Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Eve Cupcakes

I'm a huge fan of trying to incorporate cupcakes into everything I do, including holidays, so I wanted to think of a few ways to ring in the new year with cupcakes! Here are a couple ideas I came up with before running out the door!

#1 - Clock on the cupcake

This is if you're great with piping, which I'm not, so it can get messy if you don't have a steady hand. You're welcome to add the numbers around the edges but again, if you have small cupcakes, they might not be legible.

#2 - Spelling out the year

                                            What better way to ring in the new year than by eating it one  
                                     number at a time?? You could also make the numbers and add 
                                      sprinkles for color, as no New Year's Eve is complete without glitter and sprinkles!

#3 - Another variation of the clock theme

Using card stock paper, tape, and some toothpicks, I made clocks counting down the final minutes to 2013. These are probably my favorite, as they were no-mess, easy-to-make decorations that added a more 3-D quality than the others.

And there you have it! May everyone have a happy and healthy new year!

$2.99 for cupcake mix
$2.99 for frosting mix
Card stock, paper, marker, tape, scissors, and toothpicks already on hand

TOTAL AMOUNT OF TIME: Less than 5 minutes
I was running out the door and needed to decorate these fast so these are great if you don't have much time!

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): 2 out of 5
The only "hard-ish" thing was the piping. I found it was easiest to put the frosting in a plastic bag, push it all to one corner, and snip the corner with scissors so as to get the frosting out cleanly and evenly. Watch out, though - the smaller the hole you make, the more likely you'll make the hole bigger by applying too much pressure and therefore, making the frosting spurt out! Trust me kids, I know from experience on that one...

Monday, December 30, 2013

Mason Jar (or Salsa Jar, Pickle Jar, etc.) Projects for New Year's Eve!

Two fun and very easy projects came to mind when I thought of mason jars and New Year's Eve. The first post idea comes from MasterPieceWeddings (which tells you just how versatile it can be!) and the second is a throwback to a preview post I did on a 2013/2014 time capsule jar!

Ok, for the first post, it's too easy: glow sticks + jars = night-time lanterns! This is great if you're having a (New Year's) party, to put down your front walk way, and you don't have to worry about candles going out or burning anything! Here's what you'll need:

1. Glow sticks
2. Gloves (you don't want the glow-in-the-dark liquid on your fingers and trust me, it can messy!)
3. Scissors
4. Jars (I know I said mason jars but I actually used two different size salsa jars and I'm glad I did - more on that later...)

Next, make your sticks glow! Crack them as much as you can so the entire stick lights up. Once that's completed, snip off one of the ends, stick it in a jar, and shake it until all the contents come out. Sometimes you'll get small, hard pieces coming out instead of liquid (pictured) - that means you didn't crack it thoroughly. If you find that only half of the liquid is out, make another cut in the stick and shake the contents out again!

Now the reason I said I'm glad I had two different size jars was because I found the smaller, fatter jar made me make more of a mess while the taller, thinner jar was able to keep all the contents inside when I shook the stick. Just something to think about when picking your jars!

And voila! You've got your very own glow-in-the-dark jars!

TOTAL COSTS: About $6 to make as many as you have jars for!
$3.50 for glow sticks from Vons (I used 1 green stick for both jars, one purple and one red)
$2.29 for vinyl disposable gloves (10 pack) from Rite Aid
Jars and scissors already on hand

TOTAL AMOUNT OF TIME: Less than 5 minutes

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): 1 out of 5
If you trust your kids won't ingest the liquid, this would be a great project for them!

The second project I've blogged about before - a time capsule jar. Starting on January 1st, grab a jar and start putting random things inside. Maybe your family took a trip to the beach so add a seashell or some sand. Maybe a friend visited from out of town so add some movie tickets or concert passes. When December 31st rolls around, open up the jar to see what happened throughout the year! The best part? You get to keep the jars for as long as you like, so hold onto them so you can see what happened 10, 20, even 50 years ago!

You can just use paper and a marker to write on the top or sides of the jar (or you can buy chalkboard liner for $6 on Amazon). And you don't have to use mason jars - find ones that will fit your family!


EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): 1 out of 5
We keep our jar in the same place - visible, but not in the way. That way, we know to stick something in there when we get the chance!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

How to Make Your Own 2014 Photo Calendar

As we're nearing the end of 2013, I see companies like Shutterfly, Vistaprint, and even Walgreens offer 2014 calendars with your photos and I thought, "There's gotta be a way to do this for less than $20, right?" Well kids, I did it for free! You can make one for free too if you have:

1. Microsoft Word
2. Digital photos
3. String/yarn/something to hold the pages together
4. Paper (I used white card stock but you could use printer paper, photo paper, etc.)
5. Hole punch

The hardest part was creating the actual calendar part. I could have copied a calendar from Google by searching "January 2014", "February 2014", etc. but instead I made it from scratch. To save you the time and headache, I'm offering my template here (click on the small down arrow on the left-hand side, next to the printer icon, to download). Feel free to change the font of the month (I used Betty Noir in 60 pt. font).

Once you have the template open, you can add in holidays, add photos, etc. For example, for every member of our family, I put their photo on their respective birth date. That way, I would know exactly whose birthday it was and when!

The easiest way I found to add photos in Word is by doing the following:
1. Go to Insert --> Picture --> From File
2. Find your photo, select it, and hit Insert
3. Double-click on the photo or go to Format --> Picture
4. Click on Layout and make sure "Behind Text" is selected and hit OK
5. Size photo to your liking

You can then print out each page, hole punch three holes (one on each end to loop string through and one in the middle to hang on the wall) or you can keep going like I did and add more photos to the opposite pages!

I used Word again and made new documents to add my photos (note that I kept the .5" border again) and I tried to keep separate documents, so as not to confuse myself. One document was called "January" and I included all photos taken in January, then next document was called "February", etc.

Now here's where it can get a bit tricky. I'm glad I punched the holes in all the pages before moving on because it was easier for me to figure out how to feed the pages into the printer. Every printer might be different but here's what I did:

For example, I created an "August" document and added all the photos I wanted for that month.

Then I took the July page face up and with the holes on the right side, so that the August photos would print out correctly on the opposite side.

And I did that for each page until it was all printed out. You'll have to punch in holes again for the center (if you want to hang it). However, if you don't want to hang it on a wall, you don't have to, as I ended up putting mine on the fridge!

However, I already had Microsoft Word, paper, string, and a hole punch on hand

TOTAL AMOUNT OF TIME: Times may vary
It depends on how many photos you want to include but my calendar took about 6 hours to complete

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): 2 out of 5
If you're not familiar with arranging photos in Word, this might be a little difficult to get at first but you'll figure it out soon enough!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Peppermint Trays

Today's post comes from an old friend who said she had a Pinfail after trying these... well, I love tackling difficult Pinterest posts so I was happy to give this one a try! Here's what you'll need:

* Mints
* Parchment paper
* Cake pan
* An oven

The first time I tried this, I used 30 mints and made sure the parchment paper went up on the sides of the cake pan, just like the original post by MrsHappyHomemaker. You can do this while your oven is preheating and if your oven is as slow as mine, you'll finish cutting the paper and arranging the mints just as the oven is ready!

The post says a vague "7-10 minutes" in the oven, I suppose because every oven is different. My oven's magic number was 8 minutes. Here's how it went down (sorry for my dirty oven window):

As soon as I put them in - 8 minutes left

4 minutes left - they started to melt

2 minutes left - holes are becoming smaller!

After 8 minutes, I took them out of the oven
I waited 4 minutes before grabbing the paper and taking it out of the cake pan. I waited 3 more minutes and removed the parchment paper but be warned - it's HOT!

I thought it was kinda oddly shaped... more of a hexagon than a circle because the parchment paper wasn't flush with the edges, so I tried again.

This time, I used 35 mints and I didn't have parchment touching the sides of the cake pan:

I kept a watchful eye on the pan again and this time, found it took 8 minutes, 36 seconds to be completely done.

Be careful you don't leave the mints in the oven for too long or they'll start to bubble like this. I suppose you can always flip it over and no one will be the wiser!

Here's how they turned out: the tray on the tray on the top was the first time (with 30 mints and parchment paper on sides of pan) and the bottom was the second time (with 35 mints and parchment paper just covering bottom of pan):

You know I had to make a mistake so here it is - wait until the trays are completely cooled down before putting anything on them! Otherwise, your goodies may melt...

