Tuesday, February 23

Jewel Glue (and Fabric Birthday Crowns)

It’s what the salesperson told me I’d need for gluing the jewels onto the crowns. I didn’t really believe her. Sure the back of the bottle says “Bonds hard-to-hold times such as plastic, metal, glass, beads; rhinestones; pearls and sequins to fabric…” but isn’t the information on packaging all just hype? I’ve got plenty of craft glue at home already, in bottles that look identical save for the label – how different can the goo inside really be?!?


But I bought some Jewel-It anyway. And used it to glue jewels onto Lucy’s crown.

And just to prove how useless it was, I glued on two of the jewels using my regular craft glue. That would be the two jewels that are seen in the photo above… the ones no longer on the crown. Slight bit of pressure of my fingernails under their edge and they popped right off.

Did the same to the gems glued with Jewel-It and they stayed firmly in place. Applied more pressure. Still, they stuck fast. If I’d kept trying, e.g. had the tenacity and curiosity of a 18-month-old, I probably could have pried them off.

But wow! Jewel-It actually works, as advertised!

My Anti-Chaotic Jewel Dispersal Idea worked too. Each guest got to pick out one card when she was eliminated during Musical Seashells, a little consolation prize for being the odd man out when the music stopped. Each name penciled onto the back after selection so gems could be properly redistributed during the craft portion, at which point, the tape was peeled off and each girl had a couple dozen jewels to work with.


As for the actual application, here’s what we did:

  • Each girl had a cotton swab, a toothpick, and a plate with a glob of glue on it.
  • She used the cotton swab to dab some glue from the plate onto the back of a jewel. When it comes to glue, we usually say, “A dot is a lot and a lake is a mistake,” but in this case, we did want more than “a dot.” We wanted it to ooze out around the edges of the jewels.
  • Then, because fingers got sticky and tended to pull the jewels up again, she used the toothpick to hold the jewel down as she took her other fingers away.


It was so fun to see what each girl did: fast vs. slow application…


…symmetric vs. haphazard placement…


…using only some gems vs. using all plus taking donations.


And during the making, I miscounted and ended up with one extra crown. So I packaged up some extra glue, jewels, etc and would love to send it out to one of you. If you’d like it, let me know what letter (or symbol?) you’d want sewed on, and also be sure I have a way to contact you. I’ll pick a recipient this weekend some time…


Wednesday, February 17

Mermaid Birthday Cake

Yay, Birthday Girl and guests loved the cake. Below, read about how I made it…


For the rock and mermaid head/torso, I used the pan and doll pick from the  Wilton Wonder Mold Kit, same as I used for the princess cake. But you could also bake the cake in a couple 8” rounds plus an ovenproof bowl for the top, stack them to make a domed shape, then stick a doll in the middle. (Just make sure the stack is tall enough to fit her leg length.)  Here’s a Betty Crocker video of that method.

My cakes always have a domed surface on the top after baking, which I usually cut off and pop into eager mouths. But in this case, I used the scrap piece to make more rocks. I cut it into a crescent shape to fit alongside the large cake, then laid the leftover pieces on the crescent or elsewhere around the large cake. Below you can see the cake before and after frosting. (Note: the chunk in the bottom right corner of the before photo was moved to the bottom left in the after…)


The mermaid’s tail is one big hunk of marshmallow fondant, as is her top and belt and her friendly sea creatures around her. I just treated it all like play dough, rolling and pinching and pulling and forming. In fact, we happened to have the perfect toy for the marine life shapes: the Play-Doh Octopus Set.


Sophie enjoyed sticking the bits of colored fondant into the indentations, sprayed previously with cooking spray.


But forming them by hand is possible too.


The tail was REALLY heavy. Squashed the frosting down – I was afraid it would slide right off the rock! And the tail itself sorta flattened out after I placed it – poor mermaid has a serious case of Bubble Butt. The end of the tail wouldn’t stay upright either, or wavy like I wanted; fixed both issues with some well-placed toothpicks.


Idea for “o-FISH-ally five” sentiment came from these invitations (by Megan at Ducks in a Row) that are perfect for a sea-themed party. Too bad I found them too late (and am also not organized enough to send out invitations; phone calls to parents is how I roll so far…).

Tip for lettering (other than looking at fonts online for inspiration) – practice somewhere other than the cake first. Counter works well, especially if sweet-toothed licker-uppers are nearby.


