Monday, November 28, 2011

Wooden Cut-out Christmas Wreath

I love wreaths.  Last year I wanted to make about 15 different kinds and hang them all on one wall in my living room as a giant wreath statement.  I wound up not doing that because between a full-time job, raising a then 3-year-old and 16-year-old and living my life, there wasn't a whole lot of free time for making 15 different wreaths.  But this year, I decided to go for one-I-can-do-this-with-my-kid-and-it-will-be-fun-wreath.  And do you know what happened?  We did do it and it was fun, and it was finished before December 1st!  

Emily and I had a lot of fun making this.  It's super easy, and a great project for mommies, daddies, big kids and littles alike.  It's great for any skill level and can be customized to any color scheme.  Keep reading for instructions on how we made ours:

Materials used:
Acrylic paints
Glitter paint
Wooden cut outs (we used an assortment of paint-yourself Christmas ornaments, pre-painted wooden cut-outs and a bag of wooden shapes)
17" styrofoam ring (we used one with flat sides instead of rounded)
Glue gun and glue sticks
A bit of ribbon
Plastic/paper to cover surfaces
A little person (or people) to help

First, sort out all of your materials.  Everyone should pick what they are going to paint so that fighting is minimized during the process.  
Next, begin to sort out the wooden shapes.  We picked this bag up for about $6 and it had an assortment of hearts, stars, squares, circles and leaf/petal/oval shaped wooden pieces.  These are really great for little hands who might only have the attention span for 5-10 minutes.  Emily managed to sit and paint for about 3 hours before losing interest for other things.
Sorting the shapes was great for Emily, and she enjoyed the process, but it'd be equally fun for 2-year-olds and a way to help reinforce/teach what the different shapes are.  We used the petal/oval shapes to make leaves on the wreath and we wound up using almost all of the ovals in the bag.  So if you go this route, make sure that you have enough of your base color because between this and the styrofoam, you go through a LOT of paint.
Emily's gingerbread men (she was very proud of the dots)
Next step - start painting!  Anything goes.  I wanted a toy/kid theme for our wreath.  Combined, it took both of us painting throughout one afternoon and me finishing up some more detailed pieces the next morning to get everything done.  Of course, if you do a smaller wreath or less detail or go with more of the finished cut-outs, it will take less time.  More hands would also help to decrease the time.
(my breakfast session)
After painting, you can begin the assembly.  I started with the leaves.  I simply stuck the leave shapes in the side of the wreath.  I didn't measure, or try to line things up evenly.  I staggered them so it looked more layered and I pointed some at different angles.  The color variation in the pictures is from Emily and I mixing some yellow and white into the green paint just to give it a little variation.  We used foam brushes to paint the styrofoam, and even though it made for quick application, it destroys the brushes, so just keep that in mind if you decide to go that route.
After all of the leaves have been inserted, you can begin to place all of your cut-outs.  Again, I didn't get technical with this - I just placed things around and re-arranged items until I liked the arrangement.  Emily had a lot of opinions on where things should go, so we had fun compromising. 
After getting the right arrangement, it's time to glue.  I used a hot glue gun and worked in small areas.  I kept all of the pieces on the wreath, and only removed 3-5 pieces at a time.  You can see that I have a lot of overlap, so if you go the same route, just be sure to start gluing from the bottom up.  Emily's job during this phase was to hand me new glue sticks and help wipe away the "spider webs" that the glue gun glue creates.  I used a small piece of ribbon on the back and glued it down in a loop in order to hang the wreath.
And here's the finished piece with my very sassy Dora nightgown model.  She was very proud of her pieces and there are even some cut-outs that we painted together.  It's definitely something all ages can enjoy!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Dia De Muertos / Day of the Dead Wedding Bride

My BFF from High School's daughter is getting married in a few months.  She and her mom both like Day of the Dead art, and they thought it would be fun to have the bride-to-be get her face painted as a skeleton and take some pictures with her wedding dress on. They asked me to paint her face, which I happily obliged.  We went to a local cemetary to take some shots.  We all had so much fun, there is now talk of taking the whole wedding party out the day after the wedding to paint and shoot again.  Here are some of my favorites from the day:

She got a lot of attention, especially when we stopped in Little 5 Points to snap a couple of these.  I love the idea of such a non-traditional take on a wedding, and it seems there are others across the interwebs who thought the same thing.  Hoping we can incorporate some of this theme into her reception.  :)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sunday Night Dinner brought to you by Bloggers everywhere

