned 12 last week – TWELVE!  There’s just something different about that age isn’t there?  She isn’t young enough to want to play with toys and watch cartoons all the time.  In fact, not a single thing on her wish list would qualify as a “toy” – it’s all clothes, athletic equipment, and technology.  She’s not old enough to fully qualify as a teenager – she still watches the occasional episode of My Little Pony and isn’t into boys yet (thank goodness!)  So she’s in this strange but totally awesome in-between stage where she is Independent enough to be relied on to do most things herself and can happily carry on almost-adult-like conversations and will enthusiastically go shopping or run errands with me instead of staying home to play but still enjoys spending time with the family instead of wanting to always be off with her friends.

This age calls for a slightly different birthday party than the ones I’m used to throwing for my kids but it wasn’t hard for Miss Kate to settle on Cupcake Wars for her party theme after doing an impromptu version at a friend’s house this summer.  It was the perfect choice with just enough of a theme that it got the creative ideas flowing but enough independence and self-directed activity for the girls that I wasn’t having to plan a bunch of party games to keep them busy.  And the bonus – I didn’t have to make or buy the cake! 😉

Cupcake Wars Birthday Party Invitation Cupcake Themed DIY Invites

The invitations came together pretty easily.  You can see more details about them in an earlier blog post HERE.  Kaitlyn wanted to have a slumber party so we purposely kept the guest list small, inviting only three of her friends.  This worked out great because not only did the numbers work out well for the small kitchen, but we were able to verify that everyone would be able to make it well ahead of time so we could ensure that our cupcake baking teams would be evenly matched.

Cupcake Wars Birthday Party Tablescape featuring giant tissue cupcakes for the centerpiece

The party set-up was pretty easy.  We had actually run across the pastel chevron printed plates and napkins long ago and used those as the basis for the colors for the party.  I wanted to use a plastic tablecloth for easy clean up so I was happy to find one in a great pink quatrefoil print.  For some reason I kept putting off deciding on/working on the centerpieces and the afternoon of the party found me quickly running into to town praying that the tiny hardware store would still have flower pots in stock.  They did!  At only $1.25 each, I grabbed three plastic pots and quickly covered them in teal spray paint that I had leftover from a previous project.  Then I used a tissue paper flower technique to make some tissue poufs to top the flower pots, turning them into giant cupcakes.  They’re a little interpretational, but for under $5 and less than 30 minutes of work, they make a spectacular centerpiece.

Cupcake Quotes for centerpieces at Cupcake Wars Birthday Party A cupcake is happiness with icing on top

I added a little bit more interest to the table with some funny cupcake quotes I found on Pinterest and printed out.  (You can find links to all of them plus some of the inspiration for the party on my Pinterest Board)Cupcake Wars Birthday Party table decorations and centerpiece included fun cupcake quotes

Cupcake Birthday Party drink labels using the party logo

I printed out a few more of the party logos and attached them to the soda bottles, using a strip cut from the napkins as the band around the bottle.  *Of note:  the party supplies are relatively inexpensive and simple, which is how I like to do it.  The wow factor isn’t about how much money you put into it, it’s the attention to detail and repetition of a theme that makes the party special.

Happy Birthday Beadboard Pennant Banner customizable for any party theme

And I rounded out the decorations with my trademark beadboard pennant banner.  This guy gets used at pretty much every birthday party.  All I have to do is change out the fabric strips/ribbon to match the party theme and I’m all set.  I also have banners with the kids’ names, but I didn’t have a good space to put Kaitlyn’s so I just stuck with the Happy Birthday.

Cupcake Tacos for dinner at our Cupcake Wars Birthday Party

Dinner was pretty simple too.  Kaitlyn loves tacos but was concerned they didn’t “go” with her party theme.  A-ha!  We found an easy “taco cupcake” recipe idea, which made them work perfectly with the theme.  All it took was baking some corn tortillas in a muffin tin to make the “cupcake” shell, then the guests assembled their tacos with whatever ingredients they preferred.  I have to say, they were kind of hard/messy to eat in this form but the fun-factor outweighed that.
The tacos were served with individual fruit cups and the strawberry sodas.

