Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Penguin Party

    A year has gone by already, and our sweet little man has turned one! Like most parents, we wanted to plan a party to celebrate this fact but the big question was what to do for a theme. I love to plan parties and have people over so I was looking forward to planning some fun for Perrin.

  Andrew and I tossed around a few ideas and then settled on a Penguin theme.  This winter Perrin had a cute little hat that had a penguin on it - every time he would come in and take off the hat and put in on top of the coat tree, he'd get all excited and wanted to give it a kiss. Once Andrew brought up that as a theme we knew we'd found the right one.

  I poked around on Pinterest looking for ideas, and talked with my mom and mother in law asking them to keep their eyes open for penguin decorations. My mom found a few and I found another one at Savers (which he loved). My best friend Courtney mentioned she'd gotten some cute penguin cut outs from Oriental Trading and said to check out what they had. I ordered the penguin cut out and some cute napkins to go with our theme (you can see the cut outs in the background of this picture). I just stuck the penguins all over the house, which Perrin loved! He would see them and start laughing and pointing at them, it was great.

  I made a Happy Birthday Banner compliments of Shanty to Chic, I just used alternating blue and red scrapbook paper to back the letters.

    I bought paper goods and a table cloth at the Dollar Store (its the cheapest place to get stuff like that).

  We got to try out the display tables Andrew made me for the first time! Love them!

  Perrin's favorite stuffed penguin Min hung out with the homemade bread (the napkins I got from Oriental Trading along with the cut outs).

  The penguin cookie idea I found on the crafty penguin (love the name) blog. Mine didn't turn out quite as smooth as theirs, but they were cute and yummy! I made them up ahead of time and froze them, and when I went to get them out the black frosting had turned slightly purple.  Not sure why!

  I looked for some cute penguin clip art and found this oneAndrew made me cupcake toppers from it. I glued them to some of the scrap paper left over for the banner, cut them out, and hot glued toothpicks to them. I think they turned out pretty cute!

  For my last birthday Andrew and Courtney gave me the supplies to starting making cake pops. Surprisingly, they're easier to make then one would think and they are super yummy! Andrew got this cook book by Bakerella which gives step by step directions on how to make perfect cake pops, its an awesome cook book. Her from-scratch cake recipes are great, I used the chocolate recipe to make cupcakes, and the vanilla one for the cake pops. I used the Butter Cream frosting recipe from the Martha Stewart Cupcakes book, they turned out so yummy! They reminded me of the cupcakes my grandmother Wilkins use to make for us as kids. Score one for happy memories passed on!


  Cake pops - these were a HIT! Everyone loved them! I used a bag of white chocolate melting wafers with a confetti look to dip my cake pops in, and tin buckets that I've had for forever to display them. I put a piece of styrofoam inside the bucket and covered it with blue and white sea glass (from a decorative vase in our living room). I was pretty proud of that idea, it went with our wintry/penguin/blue theme.

  We had Broccoli Potato Soup for lunch - one of Perrin's favorite foods.

  I made up cute little tags for the food from the scraps left over from the banner. (You have a lot of scraps left over after making the banner).

  I found the candle at the Dollar Store, it really looked quite cute surrounded by penguins.

  We also did "Make your own Caesar Salad". The penguin stamp I got at AC Moore, and used it to make the invitations we sent out.

  We also had strawberry lemonade to drink (which we failed to get a picture of). I made up a hybrid strawberry lemonade recipe using one can of lemonade concentrate with a medium size package of strawberries (we washed them, cut them up, and put them through the blender) and added half a bottle of ginger ale to the mix. It was yummy! We served the lemonade in mason jars.

  I set up the server in our living room with the scrapbook I made of Perrin's baby pictures, some of my favorite family pictures, and his birthday cards. I made "penguin trail mix" with penguin crackers I found a Walmart (the store brand), pretzel Goldfish, and mini M&Ms. It was pretty yummy! We also did a bowl of Swedish Fish, which my nephew Weston thought were delicious. He kept sneaking them when none of the adults were looking. :)

  Perrin enjoyed his cupcake very much, he ate everything even the crumbs.

  Perrin's party was a hit, and was full of family and love and fun! We love you little man, Happy Birthday!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Bowling Set

  When our son discovered "real" food, one of his favorite things to eat was Puffs (he even got them for Christmas presents).  The containers were so cool that I started saving them with the idea that eventually I would make something out of them ... and that something turned out to be this bowling set!  It took a while to go through ten of them, but he was more than willing to do whatever was necessary to use them up.

  All that I needed for this project were the ten containers, two rolls of colored duct tape (Home Depot has racks of different colors), and some sawdust to put in the containers to weigh them down a little bit.  With all the fun stuff Andrew has been building, we have enough of that to fill up some wheelbarrows!  

  I filled each puff container up to the neck with sawdust, and then cut a piece of yellow Duck Tape to the right length.  I split the tape in half and used each half to secure one lid to the containers.  You don't want the baby eating the sawdust!  You could also use sand to weigh down the containers, but I'd only put a small amount  - you wouldn't want them to be too heavy.

  Once the lid is on, I cut a length of red Duck Tape and used a blade and cutting board to divide that piece into four thinner strips. I didn't bother measuring this to get a perfect cut, but you can if you want :)

  I put two strips on each of the ten puff containers, and when I was done with the tape I had a cute homemade bowling set.

  I found the "bowling" balls in the Target dollar bins, (I also saw some ones that would have worked at the Christmas Tree Shop). They're pretty light, so he can move them around okay.  Heavier ones would do a better job knocking the pins down.

  This was part of my birthday gift to Perrin, and he loves it ..... well okay, he doesn't actually realize what you are supposed to do!  He thinks you are supposed to chew on the balls and crawl over the bowling pins.  But hey, he's only one year old - what else do you expect?!?

