Monday, March 31, 2014

Easter "Bunny" Gifts | Easy Applique T-shirts + Vanilla Glazed Sugar Cookies

Inspiration is a wonderful thing.  It's one of life's little gifts, nothing you can plan for, but when you are hit, you are hit.  The inspiration for these gifts for my nephews came last week.   I couldn't stop thinking about the sweet little bunny sugar cookies I spied in the latest issue of Martha Stewart Living Magazine that were used for a woodland themed baby shower.  I loved the way the icing, or glaze rather, looked so simple and delicious, like they would melt in your mouth. Unfortunately, no recipe, just a bakery name was provided.  I was determined to recreate my own version.  Then my second source of inspiration  came when I saw my girlfriend's daughter wearing a cute flower T-shirt and she told me how easy it had been to make on her own.  Done.  Inspiration runneth over.  Now for how I went about it....

For the cookies.  I used my current favorite cardamon sugar recipe and created a vanilla glaze.  Since I wanted to share these cookies with my nephews, I needed to avoid raw egg because one has a food allergy to uncooked eggs.  So, royal icing was out.  I really liked the vanilla buttercream glaze I made on last year's bunny cookies but didn't like the idea of using butter in an icing that was being shipped.  I made an icing a couple years back that had a touch of corn syrup (no idea what I did with that recipe) in it and I liked the finish it gave to the cookies, so I tinkered a bit with flavor and consistency till I had a keeper.  It is so simple and doesn't even require a mixer!  I let them sit out overnight, uncovered, to let the icing completely set up.  It firms up well, not quite as hard a royal icing, but sill very stackable.  This glaze made just enough to cover an entire batch of the above sugar cookie recipe.

Vanilla Sugar Cookie Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar (sift if it is lumpy)
2 TBS milk to start, add more as needed (I used 1% milk)
1/2 tsp vanilla (use clear if you plan to add food color or want a bright white, otherwise regular vanilla is fine. I like the way natural vanilla makes the icing look)
2 tsp light corn syrup

In a small bowl, mix powdered sugar and 2 TBS milk with a spoon.  Slowly add more milk, 1 tsp at a time, till you get a thick glaze consistency.  You want it spreadable so that it covers the cookies easily, but not so runny that it is dripping off.  If you feel you went too far, just add more powered sugar.  Very forgiving recipe! When you get the consistency you like, use a whisk and add in the corn syrup and vanilla.  Spread on cookies and let them set up for 45 minutes before eating. (This is when I piped on the tails! Same icing, just thicker and without vanilla so they would be very white!) I recommend leaving them out overnight to set up completely.

^^How cute do these look rolled up?  I love that the bow is tied around the bunny's neck.  The fabric gift tags are from Michael's, I stamped on the bunny (also from Michael's) in a charcoal colored ink. These would be so sweet in an Easter basket too!^^

After 18 months of age, it gets challenging to find cute boy themed T-shirts for holidays, without all sorts of crazy graphics and text.  Charlie loved these, so I made a third for him.  It will be cute with a long sleeve t shirt underneath and lots of fun to wear to his Easter party at school!  

To make the T shirts:
Supplies needed: T shirts (mine were bought at Wal-Mart), fabric for applique, fusible web lining, applique shape (I found mine off a Google search and then resized it), fabric scissors, pen, iron, sewing machine.

Step 1: Cut out an applique shape.
Step 2: Trace shape onto fusible web sheet.  One side has a peel-off paper, the other doesn't, trace the shape on the side that doesn't.
Step 3: Peel off the removable backing and stick the shape on to the wrong side of your applique fabric.
Step 4: Follow the directions on the packaging for how to iron on the applique.
Step 5: Stitch around the edges.  I purposefully chose a simple stitch in the hopes the edges would fray a little, making the shirt feel a bit more boyish.