Cupcake Wars Birthday Party Food table We had cupcake tacos and fruit cups for dinner

After dinner and gifts it was time for the main event!

Cupcake Wars Birthday Party Favors include Take Home Box for their cupcake creations and an apron

I’ll show you a peek at the party favors at this point because they come into play now.  The weekend before the party, Kaitlyn, my mom and I had a little sewing party and created my favorite thing for the party – the aprons!  These were key because not only are aprons a no-brainer when it comes to a baking party, but I wanted to use them to designate teams for Cupcake Wars.  We made pairs of matching aprons with just slightly different color variations, then I rolled them up so you couldn’t tell what they looked like.  The girls each grabbed an apron and unwrapped them and their partner was the person that had the apron that matched their own.


Isn’t the glitter embedded in some of those fabrics just so much fun?!

A little more detail on the aprons:  I wanted something girly and ruffly that worked with the cupcake theme but could be taken home as party favors and used over and over again.  So I bought simple white aprons from the craft store that we dressed up with some fabric ruffles and a cupcake applique.  The pattern for the applique was just clipart I found online in a shape that mimicked the cupcake we used on the party logo.  We traced the pattern onto the heat-and-bond and with an iron, used it to adhere the fabric to the apron.  It held pretty well just like that but I noticed one of the corners of Kaitlyn’s was peeling up afterward so I did go back and top-stitched around the edges after the party.

Cupcake Wars Birthday Party Aprons were made specially for the party with ruffles in colors and patterns that coordinated with the party theme The birthday girl helped do a lot of the sewing herself

I completely love how they turned out and the girls were in love with them too.

Mixing Bowls and Utensils for Cupcake Wars Birthday Party

Once the girls had their aprons on and teams all set I showed them their supplies and explained the rules.  Each team had a set of mixing bowls, utensils, measuring cups, etc as well as a basic vanilla cupcake recipe to get them started and a list of baking tips.  The recipe and the tips were important because I had no way of telling how experienced the girls were with baking, but assumed none of them would be experts or have a recipe memorized – they are 11 and 12 after all.

Cupcake Wars Birthday Party each team got their own set of baking supplies bowl and utensils including a basic recipe and a tip sheet

Basic Vanilla Cupcake Recipe for Cupcake Wars Birthday PartyCupcake Baking Tips Sheet for Cupcake Wars Birthday Party

The recipe we used can be found HERE and I copied the great tips from HERE (including that really helpful photo of the frosting designs and which decorating tips were used to make them).  We had made sure to test out the recipe ahead of time, purposely splitting it in half and seeing how it reacted to adding other flavors and mix-ins so the girls would have a pretty good chance of success.  This one was perfect for our purposes.
Look closely at the recipe – do you notice anything different about it?  I didn’t either until the girls started cooking and we realized I had left the sugar off the ingredients list!  Luckily I had the original recipe sitting on my craft table and could give them the correct measurements for that.  I made sure to add that and reprint the recipes as soon as I had the chance.

Baking Supplies for Cupcake Wars Birthday Party cupake baking supplies

The girls had access to the “baking pantry” items as well.

Cupcake Wars Birthday Party Crafting Supplies for the girls to use to make their own cupcake display stands

I also pointed out the basket full of craft supplies I had pulled together.  In the “real” Cupcake Wars TV show in the final round the bakers have to design a display for the cupcakes to fit the theme of the event they are making the cupcakes for and I thought this was a great detail to add to the party.  Included in the basket were tin cans, cardboard circles, patterned scrapbook paper, ribbon, scissors, decorative edge scissors, and a hot glue gun.  I had also found this great cupcake liner pattern (printable found HERE) that they could use if the cupcake liners provided didn’t match their vision of the theme (this saved me from having to spend a fortune on cupcake liners).  And for inspiration/direction I made sure the instructional photo from THIS WEBSITE, which is where I first saw the idea for using tin cans and cardboard to make a cupcake display.
The girls loved this part of the process and told me afterward what a great idea it had been to include the displays in the competition.

