Inner Peace Through Party Favors

I can’t believe my baby is almost two. It’s crazy that someone not only let me have a baby, but take it home and make decisions about it. I often have thoughts like, I wonder if my son will feel bad that all his friends have grownups for moms, and he doesn’t. you’d think something as earth shattering as having a child would disabuse you of the notion that you are a fraud of an adult, but mostly it just reinforces those fears.

But that’s not what I want to talk about, I’m not even sure why I brought up the raging sea of doubt beside which I have built a summer home, when I want to talk about PARTIES! After all who but a grown up could throw the perfect party? A real, solid grown up, with nothing to hide and no reason to be ashamed.

I do like throwing parties. It’s fun. It’s the culmination of many things I’m good at, and I like doing things I’m good at. It makes me feel competent. I once considered becoming a professional children’s party planner, but a wedding planner talked me out of it.

So I’m stuck with a few good parties a year to throw and get it right. This usually results in me overcommitting myself with projects and freaking out a few times. It’s not fun, but it’s part of my process. A phrase commonly heard in my house is “I don’t want this to be the wedding invitations again.” Said by my husband after I insisted we DIY the most beautiful wedding invitations anyone has ever seen for roughly a thousand dollars and what he claims was 200 manhours. It was worth it to me, but keeping with this request every subsequent party has had an emailed invitation.

For his second birthday we’re throwing a Sesame Street party. It’s exciting, because while I went all out last year for his Fraggle Rock party, he had no idea who any of them were and no real interest in anything else that a party could be thrown around. The amount he has developed this past year is astounding. He turning into a little person with his likes and dislikes and he LIKES Sesame Street.

 

 The first craft I made any headway on were these Oscar the Grouch bath puppets. I had actually intended to make them for his party last year as Doozer puppets, but didn’t get around to it. So with the left over green Ikea towels, I made Oscar. If I didn’t need to use up the green towel I probably would have done Elmo and Cookie Monster. They’re more popular, and I wouldn’t have needed to sew on that eyebrow. But, Oscar’s dirty, so he needs a bath, there’s some internal logic to it.

  

I started by printing out a hand puppet pattern, and two pictures of oscars face. One of the face pictures I cut out and taped to the head of the puppet, the other I used to cut out the features. I wanted the eyes to be perfectly round so I could put the eyebrow on top and not have to line them up properly. I found a quarter was about the right size, so I used that rather than a paper pattern. I cut the puppet pattern out of the green ikea towel doubled over, so the two sides would fit each other perfectly, and I cut the features out of some dollar tree wash cloths I picked up for the project. I hand sewed the face on with embroidery thread and embroidered on the pupils of the eyes. You could probably use a machine for this, but I’m still a little afraid of my sewing machine, and hand sewing let me do it while watching tv.

 

 After the face was sewn on I pinned both sides together inside out and sewed around the edge before flipping the puppet back rightside out.

  

Half way there.

  

In the future I think I’m going to make the “arms” a little wider and a little squarer. They get pretty thin and stumpy because of the amount of space taken up by the seam allowance. Over all I’m pretty happy with how they turned out. My son is excited for them, I think he’s going to love his party, even if it’s a little bit about me.

