July 26, 2014

Scrapbook Paper Globe and Bird Mobile

In the months leading up to my due date, I had my heart set on making a mobile for my daughter's nursery.  I knew I wanted to make it with scrapbook paper to get some patterns into the room, and incorporate twigs or branches in some way.  I perused Pinterest to get ideas, and really liked these globe mobiles that cropped up in my search.  I also thought that birds would be a great way to tie the mobile to the rest of the forest theme in the nursery, and if I suspended these from a great branch we'd be in business.  I started making the globes and had them set aside, ready to suspend from a perfect branch I nabbed in the nearby woods one day, and then baby girl's early arrival interrupted things for a while.  Once I resumed the mobile assembly, some of my globes were a bit wonky and more pumpkin-y than I'd intended, but in my new mindset to accept the imperfect, I let it go and in the end, I think it all worked out just fine.  :)


I basically followed the globe instructions from this site.  I made the birds up on my own.  Here are step-by-step pictures for both.

Supplies

  • Scrapbook paper (variety of sheets)
  • Brads (twice the number of globes you want, as each globe will use 2 brads)
  • Tape
  • String
  • Picture-hanging wire
  • Tree branch or bundle of twigs
  • Ceiling hook
Directions

The globes are really straightforward.  Cut 6-10 equal strips of scrapbook paper.  Hole punch each end.  Stack and run a brad through the hole at each end of the stack.  Fasten brad, then fan out scrapbook paper to form a globe.

I varied my scrapbook paper length and width.  This was one of my biggest globes, about 2/3 of a sheet of scrapbook paper cut into 1"-wide strips.  For others, I folded my scrapbook paper in half and made 1/2"-thin strips.  I think the variety is really important!

Hole punch each end.  My hole punch was weak sauce so I could only do a few strips at a time, then stacked them when all punched.

Put a brad through and fasten.  I was really happy to find these brads with the little jewels on them- perfect bit of sparkle to catch baby's attention amid all the patterns!

Now at this point, you can assemble your globe one of two ways.  

Way 1: Here, I fanned out the paper and then fastened, strip by strip, around the other brad.  After trying way 2 (below), I quickly abandoned this approach.  Still, I wanted to share.

Holding and slipping each strip over the brad.  Tedious.

Brad fastened.  The wrong way.  Gah!  Had to take it out and try to carefully slip it back through, sparkly-side-out.


Way 2:  Just put a brad through the punched holes at each end of the stack of paper strips.

Fan out strips to make a globe.  How easy is that!?

However you get to this stage where your globe is globe-y, you may end up with droopy deflated balloon-looking globes.  My secret is to tie a string from one brad to the other, shortening the gap between the top and bottom so you get a globe!


 The birds were fun to make, in my opinion.  They were also a nice way to make use of excess bits of paper.  :)

Start with two equal strips of paper, at least 1" wide.  Arrange with blank sides together.

Tape together at each end.  You actually want the papers nicely lined up- I just shifted them a bit here so you could see I was taping 2 pieces together.

Both ends taped together.

Next, insert a third piece in between your taped pieces- pattern facing up.  This piece will be the same width, but only about 3/4 the length of your other pieces.

Pinch the front of your bird, holding all 3 pieces of paper together.  Tape around the edges to hold at least an inch or so of paper in place where you were pinching.

Taped portion where I had pinched shown to the left.  My bird's beak!  Next, pinch the 3 pieces together at the other end.  Notice that you'll be curving the longer top and bottom pieces to make them meet the shorter middle piece.  This gets your bird shape started.

Tape small bit at opposite end to secure all pieces together.

This part is a little weird to explain.  Manipulate the excess paper so that your curve at the top is toward the front (left side) if your bird, making the head, and the bottom curve is toward the middle of the back, forming the bird's stomach.  Basically, this just means pinching the top 2 pieces of paper together at the middle.  Tape in place.

Side view when taped.

Next up- the wings.  Cut two hill shapes out of scrapbook paper the same width as the rest of your bird.

Arrange over center of bird's back and tape into place.

Fold down gently where wings extend past body.

Poke a small hole with a needle and thread with string to suspend from mobile branch.


When your globes and birds are complete, it's time to arrange on the branch!  For the globes, tie one end of string around top brad with a secure knot (or 2 or 5), then wrap other end of string around branch multiple times and knot in place.  Arrange at different heights.  Hang birds at random as well.

Wrap picture wire around one end of branch, extend to other end of branch and draw out a lot of excess.  Wrap other end of wire around other end of branch.  In the middle, twist wire and loop so it can go over ceiling hook.

Screw ceiling hook into ceiling.  Hang mobile!


5-Ingredient Brownie in a Mug

A few days ago, my husband and I had an especially trying day between the kids, spit up, a crazy vet bill, and Lego mayhem.  By the end of the day, I was begging for wine or chocolate.  Short on wine, I made myself a brownie in a mug.  I've always been wary of these recipes on Pinterest, but I'm happy to report that this one works and tastes great.  It definitely hits the brownie texture instead of just being a cake in a mug, which is a common problem with other recipes.  I also like that this uses butter instead of oil.  End result: delicious.  Treat yourself and enjoy!


Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • Optional: mix ins and toppings, such as peanut butter, nutella, chocolate chips, powdered sugar, nuts, etc.
Directions
  1. Mix flour, sugar, and cocoa powder in a large mug.  Break up clumps.
  2. Add melted butter and milk.  Mix until well incorporated and texture is consistent- few to no lumps.
  3. Microwave 1 minute, and then in 10-second intervals until liquid on top is gone.  If you tilt your mug, nothing should move.  Microwave 10 seconds more after the no-liquid point, and let sit to cool at least 2-3 minutes.
  4. Optional: top with crazy yummy toppings and eat straight from mug.

July 10, 2014

Dresser Makeover: Paint Job and Scrapbook Paper Drawers

Ever since I finished that pesky MBA, my crafting ambitions have been increasingly loftier.  Over the past couple months, my eyes have been on the prize of this dresser makeover.  A hand-me-down from step-in-law-in-laws (my husband's stepbrother's father-in-law's house- seriously), this dresser was the perfect style I wanted and just needed to be spruced to fit in with the rest of the nursery being put together for my early bird daughter.

Before.  It's got good lines and stuff.  Even if my husband doesn't care for Mod furniture.  Price: $0, unless you count the cost of gas to drive a few hours and back to get it from the distant relation by marriage's house.

For comparison, here's a sample of the kinds of dressers I was mooning over via Pinterest.  Cost?  $800 - $3,000.

So my plan was to sand it, paint white, and add scrapbook paper to the sides of the drawers similar to other fun projects I saw on Pinterest where people painted or mod podged drawers in kids' rooms.  I used this site's great advice on painting furniture, and agree that the Zinsser primer is the way to go.  Hubby helped me, and a good thing too, because we finished painting a mere 8 hours before my water broke.  Hah... hah...  I said my daughter was an early bird, right?  I thought I had 4 more weeks to easily wrap up this dresser project.  Instead, she was born the next day and I had to squeeze in my Mod Podge scrapbook paper-ing work in the odd bits of time here and there over the last few weeks.  All's well that ends well, though!

Donezo!
 

So what took place to get this nice result?

Supplies
  • Wood fill, if necessary
  • Mouse sander and paper
  • Medium-grit sandpaper
  • 1 quart Zinsser primer (or any adhesive primer)
  • 1/2 gallon white paint. I used leftover paint already on hand from painting a pantry door- Behr interior semi-gloss.  Aside: I've decided I do in fact hate Behr paint.  It always feels a little bit tacky- like stuff sticks to it, you know?  Doesn't get a nice finish like other brands.  Same is true for walls I've painted with Behr.
  • Paint brushes, trays, etc. (use a roller or not as you prefer; I didn't like the roller look so used brushes all over this project)
  • Medium jar glossy Mod Podge
  • Optional: foam roller to apply Mod Podge, but a paint brush works fine as well
  • Scrapbook paper (at least 2 sheets for each drawer; I recommend a different pattern for each drawer instead of doing all of the drawers in one pattern)
  • Scissors
Directions
  1. Fill any gouges, nail holes, etc. with wood fill as needed.  Allow to dry and sand.
  2. Sand dresser body and drawer fronts with mouse sander (like our Black & Decker one).  Our dresser had a bit of a laminate finish, so we opted for this more aggressive sanding than just a light once-over with sandpaper.
  3. Sand details, such as handles, thin arches, feet, etc. with small square of sandpaper.
  4. Wipe down/brush off entire dresser, including insides, to remove dust from sanding.  All it takes is one sneeze into that dust once you've started painting to make you unleash a torrent of swear words on your project, so just save yourself the anger.
  5. Apply a light coat of primer all over.  DO prime and paint sides of drawers that will not be covered by scrapbook paper, such as drawer fronts where they attach to drawer bodies.  Look at my "after" pic on the right and you'll see where hubby and I said "we don't need to paint that part, right?  Right..." and turns out we should have.  Oh well.  Mine isn't the pristine style; it's a bit of shabby chic I guess, so this was fine by me.  My younger, more OCD self would not have allowed for such tomfoolery.
  6. Paint with 2 or 3 coats paint.
  7. Cut scrapbook paper to size for drawer sides.  Now, note that you do NOT have to cover the entire drawer side in scrapbook paper.  My drawers were wider than the large square sheets of paper, but I didn't mess with trying to perfectly cover the entire side.  You only have to cover as much of the drawer as you see when you pull it out to grab clothes.  You don't pull the drawer out all the way, so you don't need to cover the sides all the way.  Save yourself a headache and some paper. :)
  8. Brush Mod Podge on drawer sides.  Carefully lay paper onto drawer sides, starting at one edge and slowly smoothing down paper bit-by-bit.  Let dry.  Brush on top layer of Mod Podge on scrapbook paper.  I learned AFTER the fact that if you apply the Mod Podge on top while your "under" layer (attaching the paper to the furniture) is still wet, this is why you get wrinkles and bubbles.  This explains why my first drawer (my test one, where I was meticulous and waited for each step to dry) was nice and smooth and my other drawers (where I was falsely confident that I knew what I was doing) were bubbled.  Humpf.  Well, if you're in for a penny with non-perfect styling, in for a pound.
  9. Put drawers back into dresser and grin like a fool over your DIY furniture makeover!
My sanding servant, I mean, helper.

