MPS012 – Disneyland Resort Travel Tips and Tricks, Part 1
Planning a family vacation to Disneyland this year? I’m going to share some of my favorite tips and tricks for a magical Disney experience! I have so many things that I want to share, I’m going to make this a two part series. Part one is about planning, prepping, and packing for Disney. Part two will be about in-park experiences. 1. DIY Mouse Ears While buying a new pair of mouse ears is usually part of all my Disney trips, they can be expensive and sometimes they don’t have the theme I want (although usually they have what I never knew I always wanted and now have to have… like my glow in the dark Jack Skellington ears). So this year, I made my own ears and a pair for my husband. Mine are “Haunted Mansion” themed and his are Rocket and Groot from “Guardians of the Galaxy”. Thanks to my husband for modeling both! I made the Guardians ears first and made MANY mistakes that I corrected on the Mansion ears, so the directions below are based on the Mansion ears. Here’s the how to: Wrap your base material (cotton fabric, felt, etc) around a piece of craft foam the size of the headband. Glue the covered craft foam to the outer part of the headband. Sew the ears together leaving the bottom open for filler. Turn ears inside out (pokin’ sticks are handy here). If you are GLUING on your design (I created Groot and Rocket out of felt, then glued them to the ears), then fill the ears (see step 5) first, then attach your design. If you are IRONING on your design, then iron on the the design before filling the ears. Fill the ears by folding a pre-cut piece of craft foam in thirds, pushing it into the ear, then help it “pop” open using your finger or pokin’ stick. Add additional craft foam until the ears are the desired thickness. If desired, you can also add pillow stuffing. Sew the bottom of the ears closed. Attach the ears to the headband by Gluing the ears in place with a hot glue gun to get it into place, Then sew the bottom of the ear material to the material in the headband on both sides. Keep stitches small and in the same color as your fabric. This will secure the ears to the headband and make it stronger than just using glue. A few measurements to use as a guide: My headband length was 15.5 inches I left a 3 inch space between the ears at the top of the headband. My ears were 3.25 inch rounds with a curve cut out of the bottom to fit snug on the headband. Here’s the SUPER DUPER SIMPLE EARS instructions: Using black craft foam, cut two circles connected by a 1 inch (or so) wide space (so it looks like an 8 that was pulled apart at the middle). Repeat so you have two pieces, one piece per ear. Wrap the craft foam around a black headband, gluing the space to the headband and the circles together to form ears. Repeat for second ear. Done! 2. Create a Disneyland Photo Scavenger Hunt I had so much fun making this and coming up with the questions! I made a list of a number of items to find in each land. Once they find it they take a photo and answer any bonus questions associated with that task item. Some require a task, like take a selfie in front of the Walt and Mickey statue, others just direct them to an object and when they find it, take a photo. I tailored it to our specific trip (during the 60th Anniversary) and included things for everyone so if you weren’t the E-Ticket type, you could still find more mellow items. I also included a decoder card for the Indiana Jones ride so players can decode the messages on the walls while waiting in the ride queue. The booklet I created was accordion style and divided by land with a general section at the end. You can find my questions and answers here to use when designing your own booklet! 3. Research ride “extras” and “hidden Mickey’s” In Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, there is a secret unmarked spot on Zurg’s chest that is worth 50,000 points! Do a little research for ride secrets and impress the family with your amazing Disney knowledge! Do you know which ride has the hidden Eeyore sign? There are “hidden Mickey’s” all over the park. Did you see the plates arranged like a classic Mickey on the dining table in Haunted Mansion? What about the Splash Mountain sign with the hidden Mickey in the tree knot? There are books and websites devoted to finding hidden Mickeys, do some research and see how many you and your family can find while in the park! 4. Make Reservations Character Dining is very popular, so make your reservations before you arrive at the park. Some restaurants take reservations up to 60 days in advance. Don’t miss out on a chance to dine with your favorite Disney characters! Restaurant Dining: make your reservations in advance, especially if you have a large group. Summer months, school vacations, and holiday celebrations are particularly busy. World of Color Dining Package and Fantasmic! Dining Package: you can make dinner reservations that come with FASTPASS to a reserved viewing area for nighttime shows. If you are planning on doing both anyway, save the hassle of finding a viewing area in the park and just buy the dining package! Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique: A Fairy Godmother-In-Training will turn your little one into a knight or princess, amount of detail based on the package you buy, of course. This is very popular, so reserve your salon appointment 60 days in advance so you can get a morning appointment to enjoy the look all day! Birthday Celebrations: Some restaurants have special birthday cake options that you can add to your meal. Make sure you ask when making your reservations. 5. What to pack for a day at Disneyland This is always a difficult project for me. My goal is to carry as little as possible so I’m not lugging a giant bag around the park all day, but there are necessary things to bring that will make life MUCH easier if you don’t mind packing a little extra weight. If you’re a parent of very young ones, then you’ll have much more to carry, but you’ll also have the benefit of using the stroller to help store your gear! Here’s my essentials for a day at Disneyland Resort (with kids who are old enough to carry their own stuff): Sunscreen: I put in on in the morning and reapply a few times during the day. Trust me, that much time standing in the sun will take its toll on your skin, even in winter! Comfortable walking shoes: I’ve heard that the average person walks a total of 10 miles a day at Disneyland and I believe it! With all that walking, this is not a time for fashion, this is time to find the perfect balance between comfort and support. I prefer not to wear sneakers in the park in the summer, my feet just get too hot, but if I could, good walking sneakers (and moisture wicking socks) would be my first choice. My second choice are Teva-type sandals with foot and ankle straps. There are rides where you will get wet and your feet will slide out of flimsy flip flops. If you’re going with open toe, stick with something that will do well when wet in addition to giving good foot support for a long day of walking. This is also NOT a time to try out a new pair of shoes. Wear shoes that are broken in and you know will be comfortable. Cold snap towel: I’ve recently discovered the cold snap towel and we’ve used it after work-outs, on hot days and it’s perfect to keep you cool during a hot day in the park. Just wet the towel, wring it out, and wrap it around your neck and it will stay cool as long as it’s wet. Pretty cool, right?! Literally! Ziploc baggies: Water rides…need I say more? You don’t want your phone, camera, extra charger/battery, etc. getting wet, so bring a large Ziploc and put all your electronics in it and seal it tight in your bag before you go on any water rides. Portable phone charger or extra battery: A full day of taking photos, videos, texting members of your group around the park, looking up ride waits, etc. will drain your phone battery pretty quickly. Bring a portable phone charger or extra battery so you can keep recording your memories all day. I’ve also heard that there are phone charging lockers in the park, so keep an eye out for them as well. Use a cross body bag or backpack instead of an over the shoulder purse or tote bag. Keep your hands free and avoid some of the hassle by wearing a bag that you don’t have to “carry”. Just remember that less is more and a large backpack is going to get very hot on a warm day, so try to keep it small. Also keep in mind that there are limits to the size of bags that you can carry on rides. Most rides just have a small pouch in front of or under your seat and a very large bag won’t fit. Line wait times phone apps and maps: I love these apps. There are a number of free ones, but some are worth paying for. My primary app (I actually have three) is a paid app that gives me real time wait times for every ride, crowd levels, show times, current available FASTPASS time or if they are gone for the day, food locations and menus, and I can create a plan based on my favorite rides and shows. You can monitor wait times from across the park without trekking back and forth! Check out www.touringplans.com, they have apps for Disney World, Disneyland, and Universal. Snacks. I don’t pack much for a day at Disneyland because I enjoy partaking in the Disney specialty treats like churros, corn dogs, Mickey pretzels, Dole Whip, frozen lemonade, etc. Hey, you’re probably walking over 10 miles that day, so you will totally burn off that churro! But having a bag of trail mix or crackers to stave off the hangries (hunger anger) while waiting in line is always a good plan. Wet wipes. Did you just touch the same space gun in Astro Blasters as every other child with a runny nose in the park? Did you just eat a Mickey Ice Cream Bar that has dripped all the way down your arm? Here, have a wet wipe. Misc. Hair ties, mouse ears, sunglasses, lanyard to hold tickets and FASTPASSes (just make sure they are secure and won’t fall out!), perhaps a light jacket or sweater if it’s going to get cold at night. NOTE: Selfie sticks are NOT ALLOWED in the park, so save some space and leave them at home. Happy Disney planning everyone! In Part 2 we’ll talk about making the most out of your in-park experience!
15 Jul 2015
MPS031 – Star Wars Party: Part 1
I have been looking forward to doing a Star Wars party for a very long time and now that The Force Awakens is out on DVD and Star Wars mania is here again, I thought this was the perfect time! Plus, as many of you know, May the Fourth (ya know, like May the Force …) is Star Wars Day, so it’s a win all the way around! I have so many things that I want to share about this party, and a lot of how-to’s, so I’ve divided it into two posts. Part One (this post) includes: R2-D2 Tutu Skirt and Shirt BB-8 Tutu Dress Padawan Tunics Princess Leia Buns Headbands Pool Noodle Light Sabers Party Games like Stormtrooper Attack and Jedi Training Part Two (will post on 5/15) will include: Tablescape and decorations Food ideas like Jabba the Hot Dogs Boba Feta Salad Tie Fighter Crackers Han Solo in Chocolate Pretzel Light Sabers Dagobah Dip Napkin Light Sabers BB-8 Cake Rebel Alliance Favor Bags BB-8 Tutu Dress and R2-D2 Tutu Skirt and Top: Look at the cuteness! These outfits were fairly easy to make and the girls LOVED them! In July or August I will post a much more detailed instruction for making tutu dresses that will include video, but the descriptions below will get you started. R2-D2 Shirt and Tutu Skirt: R2-D2 Skirt and Shirt Materials Needed: White Tee Royal Blue Felt Black Felt Red Felt Fabric Glue Royal Blue Tulle (amount depends on child size and length) White Tulle (amount depends on child size and length) White 1″ wide elastic (amount depends on child’s waist size) White thread and needle. Instructions for Shirt: Cut out pieces of blue felt to match the shapes of R2-D2 (I found some online stencils that I liked and used those). Cut out black and red felt circles and glue onto blue felt using fabric glue. Place a non-stick paper or foil between layers of shirt so glue doesn’t soak through to the back. Glue blue pieces onto white tee using fabric glue. Do not wash. Instructions for Skirt: Measure the waist size of your child and cut elastic to size. Overlap ends of elastic by 1/2 inch and sew together securely. Measure how long you want the skirt to be. Double that number and add 1 – 2 inches, this is the length to cut your strips of tulle. For example, if you want the skirt to be 20 inches long, you will cut the tulle into 41 or 42 inch lengths. I used strips of tulle that were 6″ wide. Cut anywhere from 50 – 100 lengths of tulle (however many it takes to fill the elastic based on child size). I preferred a bit more blue than white in the skirt above, so I did twice the amount of blue to white. Take one piece of tulle, fold in half, pull folded end under the elastic (from bottom to top). Take the folded end at the top, pull it down over the front of the elastic. Pull the open end of the tulle through the folded end (loop) of the tulle until tight around the elastic waist. Do this repeatedly around the elastic (in the pattern you choose) until the elastic is full. Trim the ends with scissors to make it even at the bottom. BB-8 Tutu Dress: BB-8 Tutu Dress Materials Needed: White crochet top (lined), I used an 10″ in the dress above Grey Felt Orange Felt Black Felt White Felt Fabric Glue Orange Tulle (amount depends on child size and length) White Tulle (amount depends on child size and length) Gray Tulle (amount depends on child size and length) Orange Ribbon Large Crochet Hook Instructions for Top: Cut out pieces of felt to match one of the round shapes of BB-8 (I used my BB-8 sipper as inspiration but there are stencils and pictures online). Cut out black, gray, and orange felt pieces to look like the head and glue onto white crochet top using fabric glue. Place a non-stick paper or foil between layers of the top so glue doesn’t soak through to the back. Using the crochet hook, take a doubled length of orange ribbon and knot it in the top center of the top in a halter style. Using the crochet hook, loosely attach each end of the ribbon to the top of the back so it can be tightened to size when put on the child (I usually do about five loops to each side from the center). Do not wash. Instructions for Skirt: Measure how long you want the skirt to be. Double that number and add 1 – 2 inches, this is the length to cut your strips of tulle. For example, if you want the skirt to be 20 inches long, you will cut the tulle into 41 or 42 inch lengths. I used strips of tulle that were 6″ wide. Cut anywhere from 50 – 100 lengths of tulle (however many it takes to fill the bottom of the crochet top based on child size). I used a pattern of four white, one gray, one orange, then repeat. Take one piece of tulle, fold in half. Using the crochet hook, pull folded end through a loop on the bottom of the crochet top (from bottom to top). Pull the open end of the tulle through the folded end (loop) of the tulle until tight. Do this repeatedly around the bottom of the top until full. Trim the ends of the tulle with scissors to make it even at the bottom. Cut out pieces of felt to match a few more of the round shapes on BB-8 and glue them to the tulle (with a piece of non-stick paper underneath). Padawan Tunics: These are so easy and the kids love them! Padawan Tunic Materials Needed: Brown Felt by the yard (you can use any brown material, but I love felt because it won’t fray) Scissors Brown sash material (I found mine in the clearance bin at a fabric store). Instructions: Measure how long and how wide you want the tunics to be ( I suggest an inch or two wider than the shoulders and the length to the upper thigh) Double the length (so you can fold in half) and cut felt. Cut a hole at the top of the folded edge just big enough for the child to pull his head through. Cut a sash long enough to tie around the child’s waist with about six inches extra on both ends. Princess Leia Bun Headbands: Princess Leia Buns Headband Materials Needed: Brown Yarn (I used super bulky acrylic) Brown Felt Headband Glue Gun Instructions: Buns: Cut ten 20″ lengths of brown yarn per bun and bind with an elastic on both ends. Place a dot of glue on a round piece (about 6″ diameter) of brown felt and glue one end of the yarn to the felt. Twist the yarn and while spiraling out from the center, glue the yarn to the felt. When you reach the end, tuck the end under the inner spiral and glue. Trim any remaining felt around the edges. Headband: Place a dot of glue on the end of the headband and glue one end of brown yarn to the end. Wrap the yarn around the headband, gluing occasionally, until you reach the other end. Attach Buns: Glue the felt underside of the buns to each outer side of the headband. Use a piece of extra felt on the inside of the headband to keep the bun in place and give it more structure. Pool Noodle Light Sabers: Pool Noodle Light Sabers Materials Needed: Pool Noodles (medium/small width) of varying colors Black Duct Tape Silver Duct Tape Instructions: Cut pool noodles in half to make two segments of equal length. Wrap one end in silver duct tape to about 6″ from the end. Use black duct tape to create details on the silver duct tape. Activities: Stormtrooper Attack Light Saber Play Jedi Training / Bubble Attack Stormtrooper Attack: We found this great Stormtrooper balloon at the local party store and they filled it for free with the purchase of the balloon. It has weights on the bottom, so it kind of “wanders” around the room. It was amazing! We made a not hitting policy in the house while he guarded the food table, but we promised an Attack the Stormtrooper game outside later. Stormtrooper before the kids attacked … Stormtrooper attack! Light Saber Play: Once the Stormtrooper was demolished, it was all about the light saber fighting. Luckily, the pool noodle light sabers are light and don’t hurt when they hit their target. Jedi Training / Bubble Attack: The kids loved popping bubbles with their “light sabers”. The Jedi Training was learning how to use The Force and their light saber by chasing down bubbles that an adult was blowing across the yard. So fun! So that’s Part One of my two part Star Wars Party posts. Tune in on May 15th for Part Two and may the force be with you!