^^wrapping paper from Target, kraft boxes and ribbon from Everyday Occasions (my favorite source for ribbon, I love her generous roll sizes!  It is nice to shop from someone who appreciates beautiful gift presentation as much as I do. :))^^

^^gift tags made by me, full tutorial here.  I attached them with Glue Dots to the package.^^

I hope my little nephews in Chicago are as excited to open these Easter boxes as much as I am to send them in the mail.  Who doesn't love a surprise package?! 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Signs of Springs | Pirate Scavenger Hunt

Of all the things we give ourselves mother guilt over, one of mine is feeling like I don't encourage, participate, or create enough opportunities for pretend play with Charlie.  I spent so much time with Andrew, when he was Charlie's age, dreaming up imaginary places, adventures and stories.  I'm not sure what happened when number 2 came along, but I often feel a bit tapped out in this department.  I think a lot of mothers can relate too, it takes time and energy to participate in imaginative play with our children and those are two things we all tend to run low on, especially when we have multiple children to take care of.  Also, Charlie is just as happy blowing bubbles or playing hide and seek as he is dressing up and having a more elaborate game, so I tend to keep our playtime together pretty simple.  But every once in a while,  I get the spark to add a little extra fun to our time together.  So, with the arrival of spring, pirates on the brain (Disney is releasing The Pirate Fairy on Blu-ray and Digital HD April 1), and a free Sunday afternoon, my wheels started spinning...

(left) C's attempt at a pirate face, Argh!!

We invited a couple friends to come over for an afternoon of high adventure.  We corralled some pirate gear and our imaginations and hoped the weather would cooperate.  Some nice, 60 degree (maybe 70 if we were really lucky), sunny weather was what I ordered, but instead it was in the 40s and little (er,  a lot) chillier than we had planned.  Still didn't impact our fun though.

 Before Charlie's friends arrived, the two of us put together a list of items that we might see outside now that it is spring.  I found images and made it into a "spring treasure map" (i.e.. scavenger hunt).  The boys dressed up as pirates and we pretended we had just landed on an island where we had to spot the signs of spring found on our treasure maps.

 I burned the edges of the maps to make them look old.  Even though Charlie saw me do this, he asked at one point if the maps were really old treasure maps.  I said of course.  And he went running to tell his friends.  I love that innocence.

^^C's pirate face is hysterical. So scary. Haha.^^
Andrew even joined us, asking the younger boys to call him Captain Andrew.  They each had a marker tucked in their pirate sashes and they would mark off the items as they found or heard them.  I know I'm not the first to do this sort of nature scavenger hunt, but I started to question why I had waited till now to try one with my kids.  It worked so well and the boys were so into it.

^^ can you spot the woodpecker?^^
^^we never did find a ladybug, guess it was too chilly!^^
We spotted two woodpeckers knocking away at trees.  The boys squealed at the sight of each flower, and became completely still and quiet to hear the birds singing.  They studied the types of birds, commenting on how many robins they saw.  They chased squirrels and inspected branches for buds and signs of new growth.  It was really a lot of fun for everyone.  It was an engaging way to get little boys to stop and appreciate the sights and sounds around them; the way our surroundings change with the arrival of a new season.

^^we spied three nests on our walk^^

We celebrated finding (almost) all of their items with cupcakes back at our house. (Gold chocolate coins would have been a good idea too.)  Like a boy-ish tea party. :)    I purchased the cupcakes and added pirate toppers that I've had in the cupboard for years.

It was nice not to have to save themed costumes or cupcakes for a birthday party.  It almost made it feel more special because it was for no other reason than to celebrate the arrival of spring with a couple friends.  You can bet that I'll be creating new scavenger hunts for future seasonal nature hikes.  Not every time, just when we all feel the itch to make the everyday just a little less typical.

Here is a link to a printable version of the map we made if you would like to use it with your own kiddos.

Monday, March 17, 2014

My Son, The Film Maker

This weekend Andrew shared his latest short, stop motion film at his school's talent show, receiving  roaring applause and appreciation.  Safe to say, he felt like a rock star.  It was once again a really great night for him and his adoring fan club (of which, I am reining president, in case you wondered. ;)).

Andrew has always had a very deep desire to make others laugh,  channeling it in the right way hasn't always been easy.  Trying to be the funny man in class was not the best route.  Making films has given him an outlet to share both his sense of humor and imagination.  It is a tedious affair, this business of stop motion animation, and I marvel at his patience and dedication to see through his ideas.   (I wish those same traits were applied to math homework, but for now, I'll take comfort knowing he has them in him.)  I believe creativity is a gift to be nurtured and fueled just as much as athleticism or intelligence.  As a parent, I will do all I can to expose him to new experiences and opportunities that will stretch him creatively.  I can only hope that his desire to create and entertain remain a passion throughout his life, whether it is through film or other avenues.  Enjoy his latest work.  (oh, hey, Lego Movie makers?!  need an extra hand on that sequel?  in addition to being fan club president, I'm also his manager... :))

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Inspiration | California Farmhouse with East Coast Architecture

I can't even remember the last time I posted a home from a shelter magazine versus just pinning images, but this one, from the April issue of Country Living, was so charming, I couldn't help myself.  It was styled by Heather Bullard, so of course it is going to be blog-able, pin-able, and lovable.  The whole house is pretty, but the images I have here are my favorites.  I love the mass of potted white flowering plants on the steps.  It is my inspiration for our back patio this summer.  