The “water” is buttercream frosting, slathered on roughly with a knife. I’d tried to only partially mix the blue, so there would be gradients of color, but by the time I fluffed around with it, it was all pretty evenly colored. So then I mixed up some more, almost white, and added it to some of the peaks.


And lastly, I brushed some water onto the fondant which makes it shiny, or in this case, like Miss Mermaid just pulled herself out of the water to sun herself dry on the rock. Apparently her hair dries much faster than do her scales.

If you’re curious about anything else that I missed, let me know. I will add one last thing: I felt a little funny chopping up her tail…


Fresh Chilean Mermaid, anyone?


Tuesday, February 16

While We Wait…

Party is over. Went great. Lots of fun. Intended to post some photos, but decided I want to check with the parents first before I post their offsprings’ faces online.

So, to celebrate the other event on Sunday – albeit a few days late – here’s a photo I took recently at the breakfast table.


On a regular basis, I have at least one of my children needing a napkin or towel, having jostled her bowl or knocked over her glass.

“Mama, I spilled my milk.”

“Mama, my shirt is wet.” 

“I’m sorry, Mama.” 

But on that morning, I unexpectedly heard an excited “Hey, Mama, I spilled my milk and IT LOOKS LIKE A HEART!”

And it reminded me of the small hole we discovered in the concrete entry of our local Sam’s Club last summer. (I do miss my old camera, but love that the new one fits in my pocket and comes almost everywhere with me now.)


And just the other night, middle kid called me into her bedroom. “Look at the shadow our flower lights are making!” Sure enough, up on the ceiling: a huge heart, made by the light partially cast off by two lamps that were positioned in just the right spots at that moment.

My girls adore finding these symbols of love in the most unexpected places.

That got me thinking about how I live my life, especially in front of them, day in day out…

They spill their milk – how do I react? They do what I’ve told them a million times not to do – what do I say? And how do I say it? They carry on during the dreaded Hour Before Dinner, shredding my last nerve – what do my hands, my voice, my eyes communicate to them?

I’ve dropped the ball in the past and know I will in the future, but I want to do my part in leaving “symbols of love” in unexpected places…

Happy (Belated) Valentine’s Day!


Saturday, February 13


Because she wanted to bring along SnuggleBear as her special “birthday-kid show-and-tell” to preschool the next day…

Because she asked so sweetly…

Because I wanted a break from sewing crowns…

Because I figured How hard could it be to loosely trace around Bear’s torso, cut out two pieces a little larger than my traced line, sew them together, then zigzag the openings?

Because I had some heart fabric and fusible web handy…

Because I love my Sophie, who loves to accessorize her stuffies


…SnuggleBear got to go to preschool yesterday, partially clothed in holiday-appropriate attire.

(Sophie wanted pants too. And slippers. Apparently, I only love her a shirt’s worth.)

OK, back to party prep now. Crowns and jewels are ready to go.


Cake is baked, arranged, and waiting for frosting (Doll Pick was refusing to pose for photos until SnuggleBear gallantly offered his shirt).


Paper chain decorations are being constructed.


Oh, and treasure hunt clues are ready too, written in rhyme by Daddy, along with hiding checklist.


So, I’m off to mix up some buttercream…

Wednesday, February 10

A Crowning Moment

My sweet Valentine’s Baby turns 5 on Sunday!


Perhaps I’ve been reading too much TheMrs (where another Karin makes personalized chef’s hats for each party guest)…


…or ikatbag (where Lorraine makes a 10” Hello Kitty doll with dress for each party guest to decorate)...


…but Valentine’s Baby asked for a Princess Mermaid party, so I’m neck deep in making crowns for each party guest. Jewels to be added by party guests, except for two-year-old Lucy’s, which I did already.


I think I may need more jewels. More pink  & purple jewels, specifically!


And more time. (photo below, best of the bunch in my opinion, taken by 4-year-old Valentine’s Baby!)


There’s still a treasure hunt to set up (though that’s Daddy’s domain). And a Pin the Tail on the Mermaid Game to make. And a mermaid cake, special request of Valentine’s Baby, to bake and decorate.


Fun times! I’m so looking forward to Sunday!

Tuesday, February 9

Start Crocheting without a Slipknot?!?

How do you start a crochet foundation chain? With a slipknot of course! Isn’t that the only way?