10 Puff Containers
2 Rolls of Duck Tape - I got these at Home Depot
Sawdust or Sand

Cutting Board

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Custom Shutters

Samantha has wanted to "frame" a picture between shutters ever since spotting something similar at a friend's house several years ago.  With all the different projects going on around the house, this seemed like the perfect time to do that for her - but finding shutters the right size was hard.  Very hard.  We already had the pictures, so we were locked into a specific length; and that length just wasn't available at anything near a reasonable price.  So, we decided to get creative. 


At first, I considered building them from scratch.  There are a number of router jigs that can do the paneling, but purchasing one was even more expensive than buying the shutters, and building one seemed like a lot of work.  

Our basement was pretty much empty when we bought our house, but way in a back corner, tucked behind a pile of dusty screens, was this incredibly ugly floor-to-ceiling shutter.

We have no idea where in the house this once hung, or what on earth possessed someone to try painting the bottom half black.  But we knew we could use these to frame in our pictures. 

Step one was to cut the slats free of the side rails.  I tried two different ways of doing this; one involved a couple of bar clamps anchored to walls pulling the shutters apart, and the other (simpler) way involved me running the shutter through the table saw, just to the inside of a rail.  I'd actually recommend a third way (using a handheld circular saw), since the table saw flung a slat at my head as I was finishing the last cut.  Lesson learned: don't do that again.  Also, that is why I always wear ear and eye protection down in the basement, no matter how ridiculous the glasses look. 

The slats weren't glued into the rails, so once they were cut they just came free.  I used the miter saw to cut the rails just shy of the horizontal separators. 

Next, I set up the miter saw (using a stop block clamped to the rail) to cut the slats to the appropriate length.  We eyeballed it and decided that the fully assembled shutter should be eight inches wide, so the slats ended up around five inches long.

I cut a bunch of the slats to the 5" width, then inserted the freshly cut ends into one of the rails. 

Next, I used a mallet to tap the other rail onto the slats, then used the miter gauge on my table saw to square up the "top" end of the shutter.

We decided that we wanted the horizontal separators at the top and bottom to be the same width as the visible portion of two slats, so I ripped the original separators down to 2.5" thick, and cut them to be just a little shorter than the slats.

The rails had a slight ridge on the inside, so I had to cut a wide dado on each end of the separator.  My table saw wouldn't accept a stack that wide, so I cut it in two passes, flipping the piece around between each.

Final assembly was simple enough; I set the separators in place at the top, inserted slats until I reached the desired length (24" minus 2.5" for each separator = 15 slats), and set the next separator in place.

Once it's set, tap the other rail into place, apply glue to the sides of the separators, and clamp it down.  Since I didn't have a lot of glue surface, I also drove some finish nails in through the side of the rail to hold everything in place. 

I went back to the table saw, trimmed off the rail that was sticking out past the top and bottom pieces of the shutter, and the construction phase was done!


After the successful distressing method we used on the Display Tables, we decided a little bit of antiquing was in order for these shutters as well.  Samantha wanted brown layered on top of black, and since we already had some brown spray paint, I agreed (plus, she's better at anything related to color).

We sprayed on a coat of black paint ... 

... then added some Vaseline ... 

... and finished off with a couple of coats of brown spray paint, then wiped it down to expose the black paint underneath the Vaseline.


Now that the shutters were painted, I went back to the basement to add some hardware.  I had a little kit of picture hangars, but annoyingly enough, it only had two of each kind.  Not wanting to use different methods of hanging, and in keeping with the general theme of recycled products, I made my own. 

First, I marked the centerline of the shutters 1.5" below the top.  Then, using a pair of needle nosed pliers, I hammered a staple into the shutter right on the line. 

I also tried firing a staple directly from the gun into the shutter, with the stapler set on top of a flathead screwdirver to keep the staple from going all the way into the shutter.  That worked, but it was hard to get the staple exactly on the line so I went back to the pliers. 

Since we wanted to use the current position of the pictures to determine the location for the shutters, I used Post-It notes on the wall to mark the top, sides, and centerline.

I drove a pair of nails a little way into the top of one of the scrap slats, then drove a small nail (the same ones I drove into the wall) most of the way through the slat.  I used a pair of snips to cut off most of the point of the nail, leaving about 1/4" sticking out past the back side of the slat. 

I hung the shutter on the small nail, then held the slat up against the wall by the two "handle" nails.  Once I liked the position, pressing the shutter into the wall pushed the little cutoff nail into the wall, creating a hole to show me where to drive the hangar nail. 

Take the shutter off to see where everything is, then pull the hangar out of the wall and drive in a nail to permanently support the shutter. 

Rinse and repeat for everything else, using a long level to make sure everything is even, then hang the pictures in between and you're done!

The Vaseline spots are a little shiny when they catch the light, so we're going to wash it again with some soap and hot water to see if it takes care of the problem.  I really liked this project - it was fun to take something old and ugly and rebuild it into something that looks great! 

Now that the shutters are finished, I have a pile of leftover slats in my workshop.  Any ideas for what I can do with these?   The big ones are under a foot long, and the little ones are around five inches.  I already have one project planned for this, which involves my habit of squirreling away things that might be useful later, and tomatoes (very indirectly).  We'll see if it works or not. Feel free to make suggestions in the comments section! 

Tool List:
Table Saw (a circular saw and miter saw could do everything but ripping the top and bottom pieces to width, and cutting the dado)
Circular Saw
Miter Saw
Mallet (a hammer and block of wood would also work to avoid damaging the slats/rails)

Material List:
Old shutters (taller and wider than your end goal)
Spray paint (less than a can each of brown and black)