Jun 26, 2014

A Safari Baby Shower

It is no secret I like parties...and baking...and babies, and when the three of these loves combine, well, I get just a wee bit excited. This might be one of my favorite baby showers yet!

Usually when I pick a party theme I have a pretty good idea of how I want it to look in my head from the beginning. This safari animal theme (chosen to match the baby's nursery) was a bit different. I was drawing a blank initially, but thankfully it developed over the course of a few weeks and a few trips to the craft stores.

When I'm lost, I start by picking colors. The baby's gender is a secret so we kept the colors completely gender neutral with a palette of bright green, pastel orange, and a light yellow. Next came the animals. Giraffes were an obvious choices given the color scheme and with the help of my Silhouette Cameo, I added alligators, lions, elephants, and zebras. We strung two animal garlands along the doorway and the food table, and strands of three animals hung down vertically from underneath the patio umbrella.

A 'welcome baby' garland decorated the patio backdrop for the outdoor portion of the party. The bits of grass coming up among the letters tied the garland in with the table centerpieces.

I first used wheatgrass centerpieces in my son's Very Hungry Caterpillar 1st birthday party. It is a cute, cheap, and very quick centerpiece. The seeds grow to full height in only 10 days! For the safari theme, I put giraffes peeking out among the grass. These pots and a few of my son's matching toys gave a festive look to the tables and kept the tablecloths from blowing away.

{As a side note my toddler absolutely loved watching the wheat grass grow. It grows so quickly that he noticed progress every day. He repeatedly told me we needed to give it water to drink and that the green grass was growing. Adorable. I might buy some more seeds just so he can do it again.}

My co-hostess was in charge of the non-desserts and provided a lovely (and delicious) spread of yogurt parfaits, mini-quiche, and fruit salad - perfect for a brunch time shower. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the delicious virgin peach bellinis! I provided the dessert selection with my go-to sugar cookies and Mexican chocolate cake.

I kept the cake decorations fairly simple with a fondant giraffe print of orange shapes on top of a yellow base. And how adorably simple is this gold wire 'baby' cake topper? I loved it so much I gave it a whole separate post including a free template and the diy instructions!

Despite the simple-ish cake, I went a little crazy with the sugar cookies. Sur la Table had so many cute animal cookie cutters that I practically made a zoo. We had hippos, giraffes, zebras, lions, and elephants.

In fact, I made so many of these cookies that we sent them home with the guests as party favors. The animals were slipped into glassine bags and decorated with miniature clothespins, washi tape, baker's twine, and calligraphy 'thank you' tags.

My favorite part of the whole party, however, had to be the group activities. Lately, I have been forgoing the typical awkward party games and instead preparing group activities or crafts. For example, my last baby shower featured cookie decorating. In this case, the guests helped to complete a safari animal mobile for the baby's nursery! This took a little coordination with the guest of honor in advance, but it was well worth it. To keep the crafting simple and within the time limits of the party, I prepared packets for each animal prior to the party including the designs, pre-cut materials, and printed instructions.  I can't wait to see the final product in the nursery! See the full details on this mobile and how to make your own here.

For the guests less comfortable with crafting, we had a second easier option of creating animal silhouette art with patterned paper. The guests would pick coordinating sheets of paper, cut animal silhouettes (from stencils or hand-drawn) and then glue them together. Once framed, they would make an adorable collection of art for the nursery walls.

It ended up a really fun day, mostly because of the great people and the super sweet mom-to-be. We now are anxiously awaiting the arrival of the new little one!

Wheat Grass - Seed Packet at Whole Foods
Designs from Silhouette - alligator, echo park giraffe, elephants, grass, house of 3 celebrate, lion, zebra
Washi Tape, Paper, Ribbon, Miniature Clothespins, Cake Topper Wire - Michaels
Glassine Bags - Etsy
Horse (zebra), Elephant, Hippo, Giraffe and Lion Cookie Cutters - Sur la Table
Plaque Cookie Cutter - Karen's Cookies
Baker's Twine, Pointed Pen Calligraphy and Ink - The Makery Los Altos

Jun 17, 2014

Free Template: Baby Shower Cake Topper

I love sharing free templates of my latest crafting adventures and I've got a new one for you!