We had gone over the rules (make one set of cupcakes and a display to match the theme) and shown them all the supplies.  Time to reveal the theme for the Cupcake War!
Deciding on the theme was the hardest part of the creative process for me I found that my friends got a little confused when I was asking them for theme ideas.  I kept hearing “but isn’t the theme cupcake wars?”  Yup.  But if I just told the girls “ok, make something interesting” there are just WAY too many possibilities out there and I really needed a way to narrow it down so that I didn’t have to buy out an entire grocery store for flavor, mix-ins, and topping ideas.  Plus, in the Cupcake Wars TV show, they always have a guest judge that represents some sort of business or charity, etc and the winning cupcakes and display will be the centerpiece of their big gala event so part of their scores are based on interpretation of the theme.

Cupcake Wars Birthday Party Ice Cream Shoppe Theme includes supplies for all sort of your favorite ice cream flavors

The theme for our Cupcake War – Ice Cream Shoppe!
I know, I know – even with the theme constraints I was able to go a little overboard on this one.  If you’re trying to stick to a tight budget for the party, this is where you need to pay attention and not get too much.  I’m sure the girls’ creativity would not have felt hindered in the least with only 1/2 or 1/3 of these supplies.  But it’s me here 😉  And I figured whatever they didn’t use for the party we would eventually eat or use for other baking projects.  The supplies on the tray include:  sprinkles (two kinds), ice cream toppings (chocolate syrup, caramel syrup, whipped cream in a can, maraschino cherries, marshmallow cream), candy bars, licorice, Teddy Grahams (I couldn’t resist the birthday cake flavor), bananas, a couple of varieties of nuts, chocolate chips (chocolate, white chocolate and caramel), pudding (chocolate and vanilla), and extracts (mint, orange, almond, rum (eggnog flavor), vanilla, rootbeer, etc – most of which we already had in the cupboard.  I only added the rootbeer because one of my first thoughts after I decided on the theme was Rootbeer Floats!)

Cupcake Wars Party decorating the cupcakes and piping in the filling

Then I set them loose to create.  It was so much fun to watch how the teammates interacted with each other (one team had a very obvious leader-assistant while the other seemed to make mutual decisions), the processes they used, the ideas they came up with, the (slight) mistakes they made, and their comments along the way.  I don’t know how many times I stifled a laugh watching them.  And yes, it was necessary for me to sit there and watch them.  They would have questions here and there and I also wanted to make sure they were safe operating the oven.

Cupcake Wars Party 12 year olds are messy cooks

They weren’t the cleanest of bakers (thank goodness I thought ahead with the tablecloth.  We just pulled it off the table and threw it away before setting up the displays for judging) but they had a blast.

Cupcake Wars Birthday Party the green team made mint chocolate chip flavored cupcakes Cupcake Wars Birthday Party the purple team made banana split flavored cupcakes

The green team created Mint Chocolate Chip cupcakes with buttercream frosting and an Oreo/chocolate piece for decoration.  The purple team made Banana Split Cupcakes with vanilla cupcake, banana and whipped cream filling, marshmallow whipped cream frosting (which didn’t quite hold up for them so they termed it a “melted ice cream” look), topped with chocolate sauce and an Oreo.