TOTAL COSTS: About $6 to make multiple trays
$3 for 2 packs of peppermints from Vons
$2.99 for parchment paper from Target

TOTAL AMOUNT OF TIME: About 35 minutes
7 minutes to preheat oven and arrange mints
8 minutes in oven
20 minutes to cool

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): 2 out of 5
If you like to multitask, this may be problematic because you really need to keep an eye on those mints in the final 2-3 minutes, just to make sure they don't burn or bubble up. Otherwise, if you don't mind waiting, it's a piece 'o cake!

Friday, December 27, 2013

How to Make a Personalized Monopoly Game!

I'm back from the holidays! I hope everyone had a great time with their friends and family, wherever they may be. I gave this personalized Monopoly game as a gift to my parents and they thought it would be a great blog post, in case anyone else wanted to make one! This is great if you're family a.) has a lot of inside jokes and b.) loves playing games. Note that while you can purchase some on Etsy for $200, you can just as easily make your own for almost a quarter that price if you have access to the following:

1.) Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Word
2.) A Kinko's nearby
3.) A lot of patience and creativity

If you have those three things handy, you can make one yourself for anywhere between $50-$100!

STEP 1: Making the Board
Start by going to BradFrostWeb's site to download his Monopoly template. From here, you'll be able to download the entire Photoshop template and edit the names of the tiles, add photos, customize the pricing, do anything and everything you like to personalize the board. FYI: this will be the longest step. You'd be surprised how nit-picky you'll get and which jokes to include/leave off the board.

Note that if you want it to be completely authentic to the original, you may have to scour the internet to find similar fonts for free like KabobLight for the property names and KabaleMedium for the "OPOPLY" name in the middle, but with a little Google searching, you should be able to download the fonts for free.

STEP 2: Making the Cards
Once you have your board completed, next comes the community chest/chance cards. In this example, I used titles of books my mother and sister wrote this year ("A Mind Like This" by Susan Blackwell Ramsey and "Giant Dance Party" by Betsy Bird). I recommend using orange and yellow card stock paper and making the templates in Word. I fit 8 squares of 1.75" x 3" onto a sheet (only 6 pictured here) and for the text, I used Brush Script Std in size 18 for the title and Calibri for main font text, however the size changed depending on how much I wanted to write. I Google-searched as many images of "Mr. Moneybags" as I could find, then copy and pasted them into a Word doc to look authentic.

Note: you'll want to print on the front AND back of the cards. Keep this in mind, as one side will need to say the name of the card, the other side will have the juicy details. I probably went through 6-8 pieces of paper, just to make sure the title was evenly lined up on the other side of the paper.

STEP 3: Making the Deeds
If you have already decided what colored properties will be for what, then it won't be too difficult for you to make the property cards. These also come from the template you downloaded. A few things to note:
    1. If you choose to go with a thick, white, semi-shiny card stock paper, make sure your template is not near the edge of the paper. I found, after multiple trials and errors, that the closer the template was the edge (like if I wanted to try and print 8 deeds on one sheet), it was harder for the printer to catch the paper and therefore print correctly.
    2. If you print these at home, chances are the white font of "Title Deed" might not be legible. Perhaps if you bold the font it will be clearer, but otherwise it's very hard to read.
    3. I didn't print on the backs of these cards but you certainly can if you like. The main reasons I didn't were because it says how much the mortgage is on the front of the card AND I didn't want to deal with the front and back printing like the community chest/chance cards.

STEP 4: Assembling the Board
You'll need to find an 18"x18" game board - I found one for cheap on eBay and after scouring the internet, I don't think you'll find anything cheaper! Next: find a Kinkos in town. Take your Photoshop file, put it on a thumb drive, and take that thumb drive to Kinko's and ask for an 18" x 18" sticker. It'll take 24 hours to make but well worth it! Very carefully, apply the sticker to the game board. This may take several attempts and you might see bubbles but try to rub them out as soon as you can so they don't stay. If you have someone to help you, that might make things easier, but I did it by myself so it's not impossible to do alone.