Practice Cheater Donuts

I fucking love brunch. To be clear, what I really love is breakfast food, and sleeping in. I’ll take pancakes for lunch or dinner any time. Still, there is something extra fancy about brunch. I used to be able to tell you when every restaurant around me stopped serving Sunday brunch, so I could still go no matter how late I woke up. Now I have a child and this information is useless. First, because I rarely sleep past 8 (which is pretty good with a 2-year-old) and second, because my kid is not good at restaurants. So, I haven’t been to brunch in a while. To make up for it, I’ve been hosting more brunch parties. One thing I’ve been dying to try are beautiful themed donuts, decorated to match the party.
What’s been stopping me? Donuts must be served fresh. Donuts are fried*
, and though I have many talents in the kitchen, frying is NOT one of them. Every time I try to deep fry, at least one thing goes wrong, usually way more than that. I’ve managed to fry a batch of chicken, burning half the pieces, and undercooking the other half. It’s almost impressive. Store bought donuts are delicious, but you can’t order them custom decorated like a cupcake. Or, if you can, I’m sure it’s a fortune, which would turn a fun casual treat into a crazy extravagance.
So let me introduce to you my experiment with Cheater Custom Donuts! The gist is that you buy donuts and decorate them yourself. Simple enough, but I wasn’t sure it would work. I have a brunch party coming up and it seemed like a poor idea to try this out for the first time on the morning of the party, so this was mostly a test run. 
First things first, I got some donuts. For the actual party, I will go to a local bakery with AMAZING donuts, but for this experiment I went to Dunkin’ because they have a drive through and my toddler was asleep in the car. Because I didn’t buy them until afternoon, they were out of glazed donuts, and I had to run my experiment on plain and chocolate glazed. After I bought the donuts, I hid them in my purse till after bedtime, so by the time I got to work they looked like this.

  
The glaze is simple:

1.5 cups of powdered sugar

3 Tbsp of melted butter

3 Tbsp of milk

1 Tbsp of vanilla extract (I assume other flavors would work as well)

Food coloring  
Put the sugar, butter, and extract in a stand mixer with a wisk attachment. Slowly mix so that the sugar does not turn into a cloud of smoke. Slowly add the milk until it’s the consistency of frosting. Add the food coloring. I suggest you use less than I did. I was actually going for a pastel sea foam, but hey, this is good too. Remember these are practice donuts.

  
When the glaze is fully mixed, transfer it to a shallow dish for dipping. Stick it in the microwave for 30-45 seconds until it bubbles a little and then stir it smooth. 

  

  Next, start dipping ASAP. If the glaze cools down too much, it won’t stick properly, at which point you can always stick it back in the microwave. Just drop the donut strait down and twist. If you don’t twist, you’ll get sad and incomplete coverage, and since we’re doing all this work for purely aesthetic reasons, twist.

  
If you want to add sprinkles or nonpareils, you have to work even faster. Once the glaze is on the donut, it dries very quickly and you don’t have the option of reheating. What you can do is paint a layer of corn syrup if you run out of time, but I’d try to use that sparingly, because these donuts are already pretty sweet. Next time, I think I’ll skip the glazed donuts and only use plain to cut the sweetness. 

 

I let them dry on a wire rack lined with paper towels, and they’re gorgeous. For the party, I plan on making the glaze and decorations the night before and forming an assembly line. If you’d like to see how they turn out, I suggest you subscribe to keep reading. Unless of course they are a disaster, in which case we will never speak of this again.

  

* Yes I know you can buy donut shaped pans to make baked donuts. But 1) everything’s better fried 2) baking AND decorating them fresh for an 11:00 am party while preparing for the party does not seem practical 3) if I buy one more piece of kitchen equipment with one use, my husband might have a heart attack

Tiny little slippers

To write my first blog post I had to come up with a project to post about. While I do a lot of projects, it’s not something I’m doing all the time. So I tried to think of something simple and cheap I could make, just to ease myself into blogging regularly. My son’s second birthday is coming up and I know I’m going to get a lot of good posts out of that party, so I just needed something to get the ball rolling.

I have a ton of felt for a quiet book I thought about and never made it past the ordering 20$ worth of felt from Amazon phase. Felt is good, you don’t have to hem it because it doesn’t fray. You can hand stitch it with embroidery thread and it looks stylized. No one thinks  you did that because it’s been so long since you’ve used your sewing machine you forgot how to use it. I could make something small and cute out of felt.

I started looking around Pinterest. None of the dolls I saw looked like something that would hold my almost two year old’s interest. Play food looked… I don’t know… Like what was the point of just doing one piece of play food? Christmas ornaments were cute, but it being January coupled with my Judism, made that seem like an odd choice.