Yes - I've been MIA lately.  I got a new job.  This is a pretty big deal for me since I was at my last gig for almost 7 years, and for a good chunk of those years, it's where I thought I would stay.  But alas, things change, opportunities arise and I moved on.  It's taken a lot of brain power to

a) wrap my head around the change
b) stay focused on the things I needed to do to wrap up at the last company
c) stay focused on the things I would need to carry forward to my new job
d) begin new job and have week 1 under my belt

Tomorrow I start week 2.  It's all good though, and in the middle of all of that change and focus, we've had birthdays, summer school start and end for the big kid, the medium kid with us and lots of other life details big and small.

This weekend has really been the first weekend where I've felt free to relax.  I don't have a bunch of if/then's or how or but's bouncing around in my brain.  The change is done.  Now I just have to settle into it.  I have to remind myself that might take a little time even though I wanted to feel settled on my first day.  But like I said, it is all good.

Like I was also saying, this weekend was the first one in quite sometime, where I felt a bit more relaxed and visited some of my favorite food blogs that I haven't seen much of over the past couple of months. I had lots of fun catching up on some great recipes and my hour's worth of browsing actually inspired over half of our dinner menus for the week, including tonight's which was so yummy.

For the main course we had:
Photo respectfully borrowed from
Barbeque Chicken Burgers via
Oh. My. Goodness.  These were so tasty.  You can find the recipe in the two links above.  I modified ours a bit.  First of all, I used a sourdough hamburger bun (toasted).  I followed her burger recipe with the exception of cornmeal and scallions.  We didn't have any, so I used breadcrumbs and a shallot instead.  I also totally cheated and used bottle BBQ sauce since we had some on hand.  Oh - and we didn't grill.  I just cooked these on the stove, because it was on the verge of raining, but even with my modifications - these were fantastic.  Oh, and I had lemonade with mine instead of beer.  :)
Photo respectfully borrowed from
Mexican Corn on the Cob via
I decided to pair them with a tried and true favorite from one of Heather's favorite bloggers - Homesick Texan.  We no longer have corn on the cob any other way than this.  It is the bomb.  Seriously.  Unfortunately for us, we didn't have parmesan cheese (a good substitute for the cojita cheese) on hand, so we went without, but honestly the corn is still great.  I love the hint of spice that the chipotle gives it.
Photo respectfully borrowed from
Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies via The Brown Eyed Baker
And to top dinner off, we had these.  I met these cookies earlier this year when I made them for the night of the Oscar's.  It was love at first bite.  These have 3 of my favorite cookie ingredients all in one - chocolate chips, peanut butter and oatmeal.  So good.  I've made these many times since the Oscars.  I do three things differently than the recipe.  First, I just measure.  Second, I make the cookies smaller than what the recipe calls for.  Third - I don't make them into balls and twist - I find that just using a spoon to make a rough ball shape is all the action required to give them a "crinkly top"  I also think I prefer using mini chocolate chips vs. the big ones.  But, seriously - the cookie dough - addictive.  So, so good.  Go try them today.  You won't regret it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Lelia is a regular fixture around our house during the summers and school breaks.  She is Felicia's half sister, but Emily has claimed her as her full sister - even confusing her teachers at daycare for a few days by talking about her big sister.  We love Lelia.  Lelia loves Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins, which is funny because we haven't had them since last fall, but she remembers them.  So when I asked the kids what sorts of snacks they wanted in the car ride to Disney, she was the first to yell, "Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins!"  So I had to oblige by letting her make some.  

I found this recipe awhile ago, over at Meal Makeover Moms.  I've used a lot of their recipes over the past couple of years.  Some I've adapted to our own tastes, and others I stay true to the recipe.  This is one that doesn't need any tweaking.  It's easy, good and best of all - the kids all love them!
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup ground flaxseed or wheat germ
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup canned pure pumpkin
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup 1% lowfat milk
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil or coat 24 mini muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Whisk together the flours, ground flaxseed, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Combine the pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, oil, milk, and vanilla in a medium bowl and stir until well combined. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir until just moistened. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  3. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups. Bake 15 to 18 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool 5 minutes. Remove the muffins and cool an additional 5 minutes before serving. When making 12 full-size muffins, bake for 20 to 23 minutes.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The lost birthday

Yes - it's been a few weeks.  Life Happens.  This week will be all about catch up so what better place to start than with my birthday.

