Friday, November 29, 2013

K-Cup Advent Calendar

So I saw this neat tutorial by Vicki over at Making Our Sustainable Life on making an Advent Calendar out of used (but cleaned) K-Cups and a shirt box.  If you don't know, K-Cups are those coffee pods used in the Keurig coffee makers.  And if you have a Keurig coffee maker you have a lot of used K-Cups; which I do, which is why Vicki's post caught my attention. So I decided to try to make this Advent Calendar myself.  This isn't as thorough a tutorial here since Vicki did such a nice job but here goes.

You will need:
1 shirt box
24 K-Cups
Hot glue gun
Something to cut holes in the shirt box top (I used an x-acto knife)
Wrapping paper pre-cut to the correct size to wrap the shirt box
Small trinkets to fill the 24 K-Cups
Numbers 1- 24 (I cut mine out on my Silhouette but stickers or markers work too)
Ribbon or other decoration you want to put on the wrapped box.

First I cleaned out my K-Cups.  No photos.  What a mess.  Just be prepared for coffee grounds everywhere.  Do this over the sink. 

Next I marked out circles on the top of a shirt box.  My shirt box was 9.5" X 14".  Try to space out four rows of six circles evenly.  You want a circle that is the same measurement as the inside diameter of the K-Cup.  This will make the cups fit snugly in the box top.  I found the circles in my box where about 3/8" apart.  Once all the circles are drawn on the top of the shirt box cut them out.  I used an x-acto knife to cut out my circles.
In these two photos you can see the top of the box, above, with some of the circles cut out and the K-Cups in place.  Below are the same cups from the other side.  I placed my K-Cups in the circles as each circle was cut.  This help stabilized the box lid while I was cutting.
 It took awhile to cut out all those circles.  Below is the top of the shirt box filled with K-Cups.
 Next each K-Cup needs to be hot glued in place.  I glued each K-Cup in four placed like spot welding.
Once all the K-Cups were glued in place, I flipped the box lid over and put the shirt box lid on the shirt box bottom then hot glued the top and bottom together. The K-Cups are slightly taller than the box so once the top and bottom of the box were glued together the cups were held snuggly.

Next I filled all the cups with chocolate coins and small trinkets.  Anything that fits will work. 
Next I put hot glue around each and every K-Cup on the top of the shirt box making sure to not get any inside the cups.  I needed to work fast on this step so there is no photo.  The purpose of the hot glue is to affix the wrapping paper to the top of the shirt box. My daughter will be poking her finger through the wrapping paper into a K-Cup each night of Advent.  I do not want her to be able to see into the other cups or have the trinkets shift around out of the K-Cups.  So glue all around each cup to keep everything in place.  Before the glue dries, press your piece of precut wrapping paper down into the glue on the top of the shirt box.  Make sure it adheres around each cup.

The last step is to finish wrapping the box and number the cups.  Again, each evening my daughter will push her finger through a number to get the surprise inside.  Once the box is wrapped, you can feel the circles the K-Cups make through the wraping paper so you can tell where to put the numbers.

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Merry Christmas!

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Appetizer Tree

It is holiday party time.  And you know what that means.... the age old question of  "what should I bring?"  This post answers that question with one of my favorite holiday party appetizers...
The Tree
The Tree is actually simple to make but takes some planning.  What you will need is:

1 floral Styrofoam cone 12"-24" high, you pick (mine is 24" which makes a BIG Tree)
A LOT of toothpicks (I used 265 for the above pictured 24" cone)
1 disposable plastic plate (paper is not heavy enough)
A variety of toothpick friendly foods.  For the above Tree I used:

1 jar of blue cheese stuffed olives
1 jar marinated mushrooms
1 jar black olives
1 package salami
1 package peperoni
3 blocks of cheese cut into cubes (I used cheddar, pepper jack, and Swiss)
1 package grape tomatoes

Feel free to use any combination of foods you like.

Step one, rinse off the cone.  I ran mine under warm water.  I did not use soap because it would be difficult to get the soap out of all the Styrofoam pours.  It took a bit of drying to get all the water out of the cone.  You could instead wrap the cone in plastic wrap.  Using a fun holiday color like red or green plastic wrap would be festive too.

