Friday, February 5, 2016

Four Creative Ways to Wrap Gift Cards

My nieces and nephews are all at the age where they prefer to receive gift cards or money for any gift giving situation. I completely understand this, but my kids are still little so my husband and I continue to enjoy shopping for actual gifts. Anyway, for Christmas, my husband and I thought it would be really funny if we got them the gift cards they wanted, but then we wrapped them all up in funny ways. You know, so everyone else could enjoy it too.

Gift one. 8 year old nephew got a Toys R Us gift card in a teddy bear.
Difficulty level for you: Easy
Difficulty level for them: Mildly entertaining

1) Locate a bear or other stuffed animal headed for donation.
2) Cut an opening right along the seam on the back of the bear.
3) Shove gift card in the bear. Be sure to surround it with stuffing so it isn't immediately noticeable.
4) Sew the seam back up.

Gift two. 11 year old niece got a Macy's gift card in a big old ball of Saran Wrap.
Difficulty level for you: Easy
Difficulty level for them: Time-consuming and sweat-inducing

1) Tape a small ball of clear plastic wrap on each side of your gift card (so you don't end up with a rhombohedron* like I did).
2) Begin wrapping your gift card ball while turning item every which direction.
3) Make sure to cut the plastic wrap every three feet or so. Then begin with a new piece. This is slightly more time consuming, but otherwise, they are just going to unwind the whole thing in one fell swoop. And what fun is that for you?

Gift three. 12 year old nephew got a Game Stop gift card in a super-glued music box.
Difficulty level for you: Super Easy
Difficulty level for them: Disappointingly easy

1) Find the most childish and girly music box you can.
2) Place gift card inside.
3) Superglue the edges and close.
4) Allow to dry.

Gift four. 16 year old niece got a gift card to Forever 21 in a block of ice.
Difficulty level for you: Moderate (for time)
Difficulty level for them: Patience-trying and may cause bursts of ingenuity or creativity

1) Get a large plastic tub. We used a 5 gallon tub that previously housed ice cream. It was sturdy and had a handle.
2) Fill half way with water.
3) Freeze.
4) Carve out a little slot for your gift card to stand in so it doesn't slosh around.
5) Fill remainder with water.
6) Freeze.
*7) It was unseasonably warm here at Christmas, so we wrapped it in one of those plastic gift bags meant for a bicycle. It did start to melt, so this was a good choice. If it had been our normal mid-20s, we would have wrapped normally and left it outside until unwrapping time.

By far the hardest to get into was the Saran Wrapped gift card. She really had to work at it and even recruited the younger cousins for help. The easiest was the music box. The bear was entertaining simply because they just decided to tear it limb from limb to get it open.  Our oldest niece got tired of waiting for the ice to melt, so she hunted down a hair dryer and triumphantly came to us declaring victory. Hours after we opened presents.

All in all, this was fantastic fun (for us). We will be spending the next 10 1/2 months thinking up even better ideas for 2016's Christmas gift card requests!

* A rhombohedron is the name for a 3D rhombus. Now you're one word smarter!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Cleveland Restaurants Progressive Dinner

We celebrated our 8 year wedding anniversary in June.  We don't go out as much as we would like.  And we have a pretty extensive list of "must try" CLE restaurants.  So we thought a progressive dinner for our anniversary might be fun.

We started at Crop Bistro in the Market District.  We got drinks and appetizers.  It was awesome!  (Kind of wish we'd stayed for our whole meal!)

Must have been feeling pretty dapper.
Ready to start a fun night!
We ordered Balsamic Popcorn and the Grilled Flatbread.  Both were amazing.


Seriously, the popcorn was amazing...

Like really really good.
The building Crop occupies was built in the early 1900s as a bank.  It's cavernous, but beautiful.  Ask your server to visit the vault!

Next we went to Spice Kitchen & Bar in Gordon Square for our main courses.  It was okay, but not what we had been hoping for based on recommendations from friends.  Again, we wish we had stayed at Crop for the whole meal!

Dinner at Spice.
For dessert, we went to Rosso Gelato in Rocky River.  What a little gem of a place!  We'd never been before, but we'll surely be taking the girls back.  We've had real authentic gelato (and lots of it!) in Italy.  People who claim that American copy cats just can't get it right aren't lying.  But this place was nearly perfect!  Give it a try sometime!

For second dessert (what what?!) we went to Sweet Melissa.  We got a triple chocolate torte and chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake.  Delish, but we probably should have stopped at one dessert location!


All in all we had a wonderful time and we both agreed that we'd like to do this again in the future!  It's an easy way to try a bunch of different places while only employing* a babysitter for one evening. AND, I can't believe it's been 8 years!!!

*standard grandparent rates apply

Monday, June 18, 2012

Fancy Nancy Birthday Party

Our daughter is a HUGE fan of Fancy Nancy.  If you don't know much about Fancy Nancy, head to her website or check out some of the books.  It's just adorable.  We haven't ventured into friend parties yet, but that didn't stop us from throwing a big Fancy Nancy soiree (that's a fancy word for party) for our family.

