Pillowcase Quilt

I’m going to start off this post with a celebration: IT’S TIME TO START THINKING ABOUT HOMECOMING!!!!!!!  WAHOOOOO!!!!!!!  Now that I’ve done that…

It is a long-standing tradition in the VP community that we make gigantic pillowcase quilts for our sailors’ homecomings.  I know it sounds a little weird, but when you’re decorating a huge hangar it’s a fun way to make it more festive!  Historically, volunteers would use about 10,000 safety pins (that may be an exaggeration, but I’m sure that’s what it felt like!) to put it all together, but it would sag and not look so pretty.  Last homecoming, though, one of our more brilliant wives thought of sewing them together instead, and the result was amazing!  The down side is that we don’t get them back, but for me, as long as I have a photo of it, I’m happy.

It can be a little difficult to get started.  You want to make something unique, but words and pictures need to be visible from a good distance, so you’re sort of limited in what you can do.  In this post, I’m going to share what I did this year, and some other inspiration from last year and others’ pillowcases.  I’ve also hosted a couple of pillowcase parties in the past, which are a ton of fun and a great source of new ideas!

This year I kept the message simple – Welcome Home!  I added my own twist by making his name out of different fabrics that are special to us, or that represent something in our lives.  I drew each letter on a 3″x5″ note card and cut them out.  Then turn them upside down and trace onto the paper side of some Heat N Bond Lite.

IMG_3525Trim around the edges, but don’t cut the letter out completely.  Iron onto the wrong side of your chosen fabric (pay attention to where the patterns are compared to the letter you traced).  Then cut out your letters!  Iron them onto your pillowcase, then add details (drawn, painted, etc).

IMG_3526Usually, these quilts tend to be a sea of white, with a few colored cases among them, so I choose to be one of those colored cases!  Monster insisted on the dark red when we were at Walmart, so I had a little more trouble – only light colors would show up.  That’s why I went for the fabric iron-ons, and I used light blue and white puffy paint to make the Welcome Home letters (you know, like red, white, and blue).  Puffy paints are definitely one of the best ways to put your message on a pillowcase!

IMG_3530Another easy, cheap way to decorate your pillowcase is fabric markers.  But these will only work if you have a light-colored case.

IMG_3529If you’re not particularly crafty, you can get printable iron-on transfers to create your design (note: they’ll only work with an inkjet printer because lasers are too hot).  Or use hot glue to add embellishments – googly eyes, pipe cleaner letters or shapes, the sky is the limit!  Since it doesn’t have to go survive washing, you’re only limited by your imagination.

If you have kids, it’s so special to let them make a pillowcase for Daddy or Mommy.  Regular old craft paint (97c at Walmart) works great – it doesn’t have to make it through the laundry, so it works just fine.  Monster totally went to town on his pillowcase for Daddy, and had a BLAST doing it!  I learned from painting pumpkins at Halloween, though, that I need to offer only one color at a time, or it all ends up being a grayish mess.  If your kid is younger, or not so much into painting, hand and footprints are always popular, too!

IMG_3528Here are some more pillowcases from last homecoming.  The first is a flag motif, just glued onto the pillowcase with spray glue.  On the second, I thought my sign idea was pretty clever!  The third one was made by a friend of mine for her husband, playing on his call sign.  And the fourth was made by my in-laws for Radar – we are a little Georgia Tech crazy in our family!

Last YearIf you’re looking for more inspiration, I don’t recommend searching for pillowcase ideas; instead, look up homecoming signs.  A couple of my favorite lists of inspiration are here and here – you may just find some ideas for yourself there.  Just remember, you’ll want to keep it G-rated!

I’ll take a moment here to acknowledge the ugly white boxes all over my photos.  I am protecting my own privacy, as well as the privacy of others I made pillowcases for, both for OPSEC (operational security) and just because we don’t all want our names splashed all over the internet!  Sorry it’s not pretty, but I think you can still get the point 🙂

At home, we had a banner waiting for Radar, made by Build A Sign.  It was free, I just had to pay shipping (it was somewhere in the $10-15 range).  If you’re getting ready for a homecoming, definitely take advantage of this offer!  Just keep in mind it can take 4-6 weeks to receive it.

IMG_9350 I was also pretty proud of Monster’s homecoming outfit; it was semi-DIY.  Last homecoming for us was in November, so mustaches were all over the stores with no-shave-November.  I bought an adorable mustache onesie and added words with a fabric marker to make it personal for homecoming!  For anyone who doesn’t know, it’s tradition for the guys to grow mustaches on deployment (and in our household, he is required to shave it off in order to get a ride home!).

