Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Party: Dinosaur Birthday Party for Girls and Boys

We had such a good time at Audrey's dinosaur birthday party! While I've loved hosting parties for my girls at our home, doing one "on location" definitely has advantages! Our local Natural History Museum put together a fabulous couple hours of entertainment and it would have been possible to compete with their collection of dinosaur bones! Going there allowed me to pick a few things I wanted to do purely for fun instead of trying to do it all (it's taken me a while but I'm learning...).

So, I picked the invitations (also a free download for you), some party outfits for Audrey and Scarlett, favor/treat bags, and of course, the birthday cake.

Instead of a party dress, I made Audrey an appliqued dinosaur t-shirt and some striped bloomer shorts (from a pattern of my own design). More of that IKEA striped fabric here. I love it!

Scarlett got a pair of capri length bloomers out of some great, colorful star printed fabric I found a couple weeks ago at Joann (it's made exclusively for Joann). It reminded me of the birthday invitation and for some reason I've had a craving lately for bold patterns. She also had the honor of wearing a dinosaur necklace (a longer version of the bracelets we made) since she didn't get a dino t-shirt.

At the party, thanks to the museum, the kids were able to saw, chisel and brush away stone and dirt to unearth plastic dinosaurs, which they were then able to identify or name if it was an unnamed species (we had the "Audreyosaurus")...

...go on a tour of some dinosaur skeleton exhibits with the museum hosts,...

...learn about fossils and make a "fossil" out of plaster to take home,...

...dig for plastic eggs filled with "dinosaur bones"...

...and make some other dinosaur arts and crafts. All of this would be possible to do at home, but it was pretty great to show up and have someone take care of it all! Plus I loved the educational angle and the opportunity to support our local museum.

The birthday cake was dino too. I was toying with a few ideas but when I found these dinosaur skeletons I had to use them! I love the dinosaur parade on top! The cake is a Martha Stewart recipe, one of my three favorite buttermilk chocolate cake recipes, with a chocolate ganache filling and my own recipe for buttercream frosting. (It's the same frosting I used on this cake, but instead of the lemon flavoring I used almond--yum! Although Audrey later told me she doesn't actually like almond flavoring--whoops! Who knew?)

I tried to tint the frosting to match Audrey's aqua t-shirt, which is also one of the colors on the invitation, and because I thought it was one of the colors that would work with the dinosaur "bones" on top. My sister-in-law did me the huge favor of having these gummy stars delivered to my doorstep a few days before the party and saved me the time hunting around. Then it was just a matter of using a star tip and forming little stars all over the cake. Very similar to this cake. I love this old-fashioned look. There is no mistaking this was made by mom!

The guests each received a hand-stenciled cotton muslin dinosaur treat bag as they left and the bags seemed to be a hit! The museum has some little dino things in a cello gift bag, which I tucked inside our cotton bags to go along with the skeletons and bracelets we'd supplied. I love the idea of having the birthday girl help make the favors as Audrey did this year. Maybe that will be our plan from here on out.

One young guest was afraid hers didn't contain a dinosaur bracelet and was so excited to put it on when I lifted it from the bag--I thought, "hooray!" They liked them!

I couldn't stop smiling on our way home. Audrey thought it was a great party too!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Review: Hand in Hand--Crafting with Kids (Book Giveaway--CLOSED)

When I received an email about Jenny Doh's new book, Hand in Hand, published by Lark Crafts, I was certainly interested. The subhead, "Crafting with Kids,"  is a topic that is becoming more and more important to me as my children grow. But it was the bubble on the cover that made me want to get my hands on it right away: "20 Top Bloggers and Favorite Projects"! I couldn't wait to see whom was included and what they'd come up with.

This beautiful book arrived yesterday. I don't say "beautiful" just because it is lovely in it's design and production (I love the raised letters and polka dots on the cover for instance), but also because the ideas expressed are so beautiful to me. What is more beautiful than an afternoon spent teaching a child to create, to be creative, to express his or her own unique vision? I don't do it enough, and the stories from these talented women--inspired mothers--inspire me to do better. Not only is this a book of tutorials for fun crafts to do as a family, it is a collection of unique perspectives on the drive to create, the joy of involving children in creativity, and approaches to balancing motherhood and art.