In the past we've done full meals for birthday parties.  It gets to be a lot.  It's also not how I grew up.  In my family we just did cake and ice cream for the most part.  I thought doing just a cake and ice cream party would cut down on my planning stress - for sure.  Wrong.  As soon as I got my husband to agree to a dessert only party, it occurred to me that we were having a Fancy Nancy party.  So it couldn't be simple cake and ice cream.  We were going to have to do cupcakes and parfaits (that's a fancy word for ice cream sundae)!

My husband used a mass produced invite as inspiration and whipped up a cute invite to the soiree, then we sent it out via e-mail.

I made four varieties of cupcakes in standard size and mini.  The minis were great.  It gave guests a chance to taste a couple flavors without the guilt of eating multiple cupcakes.  We made Pink Lemonade Cupcakes w/ Pink Lemonade frosting, Key Lime Cheesecake Cupcakes w/ Key Lime Cream Cheese Icing, French Vanilla Cupcakes w/ Chocolate Frosting, and Red Velvet Cupcakes w/ Cream Cheese Frosting.  I'll admit, all cupcakes were mostly boxed mixes.  You just can't mess them up!  The key lime goodness did require extra ingredients and steps.  The chocolate frosting and cream cheese frosting were homemade.

Cheesecake IN the cupcake.  I'm so sad for anyone who didn't try this one!
Choice of chocolate or vanilla ice cream, chocolate dipped cones, cups and lots of toppings - chocolate syrup, caramel syrup, homemade peanut butter sauce, marshmallows, Spanish peanuts, M&Ms, sprinkles, blueberries, strawberries, pineapple, whipped cream, and cherries.

The person who came up with the rice idea is a genius!!

Water, coffee, and Orange Dream Punch (with addition of vanilla ice cream)

We used Maris's birthday banner (seen above) - an old favorite by now.  I had the great idea to assemble, frame, and display all her Fancy Nancy puzzles.  They weren't a standard photo size (of course!) so we did have to do some work to get them to stay without harming their future use, but once we did, they were adorable!! As you can see in the pics above, we made our own cupcake toppers and 'menu' which also added to the decorating theme.

1 of 5 framed puzzles and her Fancy Nancy doll.
Dress up!
We had a dress up station called, Maris's Boutique.  Lots of our guests came dressed up or with fancy accessories, but we were prepared for the ones who didn't!  We filled her basket and coat tree with scarves, hats, ties, tiaras, necklaces, rings, bracelets, flowers, etc. 

Ooh la la, Darling!
Dress up!

Lastly, you can't have a fancy party without fancy guests.

Fancy grandparents
The Fancy Family
Okay, now that the party is over, I've sworn off anymore themed events.  We are going to go old school and have cake, ice cream, and presents in a decorationless house.  Please come back in February where you will probably see that the previous statement was a lie.  (I can't help it.  They are so fun!)

Happy Birthday Fancy Maris!!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Birthday Party {Supergirl Theme} {Soup Theme}

Our youngest celebrated her first birthday last week.  When planning her party we decided we wanted to have a soup party, which we would call 'SOUPer.'  The Supergirl theme was then born from that.  It turned out to be pretty fun.

Soup Buffet
The food was yummy!  We offered five kinds of soup which we kept warm in crock pots.  To accompany the soup, we had nine varieties of bread, plus oyster crackers, goldfish crackers, bread sticks, and a cracker/cheese tray.  We also put out some veggies and dip. We had Stormy Day Ham Bean Soup, Spaghetti and Meatball Soup, Rivel Soup, Black Bean Soup, and Panera Cream Cheese Potato Soup.

Bread buffet

Aside from your usual party beverages (all non-alcoholic - we were in a church!), I got to use my brand new Crate & Barrel drink dispenser for a tasty punch.  I got that recipe from Pinterest.  I'll be honest; the only reason we had punch was so I could use my drink dispenser!

My husband made the big cake and the smash cake.  Thanks to my brother and his wife for saving the day (and party) by rushing to our house to transport the cake.  I think my husband had high hopes for the big cake, but we just ran out of time!  The smash cake was adorable with pink and yellow super symbols all over it!

We went light on decorations this time.  I made a birthday banner for Miss Paige and we had four balloons that we tied to the high chair.  The rest of our decorations were comprised of the tableclothes in purple, pink, and yellow, plus coordinating plates, cups, and napkins.  I actually thought it was perfect!  The colors were very vibrant and cheery and stood out in the large white room we were in.  We also had a coloring station with Supergirl, Superman, and Superdog printables.

As always I feel the need to extend the theme into our clothing.  The four of us wore Supergirl/man shirts.  Johnny actually had a white button down over his shirt a la Clark Kent, which was funny, but I don't think anyone got it.  Paige also wore a tutu which I made for her.

