Monday, April 30, 2012

MineCraft Cake Fit for a Ten-Year Old

April is a cake month around here. 

Miss M has her birthday in early April, and Genius Pants has his at the end.  Of course, with each Birthday, there must be a small family celebration on the actual day, followed by a birthday party on the next available weekend.

Are you counting?  Because, that's like, Four Cakes, already...

Adding to that, Miss M also requires that a slew of cupcakes accompany her to school on her actual day.

That makes five cakes.  At LEAST.

FIVE cakes.

Yesterday afternoon, I made the fifth cake of the month - a very simple cake for a simple gathering of our closest friends, just as the boy, himself requested.  It's my absolute favorite chocolate cake, and is  a one bowl, one spoon affair.  Crazy simple. 

The original recipe is specifically for a single layer, to be dusted with confectioner's sugar (which I often make for a quick after-dinner-need-some-chocolate sort of thing). 

This cake is also VEGAN.  No kidding.  you would never in a million years know from the dense, chocolate-y goodness.  Next time you need a chocolate fix, I PROMISE this will do 'ya. 

Or, you can do as I did last week, and double the recipe and make this Minecraft Cake for your ten year old's small, family gathering.


He ever-so-adorably showed me what the "Cake" in Minecraft looks like (who knew?!?!), but honestly, it would have required fondant to best emulate the pixelated squares.  I'm not a huge fan of fondant, so I decided to make him a Minecraft Dirt Block Cake instead. 

He was cool with that.

So, I'm planning this cake in my head, thinking I'll crush chocolate creme-filled cookies for the dirt, and maybe crushed vanilla wafers with green food coloring for the grass on top...

In the end, I had to make a quick run to the dollar store for something.... Imagine my surprise when the very first thing I see as I walk in was a 12" x 12' square of green, plastic turf.


Well, Well, Well.  That oughta do it.

SO-- I made the Minecraft Cake with the Vegan Chocolate Cake recipe, Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate, Chocolate Frosting*, crushed Chocolate Creme-Filled Cookies for the "Dirt", crushed and green food-colored Vanilla Wafers for the grass and.... a piece of that Green Plastic Turf square from the dollar store.   

NOTE:  I DID separate the plastic turf and the cake with a piece of wax paper, and I washed the plastic with dish soap and water beforehand.  It's entirely possible we will all die of some sort of horrific plastic poisoning, but it was totally worth it.

Underneath the plastic grass, it STILL looked like a Dirt Block.
And those crushed cookies were totally edible, if slightly gritty. 
C'MON! It's a DIRT BLOCK CAKE! Just bringing the realism!

He liked it, anway.

So did She.

There was also Home Made Pizza, per his request....

And at the end of the day, my sink looked like this.

THIS is Andy--- The Culprit behind THE GREAT MAGAZINE MASSACRE.

I just thought I'd include a picture of my mangy, gangly, 6 month-old  shelter mutt for your viewing pleasure. 

He's still in trouble.

Nah.  I'm just kidding.  He's totally not.

*see the bottom of the linked recipe... or look at the back of your Hershey's Cocoa container.  It's always there.  AND, it really is the best and the easiest, I think.  I don't even melt the butter.  I usually just beat it all together in my butterfly-bedecked Kitchen Mixer.  Totally works.

Monday, April 23, 2012

What Happened, Here, Exactly?

Without getting into the whole dog thing again (not just Jack gone now, but my sweet Wally as well)....let's just fast forward to the present, shall we?

I have a puppy. A 6-month old puppy from the Shelter, whom we brought home quite literally the very day after we lost our Wally-Dog. I just couldn't bear not having a dog in the house.

Andy is very sweet.

Although, he does have mange (and THAT is an entire blog's worth of problems, right there, let me tell you...).

Skipping ahead, skipping ahead....

Andy has separation anxiety. There is a lot more to the story, but as I mentioned... We're skipping ahead...