It is an adorably simple cake topper I made for a baby shower. I must have still had calligraphy on the brain :).

The materials needed are minimal - thick gold colored floral wire, bamboo food skewers, wire cutters, and my free printable template.

To begin, leave a few inches of extra wire before you start the letters. When forming the letters, gently bend the wire around multiple fingers at a time to get a nice soft curve (kinked wire is hard to smooth out). I found it was also easier to use the pre-bent direction of the wire coil for the curves whenever possible. Follow the template for letter form and sizing. At the end of the word, use wire cutters to cut the wire leaving a few extra inches at the end of the word as well. The extra wire at the beginning and end of the word are used to wrap around the end of the bamboo skewers. I found that about three tight wraps around the skewer to be sufficient to keep it from slipping. Once it is secured to the skewers, trim any excess wire.

Once I got the sizing right, it took me about 10 minutes to make. You may need to use scissors to cut down the bamboo skewers to get the right height for the cake.

I'm pretty excited about how this turned out. And the idea of a wire word topper is so versatile - you could do an 'I do' or 'Mr & Mrs' for a bridal shower. You can also add embellishments to the skewers (think small flowers, ribbon). Get creative! Or keep it simple like this one.

Jun 10, 2014

A Father's Day DIY Dad Will Actually Use | Personalized Grill Prep Plates

My husband, along with most other men I have met in my life, has a love of grilling (and meat). This is a love I fully support. It gets us outdoors, inspires us to invite friends over, reduces my cooking burden, and usually results in less dishes to clean. Basically a win-win for everyone involved. I surprised my husband with a grill for his birthday a few years ago and I am still convinced this is the best gift I have ever given him (though his tool chest comes in a close second). I think that first summer he grilled our dinner from July to October. As July is fast approaching, the 'summer vibe' has picked up dramatically in our house and I sense our grilling season is about to hit its stride. Thus, the inspiration for this year's Father's Day gift - DIY personalized grilling prep plates. 

{Notice - I did not say 'BBQ' plates. I am a Texan and adhere to the strict definition of grilling vs BBQ. It is not a BBQ unless there is BBQ sauce and meat involved. Period. Get it right, people.}   

Being the engineer that he is, my husband develops a 'standard operating procedure' for many things. Grilling is one of them. Despite my endless (good natured) ridicule, he perseveres with his grilling routine that involves multiple prep plates, precise flipping/rotating, and timing down to the second. However, last summer he shattered one of his prep plates (gasp!). Since then he has been limping along in a less optimized grill procedure. However do we survive. 

Father's Day to the rescue! I flew through Crate and Barrel (with my toddler dangerously close to meltdown) and picked up two brand new square white plates (for only $6 a piece!). The perfect canvas for a little DIY love. I found my Porcelain Paint Pen at the bottom of one of my craft drawers, designed a quick stencil on my Silhouette Cameo, and got to work.

The 'Meat' plate was inspired by butcher meat cut drawings like this and the 'Dad' plate is a reminder for him of just how much he is rocking fatherhood. Whatever your inspiration, make it personal. If your kid is old enough to handle markers well, I think a kid art version would also be adorable. 

A few tips: I would suggest a simple design that does not require 'coloring in'. I have never been able to make the paint pen give a smooth finish when coloring in a letter, example. This is why I stuck with the outline. Also, baby wipes actually work pretty well for removing mistakes (pre-baking). I've also seen conflicting things on food safety of porcelain pens. Do the research on the paint you use or only put them on the non-food contacting surfaces.

Once the artwork is complete, let the plates dry for 24 hours. Then bake them at 300 degrees F for 35 minutes (or per the instructions on your paint marker), allowing the plates to preheat and cool down with the oven. 

He is under strict orders to steer clear of my blog for the remainder of the week so hopefully these guys will be a nice surprise come Sunday. Maybe it will inspire him to grill something a little extra delicious.