1 May 2016
MPS028 – Easter Eggs and Bunny Ears
Easter is almost here and that means it’s time to decorate those Easter eggs and get ready for the Easter bunny! I even made my own bunny ears this year to get into the spirit. The ears are kind of adorable, so sometimes I wear them just for fun. Anyway, today I have some egg decorating ideas to share, how to make pastel deviled eggs, egg shaped Trix marshmallow treats, and how to make your own bunny ears! I used real eggs for dying and decorating. Some were blown out and hollow (you can use a booger baster – baby aspirator), others were hard boiled. I also used some white eggs and some brown eggs. The picture below shows the difference between white eggs and brown eggs using the same dye of vinegar, water, and food coloring. The top row are hard boiled white eggs and the bottom row are brown blown out eggs. Start decorating! I used paint, decoupage, pens, puff paint, stamps, and glitter. Just make sure that you only use food safe items for hard boiled eggs. Galaxy Eggs: Because Science! Paint the egg black Create a palette of blues and purples, dark to light. Starting with your darkest color, paint an oval onto the egg then use a sponge to blend. Add your next darkest color in a smaller oval gently dab with sponge but don’t blend, you want both colors to show. Continue with smaller lighter ovals then finish with a few dabs of gold. Once dry, using a dry brush and your finger, flick white paint over entire egg. Green and Gold Eggs: Dye egg green. I used a brown blown out egg, dyed green using food coloring, vinegar, and water. Add a number of dabs of gold paint onto the egg, then roll the egg between your hands to distribute in an even smooth layer. Wash hands immediately before paint drys. To avoid mess or exposure of paint to your skin, you may want to use gloves for this process. Gold Glitter Eggs: Paint egg with glue. Add a few tablespoons of glitter to a bowl. Place the egg on the glitter. Sprinkle glitter on top of the egg in the bowl. Gently roll the egg in the glitter until completely covered and let it dry in the bowl. It will “shed” glitter, but you can spray it with a sealer to keep most of the glitter in place. Painted Eggs: Dye eggs and let dry completely. Using acrylic paint or paint pens, paint your designs onto the eggs. Dyed Deviled Eggs: Hard boil eggs and let cool. Peel and rinse. Cut eggs in half lengthwise. Remove yolks to make your favorite deviled egg recipe (I like using mayo, Dijon, worcestershire, and tabasco). Dye the egg halves by soaking them in 1.5 cups of water and 8 – 10 drops of neon food coloring for 15 minutes. Trix Marshmallow Eggs: Just use Trix cereal (I used regular, but rainbow would be better) in your favorite Rice Krispie treat recipe and shape them into egg shapes. That’s it! Chenille Bunny Ears: Using extra large chenille pipe cleaners, shape two ears. Attach the ears to a metal base headband by wrapping them all the way around. Starting at one end of the headband and working your way around, wrap the pipe cleaner around the headband, through the ears and down the other side. Tuck or cover any sharp ends. Happy Easter Everyone!
15 Mar 2016
MPS027 – Simple St. Patrick’s Day Ideas
St. Patrick’s Day doesn’t have to be all about leprechauns and green beer. I’m all about a good party, but getting vomited on by a stranger on the street at 3:00 in the afternoon is not my idea of a good time. Instead, I decided to do a traditional St. Patrick’s Day dinner at home with a few green and gold touches and a shamrock or two. To make the table a bit more fun than regular everyday, I added a cream table linen, gold chargers, green napkins with shamrock napkin rings, and a green and white centerpiece. Easy Centerpieces: I love these simple and super easy centerpieces! Just fill a cylinder vase with green apples then cover with water almost to the top. Stick a silk or real flower into the top apple so it fits flat to cover the top of the vase and done! Easy Shamrock Napkin Rings: Simple shamrock napkin rings just using scrapbook paper. Instructions: Cut out one shamrock per place setting (about 1 1/2″ wide) out of scrapbook paper. Cut out one strip of paper (1″ wide x 6″ long) per place setting. I used white, but you can use the same scrapbook paper if you want to keep it matching. Fold the shamrock in half four times, twice on one side in an “X” then twice on the opposite way so the shamrock is divided into eight sections. Glue the shamrock to the band. Once dry, wrap the band around a rolled napkin and secure with tape. TRICK: if you need to, wrap a rubber band around the napkin to keep it’s shape white you attach the band. Food! Corned Beef Brisket (in slow cooker with potatoes and carrots): This was my first time cooking corned beef, so I was surprised to find that not all pre-packaged corned beef briskets come with a pickling packet (as most recipes tell you they do!) So when there was no seasoning packet, I improvised. There are lots of online suggestions for spices, mostly seeds or whole berries, but I did have to use some ground varieties based on what was in our spice cabinet. I ended up adding a combo of anise, caraway seeds, allspice, ginger, coriander, dill, black pepper, mustard seeds, a few bay leaves, and some cloves. Other than that, I followed the recipe below and it turned out perfectly! I cooked the potatoes and carrots with the beef and they were so flavorful and yum! I used all water, but next time I think I’ll try it with a little Guinness too. Slow Cooker Corned Beef recipe from Damn Delicious. Roasted Cabbage with Mustard Onion Sauce: I’ve never been a huge cabbage fan, but this recipe has made a made a believer out of me! It’s roasted instead of boiled so it still has a bit of crunch (just a bit) and the the olive oil, salt and pepper are enough to make it delicious without the sauce, but OH MY this sauce is so good!! But then how can you go wrong with butter, onion, garlic and mustard on cabbage? Try it, you’ll love it. Roasted cabbage recipe from An Oregon Cottage. Irish Soda Bread: This really is so easy and it’s so good! Some people prefer to make it without the raisins and caraway seeds, but those are what make it so good! Easy Irish Soda Bread: Ingredients: 2 cups flour 1/8 cup granulated sugar 1 1/2 tsp baking powder 1/2 tsp baking soda 1/2 tsp salt 1/4 cup butter 3/4 cup buttermilk 1 egg 1 cup raisins 2 tsp caraway seeds Directions: Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large bowl. Add butter using a pastry blender. Mix in buttermilk, egg, raisins, and caraway seeds. Knead until smooth. Form into ball and flatten into greased 6-8 inch round pan. Cut a deep “X” on top of loaf. Bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes (until golden brown). Don’t forget the Guinness! Or Irish whiskey or Irish coffee or your favorite beverage. Bailey’s Irish Cream Chocolate Mousse in Puff Pastry with Chocolate Sauce: Double check that your pastry shells are right side up and don’t let this happen to you!! Upside down pastry shells? No problem, just pop the top (or bottom which is not the top) off with a fork. So a few things went wrong with this dish (totally my own fault), but I found a way to make it work! First, when cooking the puff pastry shells, I cooked them upside down so the “lid” was on the bottom instead of on the top. Luckily this was an easy fix and I just used a fork to remove the top layer and made that the lid. Second, I realized too late that I didn’t have enough heavy cream and substituted 2% milk. Thus, I never got the airy peaks and it stayed a little loose (more like the consistency of pudding) instead of a solid form. However, once it was all put together it was still delicious. Directions: Bake the pastry shells, let cool, remove the lids (save for serving). Follow the recipe for Bailey’s Chocolate Mousse (link below). Fill pastry shells with mouse mixture and refrigerate until set (about an hour). Drizzle with chocolate sauce and serve with lid. Bailey’s chocolate mousse recipe from Lemon Tree Dwelling. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day everyone!