Cupcake Wars Birthday Party Judging Sheets

I found these great judging sheets (HERE) and tweaked them to match our party theme.
And here’s where the party got really funny.  Enter the judges.  Our judges were my husband, my 8 year old (oh, he was fantastic!), my mom, and my body-building brother who insisted he was the “visual judge.” The teams presented their creations to the judges, who scored the cupcakes on taste, texture, presentation.  The judges tasted the cupcakes and filled out their score sheets, then we sent the girls out of the room while I tallied the votes and the judges discusses their opinions amongst themselves.
(seriously – at this point I was wishing for a video camera.  It was so much fun)

Cupcake Wars Birthday Party our panel of judges

Any guesses on the final result??
It was a…TIE!  No lie.  One team got higher marks for presentation while the other scored better for taste and creativity but the scores themselves ended up completely even and I think we were all pretty happy with that.

Party Favors for Cupcake Wars Birthday Party included basic cupcake recipe and tip sheet in addition to take home box for their creations and an apron

The girls then got to taste test their own creations and put some in take-home containers which served as the rest of their party favors, along with their own copies of the (updated) recipe and tip sheets.

Cupcake Wars Birthday Party Favors Tag says Thanks for making my party sweet Thank You

The girls then disappeared downstairs – with the leftover candy bars in tow – for some girl talk, manicures with Kate’s new nail polish collection, and a couple of episodes of Cupcake Wars on Netflix, falling asleep at some point in the middle of the night.

The whole thing was a complete success and fun, fun, fun from start to finish.  Who’s going to host the next Cupcake Wars?!  We can’t wait to do this again!

Linking to:  Pretty Pintastic Party, Learning From Each Other, BFF Open House, Inspire Me Monday, Made By You Monday, Lou Lou Girls, Tip Me Tuesday,

Halloween Monsters – A Quick and Easy DIY Project

Easy 2x4 Halloween Monsters Tutorial for DIY Wooden Halloween Craft featureing Frankenstein Witch Pumpkin and Mummy

Hello Monday!  Is everyone having a good day?  Usually Monday is a pretty good day for me, at least where motivation and productivity are concerned.  I think I get more done on Mondays than I do any other day of the week – and twice as much as I accomplish on Fridays 😉  But.  Today wasn’t one of those days.  In fact, I felt like I spent the entire day dealing with not-so-pleasant things and not much time at all on the glorius Monday To-Do List.  My little guy developed a fever yesterday and and I kept him home from school where he has been fighting the fever and watching Justice League cartoons.  The big truck that was scheduled to pick up the calves that my dad is selling this year moved up the timetable three hours and I was the only one home that could go out and help him round them up, and trust me – he wasn’t exactly in a good mood about it.  Plus other problems I really just don’t even want to think about right now.  So in an effort to raise my spirits a little before I meet a friend at the gym and work off some of my frustrations I decided to blog.  Aren’t you lucky? 😉

That leaves the question – what to blog about?  I’m in full-on birthday party prep mode over here, with my daughter’s fun Cupcake Wars party starting in T-minus two days and while I will have plenty to blog about the party on Thursday, none are ready to blog right now.  Pinterest and the blogosphere are still flooded with Halloween ideas and the post getting the most hits on my old blog this week, last week, and probably the week before is another of my Fall craft days…so I’d better share it here, right?!

Here we go – a simple tutorial for quick and easy Halloween Monsters.

Fall Craft Supplies for 2x4 Wooden Monsters DIY

I believe I’ve mentioned that I love to turn crafting into a social event.  In fact, it’s been a great excuse to get to know people better and I met some of my closest friends because one of them wanted to learn how to make a wreath.  However, wreaths can quickly become more expensive projects and the supplies add up pretty fast, so wooden crafts are usually my go-to when I want to pull something together inexpensively.  For this project all you need is a 2×4 and some craft paint and a couple of random things from around the house.

Supplies for Craft Day Halloween Decorations DIY Wooden Monsters and Witch

Like googly eyes and nuts and bolts

Vinyl Shapes for 2x4 Halloween Wood Craft

and a sheet of vinyl cut into to some geometric shapes.  I used my Silhouette machine but you could just as easily cut shapes with scissors or paint them on.