I came back to this after a fifteen minute jaunt to the local El Pollo Loco drive-thru:

My joke on Facebook was that maybe it wasn't so much separation anxiety as a hatred for technology:

He massacred my brand-new, still in the wrapper "Wired" Magazine.

I was pretty shocked and amazed, and almost couldn't be angry.


I mean, I giggled a little.

But I was still kinda mad.

And then I decided I HAD to leave the mess where it was, just to see the look on my husband's face when he came home.

I even grabbed my phone when I heard him pull in.

Here, he is both in shock and laughing.

He asks the dog what happened. Dog appears to know nothing about it.

And here, I do believe he's gone speechless.

The Great Magazine Massacre.


(I might also point out that my house is not painted mustard yellow on the inside.  It's a very nice, muted, shade of green.)

Amigurumi Turtle Pattern

When Miss M said she wanted a little Amigurumi Turtle yesterday afternoon, it made me think.... WHERE did my yarn go??? It had been awhile since I crocheted anything (like, a whole week or so), and I could.not.remember where the yarn was.

Oh yes.

In the new storage ottoman.  Out of sight, out of mind.  Silly Mommy.

Yarn problem sorted, I started making tiny little hexagons for his shell, but soon abandoned that idea and went with a simple, one-piece bobble construction. MUCH easier. You'll appreciate that as well. Trust me. 

Oh!  If anyone tries this and has a pattern question or a comment or it just simply doesn't work the way it's supposed to, Please let me know. I'll make it right. 

Oh! OH!  And furthermore... If you make one or two or 16.... I'd love to see pictures! 


(c) 2012 by Julianna McDuffie
Feel free to make and give. Not to sell, sugar. Thank you!

-Worsted Weight yarn in two (or more!) colors of your choosing
-Amigurumi eyes or beads or felt or French knots for eyes
-Black thread for smile and stitching eyes
-Polyfill for stuffing (or stuff with thread ends and pieces, if you prefer)
-US Size E Crochet Hook (or smaller/larger depending upon how tightly you crochet)
-Needle for stitching

-SC, Single Crochet
-HDC, Half-Double Crochet
-DC Bobble Stitch: *YO, insert hook in next stitch and pull up a loop. YO, pull through one loop (three loops left on hook). YO, pull through two loops (two loops left on hook). Leave loops on hook. Repeat * four more times, leaving the last loop of each stitch on the hook, until you have six loops left on the hook. YO once more, and pull through all loops. Bobble stitch completed.
-BLO (Back Loops Only)
-HDC BLO Invisible Decrease: YO. Insert hook in BLO of next stitch. Do not YO. Do not complete the stitch. Insert hook into next stitch (again). Pull through two loops (both BLO stitches on the hook). YO, pull through all loops. Be careful here! When making a BLO Invisible Decrease, make sure you are inserting your hook into the NEXT stitch and not into one of the two you've already decreased. When completed, the Invisible Decrease looks like it was done in the first stitch/loop that you pulled through at the beginning of the stitch, and it's easy to think that the second of the pulled through stitches in your last decrease is the starting point for your next decrease. It's not. In my head, I always say "skip". 'Cause it LOOKS like that.
-SC BLO Invisible Decrease: Insert hook in BLO of next stitch. Do Not YO. Do not complete the stitch. Insert hook in the next stitch (again). Pull through two loops (both BLO stitches on the hook). YO, pull through all loops. You may note the crazy similarity to the HDC BLO Invisible DecreaseYou are so very clever.


