Well, 2011 will be long gone in only a few short hours. And personally speaking, hooray! I can't wait for the new year to begin.
It's been a mixed year of great things and not-so-great things, so I'm eager for a fresh start come midnight.
I've got my twelve grapes, and we have our bubbly, and I churned out this appropriate painty-doodle whilst waiting for what may be the yummiest fruitcake ever to bake in time to kiss 2011 goodbye.
Cheers, everyone! Happy New Year!
And hooray, we're gonna be back on an even number (my favorite)!Pin It
Saturday, December 31, 2011
Thursday, December 1, 2011
It's the first day of the last month of the year, and boy -- did it get here fast! The last thing I remember we were just moving into the new place in the record Texas heat of the summer. And now, it's December. And Christmas is around the corner. And I actually need to wear a sweater and turn on the heat.
And now I'm hanging up an advent calendar. What happened to August, September, October, and November? I haven't a clue.
The last three months of the year are notoriously busy, busy, busy for me. It really has been a struggle some years to balance my intensified work load with trying to fit in some holiday cheer.
In fact, I remember some years not too long ago where I just nixed the whole Christmas decor thing all together, for lack of energy. Yeaaah...
That was quite a bummer. So, I try to make sure that doesn't ever happen again.
Now you can imagine how happy and pleased with myself I am that I had the advent calendar up and ready to go this morning, December the First! We won't have to retroactively open the little advent doors! And I have something Christmasy up! Hooray!
As for my advent calendar of choice: I love the old fashioned German paper advent calendars with a different picture each day. That's the kind I remember us having when I was little, and I find them very sweet and charming, albeit difficult to find sometimes.
Isn't it adorable? I hope I get a picture of a squirrel on a day that it's my turn. Ooh! Or a kitten! Or better yet, a basket of kittens!
So cheers to being able to do something Christmasy in time this year, despite the flying by of time, the mega-work load, and the lack of energy. Next up, everything else! Pin It
Thursday, November 24, 2011
I hope everyone is well and stuffed and has celebrated a great Day o' Thanks.
I, for one, am thankful for my family & friends (of course,)kitties, our home, creative self-employment and pecan pie.
Let's not ever forget about that pecan pie! We musn't take it for granted.Pin It
I, for one, am thankful for my family & friends (of course,)kitties, our home, creative self-employment and pecan pie.
Let's not ever forget about that pecan pie! We musn't take it for granted.Pin It
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
So, I made my first " wedding cake."
It actually was a first anniversary cake, if you want to be technical about it.
Some absolutely lovely friends of mine eloped last year Hawaii, all in what is possibly one of the most romantic wedding stories I've ever heard. It's the kind of story that you think only happens in movies, but no. It's real. They're that ridiculously cute together.
The only down side to a super romantic elopement is that you miss out on having your loved ones there with you, and so they planned on having a shindig on their first anniversary to be able to share in the celebration with their loved ones.
Enter the wedding cake! A simple cake design topped with some sort of sugar art arrangement of succulents was requested (in red velvet and cream cheese icing, by the way), and so I said yes.
I opted to do my faux succulents in gum paste. It was surprisingly easy, too. I just used some of my gum paste flower cut-out shapes, but with a thicker amount of gum paste itself, and sculpted away. I just sort of made up my own succulents, not adhering to any botanical accuracy, but I think they still came out pretty darn believable, if I don't say so myself!
I reckon that's the part where the natural inclination to artsy stuff and sculpting comes in handy.
The part that was hardest for me in all this wedding cake business: stacking the tiers and trying to get that danged icing to be smooth enough for my liking. GaAAAaaaHHH! Craziness!
That's what makes me say, to anyone who wants to compliment my cake-work, you really need to compliment my husband.
Because he's the one who has to talk me off the ledge when I get frustrated. And he's the one who lives with my explosion of powdered sugar in the kitchen. The man is a saint. He deserves mad props.
And I also totally didn't mind doing this favor, both the fun and frustrating parts, for such a deserving friend. She has been such an inspiration to me this year, that a little wedding cake was the least I could do in thanks.
Besides, without her, I don't know if we'd have our newest fuzzball family member, Trixie.
Yep, that's right. Another kitten has landed, we are totally smitten with her. And lawd, is she ever true to her name! Pin It
Friday, October 28, 2011
Monday, October 17, 2011
Yesterday I attended a baptism for a beautiful baby girl named Dorothy, so I took that opportunity to paint up a little painting of her namesake saint, Saint Dorothy (who happens to be the patron saint of gardeners, florists, and brides) as a baptism gift.