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Monster was so tiny! Just 8 months old here (and teething up a storm, hence the drool on the shirt!)

And since I’m getting geared up for homecoming, here’s my favorite photo from our last one.  Can’t wait for another “first” family photo, this time with 4 of us!!

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Monster was testing the theory that orchids are edible

If your homecoming is approaching like ours, congratulations!  If you are just at the start or middle of a deployment, I know you can do it, and that first hug and kiss are so worth the wait!!

Sewn Paper Gift Card Holder

I always feel so lame giving people gift cards for Christmas… I feel like it’s a cop-out, and impersonal.  But for certain people, like Monster’s teachers (who I know put a lot of their own money into his education), a gift card is the perfect way to thank them for everything they do.

To make an impersonal gift a little more personal, I found this adorable idea on Pinterest!  Sewing on paper is one of those things that I always forget I can do.  And with all the cute scrapbooking paper out there, you can find just the right thing for any occasion – not just Christmas.

Standard gift cards are 3 3/8″ x 2 1/8″, but you can adjust the measurements if you have one that’s a different size – you really can’t mess it up!

Supplies:

  • Pocket paper: 2.75″x2.75″
  • Backing paper: 3.25″x4.25″
  • Thread

Place the pocket paper on top of the backing paper, leaving 1/4″ edge on the sides and at the bottom.  Lower your needle into the backing paper about one stitch length above the pocket piece.  Stitch around the side, bottom, and other side, leaving long tails of thread at the start and end.  Turn the card over and pull on the bobbin tails at the start and end to create a loop from the front, and pull all the way through.  Tie knots in both, and clip.

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Front and back for a standard size card, and the third one is non-standard – I just measured and “winged it”

Of course, you should probably use coordinating thread… I was super busy tonight and just used what was in my machine, which was black (boring, but it worked!).  Metallic thread would also be festive, or use your pinking shears on the pocket paper to give it some pizazz!

For my nieces, I ran out of Christmas paper (which Michael’s only sells in huge packages, unfortunately), so I used some Christmas-colored paper.  I also extended the height of the cardstock backing to make a flap to fold down and create a little envelope.  Super easy and cute!

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I love the metallic paper on the left one! If you have fancy Christmas stickers it would be way cuter than tape for keeping them closed.

So, if you forgot to get someone a gift and it’s the 11th hour, this is the perfect way to dress up a gift card.  Merry Christmas!

Teacher Christmas Gifts

It probably comes as no surprise that  love making Monster’s teachers presents for Christmas.  This year, he is in the bumblebee class at school, and I found the perfect fabric for a bumblebee teacher – it has apples and bees!  I’ve noticed that all of the teachers wear their ID’s on a lanyard around their necks, so I thought it would be nice to make them some to go with their class theme (I blame all the different animal squadrons we’ve been in for making me use a theme in everything!).  I also made them each a clip keychain, because I have one myself and it’s super handy!  And since it’s Christmas time, I wanted to give them each a bumblebee ornament (which Monster got to help me make).  Plus a gift card to Target.  Can you tell we love our teachers??

So without further ado, let me show you how to make some gifts to spoil the teacher (or friend or relative) in your life!

I made the lanyard and the keychain at the same time, since they use basically the same supplies and methods.  To make both, you’ll need:

Cut a strip of fabric 4″x36″ (one yard) for the lanyard.  Save the scrap from the end (since the fabric you bought was 42-45″ long).  Then cut a piece 4″x11″ for the keychain.

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Not pictured: the scrap from the lanyard piece that you will use

Press the short ends of the lanyard fabric towards the wrong side, then press in half longways.  Open it up, and press each of the raw edges into the center fold you just made.  Fold it back in half again to make a 1″ strip with no raw edges showing, and stitch a scant 1/8″ around the whole border.  Repeat for the 11″ strip, but don’t press the ends in (the raw edges will be covered later on they keychain).  Repeat one more time for the 4″ wide scrap, again making a 1″ wide strip.

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Folding up the lanyard. It’s the same for the keychain and the scraps except for turning in the raw edges at the ends.