2x4 Wooden Crafts For Halloween Frankenstein and Mummy Easy DIY

For ‘ole Frank up there I painted the block green then added the hair and face with black paint.  Add on some googly eyes and a couple of bolts and he’s all set.
The mummy block was painted a coat of white first then I wrapped it with strips of scrap white fabric, glueing it down as I went.  If you tear the fabric strips instead of cutting them, it gives them a nice “aged” texture along the edge.

2x4 Wooden Crafts For Halloween Witch and Pumpkin Easy DIY

The witch hat is simply a piece of the 2×4 turned sideways, topped with another block of wood cut into a triangle.  I used raffia for the hair but you could easily use straw or yarn.  And Mr. Pumpkin over there is the easiest with a coat of orange paint, the vinyl shapes for the face, and a piece of green ribbon tied in a knot and glued on top for the stem/leaves.

*Quick tip:  you can use a number of adhesives like hot glue and craft glue but one of the best adhesives to use when trying to adhere anything to wood is wood glue.  It takes longer to dry, but holds really well.

DIY Wooden Halloween Decor Monsters using 2x4s includes tutorial

These guys liked to sit on my mantle or on the decorative ledge by my stairs and every time I passed them by I was reminded of the fun we all had the afternoon my friends and I got together to craft.  That’s the bonus with DIY projects – they all have a story, don’t they?

In the mood for a little more Fall/Halloween crafting?  Check out some of my other creations.

Halloween Front Porch Decor includes pallet pumpkins deco mesh wreaths and swags and wicked witch wooden sign with broomstick Make the switch to Thanksgiving easy with double sided sign

Front porch decor, including a witch wreath and Boo swags, wooden pallet pumpkins, and the double-sided Halloween/Thanksgiving sign.

Double Sided Wood 2x4 Craft for Halloween and Thanksgiving Beware of LIttle Monsters Thanks for little blessings

Double-sided Halloween/Thanksgiving blocks.  This one was another fun Craft Day project.

DIY 2x4 Pumpkins Make your own wooden pumkins with this easy tutorial

2×4 Pumpkins (see?  2x4s are one of my favorite craft supplies!)

Linking to:  R&R Wednesdays, Inspire Me Monday, Merry Monday Halloween Features, Made By You Monday,

End of the Year Teacher Gifts

May is crazy isn’t it?  There are so many things all jammed into one little month – testing and final projects, sports, field trips, recitals, graduations, weddings, parties, Mother’s Day.  Plus my anniversary!  It can be a little intense.  I’ve been trying to grab some time to get ahead when I can find it and one of the things I really want to get a jump on is all the gifts for this month.  I had the kids with me out shopping on Saturday and with Teacher Appreciation week about to start and teachers on the brain, we went ahead and picked up supplies for a simple gift for the last day of school for their teachers.

Teacher Gift in a Cup Last Day of School

Teachers are a big part of our kids’ lives for an entire year and while I never have a lot of money to spend on them, I do like to give them a little parting gift.  I figure teachers are looking forward to summer just as much as the rest of us are – maybe even more so!  😉  So we put together a little Summer Kit in a Cup, inspired by this tag

End of School Teacher Gift Tag Relax Summer

Wish I could give credit for the saying on the tag, but frankly I’ve seen it in quite a few different forms on Pinterest lately and I’m not sure which is the original.  To whomever came up with it – great job! 😉

I wanted to dress the cup up a bit so I added a vinyl monogram.

Monogram Cup For Teachers

Then we filled it with goodies related to summer

End of the Year Teacher Gift Relax for Summer Cup

Inside the cup:  lemonade drink mixes, sunscreen, Chapstick with SPF, and Italian Ices.

Teacher Gift Idea Summer In a Cup

They are now ready and waiting for the last day of school.  When the time comes, I just have to remember to send them! 😉

End of the Year Teacher Gift