TURTLE SHELL (Work with Color One)
ROUND 1: Ch 2 (counts as first HDC). 9 HDC in second Ch from hook (the first Ch you made). Join in top of first HDC. Tighten the ring by pulling the tail end tightly. (10 stitches)

ROUND 2: Ch 2 (counts as first HDC). 2 HDC in same stitch. DC Bobble stitch in next. *3 HDC in next. DC Bobble stitch in next.* Join in top of first HDC. (20 stitches, including 5 Bobbles)

Round 3: Ch 2 (counts as first HDC). HDC in same stitch. DC Bobble in next. *2 HDC in next. DC Bobble.* around. join to top of first HDC. (30 stitches, including 10 Bobbles)

ROUND 4: Ch 2 (counts as first SC). SC around. Join in top of first SC. End first color. Tie off and weave in ends. Alternately, you can just leave the last tail from the shell and weave it into the next row as you go. That's what I do. But you still need to weave in the first tail from Round 1.) (30 stitches)

BELLY (work with Color Two)
ROUND 1: Join Color 2 to BLO of first stitch in last round of shell. If weaving tails in as you go, be sure to carry both the Color 1 and the Color 2 join tails for at least 5-10 stitches as you embed them.. Ch 2 (counts as first HDC). HDC BLO Invisible Decrease around. Join to top loop of first HDC. (16 stitches)

ROUND 2: Ch 2 (counts as first Sc). SC BLO Invisible Decrease around. STUFF BEFORE JOINING to top loop of first Sc. (8 stitches)

ROUND 3: Ch 2 (counts as first Sc). SC BLO Invisible Decrease around. Join to top of first Sc. (4 stitches). Tie off. Weave in ends. NOTE... If you aren't quite closed enough at this point, you can just close the hole a little further with your needle as you weave in the end.

LEGS (Make four, using Color 2... Or, HEY! Get nuts. Make this with a totally NEW Color!)
Option ONE: Make four legs separately and sew them on to the body:
ROUND 1: Make a Magic ring with 6 HDCs.
ROUND 2: Ch 2, HDC around.
ROUND 3: Ch 2, HDC around.
Sew leg to body. Repeat for three more legs.

Option TWO (my way, although its probably more difficult...) Pick up stitches and crochet directly to the body:
ROUND 1: Pick up a stitch on the body where you would like your leg to begin. I start along the division between my color change. I also weave in the tail of the joined color as I go. Ch 2, HDC in same stitch. YO and Pick up another stitch next to the first. HDC 2 x in same stitch. YO and Pick up a third stitch, completing a triangular angle to the first two. HDC 2 x in same stitch. Join to top of first HDC. (6 stitches)

ROUND 2: Ch 2 (counts as first HDC). HDC around. Join to top of first HDC. Slip Stitch into the HCD directly opposite of your hook to close the leg. Should be the second or third HDC from round 2. It's not a precise thing. No worries. Tie off and weave in ends.

Repeat for three more legs.

ROUND 1: Make a magic ring with only three Chains. Ch 2 (counts as first HDC). HDC 5 times into the ring. Join to top loop of first HDC.

ROUND 2: Ch 2 (counts as first HDC). HDC in same stitch. 2 HDC in each stitch around. (12 stitches)

ROUNDS 3&4: Ch 2 (counts as first HDC). HDC around. (12 stitches).

STUFF Head at this point.

ROUND 5: Ch2 (counts as first HDC). HDC BLO invisible Decrease, *HDC, HDC BLO Invisible Decrease* around. Join at top of first HDC. (8 stitches)

ROUNDS 6&7: Ch 2 (counts as first HDC). HDC around. Join at top of first HDC. (8 stitches)

Tie off, leaving a long tail. Sew neck to body with the yarn tail: Flatten and place the base of the neck along the line where the shell meets the belly. Sew neck to body at the base of the neck, then place a few stitches a little higher on the neck, sewing the neck to the shell so he can hold his 'lil head up. Weave in ends.

Pick up a stitch where the tail should be. Join Color 2 to picked up stitch and Ch 2. YO and pick up a second stitch right next to the first. HDC. YO and pick up a third stitch at a triangular angle to the first two. HDC. Ch 2. Tie off. Weave in ends.

Give 'em some eyes! Stitch on a droll little mouth! Happy Turtle!

Miss M's Newest Friend

Here is an Amigurumi Turtle reading the Financials.