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1″ strips for lanyard, keychain, and the scrap

For the keychain, loop the 1″ strip you just made onto the swivel clip.  Then use a wide zigzag to make a loop from the raw ends.  Move the zigzag connection down towards the clip, and cover with the scrap that you sewed, trimming and tucking the raw ends between the layers of the keychain.  Stitch around the scrap to secure and complete the keychain.

Key Ring Construction

Left: Zigzag to hold the ends in place. Right: See how the scrap covers the zigzag right next to the clip? And the raw edges are tucked between the layers to be hidden.

To complete the lanyard, slide the 2nd swivel clip onto the 1″ yard-long strip and stitch in place (think about making a V shape that will accommodate the wearer’s neck comfortably).

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Pin and stitch the swivel clip in the center, making a V shape

Then, loop the back like a necklace and stitch on the Velcro – I was careful to make the hook side face away from the neck so it won’t be scratchy.  You could just sew it, but many schools require that teacher’s have a “quick release” on their lanyards in case of strangulation (crazy, but we want our teachers to be safe!).

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Completed lanyard and keychain!

Last year, Monster was too little to help with making anything for his teachers.  But this year, he is obsessed with painting!  Anytime I ask him what he did at school, that’s the first word out of his mouth.  So I knew when I saw this adorable bumblebee ornament made from a light bulb, it was the perfect craft for us to do together!

I used a box from our favorite “fruit squeezes” to hold the bulbs.  The box comes with one hole which was perfect for the bulb, and I just used scissors to cut out the 2nd.  Then I laid down a paper bag with some paint, handed the toddler a brush, and he went to town painting them!

Paint Lightbulbs

He did a really excellent job, I only had to touch up a couple of spots later on – and he had a blast!

Once the yellow paint dried, I added black stripes and a black head (where the screw part was inserted into the box – an egg carton comes in handy for drying).  Then I used a glue gun to add googly eyes, pipecleaner wings, stinger, and antennae, and a pipecleaner to hang it by.  And don’t forget to sign your work!  Monster can’t help with that yet, but maybe next year!

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I signed Monster’s name and the year on the bee’s butt!

I feel like the ornament will be much more meaningful to his teachers, knowing that he actually contributed to it rather than me doing everything or buying them things.  And I hope that the lanyard and keychain are useful to them!  At the very least, I don’t know that there is a human on this earth who wouldn’t like a Target gift card, and especially a teacher, who I know puts her own money into my child’s schooling.

Feel free to steal my ideas to make your own teachers something nice and useful for Christmas, and let them know how much you appreciate them!

Chalkboard Serving Tray

Radar’s brother and his wife are notoriously hard to shop for.  If they ever want or need something, they always just get it for themselves!  So I have to get increasingly creative each year to give them a special gift for Christmas.  This year, I was really excited when I found this idea for a chalkboard serving tray on Pinterest!  It’s the perfect gift for them – they often have friends over for wine and snacks, and a cute serving tray makes the perfect way to share your favorite goodies while letting people know what they are.  (It can also come in handy if you have friends with allergies – what an easy way to label ingredients!)

As usual, though, I put my own spin on the project.  The biggest problem I had with the original is that she suggests using super glue to attach the handles… and I just can’t get myself to trust glue to hold a tray loaded down with heavy food and breakable serving dishes!  So, even though Radar is gone and I usually leave power tool work for him, I braved the garage (with my helpers, as you’ll see) and came up with my own, sturdier version!

Supplies:

  • 1″x12″ board, 4 ft long (get the nice wood – you’ll be able to see it around the edges)
  • 2 drawer pull handles, whatever variety suits your recipient
  • Stain, with cloth for wiping
  • Blue painter’s tape
  • Rustoleum spray-on chalkboard paint
  • Pencil
  • Tape measure
  • Screwdriver
  • Drill with standard bit and Forstner bit (I’ll explain in a minute)

Cut your board into 2 foot sections.  You can go longer, but it’s going to be harder to carry and also larger to store, so I kept mine on the smaller side.  If you’re like me and don’t feel like making a trip to the ER because I tried to use my husband’s saw and took off a finger, they will cut your wood for free at the hardware store – take advantage!  Use the drawer pulls to mark where the screws should go.  Use your standard drill bit, which should be about the same size as the screws that came with the drawer pulls, to drill 4 holes in each board (one for each screw).  Then, to keep the tray from rocking when it’s set down, use the Forstner bit that’s a little larger than the head of the screws to drill a little trench for the screw heads, so they’ll be recessed.