We headed to Disney to celebrate my 40th birthday and Emily's 4th.  This has been a trip that's been in the works for almost a year, and in hindsight, I'm happy we had all of the anticipation because that in itself was so much fun.
The first day we headed to Magic Kingdom, which also happened to be my birthday.  We spent most of our time in Fantasyland.  Emily loved It's a Small World.  We met Pinocchio, which Emily loved despite not having a clue as to who he is (we still have some classics to catch up on).

Em wanted to eat every 5 seconds, so it made the morning a bit challenging and then it started to rain.
And it rained.  By this time my sister had taken Felicia and Lelia off for their own adventures and we decided to hunt the princesses down.  Emily was most interested in seeing The Princess and the Frog, so we found her garden and we waited.  And waited. And waited.  After an hour, it started to rain again but the princess keepers came and got us and led us to a gazebo area that was covered, and there we met the beautiful Princess Tiana.  She was very sweet and had the perfect New Orleans drawl.  
After that, we decided to head back to the hotel while Liz and the girls stayed to enjoy the Electric Light Parade.  

I had not felt great the day before - I slept a lot of the afternoon, so when we got back from the Magic Kingdom, I laid down again, and then proceeded to stay in bed for the next 2.5 days with an oh-so-fun-but-not-so-magical stomach bug.
While I hung out in the room, the rest of the family went on to enjoy the Animal Kingdom on day 2 and Blizzard Beach on Day 3.
The met lots of characters - Goofy was a favorite, and Emily lasted each day until about 2-3pm, which I thought was pretty good for her.  

Heather and Felicia took part in one of their favorite traditions - the eating of the sour candy.  This is something I will never understand, because I long ago gave up the notion that sucking up a bunch of sour powdered candy was fun, but they do it whenever they find the stuff and I do my part by taking pictures.
The last day I was feeling better and we ALL headed to Epcot, and we started it off with breakfast with the princesses.  We met Belle, Aurora and Cinderella.  Watching Emily watch the princesses was priceless.  She was wide-eyed and excited.  When they came up to us, she got a little more shy, but was still thrilled with the whole experience.
We hung out in the land area, and visited the Nemo area.  The most impressive experience of Epcot to me was the Talking Crush show.  Kids and People got to interact with Crush the Turtle from Nemo and it was really really cool how they did it.  Heather, Em, Leila and I headed back to the hotel around lunch time and proceeded to enjoy the afternoon at the pool.

It was definitely not the trip I was anticipating, but it was nice to have a break and overall I think the kids really enjoyed the experience.  I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to go, and look forward to our next trip - probably in a few years - where, with some luck, we'll all be able to enjoy the entire adventure!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


There is a LOT going on in my world right now.  It's all good stuff, but I'm trying to be smart about not trying to take EVERYTHING on at once. So if you don't see a lot of me in the next week or two, it's because I'm trying to focus on the really big transitional items in my life right now.  Hopefully the dust will settle soon and I'll be able to share and get back to normal green bird ramblings.  For now, just know that these two songs have been on heavy repeat in my internal playlist.  Yes - the Brady Bunch sing inside my head more than I should probably admit.  :)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

celebrating 40 (things about me)

My birthday is today - June 1.  I love my birthday and I love making a big deal about it.  But what a lot of my friends and family probably don't know is that I also get quite introspective around my birthday.  I think a lot about what I've done over the past year, what goals I've met and not quite met and where I want to go.  This year is the big 4-0 and I find that the decade years are always a good time to reset.  I've been looking to 40 for quite some time.  The older I get, the more comfortable I get in my own skin, and I can't help but think that with that forward motion the decade of 40 is going to rock.