Step two, hot glue the Styrofoam cone to the plate.  This keeps the cone from sliding around on the counter or falling over.  If you only have a paper plate on which to glue the cone, you may want to add weight to the plate around the base of the cone like extra cheese or vegetables so the cone and plate do not tip over. The plastic plate I used was heavy enough.
The final step is to cover the cone with food.  Stick a toothpick in the food then stick the food to the cone with the toothpick.  Start from the bottom and work your way up going around the cone in layers.  You can make each layer or ring around the cone the same food like I did or mix it up, your choice.  If you start from the top the cone may get top heavy and fall over with a large cone like I used.

The cone will take way more food than you are expecting, especially if you use the 24" cone.  My cone used up almost everything listed above.  All that was left was about half a block of cheese, maybe half of the pepperoni package and half of the black olives. 

The party we went to was a going away party for some neighbors of ours moving out of state.  The tree was completely devoured (surprisingly the kids ate most of it).  There were a lot of compliments and it made a good conversation piece.  Make sure to set out a little bowl to hold all the used toothpicks or they will end up everywhere!
You could easily also do this with fruit. Just pick fruit that will not brown sitting out for a few hours. For a fruit Tree I would suggest red and green grapes, mandarin oranges, raspberries, cherries, strawberries, and similar items.  For a fruit Tree you could even add some dried fruit and some chocolate covered berries as well. 
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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Christmas Garland - Circles and Trees

It is time to start decorating for Christmas.  Usually this waits until the day before or after Thanksgiving.  But with Thanksgiving a week later than usual this year, I think my timing is spot on.

I have already made some Paper Christmas Wreaths that you can see here.  Now it is time for garland.   
First I cut out circles and sewed them together on my sewing machine.  I cut four different greens, four different reds, and one white.  Of course I cut the circles on my Silhouette but these can easily be done by hand or with a punch.  My circles are 2.5 inches in diameter.  At this size I could get 12 circles from one 8.5" x 11" piece of paper.  I used card stock because it holds up better to sewing. 
I arranged the colors in a regular alternating pattern then ran them through the sewing machine using a large stich length.  I used regular thread, with a cranberry color on top and a white in the bobbin.I strung the finished garland at my top stair rail behind the couch.  This is a very long garland which would be good on a tree.  With all these circles I could easily cut it into two or three shorter garlands to use elsewhere.  I think this garland is very festive.
I also cut out Christmas trees to sew together.  I used two different greens.  The trees are 5" height.  I used a dark green top thread and again a white bobbin thread.  To get the spacing I first stitched through the tree then stopped the sewing and pulled the treads (careful to not put pressure on the stitches just sewn into the tree, lest the paper tear) to the back of the sewing machine about 6" or so.  I did not set up a stand to make an accurate measure between trees.  Instead I just eye-balled it.  If the tree garland was for a very formally decorated room, I would have been more precise with the spacing. 

Both of these garlands took only a few minutes to sew together.  The cutting takes the most amount of time.  But a paper cutting machine or some shaped punches the cutting can go quickly.  The beauty of this type of garland is that just about any shape will do.

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Birthday Party Wrap-Up

The birthday party has come and gone.  Whew!  It was a great success.  I really recommend going to a cooking school for a birthday party.  The girls made pizza and cookies and pudding. 

Below is the front of the birthday party invitations I sent out for the party.  This is a much better picture than the ones I posted in my Birthday Party Preparations post. (I have a long way to go with photography skills... I think I need a real camera and a half-a-dozen classes).

The party invitations were paper pieced, cut out with my Silhouette.  The heart paper was scanned from the actual fabric I used to make the girls' real aprons.  I printed out the scanned image and used the paper to make the invitations.  I am not sure if anyone but me noticed the invitations matched the real aprons.  In any event, it made me happy.
Above is a picture of the fabric aprons I made the girls, along with the chef hats.  Below is how the room was set up with a coloring sheet, chef hat and apron at each seat. 

The birthday girl's chef hat got special treatment.  I cut out two paper tiaras on my Silhouette then wrapped them around her chef hat so one shows in front and one shows in back.  The tiaras were cut from a glitter pink cardstock.  Then I decorated the tiara with small stick on jewels.

Let me tell you, the cake that the cooking school provided was y-u-m-m-y!
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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Paper Wreath Craft

These super cute Christmas wreaths are also super simple to make.  It took me less than 20 minutes to make each wreath.  After making a couple I think I could cut down the time to about 10 minutes now that I know what I am doing.