STEP 5: Acquiring Remaining Game Pieces
You'd be surprised what else is involved in a Monopoly game! There's:
* game pieces (car, dog, thimble, etc.)
* money
* hotels and houses
* dice
* and most importantly, a box to carry the game and its pieces 

If you want to make it even more personalized, you can find specific game pieces to match the player's likes/hobbies! As for the box, I simply printing out sections of the game board and Mod Podged them to an existing game box (note: this was not a Monopoly box, as I found I originally couldn't get the board to fit!). 

What I later found out, and did do, was cut the board and the sticker so that it was easier to fold into fourths. Don't worry, your board will still look great, just remember to do this with either an x-acto knife or sharp scissors but be careful!

And there you have it kids! Your very own Monopoly game!

TOTAL COSTS: About $70
$9 (including shipping) for game board on eBay
$50 for sticker to be made by Kinko's
$5 for Monopoly pieces on Etsy
$6 for colored card stock from Michael's
White card stock, Mod Podge, x-acto knife, PhotoShop, Word, money, hotels/houses, and box already on hand

But that's because I had no idea what I was going to call the properties, put on any of the cards, etc. Plus, you'll need 24 hours for the sticker to be made anyway.

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): 4 out of 5
If you're familiar with PhotoShop (or even if you're not), you'll figure it out fast with help from the original template. Putting the sticker on the board without bubbles isn't easy but with a second person helping it should make it a lot easier. Have fun, be creative, put in as many inside jokes as you can, and hope you land on free parking!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Crayon Lipstick

Thanks to my sister for suggesting today's post! When I first saw this post by OhSoPrettyTheDiaries, I was both skeptical but intrigued. Can you really make lipstick out of crayons? It seemed too easy not to give it a try!

Here's what you need need:

A container to put said lipstick in
Coconut Oil
A pot of hot water

Easy enough, right? Now I couldn't find any empty lip balm containers so I used an Altoids Smalls tin.

Cut or break your crayon(s) into 4 pieces. I really only ended up using the equivalent of 1 crayon because I found out the hard way that too many pieces resulted in my container sinking in the next step.

Take your coconut oil and add 1 teaspoon for every crayon piece you put in the container (so 2 crayon pieces = 2 teaspoons). Put the container of oil into a pot already filled with water and turn it on low heat.

Once the oil has melted, then add your crayon piece(s). It took about 7 minutes for my 2 pieces of crayon to melt so times may vary, depending on the side of the container, the material it's made up, how many pieces you use, how much oil you add, etc.

It didn't say how much time it would take to cool and harden so after 30 minutes of waiting for it to cool at room temperature, I put in the fridge for another 30 minutes and that seemed to have done the trick. However, the color completely changed and it was difficult to get out with a Q-Tip when it was so cold, so I put the tin back in the pot for a minute to let it warm up and check out the change in color:

The results? Well, it's more of a lip gloss than a lipstick but as the original post says, too much crayon = dry lipstick while too little crayon = lip gloss. Guess that's what I made!

However, I already had crayons, a container, a pot and water on hand

TOTAL AMOUNT OF TIME: A little over 1 hour
7-10 minutes to cut up crayon, melt oil, and melt crayons in pot
1 hour to cool

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): 3 out of 5
I'm sure with more practice and better containers, you get into the rhythm of what gloss texture looks like versus lipstick texture but I can tell you, it's super easy to make it glossy! Just... don't lick your lips... blech...

Sunday, December 15, 2013

How to Make 15 Different Ornaments

Maybe you're putting up your first Christmas tree, or maybe you're tired of the old ornaments and want something new. Well, I've put together a bunch of different ornaments I found online and put them to the test:

#1 - Wedding Invitations

If you've got a lot of wedding invitations laying around and you're not sure what to do with them, cut them into strips and put them inside a clear ball, so you'll always be reminded of your big day!

#2 - Sheet Music

Find your favorite Christmas carol, cut it into slices, and put inside a clear ball. Put a red ribbon around it or leave it as is and enjoy your festive ornament!

#3 and #4 - Pages from a book

Perhaps you have a favorite book, or you know of someone that has written a book this year. Why not make an ornament out of their words? You can either glue the pages of their book to the outside, or take pages, crinkle them into balls, and put them on the inside! Granted, they may not like their work being crumpled up so keep that in mind if you know the author...