In addition to all of the reminiscing, thinking and daydreaming I've been doing around the big day, I decided to celebrate myself in doodle + word.  This was a lot of fun and it was something I did over a couple of days whenever I had a few minutes.  Totally recommend this for everyone big and small!  Here's the list I came up with:

1.  I am a mom and an aunt mom
2.  I try to see the good in people
3.  I am a gurl
4.  I love flowers
5.  I am creative
6.  I am funny
7.  I am a dreamer
8.  I am silly
9. I am honest
10. I am a good sister
11.  I have more good days than bad
12. I am getting better with boundaries
13. I cry at (some) tv commercials
14.  I celebrate
15.  I imagine
16.  I make mistakes
17. I don't know everything
19.  I make goals (and sometimes reach them)
20.  I am a good person
21. I love to sing
22.  I am inspired
23. I am not perfect
24. I love swirls
25. I still love my tattoo
26.  I can be shy
27.  I have great friends
28. I am learning to trust my gut everyday
29. My own skin gets comfier with age
30.  I like swirls and polka dots (also see 16 and 24, since I have two references to swirls)
32. I love blowing bubbles
33. I believe in ghosts.
34.  I am goofy
35. I would totally climb up the beanstalk
36. I get scared.
37.  I don't hang out with negative voices.
38.  I get starstruck
39.  I love a good challenge
Happy Birthday to me!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Guest Post: Memorial Day Honorabilia

My dear friend Megan shared this idea on Facebook, and I fell so instantly in love with the idea that I asked her if she would mind doing a guest post on my blog.  She quickly agreed, and I'm so delighted and honored that she did.  Check out this amazing idea for honoring those in your family who have served our country!  To learn more about Megan, you can visit her blog or you can find her on twitter @megstanish.

Memorial Day Honorabilia, Courtesy of the Kids
Earlier this week, I wrote a post on my blog about the lack of Memorial Day parades in the metro Atlanta area, where I currently live. In it, I made the case that these parades not only bring people together in celebration of those who have served our country, but they also serve the purpose of introducing the concept of Memorial Day to our children in an engaging way, allowing them to assimilate the true meaning of it as they grow and evolve.

After getting over my initial grump about the lack of the marchy marchy in my immediate vicinity, I started to wonder about how I might incorporate something exciting into the weekend to help my children – who are 3 and 4 years old – start to “get” what Memorial Day is all about. I thought about placing a few hundred flags around my lawn, but I decided that would be less meaningful and more just plain old messy.
Then I thought about the idea that each flag at Arlington Cemetery stands with and for a veteran. After more pondering on this, I decided on the plan: set up a flag in my front yard for each of the four veterans in my family and create a simple “plaque” to name and honor each one.

When working on this project, two things are imperative from the get-go. First, if you plan to involve children, take a deep breath and realize that mess is an almost certain (and likely fun!) part of this project. Second, determine if you want your plaques to be relatively disposable or long-lasting. This second point will determine your materials. I decided that our plaques would be disposable. Why? Well, first of all, they’ll be sitting out on the lawn, so who knows what kinds of messes may come their way during the day? More importantly, I want to do this project anew every year with my kids as they grow and learn to appreciate the meaning of the day. I see this as an annual opportunity to reintroduce my children to their great-grandparents and to the heroism of each individual’s commitment to serve. I’m kind of a sucker for nostalgia.
For materials, you will need the following:
One 18”-to-24” tall American flag per veteran
White posterboard, preferably non-glossy (I used 20” x 27”)… 1 sheet for every 2 veterans
Paper print-out of a photo of each veteran (shoot for minimum 6” x 6”)
Glue stick, preferably heavy duty: 1 per child
Black Sharpie or wide marker

The rest of your materials are up to you, but we used:
Several glitter colors: red, blue, gold
Blue and red sequins
Gold sequin stars
U.S.A.-esque red, white and blue stickers

You could also use (for example):
Colored construction paper to cut out shapes to paste to the plaques
Paints, both regular and raised
Ribbon (which would probably require a hot-glue gun)
Making One Plaque

Cut the white posterboard in half; each half will become a plaque for a single veteran.

Using the glue stick, paste one veteran’s photo onto a plaque. Place the photo about 4 inches below the top of the plaque to ensure your veteran’s image is high enough off the ground to be seen from a distance but low enough to allow space for his or her name to be written at the top of the plaque. In tall lettering (3”-4” tall), print the veteran’s name across the top of the plaque; I recommend block lettering.

Next, allow your child or children to place stickers around the plaque. I know it’s tough not to help, but try not to direct the placement too much! However, I recommend reminding small children several times not to decorate the veterans’ faces, then watching them pretty closely. My 3-year-old did not heed this request during the sticker phase of the project, and after getting a good laugh about how “starry-eyed” my step-grandfather looked (yes, his eyes were covered with star stickers), we ended up reprinting and repasting his photo. Not a tragedy, but inconvenient.