1 Mar 2016
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MPS026 – Pinterest Craft Day: 5 Paint Chip Crafts
Pinterest is full of crafty ideas that utilize the paint chips that you pick up at the home improvement store. So today I decided to put some of those crafts to the test and see if my versions turned out similar to the ones on Pinterest! My goal was to make my finished products look like the images I found on Pinterest while spending the least amount of money possible. Today’s projects include a mini square gift box with lid, favor gift holders, a mobile, owl wall art, and a flower canvas. About paint chips and ethics: There is some debate whether or not it’s ethical to go to a home improvement store and pick up paint chips just for crafting. I’m in the camp that it’s not OK. While they may be free to pick up, someone has to pay for them and they have a specific purpose. Also, it’s just rude to clean out a store of certain colors when people who are actually there to pick out paint can no longer view those colors! So here’s what I suggest: Save all your paint chips from home improvement projects. Keep them tucked away and when you need them for a project, tada! Ask the home improvement store if you can have the outdated paint chips. From time to time they will get rid of old colors and throw them out, ask if you can have them! Use scrapbook paper, card stock, or construction paper instead. Which is what I did for all of these projects. So on to the crafts! I wanted to make these projects using as little money as possible, so other than purchasing the two canvases for the flower and owl, I only used left over supplies that I already had in my craft bins. But even if you have to purchase supplies, these are inexpensive crafts to make. Mini Gift Boxes: These small gift boxes are so easy and so adorable! You can make them with just a few supplies that you probably already have in your house and they are so much cuter than a plain envelope for a small gift. TP Roll Gift Box: I love how quick, easy, and cute this craft is! It’s the perfect size for a small item or cash gift and you can make it in any pattern you like! Materials: Toilet paper roll Scrapbook paper Scissors Glue Ribbon Instructions: Measure and cut a piece of scrapbook paper: Width: the exact width of the TP tube. Length: long enough to wrap all the way around the tube Glue the paper to the TP tube. Fold in the ends of one side of the tube so they just overlap. Fill the tube with the gift, then fold over the ends of the other side of the tube. Tie with a ribbon and add a gift tag. See the time-lapse movie below for a quick tutorial. Scrapbook Paper Gift Box: This is the most adorable little box (and it is little) and it’s made from a single piece of paper! Materials: Scrapbook or construction paper Double-sided tape Scissors Ribbon Instructions: Using the measurements above, cut the box base and box lid and fold. Attach the folded flaps using double-sided tape. Fill with gift and tie with a ribbon. Scrapbook Paper Canvas Art: These scrapbook paper canvases are a great solution for that wall that needs something but you either can’t find the art for the right price or you have a very specific color palette. You can make these in any color and pattern you like and the materials are inexpensive! Owl Scrapbook Paper Canvas Art: WHO doesn’t like an adorable owl! Use solids or patterns (or a combo of both) and make an owl that’s unique to you and your room! Materials: 11″ x 14″ stretched canvas A few different patterns of scrapbook paper, construction paper, or card stock Mod Podge Paint brush Scissors Template above Instructions: Using the template above, cut shapes out of scrapbook paper. Don’t forget to reverse the template for the second wing! Using Mod Podge, glue the pieces onto the canvas one layer at a time. Once all the pieces are glued in place, cover the entire canvas with a layer of Mod Podge. It looks white and cloudy when you paint it on, but it dries clear. Once dry it’s ready to hang! Flower Scrapbook Paper Canvas Art: This would looks great in pinks and purples for a teenager’s room! Have fun with colors and patterns! Materials: 11″ x 14″ stretched canvas A few different patterns of scrapbook paper, construction paper, or card stock Mod Podge Paint brush Acrylic paint Scissors Instructions: Paint the canvas (including sides) using acrylic paint and let dry. Cut petal shapes (I cut two sizes) out of scrapbook paper and a circle for the flower center. Do a “dry” layout of the pieces on the canvas, laying all them out they way you will want to glue them. Using Mod Podge, glue the center and petals onto the canvas starting in the center and working your way out. On the edges, wrap the petals around the sides. Once all the pieces are glued in place, cover the entire canvas with a layer of Mod Podge. It looks white and cloudy when you paint it on, but it dries clear. Once dry it’s ready to hang! Paper Mobile Using Scrapbook Paper: I love this idea for a pop of added color or shimmer in the corner of a room, especially for a baby’s room. You could use solid card stock in varying shades for an ombre effect or use patterns like the one I made in the pictures above. I love how it shimmers in the sunlight! I was determined to make this entire project out of things I could find in the house so I came up with some unusual workarounds. I didn’t have any round embroidery hoops, dowels, or extra lampshades (all great options for this project!) to use as a base/form for my mobile, so I used the front of a broken desk fan! It was perfect! I had some beading thread left over from a jewelry project that I used to hang the paper disks, and I made the paper disks from leftover heavyweight scrapbook paper from my Anti-Valentines banner. Not bad for not buying any supplies! Materials: Heavyweight scrapbook paper or card stock Scissors or paper punch (I highly recommend a 2″ paper punch for this project!) Thread or string A base/form: dowels, embroidery hoop, lampshade form, or anything you can find that will work! Sewing needle Sewing pin Instructions: Using a 2″ paper punch, cut approximately 200 circles out of heavyweight scrapbook paper or card stock. Using a sewing pin, punch a small hole through the center of each circle (you can just eyeball it) Using needle and thread, thread each circle onto the thread, knotting the thread under each of the circles so it stays in place. I made strings of circles of varying lengths from 9 circles to 11 circles. Tie the strings of circles to the base/form at equal intervals. Tie a string to the top of the base/form and hang from the ceiling. That’s it! Five Pinterest crafts on a budget! I encourage you to try them out for yourself and have fun with colors and patterns! Happy Crafting!
15 Feb 2016
MPS024 – Old Hollywood Glamour Party / Oscar Party
This is such a fun theme for a party! I love the glam of old Hollywood…the colors, sparkle, the dresses, the hair and makeup, the fabrics, textures, lights, music and so much attitude! You have so much material to work with when planning a Hollywood Glam party! If you’re doing a full out Oscar party, then you can add a Hollywood sign, Oscar statues, sidewalk stars, film reels, etc. to the decor. If you’re going a less literal route for a Hollywood feel (perhaps a New Year’s Eve party or a Birthday party), you can use ostrich feathers, crystals, fabric draping, and lighting to make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Photo source: Jones’ Diary Popular Colors to use: Below is a list of the standard colors to use for a Hollywood Glam party and I’ve created a simple formula to help you pick your color scheme. Just pick one (or both if you want to do black and white) from the first group, pick one metallic from the second group, and one color from the third group and you have your color scheme! Try it out, see what you think! Pick 1 or 2 Basics: Black White Pick 1 Metallic: Gold Silver Pick 1 Color: Red Pink Purple That’s it! Photo source: Heavenly Blooms Photo source: My Painting Shirt Patterns and Texture: Stripes: I love stripes, especially black/white or black/pink, for a Hollywood party Checkered floor (black/white): Picking out a dance floor? Rent the black and white checkered floor instead of the wood. Stars Damask: I love using a damask pattern for Hollywood parties. I’ve used damask in votive covers, invitations, programs, etc. Shimmer and soft: Use fabrics with different textures but make sure to include some shimmer and shine along with some softer materials for draping. Photo source: Catch My Party Decorations: Red Carpet going into the party with stanchions and a photo backdrop (see below) Room lighting: wall spotlights in your accent color (pink, purple, or red) chandeliers candles Ostrich feathers Oscar statues (the ones pictured below are made from dolls and paint!) Film reels Balloons in large groupings or as an archway Stars (either hanging, on backdrops, “walk of fame”, etc.) White string lights Black and White photos of Hollywood stars from the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s – on easels or make a slide show with old movie quotes! Sparkle! Photo source Photo source: Better Homes and Gardens Centerpieces: Candelabra with crystals Many candles: votives, pillars, tapers, etc. Decorated holders with glass beads, vellum, rhinestone bands, etc. Ostrich feathers in tall vases Roses (white or red…if using a pink or purple accent color, stick with white roses) Make a statement and make it tall, big and bold! Photo source: Head Over Heels Tablescaping: Linens in party colors Runners or overlays Mirror under centerpiece for added reflection and light Gold or silver chargers Lots of sparkle and soft light Candelabras Hanging crystals Rhinestone bands around candle holders Sequins Candles Menu/ Programs at each place setting in colors and pattern to go with theme Photo source: Creative Coverings Photo source: My Painting Shirt Glam it up! Want inspiration for hair, makeup, and dress ideas? Look up all the old Hollywood types like Audrey Hepburn, Lauren Bacall, Rita Hayworth (below), Ingrid Bergman, Hedy Lamarr, Myrna Loy, etc. Music: Big Band music Old Showtunes Rat Pack (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., etc.) Rentals vs. Hotel Supplied and Florist vs. Homemade: This is always a big decision for me … financially. I have no problem coming up with a grand vision of draping fabrics and lights hanging from the ceiling, choosing a room with the carpet the perfect color for my theme, dance floor in the right color/pattern, elaborate centerpieces many feet high, fancy stemware, chargers at each place setting, runners and overlays, and chair covers with sashes or gold Chiavari chairs. However my “grand vision” rarely matches my budget. Rentals vs. Hotel Supplied: You will save some money if you go with the chairs the hotel has on hand (instead of chair covers or renting new chairs), but they could distract from your overall theme. If you’re on a budget, keep in mind that the room will be dark and the focus will be on the table, especially when people are in the chairs, so this may be a good place to save quite a bit of money. Do take advantage of anything the hotel offers for free. Do they offer free votives for the tables? Mirror squares for under the centerpiece? They may provide white linens and napkins then you can rent overlays or runners to go with your theme instead of renting all the linens. Work with your hotel contact to find a good place to start. Florist vs. Homemade: Using a florist is so nice! They do all the work, they deliver, and you don’t have to do a thing other than pick out the design. However, you will pay for this convenience…quite a lot. If you are having a small party and only need one or two arrangements, this may be an option, but if you are on a budget and need centerpieces for 16 tables, then you are better off making the centerpieces yourself. For a Hollywood party you want something large with height that makes a statement and a tall vase with ostrich feathers is a great way to go! I made my own feather centerpieces (see photo below) by sticking ostrich feathers into a foam bouquet holder. I attached a string of battery operated fairy lights to the handle then dropped it into a tall Eiffel tower vase. The fairy lights gave it a glow from the inside and the feathers were perfect centerpieces. I alternated tables with candelabras (that had crystals hanging from them) for variety. Photo source: My Painting Shirt Votive Coverings: If you’re on a budget but want to add more glam to the table, decorate some votives. The candlelight will add to the soft glow and by adding a covering, it allows you another place to either bring in some sparkle or pattern, and you can buy a lot of votives for a reasonable amount of money. In the photo below, I just printed a damask pattern on vellum, cut to size, then attached to the votive holder using double-sided tape! So easy and they looked great on the table. The vellum let the light through and I was able to add more damask pattern to the table. Photo source: My Painting Shirt Need more inspiration? Watch some old movies like “Casablanca”, “Gilda”, “To Have and Have Not”, and the “Thin Man” movies. Happy Oscar Season and enjoy planning your Old Hollywood Glamour Party!
15 Jan 2016
MPS022 – 9 Holiday Cocktails!