That is all.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Seed Packet Birthday Party Invitation Tutorial

Huh. Seems that my original post has disappeared into the nether regions of the interwebs.  Let's try this again, shall we?

For Miss M's fantabulous Garden Birthday party, there was one very logical invitation choice. 


A Seed Packet.

While I did find a template for seed packets online, it was really too small to work with.  So, in the end, I found a seed packet I liked ("Giant Cactus, Mixed Colors" Zinnias suit Miss M hilariously well, with key words being "Cactus" -- she's a little prickly-- and "Mixed Colors" -- she's nearly always a riot of colors and stripes and plaids and animal prints and sparkly peace signs and flowers and butterflies, all in one outfit), carefully opened it up, ran it through the scanner, and Photoshopped it into what you see here.  I left some of the original text, made some text more personal and enlarged it a bit.

I was able to lay them out two-up (that's two per page, for those not in the printing business).  Once I got all the fiddly bits cut out....

...The next step was to score the fold lines.  A straight edge/ruler works well here, as does the back of a butter knife.  I once saw this fancy-dancy bone-folder in a Martha Stewart magazine with a suggested price of $$$WayTooMuch.ForThisGirl and laughed my pants off.  The back of a knife TOTALLY works, y'all.)

In this image, you can see the order in which the gluing happens... Glue Here on flap One, fold over Flap 2, to meet Flap one, then apply glue to Flap 3, and Fold over the Flap 2.  Flap 3 IS visible on the outside of the packet, as it's the "Best Used By" date on the seed packet.  For Miss M's party, I changed that Date to the actual date of the party.  I'm so clevah.

It's well worth noting that Flap 4 does NOT get glued.  Otherwise, it would be a little difficult to instert the actual invitation card, which looked like THIS:

This image was also taken from the original seed packet, but I adjusted the transparency a little to better see the text. 

And that's all she wrote.  The photoshopping is the most difficult part of this whole thing, but if you are at all proficient in the basics, you should be able to make this happen, no problem.

Would love to see anything you guys come up with. 

There are some really pretty seed packets out there on the market.....


Paper Plate Birdie Bunting with Coffee Filter Flowers

Miss M wanted a Garden Themed Birthday Party this year.... and for some strange reason, I decided to make all the decorations out of coffee filters and paper plates. 
Seriously, don't ask me why.  I suppose I needed a challenge.  Maybe I was bored.  I have no idea.
But in the end, I spent a day or so playing with paper plates and coffee filters - and, come to think of it, cupcake liners as well - finally settling on a few designs that I could use to make bunting, decorations and treat bags. 

I ended up with Paper Plate Birdie Bunting, Coffee Filter Flowers, Paper Plate Spirals and a Giant Coffee Filter Flower/Disco Ball Hanging Centerpiece.  I think it cost me $2 at the Dollar Store.


We also had several crafts for the five-year-old girls who came to the party:  Paper Plate Hats with Coffee Filter Flowers that the girls decorated, and Coffee Filter Butterflies.

To make the PAPER PLATE BIRDIES, for Bunting or just for fun:

You'll need:
- Paper Plates (2 per Bird)
- Scissors
- Glue or Clue Stick, depending upon your level of patience (mine is ZERO)
- Stapler & Staples
- A few paper clips or clothespins (I switched to clothespins halfway through)
- Twine/string/crochet thread for stringing
-aaaand... A half empty cup of coffee if you want to get all technical about it.

1.  Paper Plates.  Two of 'em.
2.  Fold BOTH plates in half. One plate will become the TAIL, BEAK & WINGS.  The other Plate will become the BODY. Set the Body aside for now.
3.  TAIL:  Cut the Rim off of ONE plate.  Fold the cut-off rim into fourths and cut into four pieces. 
4.  Staple three of the rim pieces together to form the tail.    BEAK:  Cut a triangular beak out of the extra piece of rim.  WINGS Working with the left-over (middle) portion of the cut plate, cut along the fold ALMOST to the edge.  I left about a millimeter or so, just to keep it together.