After this, it’s up to you how best to decorate the plaque, depending on your preferences, materials and the child’s or children’s age(s). For us, our children’s ages and the fact that we really wanted them to be relatively independent with this project dictated us sticking with easily-glue-able and very sparkly materials. We poured piles of each color glitter and each type of sequin onto paper plates, for easy access by tiny hands. We then handed each child a glue stick and allowed them to create independently. For the adults, our jobs included pouring off excess glitter or sequins, encouraging the kids’ efforts and the ever-necessary ooh’ing and ah’ing.

Let the plaques dry, then shake off or replace any loose materials.

To wrap this up, I’ll share a little conversation I had with my 4-year-old tonight at bedtime. He asked me, “Mommy, why did we do that project for Memorial Day?” I thought a moment, then said, “Well, what are the first three syllables of the word ‘Memorial’?” Together we said, “Mem-o-ry.” I asked him, “So what does that make Memorial Day?” My lovely son smiled and said, “It’s a day for Remembering.” From out of the mouths of babes.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

When I'm a mommy....

Em:  When I get big and I'm a mommy, I will make you a grandmother.
Me:  Yup.
Em:  What kid am I going to have?
Me:  I don't know - it's a surprise.
Em:  What is my kid's name going to be?
Me:   I don't know, but you get to choose it just like we chose your name when you were a baby.
Em:  But I don't WANT a baby!  I want a kid.

I know some new moms that might feel the same.

Hope your weekend is filled with wonder and big dreams.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Six month check-in: one little word

At the beginning of the year, I chose a word to carry with me throughout 2011.  I spent the last 3 months of 2010 thinking about different words, but over and over again, I came back to the word, mindful, which became my word for the year.  When I chose the word, I don't think I really had any clue as to how much of an impact it would have on my world.

I knew that I wanted to use the word as a way to set and keep intention.  I spent a lot of 2010 pretty checked out.  I didn't listen to myself, I didn't pay attention to my dreams or wants or interests consistently and I knew coming into 2011 those were areas I wanted to change.  Being mindful of what I want, and more importantly, what I need has allowed me to communicate with others more effectively.  It has allowed me to hold boundaries because I am mindful of what I need.  It has helped me to say no to things that otherwise I might be prone to give in to.  It has helped me create space in my life for things that are important to me and in doing so, I feel more confident and more clear on what I want and don't want in my life.

I knew that this would help me stay accountable for my goals, but what I didn't know was that it would allow me to hear feedback and criticism in a more constructive way.  I mean, no one likes to hear that they are doing a bad job, but knowing what I want and need to do and recognizing the areas that still "need improvement" makes it easier to hear that feedback from other people.  The result of this has been less negative self-talk.  I can accept my imperfections more and can own up to the fact that I still fall short in some areas - like cleaning the cat box.

The most powerful part of this word selection so far has been the sense of accomplishment I have.  I've set several small goals for myself, and while I haven't met them all, I am so proud of the ones I've achieved.  I'm also proud of myself for setting so many to begin with.  This act alone, is such a huge improvement over the past couple of years.  I feel that I am living with intention - for myself and for my family.  I'm listening to my gut and it's been such an awesome ride.  Not each day has been perfect, and there have been LOTS of times over the past 6 months where I've fallen down, fallen short, lost my temper, lost my cool or felt out of control, but the process of getting out of those negative spaces or situations is becoming easier.  I ask myself what I need.  Sometimes I know right away.  Sometimes I have to sit with it for a couple of days, but each time I've asked myself this question,  I've figured it out.

I've also been able to compartmentalize certain areas better so that a negative situation in one area of my life does not negatively impact other areas.  I think the biggest area I've seen this with has been my mommy skills.  I am not a perfect mom.  Sometimes I embarrass myself or can't believe the things that are coming out of my mouth, but there are times when I've had a crappy day at work and I just want to come home and whine or moan but then I think of the kind of mom I want to be and I'm getting better at being able to reset myself so I can be the happy, calm(er) mom that I'm trying to be.  Again - I'm not at all perfect, but it all feels like good, forward progress, and who doesn't love that?