The holidays are upon us and I have nine amazing holiday cocktail recipes to help you get through… I mean celebrate… the holidays! Today we are making holiday cocktails with the flavors and colors of the season! We’ll use red cranberries and pomegranates, green rosemary and mint, white and red peppermint, and the combination of citrus with spices like clove, cinnamon, and anise. Mmmmmm. We’ve had a lot of fun in the test kitchen this week, a few we had to try twice just to make sure it was still delicious! Work, work, work. Before we get started, two things… First thing… Don’t be afraid of the POMEGRANATE! Lets talk pomegranates. The seeds have a rich red color and are delicious as a garnish in drinks. So how do you get the seeds? If you’ve never worked with a fresh pomegranate before, the unknown could be a bit intimidating…but it’s really so easy! Step one: Wear a shirt that can be stained red (if you are messy in the kitchen like I am). The pomegranate is juicy and messy and will stain. Step two: Cut off the top stem then cut the pomegranate in half from the top down. Some people prefer the scoring method, but for me this goes quicker. Step three: Break apart the half pomegranate to release the seeds (best to do this over a large bowl). Use your fingers or a spoon to help release the seeds if they don’t pop out. Separate out the seeds and done! Second thing… Welcome to the new and exciting world of TONIC SYRUP! Many of the standard brands of tonic water you find at the grocery store are full of high fructose corn syrup and low on flavor. A few new brands, like Q Tonic, have started using quality ingredients and created a better tasting tonic water, but my new favorite tonic water solution is tonic syrup. Tonic syrups vary by bitterness and flavor giving you more control over the quality and flavor of your cocktail. Just add your choice of tonic syrup (and soda water) to your favorite gin and see what a difference it makes! We did a taste test with the Grand Cran recipe and the Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. tonic syrup version was MUCH tastier than the standard tonic water version. Most stores have not caught on to this trend yet, so you may not find it at your local liquor store. In fact I was getting a lot of strange looks from people at Whole Foods and the local liquor store when I asked if they had it, but I had no trouble finding it online. Thank you internet! Pomegranate Martini There are so many things I love about this drink: You can make it in large batches so you don’t have to mix individual drinks and be stuck behind the bar all night. It has a deep red color. The rosemary garnish looks like a little Christmas tree. The sugar rim looks like snow! If you don’t want to serve it as a martini, try it over ice with tonic syrup and soda…it’s delicious! Ingredients: 2 cups chilled vodka 1 cup Cointreau 1 cup pomegranate juice Juice of 1 lemon White sugar Pomegranate seeds Lemon twist from peel Rosemary sprigs Instructions: Combine vodka, Cointreau, pomegranate juice, and lemon juice in pitcher. Stir and chill in fridge. Sugar the rim of a martini glass (or rocks glass if serving over ice with tonic) by dipping rim in water then rolling in white sugar. Pour mixture into glass and add a tablespoon of pomegranate seeds, a lemon twist, and a rosemary spring for garnish. Serve immediately. Serves: 6 Original drink recipe found on foodiecrush. The Grand Cran This is not your typical G&T! A few weeks ago we wandered into a tasting room for the Sweetgrass Winery & Distillery, a local micro distillery, and discovered Cranberry Gin. We bought a bottle and couldn’t wait to start testing out recipes. Our favorite so far is from the Sweetgrass website, but we substituted tonic syrup and soda water for tonic water. While this particular gin is not available throughout the US, a variation of this recipe would be to use a quality gin and a small amount cranberry juice with the Grand Marnier, tonic syrup and soda water. Ingredients: 2 oz Cranberry Gin (or 2 oz gin plus 1 oz cranberry juice cocktail) 1 oz Grand Marnier 1 oz Tonic Syrup 4-5 oz Soda Water Instructions: Fill old fashioned glass with ice. Add ingredients and stir. Garnish with whole cranberries. Serves: 1 Original drink recipe found on Sweetgrass Winery. Winter Sea Breeze Another pretty drink with Christmas colors! We thought this might taste to “summery” to be a holiday drink, but the flavors in the tonic syrup keep it in perfect balance and a great alternative to typical holiday beverages. Ingredients: 1 oz vodka 1 oz grapefruit juice (fresh squeezed preferred, but I have to admit I used store bought) 1/2 oz tonic syrup 2 oz soda water 1 tablespoon pomegranate seeds sprig of mint Instructions: Fill an old fashioned glass with ice (3/4 full) Add vodka, grapefruit juice, and tonic syrup and stir. Add soda water. Garnish with pomegranate seeds and mint sprig. Serves: 1 Original drink recipe found on Catch My Party. Peppermintini Here is it! Christmas and dessert in a glass! This will definitely bring a smile to your holiday guests with it’s peppermint, white chocolate, and vanilla flavors and the beautiful presentation of the creamy white drink with a peppermint rim and candy cane garnish! Ingredients: 4 oz white chocolate liqueur 2 oz vanilla vodka 2 oz half and half 1/4 tsp pure peppermint extract smashed candy cane pieces (crush candy canes in zip close bag with rolling pin) Instructions: “Sugar” the rim of a martini glass by dipping it in water then rolling the rim in the crushed candy cane pieces. Fill cocktail shaker 2/3 full with ice, then add white chocolate liqueur, half and half, vanilla vodka and peppermint extract. Shake until mixed and chilled, then strain into martini glass. Garnish with small candy cane and serve immediately. Serves: 2 Original drink recipe found on A Spicy Perspective. Mulled Wine Don’t you just love a drink that’s alcoholic AND makes the house smell like Christmas? I do! It smells wonderful and you can make a big batch ready for everyone to help themselves so you can get back to enjoying the day. Ingredients: 1 bottle red wine (I used a pinot noir) 1/4 cup brandy 1/4 cup honey 1 orange sliced (I did wedges, but round slices would look better) 8 whole cloves 2 large cinnamon sticks 2 star anise Instructions: Wrap cloves, cinnamon sticks, and star anise in a cheese cloth. Add wine, brandy, honey, orange, and spice bundle into large saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain to remove orange and spice bundle, then return wine to saucepan. Serve warm with garnish of fresh orange slice, cinnamon stick, and star anise. Serves: 4 Original drink recipe found on Gimme Some Oven. Fireplace Cooler This is a great combination of sweet and sour with strong port flavors but lighter than what you expect from a glass of port. It will warm you from the inside out. Ingredients: 1 part London dry gin 1 part tawny port 2 dashes of orange or angostura bitters Orange peel garnish Freshly grated cinnamon Instructions: Stir gin, port, and bitters in an old fashioned glass over ice. Grate cinnamon on top and garnish with orange peel. Serves: 1 Original drink recipe found on Marie Claire. Cranberry Spice This cocktail made our testing group very happy! It has a beautiful red color and an interesting combination of flavors that work beautifully together. Depending on your tastes, you can adjust the tartness/sweetness of this drink by the kind of cranberry juice that you use. For a more tart drink, use Just Cranberry (cranberry juice only). For a sweeter drink, use cranberry juice cocktail (like Ocean Spray). We made the tart version and we thought it was just right. Ingredients: 1 oz Domaine de Canton (ginger liqueur) 1/2 oz Cabernet Sauvignon 1/2 oz Chambord 2 oz Cranberry Juice (mix or straight, depending on your preference) Instructions: Fill shaker 3/4 full of ice, add all ingredients and shake well. Strain into martini glass. Garnish with whole cranberries. Original drink recipe found on Marie Claire. Blizzard This recipe combines the flavors of bourbon, cranberry, and lemon with just the right amount of sweetness. It calls for basic simple syrup, so I saw it as an opportunity to add more flavor by using honey instead of white sugar and infusing the simple syrup with lemon and cranberry. It adds to the full flavor to the drink Make the simple syrup: Bring a handful of cranberries, the peel of one lemon, 1/2 c honey, and 1/2 c water to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer until cranberries burst. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Once cool, strain into air tight container and store in fridge for up to one week. Ingredients: 4 1/2 tablespoons bourbon 1 1/2 tablespoons cranberry juice (cocktail)* 1 tablespoon lemon juice 2 tablespoons cranberry and lemon infused honey simple syrup (instructions above) Instructions: Shake all ingredients well over ice and pour (with ice) into an old fashioned glass. Garnish with cranberries and/or lemon peel. *Alternate recipe: If you use tart 100% cranberry juice instead of cranberry juice cocktail, then double the amount of simple syrup. Serves: 1 Original drink recipe found on The Speckled Palate. Mom’s Hot Buttered Rum This is one of my favorites. Give me a snowy day, a warm fire, Christmas music playing, and a mug of Hot Buttered Rum to sip with family around the Christmas tree. Aaahhhh. This recipe comes from my mom who has been making it since I was a kid (the non-alcoholic version for us kiddos, of course). You can make a big batch of the mix and leave it in the freezer so it’s ready to go whenever you want! The Mix: 1 pint vanilla ice cream (softened at room temperature) 1/2 lb butter (room temperature) 1 lb dark brown sugar 3/4 t. cinnamon 3/4 t. nutmeg 3/4 t. allspice Combine all in blender until well mixed, move to an airtight container and store in the freezer until ready to use. Ingredients: 1 heaping tablespoon of Mix (recipe above) 2 oz spiced rum (I prefer Queequeg Rum from Maine Craft Distilling… Mmmmmm) 3/4 cup hot water Instructions: Add 1 heaping tablespoon mix and 2 oz spiced rum to mug. Top with 3/4 c. hot water and stir until mix is dissolved. Top with whipped cream and ground cinnamon (optional) Garnish with cinnamon stick I hope you are inspired to try some new flavors this holiday season! Cheers!
15 Dec 2015
MPS020 – Christmas Ornaments and Holiday Gift Wrap Ideas
‘Tis the season to trim the tree and wrap the presents! This is the time of year when I seem to have a permanent light coating of glitter on me at all times…unintentionally. It just gets everywhere! This year I’m just going to tell people I wear glitter because “I’m fancy”. Of course that won’t explain my ink stained fingers and glue in my hair…ah, the holidays. Today I’m going to talk about tree ornaments you can make yourself and a number of gift wrapping tips and ideas to make your packages stand out and become part of the decorations! As always, the first thing I do is get out my holiday movies to play in the background to put me in the holiday mood as I work on my projects. My favorite, and usually the first one I play each year, is The Muppet Christmas Carol with It’s A Wonderful Life, Elf, A Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, and The Ref following closely behind. Of course there’s also the classics of Rudolf, Santa Claus is Coming to Town and, of course, A Charlie Brown Christmas. Christmas Tree Ornaments I attempted a number of new ornaments this year. Most were successful and easy…some were not. I promise to share (with photos) the good, the bad, and the ugly. I like to coordinate my ornaments each year either with a theme or color or style. The last few years I’ve done a silver and gold tree with lots of shine and sparkle, but what I love about this time of year is seeing how other people decorate their trees! Each tree is unique their family and can say so much with just a few baubles! So here’s some ornaments I made this year. Some I will give as gifts, others I will use on my tree, and at least one is going directly into the trash or will getting repainted…but more on that later. Let’s get started! Knitter Ball: Wrap yarn around a glass ornament (using hot glue gun to secure the yarn occasionally), glue wood beads to the ends of long toothpicks or short skewers and insert through top layer of yarn. Snow Globe: Cover a clear glass ornament with a thin layer of glue, cover with Epsom salts, let dry. Salt Dough Ornaments: Mix salt dough (1 part salt, 1 part flour, 1/2 part water) and roll out then cut shapes using cookie cutters. Use a toothpick to create a small hole at the top (large enough for a ribbon or twine to fit through) and add a pattern or lettering (like Joy, Noel, or a name using alphabet stamps) to the cut-outs. Bake on a cookie sheet in a 200 degree oven (center rack) for 4-6 hours (longer if you have thick pieces). Once cool, dust off any remaining flour and decorate! Don’t forget to paint both sides. I painted these a few different ways: Star with imprint: copper spray paint Star with “joy” imprint: red paint with white dry brushing Candy Cane: red, white, and a coating of glitter glue. Tree with imprint: Red in the pattern and white lightly brushed over the top avoiding the pattern imprint. Pink Star: I painted the star pink then went over the letters in white paint. Once dry, I covered all with a layer of glitter glue. Mercury Glass Faux Finish: In a well ventilated area, spray Krylon Looking Glass spray paint into a clear glass ornament and swirl until almost dry (use a hair dryer on low to speed up this process). Spray a few spritzes of water into ball and give it a little shake until large droplets form, let dry completely. Once dry, pour in some gold paint and swirl it around, drain out any extra. Let dry and hang! Twig Tree: Carefully, cut straight twigs to the correct size, then glue gun onto the base stick. Make a star out of small sticks and glue to the top. Make a twine loop and glue to the top of the back of the base stick. Watch your hands when using the garden clippers, trust me! Glitter Ornaments: Swirl watered-down, clear-drying, craft glue inside a clean clear glass ornament and drain out excess. Pour in a healthy amount of glitter, hold your finger over the opening, and give it a good shake until the glitter is completely covering the inside, discard excess. Let dry and hang! It’s very important to keep the glue thin or else it will take forever to dry! My first attempt I used undiluted glue and after three days they still weren’t dry! Sheet Music Ball: Print holiday sheet music onto parchment paper and cut into strips. Roll strips loosely around a pencil and insert into a clean clear glass ornament. Paint and Shake Ornament: Easiest ornament ever! I call this one “Chewed Up Candy Cane”. I just added a glob of red paint, a glob of white paint, and a tablespoon of water and gave it a shake until all areas were covered. Then drained out the excess and let dry. Done! Fails! Puff Paint Tree, Glitter Letter, and Dark Noel Star: We all make mistakes, I make many, or things just don’t turn out in real life they way they looked in your head. Here are a few ornaments that are not making the tree this year…but your version may turn out much better! So if you like the idea, try it and I hope you have a steadier hand than I did! Gift Wrap Ideas I love to coordinate my gift wrap with my tree decorations either with the same color scheme or the same style family (rustic, traditional, Disney, etc.). If I’m doing a silver and gold tree, then my packages will also be wrapped in silver and gold with hints of burgandy to match the tree skirt. If I’m doing a Disney tree, then I’ll coordinate the gift wrap to match the (most likely) bright pops of color on the ornaments. I also like variety in my gift wrap, so no two presents are wrapped exactly the same. I usually use a total of two or three coordinated wrapping paper rolls and four or five different coordinated ribbons. I wrap each present in a different variation and voila! a lovely, coordinated yet interesting, set of presents that add to your overall holiday decor! This is what I used for this year’s gift wrap materials: Plain red wrapping paper (no pattern) Plain kraft wrapping paper (no pattern) Dark brown burlap Jute rope/twine 2.5″ Tan cloth wired ribbon with a brown pine cone and dark green pine needle pattern, light glitter 1.5″ Tan cloth wired ribbon with a brown twig/stick pattern, no glitter 1.5″ Ivory satin wired ribbon with a slight gold musical note pattern with gold edges, no glitter 1.5″ Red cloth wired ribbon with gold glitter pine cones and pine needle pattern, heavy glitter Faux red berries Faux pine needle branches with pine cones and berries Faux gold berry picks (if you used gold with your Thanksgiving decorating, reuse on the gifts for Christmas!) Large gourmet candy cane Large peppermint marshmallow pop Alphabet stamps and black ink Large Kraft Box with Pine Cone Ribbon and Greens and Large Candy Cane: Brown Burlap Ball with Stick Ribbon, Greenery, and Berries: Red Box with Ivory Ribbon and Gold Berries: Small Kraft box with Twine, Red Berries, and Stamped Name: Red Box with Red/Gold Ribbon, Greenery with Pine Cones, and Large Peppermint Marshmallow: Kraft Box with Stick Ribbon, Greenery, and Red Berries: Have fun making your own ornaments and wrapping presents this season and Happy Holidays!