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All your supplies, minus the kid! He’s obsessed with screw drivers…

You’ll see, when you insert the screw into the hole, the head will be flush with the board, creating a flat, stable surface on the bottom of the tray.  Don’t drill too far with the Forstner bit, though – your screw will stick out too much and you’ll have trouble getting it all the way into the handle.

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Drilled holes with recessed spaces for the screw heads

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Side view with screw inserted – no head sticking out!

Take your screws out and stain the top, bottom, and sides of the boards.  The stain I had was really dark (it’s called Jacobean if you like my look!), so I painted about 1/3 of the surface at a time, then wiped with a rag to keep it from seeping in too much.  Let it dry overnight.

Then, tape up your boards.  I used extra-wide tape and just lined it up with the bottom of the side, then folded up onto the top.  I definitely recommend taping the sides, because there will be overspray when you add the chalkboard paint.

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Two serving trays, ready to get their chalkboard addition

Once you’re all taped up, spray away!  I usually do this on the grass, because it grows and goes away, but if there’s snow on the ground, an open garage with a drop cloth works too!  Follow the directions on the can; I sprayed a layer, left it 24 hours, then did another coat.  Then carefully remove your tape, screw the handles on, and voila!  You have a beautiful serving tray for yourself or to give someone for Christmas!

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The bottom and the top of my serving trays; one went to a friend who is moving in to her first house on Thanksgiving!

Don’t forget to include something to write with for your recipient!  They make these great chalk pens nowadays, too – so much better than traditional chalk!  They make such neat lettering, and come off with a damp cloth.  You can also personalize around the border of the chalkboard surface – add a name and wedding anniversary, or a playful quote.  As usual, the sky is the limit!  This versatile, useful gift is sure to be a hit with whomever you give it to.

Easy, Useful Baby Gifts

Usually, half of the squadron gets pregnant within a few months of the husbands getting home.  This deployment, however, has been different – we have 5 wives pregnant now, with due dates ranging from a month before they get home (bummer) to 2 months after they’re back!  So I’ve been busy making baby gifts for a couple of my closer friends.  Joann’s just caught up with the fox trend, which is convenient because they have some super cute fabrics to use now!  This post will include a tutorial for 3 simple baby gifts to make: burp cloths, a crinkly taggie toy, and a pacifier clip.

Supplies for all 3 projects:

  • 1/2 yd fabric
  • 1/2 yd minky
  • Fox Pattern (optional)
  • 2 suspender clips
  • 2 ponytail holders
  • 1/2″x1″ piece of Velcro
  • Stiff felt, orange and white
  • Black and orange puffy paint
  • Heavy duty glue (I used Gorilla Glue Minis)
  • Ribbon scraps
  • Clean chip bag (I’ll explain later)
  • Coordinating thread

The burp cloths are super simple to make, and I’ve never heard a mom complain that she has too many!  Many tutorials I’ve found use the Gerber diapers as a base and add fabric, but I’ve found that they shrink funny when washed, and they’re hard to fold.  I had some deliciously soft minky fabric left from a quilt I made another friend’s baby, and knew this was the perfect application – it’s so cozy as the backside of the burp cloth!

The standard size for the diaper burp cloths is 14″x20″, but you can really make it any size you want.  The minky I had from my other project was already cut into 6″ strips, so I just stitched two together to make an 11.5″ wide piece (seam allowance took 1/2″ away).  I honestly don’t even know how long it was… somewhere in the ballpark of 18-20″.  Cut the front fabric to be the same size.  Place the two right sides together and sew around the edge, leaving an opening about 2-3″ long on one of the sides.  Clip the corners and turn through the opening, then fold the opening edges in and topstitch around the whole edge to seal the opening and give it a finished look.

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The minky makes it super easy to turn because it’s so slippery!

The crinkle taggie toy combines two things babies love – noise and texture!  They key to the crinkly sound is a chip bag!  Just be sure to clean it up well before you use it.

Start off just like the burp cloths – cut your minky and front fabric to the same size.  Mine was about 5″x7″, but you can do whatever size you want.  Cut various ribbons into 2.5″ pieces, fold in half, and pin to the front piece of fabric.  Keep the tips of the pins at least 1/4″ from the edge so you don’t hit them with your machine.  Then place the fabric with ribbons right sides together with the minky and stitch 1/4″ around the edges, leaving an opening about 2″ long on one of the sides (between ribbons).  CAREFULLY remove the pins that held the ribbons in place – don’t stick yourself!  Then clip the corners and turn right side out.