Then I came across felt slippers. I don’t think it was even a craft suggestion, just a thing that is sometimes made out of felt. This was actually really perfect. My son had recently become obsessed with slippers. Unfortunately the only slipper like things we had were my husband’s slippers (which were way too big), or my son’s old baby shoes (which barely fit). Sometimes he would run around the house with both on, his baby shoes crushing his toes underneath, and his father’s slippers tripping him on top.

So, great. I’ve gone from a simple easy project, just to get my feet wet, to teaching myself the craft of cobbling. Perfect. I took a good hard look at my husband’s slippers.  

  
I figured the main slippers were made up of components: bottom, top,and sides. There was also lining and a little strap for decoration, but whatever. I started by tracing around my kid’s feet bribing him with videos on my phone to stand still. I added about half an inch all around for seem allowance. I cut out this sort of pattern from construction. Then I measured the circumference of the pattern with a piece of string. Measured the heal of some of his current shoes. Added a little for seams, then went to cut it out and found I didn’t have enough felt, so I disregarded my original pattern and just cut what I could. Pretty much I had no idea what I was doing and made everything up as I went along.  I lined the slipper with some faux lambs wool from a blanket my dogs had destroyed. I stitched the top on with embroidery thread and…

 
Super cute right? But they didn’t fit, and I suspect if they had they wouldn’t have stayed on.

I went to try again. This time I traced my kids shoes instead of his foot, again adding half an inch. I had plenty of felt, but I needed some matching thread. I stopped by the fabric store where I realized there were a lot of things I needed. It had been so long since I really sewed, I was running low on supplies. So I bought a starter sewing kit that included a couple dozen  colors of thread. A pin cushion braclet, to keep track of the pins while I sewed. Some grippy matirial for the bottom of the slippers, and some fabric that was faux suede on one side faux lambs wool on the other. I bought a yard of this fabric, which was way too much, but at this point my toddler was running around the store screaming and I forgot they sell less than a yard of fabric at a time.

I left the store $60 poorer, which I’m pretty sure is a lot more than it would cost to buy a pair of slippers, but then what would I do with my time?

I altered my original plan a little so I could put elastic in, and I ended up not using the grippy fabric. They came out very home made looking 

  but they fit and my kid freaken loves them. He wears them all day long, and to sleep, and over his footy pajamas. He will still wear his dad’s slippers over them, but I’m calling this a win. 

 I did try dotting the bottom with hot glue, for grip. But my kid just enjoyed peeling these dots off and probably eating them. So, there’s no grip, but he’s yet to wipe out. Maybe I’ll make another pair with the extra fabric and the grips I bought the first time when he outgrows these

Welcome 

I was sitting at my in laws flipping through the magazines on their coffee table when I came across an article Why I Won’t Let Pintrest Pressure Me Any More or something. The author was opting out of home made birthday cakes and valentines, themed birthday parties her kid wouldn’t remember, and lunches packed in adorable bento boxes. She didn’t need to do these silly useless things to be a good mom and she wasn’t going to let the pressure make her miserable any more.I can’t find the article now to cite it, but there are many out there with the same sentiment. I agree no one should feel bad about the shape of their child’s lunch as long as their child is fed. What gives me pause, is the notion that anyone who does have the will or desire to arrange their kids lunch into a scene from Star Wars, is some how frivolous or worse, doing it to show up other moms.

When I read the initial article my first thought was, of course you don’t need to sew your kids Halloween costume, you’re a writer, you have a thing. You have a job that is both a creative outlet and a great answer to the question, “so what do you do?”  Not everyone has that.

Some people knit, some people work out, I spray painted 16 dollar store chargers copper for my thanksgiving tablescape. I like crafting cooking and entertaining, but more than that this is kind of all I have going on right now. Being a mom is awesome and weird and hard and my identity is like jello.

so if you want to see some cool crafts, fun parties, and occasional uncomfortably honest breakdowns… Subscribe or something, I’m not really sure how blogs work yet.