15 Nov 2015
MPS019 – Thanksgiving Tablescapes and Fall Entertaining Ideas
It’s that time of year again! The leaves are turning, the mums are out, there’s a crispness in the air, and the holiday entertaining season has begun! Today is all about planning your Thanksgiving Tablescape (centerpiece and place settings) as well as other Fall entertaining ideas for table decorations, food, and drinks. Oh New England, you make me so happy in the Fall! Look at these amazing colors! Thanksgiving Tablescape: My inspiration completely came from ideas I had seen on Pinterest and what was on sale at the local craft store! The craft store was having a 60% off sale on all Fall silk florals, so I picked through what was left and made it work! I already had the green napkins, the brown tablecloth, the gold chargers, and four large Fall berry picks. I used everyday silverware and plates, but I did buy the burlap runner at the craft store. The pumpkins are craft pumpkins (on sale!) and I spray painted the one in middle from black to metallic dark copper. I used candles and hurricane candle holders I already had and just filled in the gaps with the silk florals I picked up at the craft store! The centerpiece includes: Three craft pumpkins (white, orange, and dark copper) 2 large pine cones 1 bag of small pine cones 4 silk hydrangeas in gold, red, burgundy, and green 4 picks of Fall berries 2 picks of an assortment of Fall leaves, berries, pumpkins, and pine cones 2 gold berry garlands 2 hurricane candle holders with pillar candles in ivory, burnt orange, and brown Burlap table runner So I would have a larger space to work with, I pushed two long folding tables together to make one wide table. There is plenty of room to add more place settings if needed. Other Tablescape Ideas: Take it Outdoors! I would love to do an outdoor Thanksgiving one year! Here are some great inspiration photos for an outdoor table, I love the use of color and texture in these! Source: The White Buffalo Styling Co. Source: Indeed Decor Source: Decoist Place Cards: I used a pine cone with a gift tag for my Thanksgiving table which tied in with the pine cones in the centerpiece. Some other great Fall place card ideas: Source: Oh Me, Oh My Source: Stylish Spoon Fall Entertaining: Reuse the same decorations in different ways. We were having a few people over for a buffet style dinner last Saturday, so I just used the same items from the Thanksgiving table in a different configuration. Quick, easy, cheap, and gives an otherwise simple table a little extra Fall flare! The menu for the night was: Baked Brie with Toasted Walnuts and Dried Cranberries served with crackers Cheese Ravioli in a Pumpkin Sage Alfredo Sauce (with toasted walnuts) Mesclun and Goat Cheese Salad with Candied Pecans and Dried Cranberries (totally bought this at Whole Foods and put it in my own salad bowl to look homemade…no one was fooled! ) Roasted Maple Brussels Sprouts Pigs in a blanket with sharp cheddar (for the kiddos) Hot Apple Cider mulled with cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, allspice, and orange zest (with dark rum and butterscotch schnapps for the adults) Crock Pot Baked Apples (stuffed with brown sugar, butter, and chopped pecans, placed in 1/2 inch of black cherry soda in the bottom of the crock pot, then cooked for 2 hours or until soft) Wishing everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving!
1 Nov 2015
MPS017 – DIY Halloween Costumes
Welcome to Part 3 of my 4 Part Series on Halloween! Today is all about DIY Halloween Costumes! I’ll take you step by step through our Rocket Raccoon and Groot costumes from “Guardians of the Galaxy”, but at the end I’ll also go over some ideas for easy and last minute costumes. So my challenges for the Groot and Rocket costumes were these: Must be comfortable sitting or standing. Must be able to get in and out of a cab fairly easily. A mask that isn’t too hot and can “breathe”. Be homemade and not cost a fortune. Groot Costume Groot Mask: Materials Needed: Sturdy Plastic Mask Brown Burlap Mod Podge (matte) Toothpicks or Skewers (I used floral picks) 2 bags Crayola Model Magic (any color) Fez Painted Black Brown Craft Foam Craft Glue Instructions: Purchase a plastic mask to use as a base for creating the Groot face shape. We picked up the one below from a Halloween store for about $5.00 (but you can probably find cheaper at a Dollar store). Use the Crayola Model Magic on top of the plastic mask to form Groot’s face shape. We found this lime green Model Magic on clearance for $1.50 a bag. Once you have the desired shape, let it set overnight. Cover the face with a quick release aluminum foil (so the finished mask won’t stick) and lay a solid piece of burlap over the aluminum foil. Using a mixture of Mod Podge and water (I used about 2tbsp water to 1/2c Mod Podge) paint the mixture over the burlap until the material is soaked through and you can shape it to the model. Make sure to protect your work area from the pooling Mod Podge underneath! Once you have the burlap soaked through and in the shape you want, use toothpicks or skewers (or floral picks) to hold the burlap into shape. Keep in mind, if you use a colored floral pick the color will run a bit. Because I was adding some green anyway, I didn’t mind. Once dry, add another coat of Mod Podge mixture. Once dry, carefully remove the burlap from the mask and the modeling clay and you will have a sturdy face structure made of burlap! Just cut out the eyes and mouth and remove any bits of modeling clay. As a structure for the mask, we decided to use a fez (painted black) with a hole cut out of the top for ventilation. Make the “crown” out of craft foam. I made one solid sheet in the shape I wanted, then used craft glue to add scraps to the back for additional structure. I attached first the mask then the “crown” to the fez with brown duct tape. Using strips of burlap soaked in the Mod Podge mixture, I covered the tape and the craft foam. Once dry, I stapled on a few overlays of burlap in the back (which I’ll pin into place on costume night) and painted some details on the face. Because the mouth is just a small slit, we are going to get an extra long straw (hopefully in brown so it looks like a twig) for party night. Groot Body: I had a little trouble getting started with this one. I actually created it a different way, wasn’t pleased with how it was turning out, so I disassembled and started over. Originally, I was going to wrap the “burlap tubes” around the shirt and down the arms, but it was WAY too bulky and uneven so I decided to go with the vertical pattern with a small twist on the back. Materials Needed: Brown long sleeve shirt Brown long pants Brown burlap Pipe insulation tubes (divided into 4 long strips each) Pool noodles (divided into half lengthwise) Glue gun and glue sticks Safety pins Brown thread Sewing needle Brown yarn Brown craft foam Brown textured felt Black paint Foam brushes Green model moss Instructions: Create the burlap tubes: Cut a pipe insulation tube into 4 long strips. Using a glue gun, secure one long edge of a burlap strip all the way down the bottom of the insulation strip. Wrap the burlap around the insulation and secure the other edge with glue gun. Making tubes of varying widths will add interest and keep it looking more “natural”. The base of the Groot costume is a brown shirt and brown pants that I picked up at Goodwill for a total of $16. Once you have all the burlap tubes complete, lay them out in the pattern that you want on the shirt and pants, then safety pin them in place. Try on the shirt and pants to make sure everything is hanging correctly, then sew the tubes into place. I wanted the front top of the shirt to be a bit wider than the bottom, so I did a shorter row with more tubes on top and the bottom row with fewer longer tubes. On the back I did straight long tubes, but later added a twist in the middle. Below: Laying out the leg pattern before covering the green noodles in burlap. To create the plates on the front and back, I glued textured felt to craft foam and cut to size. Using a foam brush, I then lightly brushed the felt with black paint. Once dry, I glued on green model moss. I wrapped brown yarn around the tubes which doubled as additional structure and added detail. Then I hot glued the plates onto the tubes. Front is below… On the back I added a few extra tubes to create a twist down the spine: I did two rows on the pants and did not sew directly over the knees for ease when sitting. Final Costume (almost)! On Halloween night I’ll make a few tucks to the burlap around the back of the head and adjust the bottom leg pieces, but it’s pretty close. Rocket Raccoon Costume So this is my interpretation of Rocket Raccoon and not 100% true to character. In the movie, Rocket wears an orange jumpsuit and I much prefer to wear a black dress than a jumpsuit…thus my interpretation! Rocket Body: Materials Needed: Simple black dress Orange felt Brown felt Black felt Brown fabric paint Black fabric paint Blue paint 1/2 foam ball Glue gun and glue sticks Pattern paper Misc left over cable junk Black mask Raccoon ears headband and tail Instructions: Using pattern paper over the black dress, create a pattern for the orange stripe down the front and back. I chose to taper at the waist instead of doing a straight stripe. Use that pattern to cut two pieces of orange felt. Using the pattern paper as a guide, cut three black stripes for each side of the top front to glue on to the orange felt. Sew the orange felt onto the black dress around the neckline and along the edges. Using whatever you can find around the house (I used cables and a TV cable connector) Create the Y and small box from the front of Rocket’s jumpsuit. Cover the cable with orange felt strips. Create brown felt strips long enough to cover the cable in the front, go over the shoulder, and meet in the back under the “backpack”. Use brown fabric paint to give the shoulders a little detail. To create the “backpack”: Cut out an egg shape of black felt, large side on top. Cut out the inside shape out of brown felt. Cut a foam ball in half and paint it blue. Hot glue the brown felt to the black felt and the blue ball on the brown felt. Add some details with fabric paint to add interest. Glue the brown shoulder straps to the orange base. Cut a “belt” of black felt and glue it to the waist of the orange felt. Glue the finished (and dry) “backpack” to the orange felt over the black belt and where the brown straps meet. Attach a raccoon tail to the back of the dress and add a stripe of black felt at the bottom of the orange felt on the front and back. Add raccoon ears, a black eye mask, a black nose (I forgot to add for the picture!), and black combat boots (wearing heeled boots in the photo, but will wear combat boots on Halloween) and I’m ready! Rocket’s Gun: Now we all have our strengths and special talents, my husband’s special talent is to focus intently on a prop and make it amazing. He always impresses me with his attention to detail and this Rocket gun is no exception. When we decided on our costumes, he immediately started planning the gun and asked me questions like “how big can I make it?” I said, “Well, how big CAN you make it?” The answer ended up being 4 feet long. I requested that it be light and that I could stand it vertically next to me without it falling over when I wasn’t holding it, he made both happen. I threw in the request that if it was going to be really big, could it also double as a drink holder? Oh yeah, he totally did that too. Below are some pictures of the process and the final gun. I don’t have a step by step, but he used cardboard, masking tape, papier-mache, a $5 toy guy (for the grip with trigger), craft foam and spray paint. I showed him the “Artsy Craftsy Tony Romo” ad after he finished and he said it hit a little too close to home. Other Costume ideas: Animals Animals are always easy to do. Just wear clothes in the right colors and add some face make up, ears and a tail! You can make it warm and comfortable by having a base of a sweat suit or you can dress it up with a dress or outfit for work. Disney Inside Out characters are going to big this year! They are also fairly easy to pull off! Joy: Blue pixie wig, yellow sundress with green flowers, yellow “glow ball” Sadness: Blue bob wig, black round glasses, white cowl neck sweater, dark blue leggings, light blue socks, flats. Disgust: Green flip wig, green dress, purple neck kerchief, green leggings. TV/Movies Bob’s Burgers Tina: black bob wig with barrette, black rimmed glasses, light blue tee, dark blue skirt, knee socks, high top sneakers. Louise: Rabbit ears (preferably on a pink fleece hat that covers the ears), low pig tails, green A-line dress, black Mary-Janes. Wes Anderson movies There are so many characters from Wes Anderson movies that make great costumes and are easily recognizable. Royal Tenenbaums: Richie, Chas, and Margot Moonrise Kingdom: Sam and Suzy The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou: Steve Zissou Addams Family Wednesday Addams: Black dress with white collar and cuffs, black hair with braids, pale skin with dark eye makeup, black tights, black boots. Pugsly Addams: Black and white striped t-shirt, black shorts, black knee socks, black boots. Easy and Cute Scuba Divers: Black sweats, mask (or protective goggles), 2 empty plastic 2 liters painted black and attached to the back of the sweatshirt, craft foam over shoes for flippers. Red Riding Hood: Black dress, red hooded cape from costume store, handle basket with red cloth napkin. I have many more ideas pinned on my Halloween Costumes Pinterest page if you want to check it out! One request, when picking your costume please be respectful, tasteful, and don’t make fun of anyone. There are so many amazing costumes out there, don’t cheapen yourself by putting someone else down. Coming soon in Part 4 of my Halloween series we are going to talk about pumpkin decorating! You won’t want to miss it! Enjoy putting your costumes together and Happy Haunting!
