Friday, May 28, 2010

Craft: "Flirty Fiesta" Flower Bouquets

I can't remember when I last made paper flowers, but I had forgotten how much fun it is! Seriously. I fold, fold, fold, fold, cut, pull apart and the beauty it produces is such a joy. Such simple materials and yet aren't they beautiful? Now I understand the tissue pom-pom craze.

I am making these paper bouquets for my upcoming "Flirty Fiesta" party.  They are the centerpieces for the guest tables, so they'll be sitting on top of the oilcloth tablecloths I just made. I am loving these bright colors. I was contemplating filling the glass vases (which I'm reusing from my wedding!) with some brightly wrapped candy but decided it would be too much. There will be plenty of good color with the tablecloths, bouquets and garden setting--at least I hope!

I was inspired to use napkins for these flowers by a recent "wall flower" tutorial I saw on MADE. I used six cocktail-sized napkins for each flower in a bouquet. Total supply list per flower included 6 napkins, one bamboo skewer, and one twist-tie. After making a flower (full pom-pom, rather than wallflower style) I skewered it and used the twist-tie to secure it to the bamboo.

I used five flowers per arrangement:
  • One "full sized" yellow flower with curved petals
  • One "full sized" orange flower with pointed petals
  • One "cut down" green flower with curved petals (I cut about 3/4" off two sides of the stack of napkins to reduce the diameter before folding)
  • One "cut down" turquoise flower with pointed petals
  • One "cut down" fuschia flower with pointed petals 
These vases are made for easy arrangements--the holes in the metal top make for good spacing.  I put the two largest flowers in opposite corners and then filled in with the smaller.

Fun! And pretty. I think paper flowers are perfect for the "Flirty Fiesta." And I have to come up with a another use for them, or someone needs to throw a party like this and use them because they are too pretty to throw away.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sewing: "Flirty Fiesta" Oilcloth Tablecloths

It seems just about every outdoor occassion is more fun with an oilcloth tablecloth! They are perfect for spreading over picnic tables in the park. I made a polka dot one for my first daughter's first birthday. Made some more last year. And, now I've decided I certainly can't have a fiesta without the characteristic Mexican oilcloth tablecloths.

So I have been hunting for the perfect oilcloth pattern. I wanted something in the Mexican tradition, but I also wanted a color palette that appealed to me--something flirty and fun. I found it in this fabulous Zoya pattern. I love it! I think it must be brand new because I have done a ton of oilcloth browsing over the past few years and don't remember seeing it. I found it at Mendel's, a great oilcloth resource. Could the colors be better? 

I'm using 60" round tables for the party, so these will be table toppers with tablecloths underneath. Last time I made an oilcloth splatmat I decided I really like a simple seam binding edging, and rickrack, which I love and have used in the past, seemed to 1950s for this party theme. So seam binding it is. I used turquoise, school bus yellow and orange.

This project was so quick. I had all six finished in about two hours. Just cut the oilcloth into 47" squares and used the double-fold seam binding to finish. The slowest part was mitering the corners.

So here they are: my "flirty fiesta" tablecloths. I'm excited about using them to add color to the party.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Invites: Fiesta Forty!

Hard to believe:
--that I'm planning another party
--that it's my 40th birthday party 

Many in my position would let the date pass hoping no one would notice, ask, or heaven forbid, celebrate, but I've never been shy about my years. I figure if I've made it this far I might as well celebrate! I've earned whatever marks age is leaving on me and, more importantly, I have so much to be happy about--no room to worry about looking older. 

So here it is: the birthday invite.

I'm going with a flirty fiesta theme so I decided to design the invite with some Mexican Papel Picado (hand cut paper) banners.  As I've confessed previously, I have the ideas but not the skills when it comes to graphic design. I really do wish I knew how to do this in Illustrator or Photoshop but my tool by default? Microsoft PowerPoint! At least the byproduct of years of creating marketing presentations in PowerPoint is a bit of knowledge about drawing in that program. Pretty fun really. So I created this banner with its drawing tools and even embellished the standard Goudy Stout Windows font with triangular "cut-outs" to give it a more south-of-the-border feel.