She was a fun little painting project, with her pretty basket of roses and apples and her crown of flowers, but then I also guess I'm a sucker for any chance to get to research the symbology of saints and religious figures (a penchant I've had in particular since my days studying art history and living in Florence).
I had some folks suggest I turn this into a series of saints, but I also like the idea of it being a personally specific-gifty-for-a-specific-person kinda thing.
BUT, if you do happen to have an interest in purchasing your own little saint, check out what I found during my Saint Dorothy web researching -- these super cute saint softies by Saintly Silver over on Etsy!
(I think Saint Lucy might be my favorite -- love the little seed bead eyes!) Pin It
Thursday, September 15, 2011
If you decide to throw your own Muppet shindig, you may find, as my co-hostesses and I did, that Muppet wares are super scarce these days.
Sesame Street, yes. They have that. They have PLENTY of that. Especially if you're hankering for some Elmo or Abby Cadabby (I think I'll pass on those two, myself).
Muppets? Like, as in The Muppet Show? Nothing, nada, no where to be found.
If you want Muppet gifties, you're going to have to do it yourself, or shell out the dough for the vintage goods.
So we rolled up our sleeves and went the do-it yourself route.
My wonderful co-hostess Wendy volunteered her button making machine, time, and button pressing talents to make up a whole batch of these completely awesome Muppet buttons!
Muppet + button .... does that make them Muttons?
We had a great variety of characters, too! Not just your standard Kermit, Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo and Animal, but Rowlf, Bunsen, Beaker, The Electric Mayhem...just about everyone. Though I think Lew Zealand was missing...
Also, I now know what I'm asking for from Santa this year (*cough*a-button-machine*cough*).
And as I previewed a while back, I put my skills toward the making of Muppet finger puppets. Cute!
Each bag either contained a Rowlf the Dog, or a Kermit the Frog, accompanied by a multi-colored assortment of jelly beans, topped with a rainbow ribbon and a Muppet pin.
I chose Kermit and Rowlf mainly because their graphically-easy-to-reproduce-faces most lent themselves to cutting, sewing, and gluing tiny pieces of felt.
Well, that, and I do have a soft spot for Rowlf. He always struck me as the Muppet whom I'd most like to befriend.
I'd be lying if I said that watching the above clip of Rowlf singing Cottleston Pie doesn't make me miss Jim Henson something awful.
In my classic Alicia fashion, I just eyeballed the pieces of felt and slapped them together, and they looked right, so that was it.
I know, I know. Not very helpful to the rest of the world. At. All.
Honest to goodness, I DID cut all the pieces for an extra Kermit and an extra Rowlf, with the intention of writing up a step by step tutorial for each one -- complete with templates and all.
However, I unwittingly sewed them up and gave them all away before I realized it, so there are no longer any pattern pieces from which to build a tutorial... unless I start all over again.
Which I might have done, had I not run out of brown and green felt. And time. And energy...
By the way, I rediscovered this super cute n' fluffy Rowlf finger puppet that I had favorited over on Flickr a few years ago whilst looking for some Rowlf face references.
I reckon the idea of a Rowlf finger puppet was buried in my subconscious from way back then, and I totally did not realize it until this came up during my search!
Perhaps I will write up a finger puppet tutorial for some other occasion.
As for now, I have another Muppet entry to make for tomorrow! I better get to it! Pin It
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Caribbean Amphibian - How to Make a Kermit the Frog Piñata, Cuban Style (a pull-string piñata, that is...)
Do you like Kermit the Frog? Do you like piñatas? Both? Wonderful!
This post's for you! I will show you how to make a pull-string piñata of Kermit the Frog.
Wait, did she say pull-strings!?!? What?
Yes, a pull-string piñata. That's what I grew up with, cuz that's how the Cubans typically do it. Pull-string piñatas are totally little kid friendly (no three year-olds wielding a stick), great for parties and big groups of people (everyone gets to play a part), and perhaps best of all, they are REUSABLE.
So that intricate piñata you spent so much time building? You don't have to destroy it! You could use it again, lend it to a friend, store it for annual holidays, etc. etc.
You could use this Santa piñata again - we did! Yeah, I know. That sounds great!
My mom made this Santa piñata for the kids at the company Christmas party.
This is where I step in to say, though the Luke Skywalker piñata tutorial was a hit (pun intended), I think there may have been some confusion when it was getting passed around... Some folks were re-blogging it calling it a Cuban style piñata tutorial...