1 Oct 2015
MPS015 – Halloween Prop: DIY Smoking Cauldron with Glowing Coals
It’s Fall and that means it’s time for all things Halloween! Halloween is my favorite holiday and I love coming up with new props and projects each year. This post “DIY Smoking Cauldron with Glowing Coals” is part one of a four part Halloween-themed series. The next three posts will include DIY Costumes, Extreme Pumpkin Decorating, and Halloween Party Buffet and Decoration Ideas. How to Make a Smoking Cauldron with Glowing Coals Materials Needed: Plywood square (whatever size you want to use for your base, we used 2′ x 2′) Four empty plastic bottles Orange LED string lights Clear packing tape Great Stuff (spray foam insulation) Black spray paint Large plastic cauldron Glass bowl Base for glass bowl inside cauldron (we used a large, sturdy plastic tub) 4 Misters with LED lights Spotlight Extension cords/power strip Step One: Prepare plastic bottles and string lights Bottles: Remove labels. Cut off tops. Cut out notch along cut edge of bottom parts of bottle for string lights. Cut off top of bottles to create approximately 2″ opening. String lights: Tape together four groups of lights with enough space in between each group to reach from bottle base to bottle base. Step Two: Secure lights and bottle structure The plastic bottles will provide structure and a base for the cauldron. Insert one light group in each of the bottle bases and tape to the center of the plywood, bottle bottom up. Use the notches for the string lights to connect to the next bottle. Tape the four bottle tops (large side down) to the plywood toward the corners (but not too close). Spread out the rest of the lights around the plywood, using the bottle tops as structure for small groupings. Make sure you end with the plug end a number of inches longer than the plywood. Step Three: Cover with Great Stuff (spray foam insulation) Spray Great Stuff (according to bottle instructions) around and between the four bottle bases and over the rest of the lights and the plywood. Don’t over spray, use just enough to cover the lights. You want it to be thin enough for the light to shine through. Let dry completely and do not touch until completely dry. NOTE: This expands FAST! Start with just a little until you are comfortable with how it works and how much it will expand. Step Four: Preparing the base for the cauldron Spray the exposed plywood with black spray paint. Do not cover the “coals” with a thick layer of paint or the lights won’t shine through. Attach Velcro to the top of the base and the bottom of the cauldron to keep it in place. Place cauldron on top of “coals” base. Step Five: Preparing the misters Place the plastic tub upside down inside the cauldron. Place the glass bowl on top of the plastic tub. Put the four misters inside the glass bowl with the cords coming out over the edge of the cauldron. Fill glass bowl with water to cover the misters (according to mister package instructions), for my misters I covered with three inches of water. NOTE: Do not turn on the misters without the water. Step Six: Prepare the lighting and power supply Set up the spotlight to enhance the effect of the prop. Keep it out of site from normal viewing. Make sure it highlights the prop and doesn’t shine in the eyes of any onlookers. Don’t make it too bright that it distracts from the mist lights or the “coals”. Make sure you are using the appropriate power cords for the prop. Use only outdoor safe extension cords (or bring it all inside if it rains). Do not overload the outlets. Keep power in mind during set up, if you can use a power strip or multi cord that has an on/off switch it will be much easier than plugging in 6 cords each time. Step Seven: Create a Scene Now that you have an amazing smoking cauldron with glowing coals, what are you going to do with it? We used it in the middle of a Spirit Circle in the yard (instructions below), but you can add a witch (perhaps the Sanderson Sisters), re-create the Hogwarts Potions Classroom or add any other creepy props you can think of! Just remember that you are using misters that will make the nearby area wet, so keep that in mind when picking your location. Spirit Circle Materials Needed: Five dowels (painted black so the bases don’t show at night) Plastic drop cloths Dried leaves (a great use for your leaves after all the raking!) Zip ties Directions: Cut plastic drop cloths into large squares (we did approximately 4′ x 4′). Place four squares on the ground (do not line up evenly) and pile leaves in the center. Pull the plastic up around the leaves to make the “head”. Use the zip tie around the neck (loosely for now). Leave the ends loose. Stick the dowels in the grass around the cauldron. Pull the plastic over the top of the dowel so it goes up through the “neck” and into the “head”. Once secure, tighten the zip tie around the dowel as tightly as possible. You now have a ghostly spirit that will flutter in the breeze around the cauldron! NOTE: If you desire, you can cut two “arms” on each ghost and tie them together so they are “holding hands” in a circle. Happy Haunting!
1 Sep 2015
MPS014 – 9 Fun Summer Activities (to do before Back to School)
Summer isn’t over yet! Most kids have a few more weeks of summer before heading back to school, so here are 9 Fun Summer Activities to sneak in before September! 1. Go jump in a lake! Outlet Beach, Sabbathday Lake, Maine Or canoe or kayak or water ski or paddle board, but get out there an enjoy the warm water, sunshine and beauty of nature! Have access to a water slide or swim raft? Even better! 2. Nature Scavenger Hunt Nature Scavenger Hunt Create a scavenger hunt for the area you live in or are visiting. Participate with your kids and see how many fun things you can discover that you otherwise might have just walked right past. Above is an example if you are in the woods or near a lake, but if you live near the beach, look for things like a shell, seaweed, feather, sea glass, hermit crab, driftwood, starfish, etc. 3. Water Balloon Toss Contest Water Balloon Toss You know the game, start with groups of two people facing each other and one throws the water balloon to the other. If the catch is successful, both take a step back and toss again. The pair who lasts the longest without breaking the balloon wins! Of course, you can always just have an all out water balloon fight, which is usually what happens as soon as the water balloons are presented. I may or may not have ambushed my husband after I took these pictures … OK, I totally did. 4. Cornhole (the worst game name ever) Cornhole game board This bean bag toss game has two wooden boards with a hole in the center top set about 30 feet apart. Two teams of two compete by trying to toss the bean bag into the hole (3 points for in the hole, 1 point for on the board). It’s a fun game for all ages, just ignore the truly horrible name. 5. Frisbee Golf Frisbee Golf Frisbee Golf Score Sheet Create a Frisbee “Golf” course by placing markers (hole numbers) on the target for each hole. You can use a tree (no hurting the tree please), place a dowel in ground, a chair, a rock, anything. Make the course as hard or as easy as you like. Give each hole a starting point and record the number of throws it takes each player to hit the target for that hole. 6. Fun with Sidewalk Chalk Bucket o’ chalk Bean bag toss (or rock or shell) target made with sidewalk chalk. A bucket of sidewalk chalk can provide hours of entertainment! Make a target for a bean bag toss game, play hopscotch, draw pictures, outline feet and hands, mark start and finish lines for races (hot wheels or skipping or walking upside-down and backwards), or just scribble and doodle away. The only limit is your imagination! 7. Bocce Ball Bocce Ball We love Bocce Ball for many reasons….it’s easy to learn, it’s easy to set up and put away, almost anyone can play, it’s portable and can go from the yard to the beach with very little effort, and it can get competitive! The toughest game I ever played was when my grandparents (who were in their 80’s) challenged my husband (boyfriend at the time) and I to a game and they showed no mercy! They won every game! My husband claims he would have done better if he wasn’t being attacked by fire ants, but that’s what happens when you don’t wear shoes in Texas! Rub some dirt on it, you’ll be fine. 8. Glow in the Dark Bowling Glow in the Dark Bowling This is so easy and inexpensive to make and it’s pretty cook looking! Just get six empty plastic bottles (I used clear two liters), fill with a few glow sticks of the same color, then fill with water and seal tightly. Line them up like bowling pins (outside please) and use a rubber ball as the bowling ball! Fun and easy! TIP: Use the right amount of water for the size/weight ball you are using. If you are trying to knock over a full 2 liter with a very light ball, it will be very difficult. Try a little water, test it out and add more if necessary. 9. Glow in the Dark Ring Toss Glow in the Dark Ring Toss This is also an inexpensive and easy game to make. Just stick a dowel in the grass and leave an appropriate height sticking out (we kept ours tall for adult size, but for kids maybe only a foot or so). Once it’s dark, activate a few glow necklaces and wrap around the dowel to make it easy to see (I used clear tape to secure the glow necklaces to the top and bottom). Make rings out of glow necklaces and try to toss them onto the dowel from about 10 feet away. It’s harder than it looks! Enjoy those last few precious days of summer and have fun!