I've had fun learning more about some of the women I know via their blogs and learning about others I hadn't "met" before the book arrived. (Check out this preview and free project on Lark Craft's blog here.) I showed the book to my girls to see what projects they were most interested in (Audrey picked the Papier-Mache Animal Masks). And I can't stop thinking about when we might make these great Painted Paper Lampshades (and perhaps hang them outdoors for a party!?)

This was the perfect book for me to read as I'm scrambling to wrap up the school year and plan the appropriate combination of summer activities. I am going to make sure we have plenty of unstructured time for making things together. Which means saying "no" to some things for me and some for them (I have a tendency to over-commit.) Because whenever we do make something together it is immensely more satisfying than whatever else I had on my list that day. Does it go that way for you too?

Would you like to get your hands on a copy of Hand in Hand? I have one to give away thanks to Lark Crafts!

To enter please leave me a comment below (multiple entries possible):
  1. Tell me how you build into your schedule some creativity with your children and/or what sort of projects you enjoy creating most with your kids. What works?
  2. Like Lark Crafts on Facebook (here) and let me know.
  3. Follow Lark Crafts on Twitter (here) and let me know.
  4. Follow/Subscribe to AestheticNest and let me know.
  5. Like Aesthetic Nest on Facebook (here) and let me know.
This giveaway is open for entries until midnight, Thursday, May 31st. Good luck! (GIVEAWAY CLOSED)

    Monday, May 21, 2012

    FYI: Posting for Vintage May Today

    Jessica of Craftiness is not Optional is hosting a great sewing series called Vintage May. She and Skirt as Top have a bunch of talented bloggers sharing their vintage-inspired creations and today I am sharing one of mine. Check out my Mod Shift Dress and a tutorial to make one of your own. You can find the post here. Are you as crazy about vintage patterns as I am? After thinking about and sewing for this series I just want to keep on sewing with them!

    Thursday, May 17, 2012

    Craft: Dinosaur Treat Bags

    I am making a few goodies for Audrey's dinosaur party. Though I love doing the big party tablescape, it's fun to focus on just a few things for this one and let our local museum do the rest. So I am making dinosaur treat bags as party favors.

    I ordered these 8"x10" cotton muslin bags and stenciled on some red t-rex skulls. I don't have a lot of experience transferring or stenciling. I probably stenciled a few times years and years ago. And I know there are great new tools for automating much of this. But, since I don't do a lot of it, this low-tech approach seemed just fine. 

    I cut out a t-rex skull using the same template I designed for the t-shirt applique and sprayed the back side with some Easy-Tack hoping to bond the edges to the fabric enough to stop the paint from bleeding. It worked thank goodness! I cut out a circle for the eye and an oval for the nostril and sprayed those to stick too. Then I used Martha Stewart Crafts paint in Habanero and painted away with a small clipboard inside the bag to keep the paint from bleeding through to the back side of the bag. I let the bags dry with some paper inserted between the fabric layers and then ironed them with a blotting cloth when they were completely dry.

    And for the goodies inside? I've got some dinosaur "skeletons" (love these! they are flexible and would be fun to bury for a digging game) and dinosaur bracelets. The museum hosts are going to add a few other small dinosaur things too.

    Audrey helped me make the bracelets for her friends and we made a necklace for her to wear to the party. We used these dinosaur beads and some star beads I bought at Michael's.

    Bright and fun!

    We're almost ready for the party!

    Monday, May 14, 2012

    Sewing: Capes and Crowns

    I have heard friends talk of the craziness of May with all of its end-of-school-year activities but I haven't experienced it myself until now. We've got art gallery exhibits to hang and view, a kindergarten opera to costume and a birthday party in the midst of it, on top of the regular busy routine. So I've had to prioritize according to deadline and crank out some sewing. The past 24 hours have been about capes and crowns!

    These striped crowns and polka-dot capes are to costume the boys in the kindergarten class for an opera they've written based on the book, Miss Mouse's Day. It has such cute, colorful illustrations with lots of bold patterns. I remembered the polka dot fleece at Joann from my fleece hunt for no-sew blankets and I had some IKEA striped fabric on hand I thought would be perfect with the polka dots. Such a lucky break because I really didn't have time to go to the fabric store!

    To make the crowns I used the Juicy Bits template I have used in the past to make birthday crowns but simplified. I sandwiched together the striped fabric and some felt using Heat n Bond and then top-stitched around the edges. Then I stitched on a piece of elastic. Simple but bold. I'm excited to think what the boys think. Who doesn't love to wear a crown?