I'm really looking forward to the rest of the year with my little word.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Fairy Love

On Sunday we went to the Georgia Renaissance Festival.  I wasn't sure how the day was going to go since this was the first big festival for Em.  It started out a bit rocky, but after getting enough carbs in that little body to support her current growth spurt, she perked up and we managed to have a really fun day.  The best part?

Those fairies up there.

Now, I've mentioned our fondness of fairies before, but I really wish there was a way I could send these fairies a thank you note and basket full of love, because I totally would.  They made my little girl's day, even if we were a bit stalkerish about it.  We first met them under the tree.  Emily said hello and they were each very friendly and we asked to take a picture, which they accommodated. 
From there we went on our merry way, only to find that they were doing a show in one of the pavilions a few hours later.  We went in, and they brought her up to the front to meet the fairy queen who remembered her from earlier.  They gave her some fairy dust and returned her back to me.  That hand over mouth move she's got going on -- that's 'I'm really happy, but really shy' move.

We hung out in the show for awhile, but Em really wanted to get her face painted and then come back to see the fairies, so we snuck out and headed for the face painting tent, where she wound up with a unicorn on her arm.  As soon as the painting was done, she turned to me and said, "Mommy, I want to show the fairies my unicorn."  So being the supportive Mommy that I try to be, I said ok, and off we tromped to the other side of the park. 
We returned to the pavilion only to find that the show was over, but I caught a glimpse of the fairies walking around a corner.  We ran, and got about 30 feet away and I told Emily to run and catch them.  Let me pause here to say that ordinarily the overly protective mama bear in me would have never have let her go that far away from me, but there were only about 4-6 other people in the area at that time and I really wanted to see if she'd go up without me.  She took off and caught up to the fairies.  She held her arm out, and they all stopped, turned around and cooed over her unicorn, and her. I almost burst into tears because of how proud and happy she was.  She talked about them all the way home, before bed and throughout today.  

They are magic, those fairies.  They are.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sunday morning fort

Like most kids, we go in cycles with books.  We might read the same book over and over for days, and then we don't pick it up for months.  Lately, we've read a lot of "If you give a pig a party."  I was the first one to get up this morning and was hanging out in the paint room, when Em came in and said, "I want to do what the pig does."

At first, I wasn't sure what she meant.  I mean, it was before 7am and I hadn't finished my first cup of coffee yet.  Then she said, "in the book" and I knew right away what she meant, but by that time she was off to find the book so she could show me.  Sure enough, she wanted a fort.
So I built a small one, which she is still arguing with me that it needs to be bigger.  I also gave her a 'mix.' We do mixes around our house when we are on the go, or for the occasional break out of the mold breakfasts.  Mixes go into a plastic bag and are usually a combination of cereal, raisins, craisins, nuts, some times pretzels, and always a small spoon of chocolate chips to make it fun.  We just dump it all in, and shake.  I must have shook the bag extra good this morning because I was just asked, "why did you hide the chocolate chips so good?"

Hope your Sunday is filled with things you love.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

How To Make: Disney Autograph Book

My birthday is coming up.  My 40th birthday.  A lot of folks are shy about this number.  Not me!  I love my birthdays, and I especially love my decade birthdays.  I'm celebrating my 40th at Disney and I am SO excited!  We will also be unofficially celebrating my daughter's birthday who will turn 4 ten days after I turn 40, but everyone in the travel party is clear on the fact that it's my birthday first.  Yes - I'm that girl...I get obnoxious.  :)

Anyway, we are bringing 3 girls, and while this trip has been something we've been planning on for quite some time, I still want to find ways to cut costs where possible.  I decided to make autograph books for the girls instead of buying them at the park.  Considering I had most of the supplies on hand, I was able to make 3 books for about $8, and my guess is that is probably the cost of 1 in the park.