It wasn't, and it's not. It was a standard "beat it with a stick" piñata like those you would most often find in Mexico, albeit made in a different method compared to most piñata tutorials. The misunderstanding may be my fault, which is why I'm trying to clear this up before we start.
The paper mache-free method by which I build piñatas is not what makes a piñata Cuban style...the pull-strings are what do that.
The method, well, it's just my mom's method! And she's not Cuban.
My mom made this Winnie the Pooh piñata for my brother's second birthday.
But my mom did marry a Cuban, and totally embraced the culture, cuisine, and traditions. And thus she combined her own crafty ways with her new family culture and was cranking out piñatas for her kids, their cousins, and just about every kiddo in the neighborhood.
This swinging Barbie piñata was made for my cousin by my mama.
And that is how I learned to make piñatas. As for the her technique of making that actual piñata, let's just call it the "The Other Way to Make Piñatas! Without Paper Mache!"
Or we can simply call it "The Mama Method." And so with that, let's begin!
Maestro, how about a little music for inspiration?
Making a Pull-string Piñata using The Mama Method
Have I ever told you that I am a very thorough lady?
Here's what you'll need:
• a pencil or a Sharpie, or both
• character reference material and/or a sketch
• crepe paper in your desired colors. I used light green, light yellow, white, black, pink, and red for Kermie.
• good old-fashioned Elmer's Glue or similar all purpose glue.
• a paper plate
• masking tape
• craft scissors (you know, ones that you don't care about if they get dull and crappy)
• a good heavy twine or thin rope
• curling ribbon or similar (I wanted to make a rainbow of ribbon for the pull-strings, but one color is fine) BUT make sure you have enough to make the piece long enough to grab, and for enough people to each get a string!
• wrapping paper for papering the bottom -- whatever you use, make sure it's sturdy enough to support the candy load inside, but fragile enough to ripe through! You can use whatever paper you like, but we've found wrapping paper is a perfect solution.
• A big cardboard box or large pieces of scrap cardboard. Hey! I found a use for one of the many moving boxes we have!
First thing's first, design your piñata, sketch it out. I chose to make Kermit. Kermie has filled out a bit in these modern times, so I drew up a more classically pointy Kermit.
I always loved the Kermit piñata my brother made for his own party back in the day, so I stole his design to make the piñata for the Muppet Baby Shower Extraordinaire. Thanks, brother of mine back in '79! Or was it '80?
By the way, you can use this tutorial to make any character, really. If you want to make a standing figure piñata, please be advised to design it so that the strings do NOT emanate from the character's....um...how should I put this nicely?
Don't make the strings come from its crotch. There. I said it.
My mom made this clown piñata for my brother's third birthday.
Take a cue from the photo above, and instead of "crotch strings", place your standing figure on a platform or box. Otherwise, it just looks...weird.
And if you are making a piñata of just a head, or of a figure and you do happen to have the strings emanating from the, uh, crotch, please avoid using all red ribbons (or all yellow if it's a crotch string piñata) for pull-strings. Unless you're making a gory or explicitly gross piñata on purpose, in which case, go for it.
So when you have your design good and ready, next up is sketch it out on the cardboard.
There! Here's my Kermit sketched out on a big ol' flattened box.
I went over my sketch with a Sharpie just to clarify my own drawing a bit. It makes it easier to follow the lines when gluing on paper later.
Use your "crafting scissors" to cut out your sketch. Sometimes this is more manageable if you cut off chunks of cardboard surrounding your drawing rather than trying to just cut right on the line all the way around.
There he is, one side of the piñata all cut out. You only need to sketch and cut out one side of your piñata (preferably the front) at this time because...
...You will use the one side you have cut out to trace the exact same shape onto another piece of cardboard to create the back side.
Cut out the back, and sketch out whatever needs to be sketched on their accordingly. You could make a two-faced Kermit, so that there is no "back", but I prefer him to have a back of his head. It makes it easier for identifying where to put your candy loading trap door anyway.
The size and placement out your candy door on a pull-string piñata is very important. It needs to be as large as you can make it, while still keeping within a good 1 and 1/2" to 2" away from the borders or edges of your piñata contour. You will have to paper the bottom of your piñata from the inside, so make the door big enough to fit your hand(s) inside to tape in the bottom.
Poke a hole in the door (and brace it with another piece of cardboard on the inside), and slip some twine through to make a loop you can use to open it with from the outside. Remember to make the twine loop long enough so that you'll be able to find it once everything is all papered up!