I thought so, but not according to Marianna from Romania. Here’s a video where she demonstrates a crochet chain stitch, but it’s the way she started that had me intrigued. She shows it three times, 1:00-2:20.

In a nutshell, you just hold your yarn taut with no knot, yarn over and twist (this makes a pseudo-knot), then hold twist, yarn over and pull through (to make the chain) – which results in this…


…instead of the “usual” method of making a slipknot and then yarning over and pulling through the loop for your first chain – which results in this…


It’s a little harder to see the first chain in the “YO twist” photo up top than when it follows the slipknot. Once there are three chains total, you can see the “YO twist” start just leaves a little extra loop at the very end, compared to the slipknot start.


So what’s the big deal? Perhaps not much. But since I’m a tester, I did make some quick swatches. They look essentially identical: both are 10 chains, then two rows of sc; the swatch with the purple clip uses the YO twist start; the pink uses a slipknot. And they’d look even more similar once the starting tails are woven in. (I usually crochet over the ends as I go, but I wanted to leave them out in this case).


But I can certainly feel a difference. Both swatches are nice and soft, except for where the slipknot is – a hard, firm lump right there. It’s a small thing (literally) but I think it’s great news that I can now avoid it, like when making slippers that otherwise end up with a hard slipknot lump right in the middle of the ball or heel!

I also made some swatches of 10 foundation sc and a row of sc: dark green clip shows YO twist start, light green shows slipknot start.


In this case, I didn’t just feel a difference; I could see one as well. Whenever I do fsc the “usual” way, i.e. starting with a slipknot, I end up with just a little bit of extra yarn at the start where I don’t want it. (This really bugged me while making my Hello Kitty Scarf.) Perhaps my technique is a little off. But with the YO twist start, for some reason, that “extra bit” just isn’t there.

So why have I never heard of, read, or seen this method before?!?

* * *

P.S. While watching another video I heard someone say “you always start with a foundation chain because… that’s really the only way to start anything when crocheting.” Nuh uh! How many more “secrets” are there out in the big world of crochet?!?

Friday, February 5

Cardboard Canoe

More cardboard water vessels being made around since the Narnian ships aren’t big enough for real little girls. Sophie brought this box to me, asking for help because “my canoe isn’t pointy.” I’m in love with my hot glue gun (where was it all my life?!?) but needed to pull out the duct tape for this one too. Mom thought the canoe would look great with red tape all around the top edge too; but Child disagreed. Also disagreed that it needed further adornment of any kind, other than 3 stickers!


I also made her a paddle (but should’ve made it with the corrugation running lengthwise so it wouldn’t bend and be so floppy) and a seat. To lend support to the seat, I cut off the long flaps of the box, then we folded them back and forth, and I glued them in place, with the seat glued on top. Strong enough now to hold even my weight.


Here’s Lucy going for a paddle on the “Turn River” which, according to Heidi, is near the Grand Canyon.


I’m sure I have a bigger box in the garage somewhere… but they like the small one, just the way it is.

Wednesday, February 3

Easy Paper Swirl Rose

Just in time to Valentines Day this month, here’s a quick way to make some cute flowers. Saw this idea on dozidesigns where Wendy said she got it from Martha way back when.


I made two out of pink scratch paper, exactly as shown in the tutorial. And they were nice, especially if you’re going for a simple, modern flower. But I wondered if I could make the swirl edge look more petal-y…


Like in Wendy’s tutorial, I sketched a light swirl. Couldn’t find my cardstock scraps so I rifled through the girls’ construction paper drawer.


Rather than cutting a smooth line, I cut scallops, using the sketched line as a directional guide.


If you want narrower petals near the middle of the rose and wider petals near the outside, remember that you start rolling from the end of the swirl so that’s where the narrow scallops would need to be. I didn’t remember that fact until about 5” into my cutting. I think next time I might make all the petals even wider…


Starting from the outside end of the swirl, roll up the paper. Since it’s curved, it will naturally flare out more along the top/outer edge.


Roll it all up into a tight coil…


…then just set it down and watch as it unfurls itself a bit.


Wendy used her flowers as part of a lovely table setting. Depending on your intended purpose, e.g. a wreath, you might want to add a dab of glue at the base to keep the rose properly coiled. Sophie also added a paper loop to the bottom to make a fancy ring for herself.


The end.


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