Crinkle 1

Left: Pin the ribbons to the front. Right: Pin to the minky, right sides in, and stitch together.

To get the crinkle, cut your chip bag to be about the same size as your toy.  Roll it into a tube, push it through the opening, and unroll it to fit snugly in the toy.  Then turn the opening’s edges in and topstitch around the edge, closing the opening and holding the chip bag in place.

Crinkle 2

Left: My favorite chips! Right: Inserting the crinkle.

The last baby gift is the pacifier clip.  I actually call it a leash because it keeps pacis under control!  It is also handy for snack or drink cups, or even toys (for instance, you can loop it through one of the ribbons on the crinkle toy to keep baby from throwing it away in the car).  I made my friend 2, because I know they can be super useful!  In the supplies list above, I linked to my favorite suspender clips to use for these.  They have plastic teeth, so they won’t tear clothes, and they have a large clip surface to add embellishments to – I’ve included a fox pattern here!  Just another way to make it more fun for a kiddo.

For each paci clip, cut a piece of fabric 4″ wide and 8-10″ long.  Don’t go too long, or it poses a strangulation hazard (plus, if it’s longer than baby’s arms, they won’t be able to reach the goody on the end).  Press the short ends 1/4″ on the wrong side.  Then press in half lengthwise, open it up and fold each of the raw edges into the center fold, creating a leash that’s 1″ wide and 4 layers thick.  Stitch around the edge a scant 1/4″.

Paci Holders

Left: Ends pressed 1/4″. Right: 2 completed straps.

On one side, insert the suspender clip, fold over the end and stitch in place (go back and forth a couple of times, it will take some stress).  On the other end, stitch the hook side of a 1/2″x1″ piece of Velcro at the very edge, then the loop side about an inch up the strap.  Add a ponytail holder for pacis that won’t fit the Velcro through (like Soothies).

The paci leash is technically complete now, but I wanted to make mine a little extra special!  I included a pattern for a fox face.  Cut the pieces out of the stiff white and orange felt, then layer and stitch around the orange with orange thread.  Add eyes and a nose with black puffy paint, and put some orange paint around the edge of the ears.  Let dry for 24 hours.  Then use heavy duty glue (a glue gun won’t work here, you need something to stick to the metal) to glue the foxes onto the clips – be sure to follow the directions on the package, the kind I used needed water to cure.  Clamp it and let it cure.

Fox

Left: Stitch the orange to the white piece. Right: Glue and clamp. Don’t use clamps like I did, they put marks across the fox’s noses! I have to redo a couple of them because they’re so bad.

And there you have it!  A personalized, sweet baby gift that any mom will love!

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3 burp cloths, 2 paci clips, and a crinkle taggie toy

What are your favorite baby gifts to give to your friends who are expecting?

Halloween

Last year, Peach was only 2 months old for Halloween, so I dyed a onesie peach-colored, made a headband with a stem and leaves, and she “trick-or-treated” as, well, a peach!  My dinosaur-obsessed Monster wore a dinosaur costume, inspired by this Etsy product (you can’t see in the photo below, but there’s a triangle tail that the spikes continue down).

Halloween 2013

Trick or treating was hard work for Peach! Monster’s hoodie was made of fleece, so I cut the sleeves off for our Florida October weather.

I didn’t dress up because, frankly, with a 2-month-old and a 19-month-old, just getting out of the house within an hour of what we planned was a big accomplishment!

This year, however, I will not be slacking.  Peach, in keeping with the peach theme, is going to be Princess Peach!  Monster will be Mario (I know it’s a cop-out, since every American boy is required by law to own the blue overalls, but it goes with the theme!), and I’m going to be Bowser.  Yes, you read that right.  Back in May, before Radar left, the wardroom held a Nintendo 64-themed party, and rather than go as something simple, he constructed a Bowser costume!  It didn’t occur to me to take tutorial photos of the construction of “Bowser,” but I can describe the parts:

Shell – The basis was a throw-away turkey roasting pan.  Radar used stuffing and hot glue to create the shell, then spray-painted it green.  The spikes were made from party hats spray-painted white and hot glued on.

Chest – I had some canvas from another project left over, and he just cut the oval out and drew lines across it with a Sharpie.  The shell is on the heavier side, so we use safety pins to attach it to the fabric at the front of the fly on our shorts and keep it from slipping.