15 Aug 2015
MPS013 – Disneyland Resort Travel Tips and Tricks, Part 2
Welcome to Part 2 (for Part 1 click here) of the Travel Tips for Disneyland Resort! More tips and tricks to help you have a magical Disney experience! This post is about making the most out of your in-park experience, from Disney Bounding to special 60th Anniversary park additions. Since my last podcast and blog post, I attended a family reunion in California which included a trip to Disneyland! My goal was to get on as many rides as possible while going through the park in a group of six people (four adults and two teenagers), on a very hot and humid day in July (thank you tropical storm whatever your name was), during peak crowd season…no problem. Originally, I wanted to do a park-hopper and go to both parks in one day (California Adventure and Disneyland) but with the crowd level so high, it didn’t make economical sense to do both. If it was the off season, absolutely. Early morning Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland. We had a lot to see and do in one day, so I created a (very detailed) plan of our day using the touringplans.com “personalized plan” feature. I entered everything I wanted to do, then moved it around according to location and wait times. In the park, I could access the plan on my phone and check items off as we did them! Here’s a look at our intended plan for the day (the plan is missing a few items around #19-20, but you’ll get the general idea) – DisneylandPlan.pdf. For a play by play of our day at Disneyland, see the end of this post “Our Day at Disneyland Trying to Stay on Schedule”. The end of this podcast also includes updates of our day recorded in Disneyland Park. A Few Updates from Part 1: Mouse Ears: The homemade mouse ears were a huge hit! My husband wore his Groot and Rocket mouse ears all day and got lots of comments and even some people taking pictures of them! I ended up not wearing the Haunted Mansion ears that I made and bought a new pair in the park. I downsized my bag, so I wasn’t going to have room to carry them after buying new ears. Maybe next time! Scavenger Hunt: I severely underestimated the competitiveness of my family. Mother was hiding things from son, daughter was blocking the photo from father, all were sneaking off to get extra items without the other team seeing what they were getting, my nephew even ditched his father on Main Street to get a shot of 50 60th anniversary balloons! Overall, it was a huge hit and really added to the fun of our day. The best part for me was giving small hints as we passed something on the list that they might have missed. By the end of the day I would give a hint and my niece and nephew would say, “yeah, we got that a while ago!” Well played family, well played. Lanyards: I gave everyone a lanyard with a badge holder to hold their park ticket and FASTPASSes and they loved it. It kept everything easy access and secure, even waterproof, for the day. Cold snap towel: Meh. It was better than having nothing at all and it did keep the sun off the back of our neck. Overall I would say it perhaps kept us from getting warmer as opposed to cooling us off, but that’s still better than nothing! Fantasyland Mad Tea Party (Teacups) Ride (rumor has it that the plain purple teacup is the fastest). Now for Part 2: How to get the most out of your in-park experience! 1. Disney Bounding While it is not allowed to dress in costume at Disney (except for children and Halloween), Disney Bounding has taken off as a “plain clothes” way of dressing like your favorite characters. Basically you dress in your regular clothes, but in the color scheme of the character…just be careful to keep it from being a costume. Some outfit examples: Snow White: yellow knee length skirt (or pants), red belt, blue top and a red bow in your hair. Minnie Mouse: Black pants, yellow sneakers, a red shirt with white polka dots, and Minnie Ears. Alice in Wonderland: Blue summer dress with a white belt (or white cardigan if cold), black shoes and black headband. Ursula or Maleficent: If the Disney villains are more your type, then a black dress with purple accessories (tights, scarf, etc) work well for both of these characters. I would add a shell necklace for Ursula and a Raven pin or necklace for Maleficent. Disneyland at 8am before the crowds. 2. Have a Plan and get there Early Make a Plan. Figure out all your must sees and dos before you get to the park. Look at the Disneyland map online and map out a general route and FASTPASS plan for the most popular rides. Buy your Tickets Online or at the hotel. You are going to be waiting in enough lines today! Skip the ticket line by getting your tickets ahead of time and go straight to the entrance. Arrive Early. I love arriving before the opening of the park and being there for the rope drop. There are cast members on Main Street, USA welcoming you to the park, everyone is excited and happy and you can feel the Disney energy. Plus, by getting there early, you can go directly to the FASTPASS or ride of your choice with a shorter line than later in the day. City Hall on Main Street, USA. Are you celebrating a birthday, anniversary or family reunion? Stop by City Hall when you first enter the park and they will give you a button to wear specific to your celebration. I don’t care how old you are, when you’re wearing a birthday button and cast members and characters are wishing you happy birthday all day, you feel like a Princess. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad 3. The Rides! Popular Rides. Rides like Radiator Springs can have a 2 hour long line and the fast passes are usually gone before noon, plan accordingly! At Disneyland, our usual plan is to be there at opening and to hit the big rides early while the lines are still low. For example, you can rush to Space Mountain and grab a FASTPASS, then go straight to Star Tours and ride it. By the time you’re out of Star Tours you should be able to use your FASTPASS for Space Mountain. From there you can head to Astro blasters or the Matterhorn before the lines hit peak. Peter Pan and the other Fantasyland rides become much more popular as the day goes on, you may want to hit those early if the E-Ticket rides aren’t your speed. Take a Break During Busy Times. The worst time of day to get into line is around 2pm. It’s peak attendance in the park, the lines are long and it’s hot. I like to find a cool part of the park around this time to have a late lunch and a quick rest. Sitting on the deck of the Hungry Bear Restaurant overlooking the Rivers of America is one of my favorite “chill out” spots. FASTPASS. Utilize the FASTPASS system for the rides with the longest lines. You can have one active FASTPASS at a time, just use your park ticket to get a FASTPASS (at specific distribution kiosks) and return to the ride during the time on your FASTPASS. The FASTPASS line will be MUCH shorter than the regular line and once you use a FASTPASS you can pick up a new one for another ride! Some FASTPASSes don’t count toward your FASTPASS limit. You can pick up a FASTPASS for Fantasmic or World of Color that won’t count against your total, so you can still grab passes to the rides you want throughout the day. NOTE: FASTPASSes for the big rides WILL RUN OUT by the end of the day, so don’t wait too long to pick them up for rides with the longest lines. FASTPASS Runner. I highly suggest you designate a FASTPASS “runner” (but don’t literally run, it’s not allowed in the park) to go get FASTPASSes for the entire group instead of the group going together. One person is going to get there and back in much less time than the whole group and you can give the people who stay behind a break from walking or they can get in line for the next ride. Rider Switch Pass. This allows two adults with a small child to go on a ride without waiting in line twice. Tell the first cast member you see at the ride that you want to switch and they will arrange for one of you to ride while the other stays with the child, then switch so you can ride while the other adult says with the child. Use the rider switch with a FASTPASS and save a ton of time! Single Rider Lines. Single rider lines are often half the wait or less than the regular line. You won’t be able to ride next to a member of your group, but you can wait in line together then experience the ride in much less time. Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse Some of the best times to go on the rides: First thing in the morning (take advantage of Extra Magic Hours if you’re staying in a Disney hotel) During the parade. Many people will be lined up to watch the parade and not in line for rides, so this can be a great time to hit some of the big rides. During the fireworks or Fantasmic. If you can ride Splash Mountain during Fantasmic or the Fireworks, you will have a few great viewing opportunities while on the outside portion of the ride. Closing. If you are in line when the park closes, you still get to ride. So make sure you’re in line for your last ride at closing time and you can sneak in one last ride before going home. Throughout the park they have gone all out decorating for the 60th Anniversary Celebration 4. 60th Anniversary Celebration Disneyland Resort is currently celebrating their 60th Anniversary and there are special additions throughout the parks including new additions to some of the rides! New “Paint the Night” Parade New “Disneyland Forever” Fireworks New “World of Color – Celebrate! The Wonderful World of Walt Disney” Diamond Mad T Party Diamond Days Drawings: Daily, Weekly, and Sweepstakes drawings for special prizes and experiences. Dine-monds: Special food and drinks Hat Box Ghost has returned to the Haunted Mansion! At Christmastime Main Street is decorated with Mickey wreaths. 5. Holidays and Special Events at Disneyland Resort All the Disney parks are known for their amazing decorations and themes, especially during certain times of the year. If you have a chance to visit during one of their holiday celebrations or attend a theme weekend, do it! Here’s a few examples: Halloween Time Halloween theme throughout the park Mickey’s Halloween Party Nightmare Before Christmas Haunted Mansion Holiday Time Holiday decorations throughout the park Mickey’s Christmas Party Nightmare Before Christmas Haunted Mansion Half-Marathon Weekend Early September Lunar New Year Celebration Spring Celebrations Disneyland Railroad Main Street Station Our Day at Disneyland Trying to Stay on Schedule: Arrival: The park opened at 8am, so we arrived at 7am. By the time we took the tram from the parking lot, got our Starbucks in Downtown Disney, went through the bag check, texted our word of the day, bought our tickets and entered the park it was 8:05am. TIP: Next time I would skip the long Starbucks line in Downtown Disney and go strait to Market House on Main Street USA for our coffee. I also suggest purchasing your tickets ahead of time so you don’t have to wait in line, those extra few minutes are precious! Tomorrowland: We rushed straight to Tomorrowland and grabbed a Space Mountain FASTPASS, then rode Star Tours and Buzz Lightyear with no wait. When we returned to Space Mountain, the standby line was only a 15 min wait, so we rode Space Mountain in the standby line then rode it AGAIN using our FASTPASS! All this by 9:30am! Splash Mountain ride entrance in Critter Country New Orleans Square/Critter Country/Adventureland/Frontierland: We hopped on the Disneyland Railroad from Tomorrowland (no wait) and rode to New Orleans Square station. We grabbed FASTPASSes for Indiana Jones then got in the standby line for Splash Mountain (only 20min). After Splash Mountain (I was in the 2nd seat and soaked!) we rode Winnie the Pooh then grabbed a cold snack and water at the fruit stand on the way back to Haunted Mansion. We rode Haunted Mansion with a fairly short wait then headed over to Indiana Jones to use our FASTPASS. Whew! The legendary Hat Box Ghost is back! After picking up a new FASTPASS for Thunder Mountain Railroad and grabbing a churro, we realized one of us got a faulty FASTPASS, so he had to go back and get a new one. TIP: Check your FASTPASS when it comes out of the machine to see the time to return and to make sure it’s a valid FASTPASS. We looked at the long line outside of Pirates and decided to break for lunch at the Hungry Bear in Critter Country. We got there before noon, beat the lunch rush, and found some tables overlooking the river in the shade…aaahhhh. After lunch we got in line for Pirates, it had been a 40 minute wait for most of the day and much of the line was in the sun, but that ride doesn’t have FASTPASSes and will continue to have a long line all day, so we just joined the masses. We rode Thunder Mountain Railroad using our FASTPASSes, then sent a runner back to Splash Mountain to get new FASTPASSes. When the runner returned, we headed up to Fantasyland. We picked up FASTPASSes for Fantasmic along the way (this will not count against your FASTPASS total, so pick one up if you want to watch the show from a reserved viewing area that evening). Matterhorn Bobsleds in Fantasyland Fantasyland/Toontown: Fantasyland was packed with families with young kids, so we went directly to the Matterhorn Bobsleds. This has been redone since I rode it last and the Yeti’s are amazing! A classic and a favorite. The line for Small World was long and in direct sun, so we moved on to Toontown and got in the 40 minute line for Roger Rabbit (indoor line with air). From there the group checked off all the items on their scavenger hunt list for Toontown. By then it was time to head back to use our FASTPASSes on Splash Mountain, but the line at the Toontown Railroad station was long so we just walked. Critter Country/ New Orleans Square: Here’s where the plan got a little messy…. We arrived at Splash Mountain, got in the FASTPASS line, and got to the very front of the line…then the ride broke down. They warned us that it would be at least a 45 minute wait until it was back up, so we decided to move on. We rushed over to Indiana Jones, hoping to pick up another FASTPASS, but it had broken down as well! Perhaps Thunder Mountain? Nope! Also down. What was there left to do but ride Haunted Mansion…twice (once in the standby line and a second time immediately after with a FASTPASS we picked up before the first ride). It is my favorite, so I was happy to have the excuse. Haunted Mansion in New Orleans Square Frontierland: Time for dinner. They sun was finally starting to go down and give us a break from the heat, so we decided to refuel and find our second wind. My sister suggested Thunder Mountain Ranch BBQ, but we did not have reservations (see reservation recommendations in part 1!) and we could not get in. So we went back to the Thunder Mountain area and found Rancho del Zocalo and it was perfect! You pick up the food cafeteria style from different stations, then find a seat in a covered courtyard with views of Thunder Mountain Railroad. I had a delicious Tostada Salad and my husband had Pollo en Mole, not your typical amusement park fare. Under the photo of Walt Disney is the actual bench from Griffith Park where he came up with the idea for Disneyland. Main Street USA: The group temporarily split up at this point for two reasons: 1. My husband and I wanted to see the gallery exhibit and displays near Moments with Mr. Lincoln and I needed to charge my phone. TIP: SOME of the lockers on Main Street USA near the Market House have phone chargers. The cords are included, but only a small section have chargers, so make sure you are renting the right one before you swipe your card. 2. My sister and nephew were taking the Scavenger Hunt VERY seriously and each had a plan how to get the most points in a short amount of time. In in the booklet, I offer one point per item photographed with a “60” or diamond for Disneyland’s 60th anniversary. My sister went into the Emporium and photographed the entire store…glasses, hats, key chains, clothing, EVERYTHING! My nephew hit the streets and took pictures of balloons, items from street vendors, window displays, etc. It’s a Small World in Fantasyland By now Main Street was packed with people saving their seat for the parade and fireworks (which we decided to skip). We met up at the Market House, fueled up with more coffee, then headed up to Fantasyland before the parade started. When we arrived in Fantasyland, we found out that it