If you get tired, let your cat do the work. Who said cats aren't helpful?
Anyway... Next up, you brace any folds or creases that were in your boxes. This is very important on a pull-string piñata, as the piñata has to be sturdy enough to be pulled and tugged on without breaking.
I do this by bracing the horizontally running corrugated cardboard with taped bits of cardboard cut with the corrugations running the other way -- vertically. The perpendicular running corrugations will strengthen any weaknesses you may encounter with folds or creases. And tape. Tape is your friend.
Choose a nice depth to make your piñata, and start cutting scrap of cardboard with a horizontal corrugation grain all at your chosen width along the contour of the back piece of the piñata. I believe mine was about 4-5 inches wide BUT!!!!!...
...I recommend you make your side pieces at least 6 inches wide to allow the candy to drop out smoothly. I forgot about this when I made Kermit, and wish I hadn't made him so narrow in retrospect... Boo!
Continue to tape side pieces all along the contour of the back side of your piñata.
To follow curves, bend a piece of your side cardboard along the corrugations before you tape it along the contour. If you bend it at every corrugation groove, it'll be very forgiving and a lot easier to line it up with whatever shape you need to.
Poke a couple of holes in the the top of your piñata from which to hang it. I used a couple of scraps of cardboard to brace it not only for the poking, but for stringing up the hanging loop, too.
You want to knot your hanging loop in a manner that puts less stress on the holes of the piñata, and therefore make it less likely to rip through.
And I also went crazy knotting, taping, and tying to divide the stress from the hanger on the inside as well. Keeping the ends of your hanging loop long and taping or bracing them to each side of the interior of the piñata is a decent way to go.
For the bottom of the piñata, cut a one big piece, the same width as the rest of your side pieces, and cut a hole in it. Your hole needs to be big enough for goodies to drop through easily, but make sure to keep at least a 1 inch boarder of cardboard all the way around so you can tape your paper in!
If you can make the candy hole large enough while keeping an even bigger border around it (more like 2"), that's great! You have likely made your papering the bottom an easier job to do.
After taping the bottom to the back and sides, align the front of your piñata with the piñata box you just built, and tape it!
This is a shot looking in the candy door to the inside bottom of the piñata box (you can see the tile floor through the yet-to-be hole in the bottom of the piñata). Make sure you super securely tape that bottom piece in! It's going to be taking the brunt of the force when folks pull the strings.
And here he is, all super secure and taped together. I am truly my grandmother's granddaughter in that I am a firm believer in the philosophy of "You can never have too much tape."
Now it's time to paper the sucker! Squeeze a bunch of glue out onto your paper plate (I suitably chose the piggy plate for the Kermie piñata). Glurg*glurg*glurg!
Now here's the big improvement over the Luke piñata tutorial. Don't squeeze glue onto each cute little square of crepe paper. Simply rip it and dip it!
The plate full of glue tip comes straight from my mama, after she read my tutorial on the Skywalker piñata. This gluing method is far faster! No cutting little square, as ripping them off does just fine, and no stopping to squeeze the glue. And it's super fast if you have a friend handy to help!
And after ripping and dipping, then stick it! Just poke your pieces of paper down where you want them. I like to start at the edges, and work my way in. Rip, dip, stick, rip, dip, stick...
And so it goes...color by color...
...Until you've finished the front! Now it's time for the sides.
I like to fold the pieces I glue to the side a little flat before dipping and sticking, so that the shape of the piñata from the front doesn't appear too puffy and fluffy.
And when you finish the sides, it's on to the back! Follow your outlines as color guides as you fill in the surface with bits of paper. If you need to, you can mark different color areas with words, letters, or symbols to remind you what color goes where.
Almost there! Time to do the candy door soon...
Just be careful to not get your bunches of paper stuck in the seam of the candy door while you're decorating the back. I like to paper the door while it's open and let it dry open as well, to assure that nothing gets stuck in the closed position.
When the candy door is closed, you should barely be able to see where the seam of the door opening is, but you should be able to locate the twine loop easily enough for candy deposits.
And here he is!, All sides done, except the bottom!
Here's the view of the bottom of the piñata. And you cover it in crepe paper just as the other sides -- rip it, dip it, and stick it!
And this is what the bottom looks like afterward.
Cut a piece of wrapping paper the size of the bottom of your piñata to paper it. You can also configure how many strings you need depending on your number of guests, and mark their pattern on your paper.