Head – This was the piece de resistance!  I didn’t see exactly how Radar put it together (because, you know, I was keeping the kids alive), but I know he started with a baseball cap, sewed the jaw and stuffed it, and hot glued most of the features on, using pipe cleaners to give some shape to the horns and a few of the red spikes.

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There’s a photo below to show a front view of the head on me

Princess Peach was pretty simple.  I bought a little pink dress and found a teal decoration at Joann’s.  I just safety pinned the decoration on so that Peach could still wear the dress after Halloween – it’s so cute!  I also found an adorable crown headband on Amazon that is perfect for my little baldy.  And that’s about it!  She won’t put up with much accessorizing, so I tried to keep the costume simple.

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Cute and easy!

Mario was also relatively easy to put together.  I got a red cap and used white puffy paints to add the trademark “M.”  Then I used his blue overalls (he has long ones, but the kid HATES to wear pants, so I went for Florida Mario) with a red shirt underneath.  And don’t judge, but a 2-year-old won’t keep a stick-on mustache on for an evening, and face paint will smear…. so I plan to use Crayola washable marker!  He might have a mustache residue for a couple of days, but he’s looked worse/crazier before haha!  I opted out of the white gloves because it’s still 80 degrees out, and Monster is really sensitive with that sort of thing (see the pants comment about 4 lines up).

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Please ignore the fish on the chest!

It’s an annual tradition for the squadrons on base to host a “haunted hangar,” where they decorate the hallway and the offices for the kids to go through, get the tar scared out of them (for the bigger kids), and trick-or-treat.  It’s a blast, and we look forward to it every year!  Downstairs in the actual hangar, they use the large open space for bounce houses and socializing – and dessert, in case we haven’t been sugared up enough.  Participants are asked to bring a treat to share, and I found this darling idea on Pinterest last year for pretzel ghosts.  I know it’s lame, but they were such a hit that I’m using it again!  The combo of salty and sweet, plus easy portion control and clean-up make this treat the perfect goodie to bring to a party.

Supplies:

  • Large pretzel rods
  • 1 bag white chocolate chips
  • Handful of mini milk chocolate chips
  • Solo cup
  • 2 tbsp butter (optional, if chocolate is too thick)

Pour the white chocolate chips into the Solo cup, and microwave until just melted – 10 seconds at a time, don’t overheat or it will seize.  If your chocolate is too thick, add the butter to loosen it a little.  Dip a pretzel rod in the chocolate, and lay on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil.  Then, use 3 mini chocolate chips to create eyes and a mouth on your ghosts.  Repeat as many times as you want – a bag of white chocolate goes a long way!  I usually run out of cookie tray space before I run low on chocolate.  As the chocolate gets lower in the cup, tip it to coat further down the pretzel sticks.  When you’ve filled your cookie tray, pop it in the fridge for about 15 minutes, or until the chocolate is hard.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

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Don’t be like me – melt the chocolate just enough! I went way too far today, and had to add butter and milk to loosen it up – the results were not pretty, but still delicious!

So after all this prep, we were ready to enjoy our evening as a family!  We had a great time, as always, and it’s super fun to make family-themed costumes while the kids are still too little to protest!  (You’ll note that Monster isn’t wearing anything from his costume but the shirt – he decided to dress up as a stubborn two-year-old tonight.  I’m hoping he’ll be Mario on Friday for trick-or-treating!)

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Monster was just not having it this evening. Peach was super happy with all the activity, though!

And of course, I had to send Radar a grown-up Halloween care package, stuffed with Trader Joe’s goodies (they just opened up here in Jacksonville) and other adult treats.

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I used Halloween memes to decorate the box!

Happy Halloween!

Personalized Wedding Gifts

One of my best friends, who was a bridesmaid in my wedding, is getting married at the end of the month!  I am so excited to travel to Chicago for the first time to see her wedding – plus, as a bonus, I get to spend the weekend with another great friend, whom I’ve known since high school and was a groomsman in our wedding!  Not to mention, the wedding is on my birthday, my friend is coming as my date (since Radar is on deployment), and the kids are each spending the weekend with a set of grandparents… so it’s pretty much going to be the best weekend ever!

Now, the bride is a very pragmatic person.  She knows that most of the attendees are traveling to come to the wedding, plus she and her groom have been living together for several years already (they don’t need a new toaster), so she hasn’t registered for wedding gifts.  She is just happy that people are coming!  But, of course, I can’t show up empty-handed to a wedding, especially one of such a close friend, so I’ve come up with two home-made and unique gift ideas that can really be used for any occasion (although they’re especially meaningful for a wedding, where the couple will be sharing a last name for the first time).