You need a piece of construction paper or cardstock, scissors, a ruler, pen/pencil, and a stapler.  The piece of construction paper above measures 12" x 18".  In the first picture at this top of the post, the smaller darker green wreath was made from an 8.5" x 11" piece of cardstock.  The cardstock actually works better because it is more ridged than the construction paper.  But the construction paper works too and was easier to find in the larger size.
 Fold the construction paper in half where the fold runs the long length of the paper.  In the picture above the fold is along the 18" side (not the 12" side).
Mark along the open side one inch from the edge.  This one inch strip is the NO CUT zone.  You will be cutting through the folded side down to the line.

 Start at one end of the line you drew and mark every 1/2".  Then do the same thing along the fold. 
Using the 1/2inch marks you just made, draw a line from the folded edge to the line running the long length of the paper.  These will be your cut lines.  You will be cutting from the folded edge to the line you marked 1 inch from the open edge, one cut every 1/2 inch.
 The photo above shows all the marked cut lines, 1/2 inch apart, running from the folded edge to the line you made 1 inch from the open edges.
Next cut on your lines.
Once all the lines are cut, unfold the paper.  You will be turning the paper into a tube lining up the uncut edges and stapling them in place.  Roll the paper into a tube with the marked side on the inside.  That way no one can see your cut lines (or my writing).
You may want to enlist the help of another set of hands for this step.  I did manage it by myself and even took pictures (as you can see in the photo below the cat did try to help).   Line up the uncut edges at one end of the paper and staple them together.  Start at the edge and then staple further along the uncut edge every inch or so until the stapler cannot reach any more.  (See the last paragraph of this post for additional hints I learned making a few more wreaths).
Then do the same stapling to the other end. In the middle you will need to work the stapler between the cut loops to staple the uncut edges together.  I found that with the construction paper, the more staples the more stable the wreath (it made a better circle with more staples).  With the cardstock, fewer staples were needed. 
The last step is to take the two ends of the now rolled up and stapled tube and staple them together into a circle.  You will need to arrange the wreath loops and unfold them a little.  You can see in the picture above that the construction paper bulged in spots in the center.  More staples in the center would have helped (again see the last paragraph below.. more staples and a little glue made a huge difference).
The wreath above is made from the 8.5"x 11" cardstock.  The thicker paper held its shape better and made a better circle. 
I found a clip art bow I liked, printed it out on red paper, cut it out and glued it to the wreaths.  Other decorations can be added.  I think the bow is just about the correct size for the smaller wreath but the bigger wreath needs a larger bow and some additional decorations.  I will leave the decorating for my little one.

A day or so later after writing this post I made another wreath out of the construction paper.  This time I used more staples and a little tacky glue when making the tube.  This worked much better.  you can see how the center has held its circle shape.  This wreath in the picture above is hung with a strand of yarn without distorting its shape.   

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Birthday Party Preparations

My daughter's birthday party is this weekend.  And happily I started planning months ago because I have had no time lately.  I do not remember November being this busy in years past.  But nonetheless, it has been crazy.  I think I could handle the everyday crazy of raising a family, or the everyday crazy of running a law practice, but put them together and I think I am just plain crazy.

This year her birthday party is at a local cooking school.  If we didn't have cats I would just have the party at our house.  But enough people have cat allergies, real or imagined, that we choose to have parties at a different location. 

The kids will get to make and then eat pizza.  They also will make a couple of other dishes.  With the cooking theme I decided that the birthday party invitations should be aprons. And this gave me the chance to use my Silhouette Cameo which I just love. 

I also made fabric aprons for the girls to wear at the party from old quilting fabric I had.  That will be a different post hopefully coming soon.  When making the fabric aprons I had a stroke of genius. I scanned the fabric I used to make the aprons and printed it on cardstock.  Then I used the printed cardstock as the base for the apron invitation.  Now the party invitations match the aprons the girls will get at the party to wear.  I wonder if anyone will notice but me. 

On the back of the apron invitation are the party details.  I printed these on my printer then cut out the shape to size on my Silhouette using registration marks.  That is just the coolest feature.

The envelopes are petal fold envelopes which I cut out of various shades of red and pink paper to hold the invitations.  Those I handed out in person went in the petal fold envelope alone.  Those that needed to be mailed were tucked envelope and all into a greeting card sized envelope.
As an extra, all the girls at the cooking party will get their own chef hat.  I made names tags to go on each of the hats.  I used the pen sketch feature of my Silhouette, a pink glitter pen, and a fun font to make the name tags.
 You can see the glitter a bit betting in this larger picture. 
Below is a the hat complete with nametag.  I hope the girls like these as much as I do. 
 Now for goodie bags... so much to do, so little time.  But is sure is fun!

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