In case there are others of you out there who haven't found the time to take that online Illustrator course and might like to leverage my PowerPoint efforts, I'm sharing the file here:

Fiesta Forty Invite Template_AestheticNest

A few notes about the file:
  • The graphics are all "grouped". If you want to edit just ungroup and change at will.
  • As mentioned, I embellished the font, so if you aren't doing invites for a 40th and want to change the wording on the front, or the number inside, you'll just need to move around the little triangles. 
  • I have the file set up with blank spacer slides so that you can print 4-up, double-sided on card stock and have 2 invites per letter-sized card stock sheet (see thumbnails of the layout below).
  • I went to a local copy/print shop to have these printed for better color. Would have been fun to try something offset but I was a bit shy about starting the conversation out with a description of my PowerPoint file!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Party: Audrey's and Kate's "Fair Day" Fourth Birthday Party

After weeks of rather obsessive preparation we had the actual "Fair Day" celebration for Audrey's and Kate's fourth birthday (that's singular, these cousins share the same day just 2 hours apart). And it was fun! It all started with an idea for pony rides, got color from the happy Dolce fabric collection, and really came to life when I thought "county fair!" These birthday parties just keep getting better!

I'm starting with the best part: dessert. Here is our dessert/favor table in county fair theme, including bandana quilt tablecloth. My husband warned me I might not be appreciated so much by other mom's for passing out so much sugar, but isn't that sort of expected at a birthday party?

The guests all received favor bags--brown craft paper bags with labels based on the birthday invite--to thank them for coming. I inserted bandanas in the party colors in each bag to cushion the candy but also to be used in some way afterwards. Hoped to send them home with something more enduring than a sugar buzz!

I had fun finding and buying color coordinated candy. We had rock crystal candy suckers in pink (the big hit), swirly Twirly pops in orange, white taffy, blue old-fashioned candy sticks (not so popular), blue and pink gumballs (my favorites), and multi-colored honey sticks (which Audrey picked out herself from the Arizona Honey Man last time we were at the Vincent's Saturday market in Phoenix) all displayed in these great glass jars I found at my local Target (I rationalized the purchase by imagining filling the jars with buttons, ribbons and other sewing notions afterwards).  

I made all the labels (actually, just card stock printed and punched and adhered with double sided tape) with my new favorite tool:  a scalloped oval Giga craft punch.

One of the challenges of pregnancy is that I don't fall asleep as easily at night and so as I laid awake these past weeks I kept thinking of more fun take offs on the Fair theme. Such as the "orange preserves" in these diminutive canning jars. I had the most fun with these--I love seeing the birthday dress fabrics clustered together this way--I wanted to work them in again somewhere.

Then there were the birthday cakes. I couldn't come up with a "theme" idea I really liked for this party and felt capable of pulling off with all the other details I was consumed by (though I love the beehive mold cake and that would have been cute) . So instead of one big themed cake, my sister humored my Fair obsession with a bake-off idea. So we did three cakes: Red Velvet, Lemon Bundt (not a bundt recipe but it works...), and Buttermilk Chocolate (see recipe below if you'd like). I was planning to lay blue ribbons next to each of them but then worried the ribbons might only get a "huh?" from parents, and of course the kids wouldn't have noticed, but now I think it would have been fun to indulge the idea completely. Maybe next time.
As most would have predicted, it was pretty difficult to keep the partygoers away from the candy so we ended up filling the favor bags earlier than expected, but not before most of the Fair Day activities.

It was fun to see the girls in their party wear:  Audrey in her dress (love that this Land's End ruffled blouse worked so nicely with it!) and pink cowboy boots (thank you eBay),...

Scarlett, my little bandana baby,...

 ...and, Kate in the darling dress and ruffled pants (also Portabello Pixie "Claire") her mother made her.

As for the Fair Day activities, when the guests arrived they dropped off gifts and deposited raffle tickets from their invites in a jar for our giveaway. I was a bit tickled to see all the children who arrived with their raffle tickets in hand--most of them.  Rather than an actual raffle with one happy winner and a bunch of sad kids, we drew their names one at a time and let each draw a small prize from a jar (mini paint sets, bracelets, and bouncy balls I found at Zurcher's).

Other Fair Day activities included a bouncy house,...

...lunch with hot dogs, watermelon and kettle corn...

...and of course, the main attraction: pony rides!