5.  Apply glue to the wings as shown (in red). 
6. Attach the WINGS to the BODY (the second, un-cut plate) close to where you want the head to be.  I attach the wings so that the edge hits just between the ridge and the flat portion of the body plate... I realize that got cut off a bit in the picture... see the completed bird (below) for a better view.  Let the tips of the wings droop down a little as you glue on the wings. 

IF STRINGING FOR BUNTING:  Now is the time to slide the string into the folded plate.  Be careful when gluing the beak and the tail  in steps 7 & 8 that the string slides freely through the body.

7.  Apply glue to front and back of tail near the staples.  Glue the TAIL to the inside of the folded BODY, opposite to the end where you've attached the wings.  Hold the join with a clothespin or paper clip until the glue dries.  
8.  Apply glue to both sides of the the beak (the non-pointy end). Glue the BEAK to the inside of the body plate.  Hold with a clothespin or paper clip until the glue dries.

Completed Bird.

1.  Lay out four or five filters as shown.
2. Make an "OK" sign with your non-dominant hand (a circle with your thumb and forefinger).  With your other hand, pinch one filter in the middle of the flat, circular part, and pull it through your "OK" sign, crumpling the filter into what will be the petals. 
3. Repeat with all four or five filters.
4.  Hold the pinched end of one filter.....

5.  ....and add another petal...
6.  ..... and another....
7. ...and another....
8. ... until you have formed a flower.  Don't make these too neat... the beauty here is in the asymmetry.

9.  Holding all of the petals together, fold the points over the bunting string.
10.  Staple the flower to the bunting string, being careful to allow the string to move freely.  Try not to staple the flower directly to the string, or it will be more difficult to adjust later.

 Alternate Birds and Flowers on a long string for Crazy Cheap (and really pretty) Party Bunting!

Add a giant coffee filter flower ball and petals-on-a-string for the
hanging coffee filter disco-ball effect!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Miss M turns 5....

Yes, yes, I know... I really need to get those pebbles from the Do Art Daily Show on the beach. 


But, in the meantime... this happened. 

Miss M turned FIVE.

I do not understand how that is at all possible, and yet.... there were cupcakes and presents and friends and a party to prove it. 

I even challenged myself to come up with party decorations and activities made entirely of paper plates and coffee filters.


I have no idea, but I'm blaming Pinterest.  Seems only logical....

It looked a little something like this:

The logical invitation to a Garden Themed Party.... A seed Packet

Hand-Made Paper Plate Birdie Bunting with Coffee Filter Flowers
(TUTORIAL Tomorrow!)

Paper Plate Birdie Detail

Afternoon snackies for hungry five-year old girls...

Butterfly cupcakes with piped Royal Icing Butterflies.
And, of course, when it matters, the Frosting WILL
fail and separate and probably because I over beat it,
or the butter was too cold or something equally stupid.
Tasted fine though.

Treat Bags waiting for the girls...

Coffee Filter Flower Straws
(No one wanted Lemonade... until they realized that it
came with a flower straw.  Then, everyone HAD to have it.)

Some of the girls in the backyard.

No planned games... Just a crafting table...
...with Coloring Pages, and crafty happiness.

Coffee Filter Butterflies:  Color a coffee filter with water-based markers.
Spray with water so the colors run and make a tie-dye effect. Gather
filter through the middle and secure with half of a black chenille stem
to form the body and the antennae.  Et Voila!  Another pretty Birthday Bunting.

Inspired by this post by the amazing Lindsay at Filth Wizardry,
I cut out paper plate hats, and made more coffee filter flowers for the brim.
The girls each decorated their own... well... And the the big boys, too.  Niiiiiice.

The butterfly cupcakes were devoured...

And Miss M is officially FIVE.  She looks pretty happy about it, too,
mouth crammed full of cupcake, and all that.

Happy Birthday, Miss Thing.