#5 - Christmas List

A good way to remember what you or your kids wanted in years past is to put a Christmas list in an ornament. That way, years down the road, you can look at them and fondly remember what a "Furby" was... oh wait, they're back, aren't they? Hmmm... well, you get the idea!

#6 - Photo in Snow

This one is quite simple, really. Just print out a photo (I used an old wedding photo), throw in some sugar as "snow" and some pine needles from your tree and voila! A wintertime ornament, perfect for your tree. I also threw in some fake berries, in case you're wondering what those red things are!

#7 - The Melted Snowman

Speaking of sugar, you can use sugar to be the "snowman", throw in a paper "nose" and something for the eyes and buttons (I used the top of whole cloves) and now you have a melted snowman on the tree... poor little guy...

#8 - A Ball of Yarn

This one is quite easy -

Step 1 - Wrap yarn around ball
Step 2 - Put toothpicks in yarn

You're done! I recommend having a little piece trail out, to make it look a little more realistic. But quite easy and perfect for the knitter in your life!

#9 - The Moustache

My husband pointed out to me that it should be "staching" instead of "stashing" but I was taking this from Wanelo's post. People have been a bit mustache-happy lately so if your man has a soup-strainer, a flavor-saver, a crumb catcher... well then, this is the ornament for him. Take some white acrylic paint and pour a little bit inside a clear ornament (or just buy a white ornament). Roll the paint around until it covers the entire ball, then with a black Sharpie, write on the outside. Bada-boom bada-bing, now THAT is how you decorate a tree!

#10 - A Map

Maybe you took a big trip this year and you want to remember it - why not remember it on an ornament? You'll have to bear with me and my sloppy attempt, but if you Mod Podge a map of where you went or where you plan on going, it will be a nice reminder for you year after year.

#11 - Superhero Ornaments

I found this post on HappyLooksGoodOnYou and thought it was so clever. Put paint inside of an ornament, just like the Mustache example, and then print out the superhero's symbol and glue to the front. I used yellow paint and printed out Batman's symbol because, well, my cat's named Batman so it seemed appropriate, but you could use any color/symbol combination you choose!

#12 - A Snowball

Here's another easy one for ya - take an ornament, cover it with glue (or Mod Podge) and then roll it in epsom salts. The result? A snowball!

#13 - The Glitter Ball

This is pretty self-explanatory - put glue inside of a clear ornament (I used clear Elmer's glue), pour some glitter inside, and roll the ornament around until it's completely covered! I suppose you could glitter the outside but then you run the risk of glitter getting everywhere...

#14 - First-Time Homebuyers

If you bought a house this year and you want to commemorate it, you can make a salt-dough ornament (like the Hand Santa Ornament post) and either imprint the key into the dough before putting in the oven (like this) or tracing around the key and dating the ornament with the date of sale. Sometimes it's the small, personal memories that make the tree special.

#15 - Scrabble Tiles, c

If you don't mind ruining your Scrabble game, pick out a few letters and using the stands the game provides, use that to glue all the letters together, glue a ribbon to the top and you're set! I recommend sawing the stand in half if you want to display shorter words.

Here's one big fail I found roaming around Pinterest - using crayons to melt the inside of an ornament. Here's what it should look like vs. what it actually looks like:

And this was after 5 straight minutes of using a blow dryer to the ornament. Your hands will get hot, the ornament will become difficult to hold, and the crayons will barely melt. If you want a cool effect like the photo above, use paint, not crayons.

The other fail? Well, even plastic balls can shatter, so be very careful!

Some other projects that I recommend you try include:

1. Painting an ornament with chalkboard paint (and not spending $9 on one from Etsy!)
2. Cutting up an old DVD or CD and gluing the pieces to the ornament like this
3. If you have a newborn, paint their hand and have them transfer their handprint to the ornament for their first Christmas

TOTAL COSTS: Depends on the project
You could spend anywhere between just $2.99 the on the 6-pack of ornaments from Michael's, or you could spend much more, depending on which project you choose and what you need to buy.

TOTAL AMOUNT OF TIME: Depends on the project
All of these were quite fast, the only thing that took a while was waiting for the Mod Podge to dry.

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): Depends on the project
Most of these were so easy, your kids could get involved. None of them were difficult - the map ornament looks sloppy because I rushed but if you use smaller pieces and take your time, it could looks as good as this one, I'm sure!