See, we sanded down a good bit to get that laminate texture off.

Our mouse sander put to good use!

Primer applied.  I still stand by my assertion that you don't need a thick coat of primer.  I did the right side.

The frugal partner's thin coat.

The spender's thick coat.  Also: side-to-side paint strokes.  What?!?

Painted.  Looks great!

I see nothing superior about this side that was so generously primed...  ;)

Ok, now we're on to the scrapbook paper stage!  Note that the paper doesn't cover the entire side because this is just a cute peek-a-boo when you open the drawers.  Also note the edge that we decided not to paint, and should have.  Currently on the "touch up" list.

Remember what I said about bubbles?  Ugh!  So beautiful on the other drawer, and so bubbly here.

But hey, it looks pretty great in the end, so count me happy!

June 23, 2014

One-Pot Pasta with Shrimp

I should probably just sign up for a daily Martha Stewart recipe or something by now, because I seriously love pretty much every recipe I've tried from this woman's domestic machine.  The most recent of these is a one-pan pasta dish, which I only modified a bit.

What an appetizing bowl of pasta to serve up for the family!

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces linguine
  • 12 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered if large
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced (about 2 cups' worth)
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (I used a little less because I worry about heat, but could have easily done the full 1/2 teaspoon or more)
  • 2 sprigs basil, plus torn leaves for topping
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, plus more to taste
  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 to 1 pound shrimp, peeled and tails removed (I actually used pre-cooked shrimp)
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving (I actually skipped this, and liked it better just with olive oil)
Directions
  1. Place all ingredients except for shrimp and Parmesan cheese in a large straight-sided skillet or pot.  I used a pot because I was not confident that all of this would fit in my largest pan.  Bring to a boil and toss with tongs occasionally.  Boil 9 minutes, or until pasta is al dente and water is almost all evaporated.  Add shrimp to pot the last minute of cooking time and cook until just pink and beginning to curl.  Do not overcook.
  2. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Garnish with torn basil, drizzle of olive oil, and Parmesan cheese.
Seriously, how easy is that?!?  Some chopping and 15 minutes to boil/cook everything, and you have a pretty impressive dinner to dish out.  Perfect for a weeknight meal.

Everything all situated in my stock pot.

Bubble bubble!  This is the last minute when I tossed in my shrimp.

June 22, 2014

Summer-Themed Thank You Gift

For the last month or so I've been prepping for my maternity leave, delegating different tasks at work, creating all sorts of fun documents and spreadsheets- exciting things.  One part of that that I was actually excited about, though, was putting together little thank you gifts for my coworkers who were picking up most of my tasks for me.  I had a summer baby, so I was definitely thinking of summery things that would be appreciated as part of a thank you gift.  Nail polish, buff blocks, iced coffee mix, and coffee gift cards in large cups with straws seemed like a great mix!  Sure enough, my friends really loved the treats and the gesture.  It's a good thing I was so excited about this, because sure enough little baby girl was born just a few days after I handed out these goodies!

Gift as given to each coworker.

Close up of the tag.  I just nabbed a pic from Google and typed over it. :)

All the goodies spread out.  I got Panera and Dunkin Donuts gift cards depending on what I knew their preferences to be.

Mini Key Lime Cakes

The blessing and curse of Tastefully Simple is that you know just how good the food tastes, and you want to make all of these special treats, and just have to wait patiently for the right occasion to make them.  This was true of the key lime cheese ball mix I'd bought nearly a year ago.  One of the recommended ways to make it was to use it as a topping on Tastefully Simple's almond pound cake, which sounded delicious.  I wanted to make that little treat for a retirement party for one of my employees, but I didn't want to spend an hour prepping individual servings.  My edit was to serve up the different components and let everyone build their own little key lime cake, which worked out wonderfully.

Ingredients
  • Key Lime Cheese Ball mix from Tastefully Simple
  • Almond Pound Cake mix from Tastefully Simple
  • 2 cups or more strawberries, sliced

Directions

  1. Prepare cheese ball and cake according to package directions.  Place cheese ball in center of serving platter.
  2. Cut cake into cubes, size depending on number of servings you want to have--bigger cubes for a dozen people; bite-size cubes to serve 40 as I did.  Arrange on platter.
  3. Slice strawberries and serve with other ingredients.
I recommend writing up a little set of instructions to go with your components so you aren't forever explaining to your guests how they can serve themselves, and what the ingredients are.  A little chalkboard would be perfect for this!  I didn't think of it until I was at work, so I just printed out a little sign that I placed next to the serving platter.

All prepped!  Pound cake in 3 of the serving dishes and strawberries in the fourth, with the cheese ball in the middle.

End of the buffet line!