    I'm sure there are lots of great tutorials online for making capes but I was too busy to look for one! One of my faults--I bulldoze into something instead of taking the time to do a bit of research that could potentially shorten my production time. But it worked. This is a super-hero style cape, off-the-shoulders, rather than a magician style full cape with collar. I just cut a shape that is shoulder width at the top and flares out to the bottom and hits a kindergarten child about mid-calf. Then I sewed a 4 inch tab on one side of the top edge of the cape and attached some squares of velcro to the tab and then other edge of the cape.  Seemed the easiest solution to get the capes on and off do-it-yourself style and hopefully it will hold up in the production. It's my first time at this kindergarten rodeo.

    My real fear is that Audrey will be sorely disappointed that she doesn't get to wear the capes and crowns. Maybe I should have volunteered to do the tutus...

    Thursday, May 10, 2012

    Sewing: Dinosaur Applique T-Shirt (Template)

    If you've read any of my birthday party posts, you know how I love to make an outfit to go with the party. So of course something "dinosaur" is in order for Audrey's. Typically I make dresse,s but not for this one. It demands something casual, don't you think? Although a dinosaur dress sounds like a nice challenge... Anyway, I've landed on a dinosaur appliqued t-shirt to go with some shorts, which are in the works.
    I used a square of IKEA striped fabric (the same that inspired the stripes on the dinosaur invitation) and used Heat n Bond to adhere the t-rex skull and stars, which I then stitched, leaving a small raw edge. Then I used Heat n Bond again to adhere the whole square to the t-shirt before stitching the edges. A bit pain-staking but pretty fun results! Audrey can't wait to wear it.

    If you'd like to make a dinosaur appliqued t-shirt, or use this design to create a stencil you can download the free template here.

    Wednesday, May 9, 2012

    Sewing: Dog Skirt with Piped Pocket (Tutorial)

    For Audrey's birthday I made her a present of a skirt with dogs. A skirt with dogs and a piped waistband and a piped pocket. A skirt with dogs and a piped waistband and a piped pocket and a full white lining.

    It's 88 inches of this beautiful Heather Ross Lightning Bugs Dogs on Blue fabric and I love it. It has that 1950s shape to it: tight waist and then lots of fullness. I've decided when it comes to little girls a bit of elastic is essential so it has a gathered back waistband. And I think the piping adds the right amount of punch.

    Audrey saw this skirt from Mini Boden and liked it, which is unusual because she usually doesn't pick out skirts, at least not for every day wear. The dogs were certainly it. Of course it's always more fun for me to sew her something than buy her something (and usually a bit more economical though probably not in this case!) so I went searching Etsy for fabric. This Heather Ross couldn't be any more perfect. So of course it's rare and surprisingly pricey. I guess I'm a bit late to theHTF (hard-to-find) Heather Ross phenomenon...

    A dog skirt for a dog lover. I hope she loves it. It will only be so long before I have to give in to a real dog. Sticking with skirts would be so much easier.

    If you'd like to add a piped pocket to a skirt, or pants or shirt I've got a tutorial for you. Click through to read more.

    Thursday, May 3, 2012

    Invite: Dinosaur Birthday Party Invitation (Free Printable)

    Speaking of's about time for Audrey's. And this year we've settled on a dinosaur party! My daughter is definitely her own girl. I'm taking a more scaled down approach this year (last year's party was quite the opposite) but am as excited as ever about the invitations. As I've said before, it seems the latest is always my favorite...

    I really didn't want to go the scary route with the dinos and I always love color so I picked an IKEA striped fabric (I've got plans for it too) for inspiration and went with stripes and stars with the tyrannosauras rex as the real star. I love all these colors together! They are so summery and energetic. And I hope appropriate for both the girls and the boys we are inviting. What do you think? Generic enough?

    My favorite part is the envelope! I think I could stare at it for a while. I don't know what it is but the colors and patterns just make me smile. I've always been a sucker for pretty packages!

    I've created a customizable version in PDF for you. Any dinosaur party plans in your future?  There's an invitation, envelope, thank you card, and another envelope set up so you can print the whole batch double-sided. You can of course just print a few of the pages, and single-sided if you prefer. You'll need the latest version of Adobe Reader to type your information into the form fields and save the file. Then print at your local print shop on bright, white cardstock (I had my shop scale the images to fit the letter-sized paper which reduced the margins a bit and resulted in a slightly larger card and envelope--nice!), cut out and assemble and mail.

    Download the Dinosaur Birthday Party Invitation here.

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