The first gift, which I will give to my friend for her bridal shower, are note cards with their last name cut out, made on the Silhouette.  I got the idea when I saw this thank you card, and thought, I can do that too!  I know that one of my favorite wedding gifts, which we are still using, were cards my mother-in-law had made with our names on them, so put the two ideas together, and this is what you get!

Start off by choosing the font you want the name to be in.  If there are any i’s or j’s, you’ll want to go with all caps, or you’ll lose those dots.  You can use cursive or print, just whatever you think suits the person receiving it!  In this case, their last name is very short, so I had to find a font that looked good when I stretched it a little.  Remember, too, that any letters that go below the writing line (like g, p, q, etc) will be cut off if they’re lower case.

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I used Rockwell Extra Bold font for this card

There are 2 ways you can make these cards – I’ve decided to do a mix for my friend.  The name can go along the side, or along the top.  I have designed them so that the name shows even when the card is closed, but you can play with that too – just adjust the measurements laid out below.  Also, I chose to make the cards invitation size, which is 4.25″x5.5″.

For a name along the side of the card: Make the name 3/4″ tall and up to 5.5″ long.  The rectangle (which I will explain in a minute) should be 5.5″ wide x 7″ tall.

For a name at the top of the card: Make the name 1″ tall and up to 4.25″ long.  The rectangle should be 8.5″ wide x 4.5″ tall.

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The example will have the name at the top, so it’s 1″ tall and 4.25″ wide

Next, add a rectangle using the drawing tool in Silhouette Studio, in the size specified above.

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Now, position your rectangle and name so that the name is at the top, on the right side, with the bottom of each letter overlapping the rectangle just a little.  If you’re putting the name on the side, it should be centered on the short side of the rectangle.

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To make them one object, use Shift as you click both the name and the rectangle, right click, and choose Group from the menu that pops up.

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Now comes the magic: click the little scissors icon at the top, and choose Cut Edge from the menu that pops up at the right.  This way, when the card cuts, the name will not be separated from the card.  That’s why you wanted to make the bottoms of the letters overlap before.

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When you close the Cut menu, those thick lines will go away, but your changes are still saved

And that’s it!  Here is a screen shot to show you both layouts – side and top.

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I just rotated the top card so they’ll both fit on a 12″x12″ sheet for cutting

You’ll want to score the cards to fold them; a card with the name on the top should be scored at 4.25″ from the edge, and one with the name at the side should be scored 3.5″ from the edge without the name.  I’d be happy to share my files, but unless your last name is Lutz, this is one you’re going to have to make on your own!

Completed Cards

I went for multiple colors for some variety. A pretty ribbon and some envelopes (I included an extra envelope for mess-ups) and it’s ready to go!

The second gift, which I will bring to the ceremony for them, is a collection of photos made of objects that spell their last name.  For an idea of what I’m talking about, check out this link.  Luckily for me, their last name has only 4 letters – it’s very easy to find frames with 4 openings!  But if you want to make one for an especially lengthy name (for instance, my maiden name has 9 letters – not a common choice at the craft store), you can use a floating frame with wallet-sized photos; another option is to glue down black fabric on the back of your frame and attach the photos to that (much cheaper and easier than custom matting!).

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That’s a whopper of a name! But a little black fabric did the trick to give it a nice look without spending a fortune.

To make your letters, there are a couple of options.  You can use websites like the one linked above to get inspiration for what to search on the internet to get the shape you want, but the results can be tricky – even choosing “large” for image size can produce grainy photos (or ones with watermarks all over them!).  I prefer to combine internet inspiration with just looking around me to find the letters I need, and take my own photos.  Then you can use a basic photo editing program (Picasa is my personal choice) to make them black and white and crop to the desired size for printing.  Voila!  You have a gift that nobody else will give to the happy couple!

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I actually did a little editing in Paint to make the Z look like a Z and not an X, but you can’t really tell

Before I sign off, I’ll share one more dirty little secret about these gifts: they are personal and special, but didn’t cost much!  I bought 8 sheets of cardstock at Joann’s for $0.79 each, the frame was $25, and the photos cost about $1 to print… definitely in my budget after buying plane tickets to Chicago!