^ Shades of apricot and off white are warm yet fresh at the same time.  And that sofa!  I'm off to look up more details after I publish this post. The brand is National Upholstery.  The ottoman is Lee Industries ^

^ The built-ins and millwork here are perfect.  Pure inspiration for my one day dream home.  I wish the lantern had not been cropped out of the image b/c it looks pretty amazing! ^

click here to see more of this home

ps.  for those commenting on trouble viewing my Instagram feed...I switched my account back to private for several reasons.  please send me a request and I'll accept you back.  I didn't realize this switch dropped some of you accidentally!  sorry about that!! :)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A Classic + Cozy Sitting Room | Design Consultation

Every so often, I get email requests from readers seeking decorating help.  While very flattered, I typically decline the work, mostly because I feel a unqualified, given my lack of design training.  However, on a few occasions, when the timing or scope of work has felt right, I've lent a hand.  While I do not have any current plans to start my own business, I do enjoy the process of envisioning a room and providing a fresh perspective on a space.

I recently pulled together ideas for a reader's sitting room and I had the best time doing it, so I thought I would share "my vision" with all of you. Ha. :)  I'm not including all the sources out of respect to the reader, but I will share my favorite decorating essentials that you can also find in every room in my home.

The inspiration board above is for a sitting room/library.  A small, cozy space that is used mostly by the two parents in this family.  It is currently a blank slate, except for a couple armchairs and a cute bamboo chair and desk.  The family plans to add one solid wall of built ins, like the image I chose above, with closed storage on the bottom.  I love built-ins and think they add so much charm to any room.  My suggestions was to break up a long bank of built-ins with sconces mounted in between the middle and end units.  Like on this..

I also loved the idea of painting the shelving a gorgeous green.  Like Farrow and Ball Olive, or Ben Moore Providence Olive.

^^ front door/shutters in FB Olive ^^

^^ love the green on these bookshelves, wall color is too dark though ^^

^ a green/gray would also be gorgeous ^

^ Ben Moore, Providence Olive ^^

I suggested adding a collection of pewter (or white ironstone) to the bookcases in one or two spots but otherwise keeping them pretty streamlined with books.  I think shelves can start to look a bit cluttered very quickly with too many small scaled knick-knacks.

As for walls and trim, I'm recommended Ben Moore, Acadia White...


I kept the fabric recommendations pretty timeless with a floral for the drapes, and a mix of a stripe, a small print and a slightly modern medallion print for accent pillows.  I gave her some additional options beyond what is shown above too.  Throw in some fabulous lighting, a little blue and white pottery, a collection of vintage bird prints, some large baskets for texture, and it all starts to feel cozy without being cluttered, classic yet still fresh.

^ groupings of vintage bird prints + basket + creamy white walls ^^

I think the room will also need one terrific antique piece, maybe a chest of drawers, to round it out, but that can be acquired over time.  If the reader is kind enough to share after pictures, I will post them in the future.  For now, it is just fun to day dream what it will be like one day.  And for the record, I want the room for myself!  
^ antique dresser ^

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Spring Fashion | Cute Rainy Day Attire (even though sun is shining in pictures!)

Ok, this post is a little awkward for me.  I wavered on posting it.  I might delete it.  I almost titled it "Tessa Poses with Her Cutting Boards" because that is pretty much what it looks like.  I don't really do fashion posts and I almost always get a chuckle out of seeing other non-fashion bloggers, do fashion posts. I don't mind if you get a chuckle out of mine. :) I posted it because I always struggle with in-between season fashion, when you are over winter clothes but it's not warm enough for bare legs or short sleeves.  I recently bought this dress and these wellies from Joules and they are perfect for this time of year and exactly the sort of thing I would wear everyday if I could.  Basically, the dress is as comfortable as wearing a sweatshirt, but it doesn't make you feel frumpy and the boots, well they are just fun.  

^^ the look-at-my-feet-and-show-off-my-need-for-highlights pose"

^^look left^^

^^put bag down, stare into space, show off the pockets!!^^

^^abandon self timer and just photograph the boots!^^