All in all this was probably my favorite party to plan (my favorite theme remains the polka dots though!).  It was easy and fun.  However, we would NOT do a soup party on our own again.  It is one of my favorite ideas for a potluck, but even with help from my mom and grandma, I was completely overwhelmed.  I made three varieties of soup myself.  It was time consuming and not easy to transport.  The cake suffered because I took over the kitchen.  The only other drawback to the party was that it never once occurred to me to include my favorite ice cream - Superman.  My dad, brother, and I are all kind of obsessed with it.  I can't believe none of us ever thought to include it!  Let's be honest, it would have been perfect!!

Thank you to everyone who helped to put the All Star 2's First Birthday Party in a league of its own!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

DIY: T-Shirt Quilt

After I graduated from college, I made a t-shirt quilt with the t-shirts from my sorority.  I had no idea what I was doing.  I chose my shirts and some quilt fabric that matched to make the border.  I do love the way it turned out, but it was not without challenges.  I had no idea how to sew knit t-shirt material.  Despite what the picture shows (or doesn't!) most of the shirt squares are pulled in the corners.

My second attempt went much better!  I decided to make a quilt for my brother's birthday.  He's transplanted to Denver, and I always like to make him feel homesick nostalgic.  I bought a pattern from Maiden Jane.  I had several questions that she happily answered through e-mail.  Then I was off and sewing.  I completed the quilt with relative ease.  The final product was just what I imagined and I knew my brother would love it!

When I make the next quilt, I may merge the wonderful pattern I used this time with some of my favorite things about the first quilt I made.  I do love the patchwork sashing of the sorority quilt.  And I have big plans to adapt the pattern to make quilts from the All Stars' baby clothes in a few years.

Have you ever tried a t-shirt quilt?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

DIY: Fabric Flowers

Recently we had our family photos taken.  The color combination I chose for our clothes had my girls wearing navy blue, so I wanted to do something to make their outfits more feminine.

My first thought and shopping trips were aimed at making felt flowers, but I just couldn't get the color right.  I came home and researched fabric flowers instead.  Cluck Cluck Sew had exactly what I was looking for.  I made a pin for my older All Star who won't wear anything in hear hair.  All Star 2 got a flower on a headband.

Flower pin method - I cut fabric scraps into circles starting with the smallest first.  I used a nickel as a guide to cut the first one.  Then I used each of those circles to guide cutting a bigger circle until I was satisfied with the overall size of the flower.  I attached a felt circle (cut a bit smaller than the biggest circle) to the bottom of the flower with fabric glue.  Then I picked a coordinating button to sew in the center and secure all the circles together.

I decided to actually just baste stitch the flower onto my daughter's sweater because it was fairly large and I didn't want it flopping over.  Next time I would probably sew each fabric layer together with a couple stitches.

Flower headband method - I drew a rough shape of a petal to use as a pattern.  Next, I cut petals out of the same fabric scraps. I also cut two identical felt circles out of a coordinating color of felt.  I sewed the fabric petals onto one of the felt circles by overlapping them and then moving in a spiral.  When I was done, I sewed the matching button from the flower pin into the middle.  Lastly, I glued the two felt circles together around a pre-fab headband.
I love this smooshy face.
I adore the way the flowers turned out and think they gave just the right feminine touch to our family photographs! (Photo below is © Tamarie Photography - Do no copy w/o permission.)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

DIY: Wedding Invitation Christmas Ornament

My brother was married this summer.  Not long after his wedding, I found this link on Pinterest for a Christmas ornament made from a wedding invitation.  I followed up with my mom who had saved her invitation and promptly claimed it for my project.  I bought a clear plastic bulb ornament, ribbon in colors matching the wedding theme, and a cute charm defining love.  The whole thing cost me less than $3.

Hot pink and apple green for brother and SIL
1 wedding invitation
scissors or rotary w/ cutting mat
a pen with a round barrel (not hexagonal)
1 clear Christmas bulb ornament (I used plastic)
ribbon in colors coordinating to wedding theme
charm (optional)
something to attach the charm (I used several tiny split rings)

1. Cut invitation into strips.
~ I used a straight edge and my rotary tool to slice the invite into strips.  I lined up the straight edge to be sure all essential words would be visible and uncut.
2. Wrap the strips around the pen, creating a spiral.
~ You may need to hold each piece in place for a few seconds if the invitation is thick.  I do not recommend spiraling by using the old scissor curling technique.  It could shred your strips.
3. Put spirals into bulb.
~ I found that if I fed the spirals into the bulb, the spirals all became too loose.  But if I coiled them into a small disk before pushing the whole round piece through the hole, they were all too tight.  So, I did half of each and the mix left it feeling more diverse.
4. Replace the hook portion of bulb.
5. Attach charm. (Optional).
6. Attach ribbon for hanging and tie a nice bow.

Sometime after finishing the ornament for my brother and sister-in-law, my mom was cleaning out a box in my old room and found the invitation from my best friend's wedding.  She was married almost ten years ago!  What a great gift that would be! 

Red and gray for BFF.
If you know anyone getting married soon or having any recent invitations laying around, do this!  It was so easy and I know both my recipients loved their ornaments!