was closed until after the fireworks, so we headed over to Tomorrowland. Tomorrowland: Because everyone was watching the parade and waiting for the fireworks, Star Tours was empty. We had a minimal wait and when we got out, we got to see the fireworks show from behind the Matterhorn, pretty cool! The Matterhorn even has it’s own special effects during the Finding Nemo section! I’m usually not a huge fan of fireworks, but this show is the most amazing I have ever seen. If you can watch it from Main Street (I saw a video online) then you get the whole experience of the effects, projections on the Castle and Main Street buildings, and great sound. But our view was pretty amazing for not spending any time saving a spot. Fireworks viewed from Tomorrowland with the Matterhorn in foreground. Fireworks viewed from Tomorrowland. Once the fireworks were over, we rushed onto Buzz Lightyear before the crowds (no wait for us, but 30 min by the time we got out). It was time to use our FASTPASS for Fantasmic, but it was on the other side of the park and the crowds were crazy, so we skipped it and went to Fantasyland instead. Fantasyland: We rode Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, the Teacups, and Small World. We saw part of the next parade (there are few, check schedules!) as we were leaving Small World on our way back to Fantasyland and it was amazing! I still wanted to ride Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland, but the lines were WAY too long and it would end up being our last ride of the night, so we rode Snow White’s Scary Adventure . The Snow White ride is hysterical because most of the ride is about the Evil Queen being, ya know, evil, and it looks like everyone is going to meet their doom in a very dramatic scene then a door opens and there’s happy music with a sign saying “they lived happily ever after”. Cracks us up every time. Frontierland: What do you do when the park closes at midnight, you’re in Fantasyland, and it’s 11:30? Rush to Frontierland and see how many times you can ride Thunder Mountain until it closes…the answer was two. What did we miss? We did most of what I wanted to do when I created the plan (many things more than once) but the rides we missed were the Jungle Cruise, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, and Pinocchio’s Daring Journey. If we had more time (or a second day) I would make time to reserve prime seating for the “Paint the Night” parade, the “Disneyland Forever” fireworks, and “Fantasmic”. View looking down Main Street, U.S.A at the castle after midnight. Leaving: My husband and I wanted to take our time leaving the park (and to do some shopping) so we sent the rest of the group on their way and we lollygagged for the next half hour or so. We picked up some prizes for the scavenger hunt winners, then we sat on a bench at the end of Main Street to watch the crowd and listen to the music and sounds of the park. We arrived at our car around 1am, still wearing our mouse ears, and I was already coming up with a plan for our next Disney trip. For my updates (and sounds of some of the rides and places in the park) recorded throughout the day in Disneyland Park, please listen to the last 10-15 minutes of the podcast. Save
1 Aug 2015
MPS007 – DIY Mother’s Day Gifts
Mother’s Day is just around the corner and this year I wanted to try out six crafts I found on Pinterest that looked like they would make great gifts. I made all six in two days, so they aren’t hugely time consuming and they still give that personal touch. The best part is, you can make each of these fairly cheaply and keep to your budget! The first three gifts are what I’m calling the “Spa Retreat”. These gifts are all about relaxation, great smells, and pampering. The second group is the “Personalized Group”. These gifts are easy for kids to make (or help make) and can be personalized with photos, names, and almost any design you can think of! All of the supplies are easy to find. I found everything I needed at Amazon.com, the grocery store, local craft stores, and Home Depot. The Spa Retreat Gift Group: Lavender Soy Candle Shea Butter Soap in two scents (lavender and orange/ginger) Lavender Bath Fizzies Lavender Soy Candle: Materials: 6 cups natural soy wax flakes (makes two 3/4 full mason jars) 2 natural candle wicks with metal base Lavender essential oil (about 30 drops per candle) 2 mason jars 3-5 wooden skewers for stirring, holding wicks Directions: Pre-measure the wick by lowering it into the the empty mason jar until the metal bottom reaches the base of the jar. Place a skewer across the top then make a hook with the overlap of wick around the skewer. Remove wick and skewer and put aside until step 5. Melt wax flakes in a double boiler (I used a glass bowl over a boiling pot of water). Stir occasionally with a wooden skewer. When melted, pour equal amounts into each clean and dry mason jar. With a wooden skewer, stir in 30 drops of lavender essential oil to each jar. Slowly drop wick (hanging from skewer) into jar and place another skewer across the top to keep the wick hooks from moving out of place (if needed). Some instructions suggest “gluing” the wick to the base of the jar with a bit of wax before pouring in the wax into the jars, but I found that it didn’t stay in place. Do whatever works best for you! Let cool overnight (do not cover). Trim the wicks to 3/4 – 1 inch. Personalize the candles by paining the lids, adding a label, or wrapping with raffia or twine. Candle inspiration here. Shea Butter Soap in two scents (lavender and orange/ginger): Materials: 2 cups Shea Butter Soap Base, cubed 15 drops Essential Oil (I used lavender for one batch, and both ginger and sweet orange for the other) Dried lavender or dried orange zest from two oranges (skip this for longer lasting soap) Liquid color (for soap and bath products) Silicone soap mold Wooden skewers for stirring Directions: Microwave cubed shea soap for 30 seconds at a time until melted (stirring each time). Once soap is fully melted, add essential oil and corresponding dried ingredients. If you want to add color (the zest may add enough color on it’s own), add liquid colorant at this time. Stir with wooden skewer creating as few air bubbles as possible. Slowly pour into molds and allow to harden for a few hours (I let mine sit overnight). Once solid, remove from molds by pressing from the back to pop them out. Add a personalized wrap or label. Soap inspiration here. Lavender Bath Fizzies: Materials: 1 cup Baking Soda 1/2 cup Citric Acid 1/2 cup Epsom Salt 1 1/2 tsp Lavender Essential Oil 3 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or Coconut Oil) 1/4 tsp water Colorant (optional) Silicone mold (any shape or size you like) Directions: Mix dry ingredients (baking soda, citric acid, epsom salt) in large bowl. Remove 1/2 cup and set aside. Mix wet ingredients (essential oil, olive oil, water) in small bowl. Very slowly, add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, stirring constantly. If it starts to fizz (or at the end when all wet mix in added), add in the 1/2 cup of dry mix that you previously put aside. Add colorant at this point if you wish, mix well. Spoon mix into silicone mold and press firmly to make sure it’s packed tight. Let dry in molds overnight then turn out onto a cookie sheet (they should pop out as soon as you turn them over). Store in airtight container or wrap as gifts. I used recycled jars with waxed paper tied with string as lids and added a label. When ready to use, drop in the bath and it will fizz and bubble and release an amazing scent! Bath Fizzies inspiration here. The Personalized (great for kid participation) Gift Group: Tile Coasters Butterfly Mug Tissue Paper Candle Holder Tile Coasters: Materials: White tiles (can find at Home Depot or Lowes for as low as $0.16 each, a bit more for better quality or colors) 4″x4″ cut squares of photos, printed art, or scrapbook paper Mod Podge Foam brush Cork roll Glue gun Spray acrylic sealant Directions: Make sure your photos or art are cut just smaller than the tile. You can keep the corners square or round the corners, it’s up to you. I rounded the corners, but in retrospect I prefer the look of a crisp square corner and wish I had just left them as they were. Next time! Using your foam brush, spread a thin layer of Mod Podge on the tile and place your photo on top. Let dry for 20 – 30 minutes. Once dry, paint a thin layer of Mod Podge over the photo (making sure you cover the entire tile and the photo edges). Start with horizontal strokes then vertical strokes. Let dry for 20 – 30 minutes, then repeat. Once completely dry, spray with an acrylic sealant. To the back, glue gun a square of thin cork (slightly smaller than the tile). Wrap with a ribbon or twine and you have a personalized gift ready for Mother’s Day or Christmas! Tile inspiration here. Butterfly Mug: Materials: White mug Oil based paint pens (I used Sharpie Paint medium point) Stencil of design you want to put on the mug (can be a letter, heart, etc. just keep it simple). My mom LOVES butterflies, so that was an easy choice for me! Baking pan and 350º oven Directions: Clean and dry mug. Create a stencil of your design (the card stock I used was too thick and did not lay flat on the mug, even with tape, and I had to hold it down as I went along. Making a sticker stencil or something with a sticky back, that’s easy to remove, would have worked much better!) Attach stencil to mug with something that will be easy to remove later and does not alter the design. Using the paint pens, dot the mug around the stencil design. I suggest doing a complete layer in one color then moving to the next. Don’t over dot…I went a little crazy around the design and could have used less for a cleaner look. Once you have added all your colors, remove the stencil and any residue from any tape or stickers. If you want to write a message in the paint pen on the back, now’s the time! Let the paint pen completely dry for about 30 minutes. Bake on a cookie sheet in a 350º oven for 40 minutes. Colors will darken a little, in the photo above you can see the difference from before baking (right) and after baking (left). Mug is now permanently set and safe for washing in the top rack of the dishwasher! Mug inspiration here. Tissue Paper Candle Holder: Materials: Tissue paper cut into shapes Mod Podge Foam brush or paintbrush Glass candle holders (I found cheap wine glasses at Christmas Tree Shops) Tea lights or votives Directions: Clean and dry your glass candle holders Cut out tissue paper into desired shapes. You can hand cut (I just cut squares) or you can use the fancy paper punches you see in the scrapbook section of the craft stores. Mix the Mod Podge with a little bit of water to thin it. I used a little too much water and it created a bit of a runny mess (see above photo). Start with just a tiny bit at a time, you can always add more, but you can’t take water out! Add tissue to the outside of the glass by painting glass with glue mix and attaching tissue. Overlap or don’t, create a pattern or don’t, whatever you want to do! Beware, the tissue paper will tear when wet, so be gentle. Once the candle holder is completely covered, make sure that all the tissue is completely saturated with the glue and that there are no pieces sticking out. Let dry for a few hours then put a tea light inside and see your colors come to life! Check out my inspiration for the candle holder here. Her final products are beautiful! There you have it, six homemade gift ideas for Mother’s Day that won’t take a ton of time and can be done on a budget! Happy Mother’s Day!
1 May 2015
MPS033 – Alice in Wonderland Party
I love it when I have the opportunity to throw a party with a theme that I’ve been thinking about for years, but have never had the right excuse to do it. Well, a few weeks ago I finally got the opportunity to throw an Alice in Wonderland Party and it was AMAZING! If I do say so myself. It was an “Un-Birthday Party” for a friend’s daughter who was turning six and because I put so much time and work into the decorations, I decided to do the kid-friendly birthday party during the day, then at night turn it into an adult-only “Down the Rabbit Hole – Mad Tea Party”! It was crazy! The first people arrived at 1:30pm and the last guest left at 6:30am (yes, AM) and we had so much fun!!! The Tent: I decorated the inside of a 10′ x 10′ canopy tent with: “Eat Me” table for the food, including cupcakes with “Eat Me” toothpick signs Behind the “Eat Me” table I hung the Mad Hatter Mural (see photo further down in post). Plates, napkins, and plasticware in bright colors. I didn’t overload the table with food because it was a VERY warm day and I didn’t want it to spoil, so I just kept rotating out almost empty dishes with fresh dishes that I had premade in the fridge. “Drink Me” table for the drinks (juice boxes during the day for the kids, alcoholic sweet tea at night for the adult party) Behind the “Drink Me” table I hung cork stopped bottles half-full of colored water, painted teapots with ribbon hanging down out of the spout, and a painted foam dormouse. Cups in bright pink and blue will colorful straws. We had a large tub filled with ice for sodas, beer, and wine. Juice boxes with “Drink Me” labels. Painted teapots and teacups with saucers: I found a bunch of cheap teapots and cups with saucers at the local thrift store and spray painted them bright colors (don’t use for food or drink after painting!) I used paint pen to draw on designs. Then I used a glue gun to attach the pieces together and create table decorations. I hung colorful paper lanterns (with LED lights inside for the night party) on the inside top of the tent. Along the top sides of the tent, I hung beanies and top hats for guests to wear. Murals to cover cabinets and walls: I used a man-made material called Oly*Fun for all my murals because it comes in lots of colors, it’s light, it takes paint well, and won’t fray when you cut it. It’s similar to fabric that reusable shopping bags are made from and very thin (so make sure you have a cardboard or other backing when you paint because it will seep through). I painted murals to cover the cabinets in the kitchen, one for the tent, and a few for my Walrus and the Carpenter / Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum room. I found that cheap acrylic paint worked pretty well on the Oly fabric, but if you use a colored fabric know that the color will show through (especially if the paint is thinned). Insulation Board Character Cutouts: I love using insulation board for projects like this. It’s rigid, takes primer well, and the thin pieces are easy to cut with a rolling cutter. Prime the board (I used spray paint color primer) and draw on your design with a sharpie. Paint your design then add in the details with an oil based paint pen. Use a rolling cutter (use a cutting mat underneath) to cut out your design. Giant Paper Flowers: These are so cute! I found instructions online and just used color paper, a stapler, and a glue gun to make these giant paper flowers. They added some great color to the railing! Fun Food and Drinks: I added in a few fun touches with the food and drinks. The “oyster” cookies are just Nilla wafers, purple frosting, and a white edible sugar pearl. For the adult Mad Tea Party I made “Drink Me” shots with jalapeno infused vodka and sweetened lime juice plus a “Mad Tea” that was black iced tea, honey simple syrup infused with mint and lemon, and bourbon. So good! The Dresses! I made tutu dresses for all the little girls at the kids’ party and they looked so cute! I’m just so sad I didn’t get pictures of all of them together! If you would like to purchase any of these dresses (or see others I have for sale) please visit my new website at www.lookingglasstutus.com! Music! Don’t forget the music! There are lots of songs about Alice out there and you can even play the soundtrack from the Disney Alice in Wonderland movies. Misc: A few other things I did that didn’t photograph well so I can’t show you… Down the Rabbit Hole Hallway with signs, pictures, picture frames, and sayings to welcome people into the world of Wonderland. Directional signs around the rooms saying things like “this way”, “that way”, “yonder”, “down”, “up”, etc. Accent lighting Have fun throwing your own Alice in Wonderland Party! Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save Save
1 Aug 2016