It was a big happy gathering of family and friends and on the first sunny day in weeks. Fair indeed!

And too sweet?

Is there really such a thing at four?


RECIPE for Buttermilk Chocolate Cake:

(This recipe is actually a brownie recipe--a really, really yummy one from a friend of mine. They have a cakey texture and I decided to try them as a cake last year for Father's day and it was a big hit. This is a rich, chocolatey, moist cake and I can eat the frosting straight in large spoonfuls--truly addictive! See how to do as cake at the end of the recipe.)

Marnie’s Buttermilk Brownies
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 c. water
  • 4 Tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 c. buttermilk
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
Mix together sugar and flour. In a separate saucepan, bring water, cocoa and butter to a boil. Pour that mixture over the sugar and flour. Mix well. Add eggs, vanilla, buttermilk and baking soda. Pour into a greased and floured pan. Bake for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

  • 6 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 Tbsp. cocoa powder (sifted)
  • 5 Tbsp. canned milk
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla
  • powdered sugar

Boil together the butter, cocoa and canned milk. Remove from heat. Add enough powdered sugar to make it easy to spread. Add vanilla and beat until smooth. Spread on brownies immediately after removing from the oven.

To do as a 2-layered cake: Make a double bath of brownies and fill 2 buttered and floured layer pans (I use 9” pans) about half full. You’ll have some batter left over—could do a third layer or bake as brownies in a 9” square pan. Bake about 40 minutes in a 350-degree oven. Remove and let cool in pans 15 minutes, then flip out on cooling racks. Triple the frosting and use 1 bag of powdered sugar or whatever it takes to make it spreadable. Assemble the layers with a generous amount of frosting in between them and cover cake completely using knife to make decorative swirls.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sewing: Bandana Quilt Tablecloth (Tutorial)

I made this bandana quilt tablecloth for my daughter's birthday party and love how it turned out. I picked orange, pink, light blue and white as those are the colors of the party but I think this would be great in a multitude of combinations, including patriotic red, white and blue.

I made the cloth 5 22" bandanas long by 3 wide--it's plenty generous for my folding plastic table, dining table, and would be good for a standard picnic table.

The first step was assembling the bandanas. I got some 110% cotton 22"x22" bandanas at Tan's Club. They have a great selection of color and are very inexpensive. I found them to be relatively uniform in size too though not exactly square. I washed, dried and ironed mine before beginning to avoid shrinkage and color bleeding later.

Because I was ordering extra for party favors I didn't figure out my pattern of colors before hand, just made sure I had sufficient quantity and ordered the same number of each color.

Before sewing, figure out the pattern of the final tablecloth. It's fun to lay it out and decide if you want a regular or irregular patern. I did bit of both. My pattern was:


Then start the sewing with your short rows (rows of three). Pin the bandanas right sides together aligning the edges and corners where they meet to form a row--so my first row involved sewing the edge of the pink to the blue bandana, and then the edge of the blue bandana to the orange. After sewing, press the seams to one side to keep the work neat.

Once you have your five short rows (of three bandanas each) you can sew these rows together at the long edges to form the tablecloth quilt. I lined my short rows up again to verify that I wanted to proceed with the pattern I had planned--I actually flipped the middle row based on my initial plan because it made the pattern less regular.

To sew these short rows to each other, pin the rows right sides together, aligning the ends/corners and the seams so the seams match as well as possible.

Sew, removing pins as you go. After sewing press the seam allowances to one side.

Because I was using purchased bandanas rather than quilting squares I had cut to an exact 22"x22", there were some irregularities but luckily this was overcome by a bit of stretching and easing as I sewed. If you find, as I did, that one color of bandana is longer in a dimension you can "cheat" this by creating a bigger seam (so for instance, my white bandanas were left a bit wider in the short rows, so they extended out and then I sewed straight seams when putting these short rows together leaving a bigger seam allowance on the white bandanas hidden on the backside of the tablecloth.) Another solution would be to trim all your bandanas to a uniform size before beginning. Either way, I found the bandanas to be more forgiving than I had thought and the quilt came together nicely despite a few sizing discrepancies.

Voila! Would be fun to do some more, but I am likely on to other things on my list.

If you make a Bandana Quilt Tablecloth I would love to see and share your take on this in my Flickr Group here!
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