You can have ribbon of all one color (that's the easiest way), but if you did want a rainbow spectrum of ribbon pull-string, I found it helpful to write out a little pattern key for myself, to remember what to thread through what.
Using the tip of your scissors, gently poke little slits through your piece of paper where you have made marks for the pull-strings.
Cut a length of ribbon to feed through the paper -- cut a single piece of ribbon that is at minimum 2 yards long (creating individual ribbons each approximately one yard long once threaded through). Somewhere between 3-4 yards for a single piece of ribbon to feed through should be enough. I just measured them out in arm spans, myself.
Remember, when doing the ribbon threading, it's always better to err on the side of too much rather than too little. You want to make sure you have long enough ribbons for folks to be able to reach them, and that depends on where you're hanging the piñata, and the height of your guests.
And then you just feed it through one of the slits you made...
And do so again with the next piece of ribbon ( each piece will yield 2 pull-strings). Be sure to make as many criss-crosses and such as you can, because the more criss-crossing that goes on, the more likely your bottom will fall out nicely when pulled.
It's best when you're working with just one ribbon color or without a pattern, as in that case you can make LOOOONG criss-crosses, all the way across the paper.
...And so on and so forth for each color, if you're doing it rainbow style. I have left one slit in the middle empty though, because...
I will cut one super long piece (here it is yellow) and feed it through the middle hole, twisting in and out and over and under and knotting it through the other strings down one side and over to the other side, all the way to the middle again, where it will exit the same hole from whence it began.
All this twisting and tying assures that as long as those center strings are pulled, that everything else should be pulled down on as well.
And then you will have a whole bunch of string woven through a little piece of paper. Gently untangle any strings that need untangling, and tie up your pull-strings every so many inches to make it easier to handle, not only to tape them in, but for traveling and hanging the piñata as well. Here I tied them with some pink ribbon, if that helps to spot the spots where they are tied.
Carefully feed the ribbon attached to your paper covering inside your piñata through your appropriately sized candy door. I found it's easier to do this ribbon first down and out of the piñata versus paper first up and into the piñata.
Once you paper is slipped it, check it for positioning along the bottom. You want to make sure that none of the ribbons are caught in the hole on the bottom, and the your paper overlaps the bottom edge on the inside by a decent margin all the way around. If you have cut you paper the same size as the bottom piece, it should be snug as a bug.
Now it's in place, secure your paper bottom with some masking tape. I know it's hard to tell what with all the tape from my taping the box together in the photo as well, but you only need a single width of tape, roughly all along the perimeter of the paper.
Basically you want the paper to be secured to the piñata, but remember you want it to tear out too, not rip your piñata apart.
And once your pull-string paper is in place and secured, you're done! Ta-daa! Keep your piñata pull-string neatly tied up until after it is hanging. That way it's easier to handle in transit, and you won't accidentally get all caught up in the strings.
Fill the piñata while it's resting on a flat surface just before you hang it. Toys! Candy! Yay!
Here he is, all stuffed and ready to go. Hang it from a sturdy tree, trim any excess ribbon, maybe spread a blanket down to catch the sweet, sweet falderal, and then -- piñata time!
Distribute strings to your guests, careful to hold onto them all up toward the top before giving the signal to pull. Then, on the count of three, or whatever you like, PULL! YaaAAAaaaY!
And so there is the very detailed and thorough story of how to make a pull-string piñata.
And since nothing is destroyed except for the paper bottom, you can totally reuse your piñata!
Simply remove whatever is left of your old paper liner (it should look something like the photo above afterward), repaper the bottom with a new piece of paper threaded with pull-strings just like before, and there you go!
Just be sure to store it in a cool, dry place between uses. Slipping a trash bag over it and hanging it up from the ceiling of the garage works perfectly, especially for your seasonal and holiday piñatas. Just remember that too much heat or light can dry out and discolor your crepe paper!
Or, share the love and bounce the piñata around your friends, family, and neighbors, let the kids hang them up for room decor...whatever!
And that's it!
Thanks for reading my novel of a tutorial. I know I've said this before, but I can't really stand it when a tutorial is not very thorough, so I make it a point to cover as much as I can, even though all it does is end up looking daunting. Trust me -- this is not daunting! It's fun and fairly simplistic. I'm just chatty.
Besides, if you have any questions, you know where to find me! Good luck, have fun, and I hope you enjoyed it!
And yes, there's still more Muppets to come. Wowie! Pin It