Autograph Book Supplies:
Cardstock for cover
Cardstock or drawing paper for inside pages
adhesive/glue stick
hole punch
scissors/paper trimmer
brads/yarn/page rings/some type of closure for the binding

 Step 1:  Decide the page size since it will determine the size of the cover.  I decided to go with a finished 4" x 6" page, but to allow room for the binding, my inside pages were 4" x 7".  I added an inch to those measurements to allow for the cover.  Once determined the size, I cut my chipboard to size.  For this project, I actually did two layers of chipboard just because I wanted extra sturdiness.
Step 2:  Create the bind edge.  Once I had my chipboard cut to the 4" x 7" size, I cut an inch off.  I did this so that the cover had more give in order to allow for the book to open flat but still maintain sturdiness.  I was making 3 books, so I took an assembly line approach and cut everything all at once.
Step 3.  Cut your cover cardstock.  For the cover, I added 2 inches to the size of the chipboard, so I cut 7" x 9". This is going to be an example of an imperfect project.  The sad part is, I realized my mistake on the first book, but repeated the same stinkin' mistake on my second book.  You'll see it at the end if you haven't noticed already.
Step 4.  Center your chipboard on the back side of your cover paper.  If you have been hanging around the blog for awhile, you've probably already guessed that I just eyeballed this.  If you are new, I'm not all into perfect measurements.  Just get it close enough and move on to the next step.
Step 5.  Time for the glue or adhesive.  Little tip, keep once piece in place while getting the other down, that way you don't lose your centering.  You will want to leave a little spacing between the two pieces of chipboard...I leave about as much space as the chipboard is deep, 1/8th-ish inch or so.
Step 5.  Once you have your chipboard secure, you'll want to cut your corners.  There are two schools of thought.  One says to just cut the corner off of your paper in a triangle that butts up right against the corner of your chipboard.  I have varying degrees of success with that, so I employ the method shown above which is cut it at an angle to right above the corner and then cut back out.  No measuring, but you can play with these two options and see what works best for you.
Next step, adhere your flaps down.  Make sure you get it tight against the edges.

Step 7.  Flip the book over and take both of your hands and grab the book so that both of your thumbs meet in the middle (I had to take a picture, so pretend my left thumb is there looking exactly the same as my right).  Then using your fingers to bend the binding up, use your thumbs to crease the paper, so that it  creases inside the fold. You'll run your thumbs down the middle of the crease to keep the paper going in the direction you want.  If you don't employ this thumb maneuver, your paper might crease/bubble on the outside of the fold.
Step 8.  Looky here - I'm measuring! Now for the pages.  So here, I measured an inch on the side of the page, and then at the 1" and 3" mark, I drew a perpendicular line.  This is all leading up to cutting some holes in the book.
Next, I found the half inch mark on each short line and marked the spot with an x.
And then I punched.  Note - if you are doing 3 of these suckers, go ahead and invest in a 3 hole punch.  I used to have one and don't know where in the world it took off to, but after this project of punching 100+ holes, I'm getting a new 3-hole punch.

For those of you who are taking the single hole route, you only need to draw/mark one page.  From there, just stack 2-3 (whatever is not too stressful to cut through) pages behind the already cut page, and line your punch up to cut within the holes you have already cut.  Repeat this process until you have all of your pages cut.  For each new batch, I used a different template to work from.  I did this to lessen my chances of cutting the holes too big on one page which inevitably happens when using the same template over and over.  For each book, I did about 20 pages.
Step 11.  Back to the cover.  Ok, so in the first picture did you notice that little Sharpie marker?  Well, I thought it would be a good idea to fasten the pens to the books.  So here's how I did it.  Take the big glue dots and run a line of them down your back cover.  I chose to place mine right by the binding, but you can choose another area - whatever is most comfortable for you.
Step 12.  Cut a long piece of ribbon.  I cut about a foot and a half of thin red ribbon.  I placed it on top of the glue dots like you see above.

Step 13 (picture not available), cover both of your inside covers with cardstock.  For my inside cover, I chose a paper that complimented my covers.  Since the total size of the cover was 4" x 7", I subtracted about 1/4" of an inch total - 1/8" on each side.  Put a lot of adhesive on this paper, making sure that you have it running up against the edges of the paper.
Step 14.  Take one of your inside pages and line it up along the spine of the back cover.  Mark another x, and punch holes.
Step 15.  Take your back cover, and place it right side out on top of your front cover which should be right side out as well.  Once they are aligned, mark an x or trace the hole circles on the inside front cover so you know where to punch.
Step 16.  Assuming you have cut all of your pages, you are ready to assemble the whole thing.  I used brads to keep my pages in place.  I did this for 2 reasons. First, I'm anticipating that I might need more signature pages, so I want an easy way to get back in the book.  Second, my goal is to add pictures to this when all is said and done and I don't know if I will need more pages or not, so again - I want access to get back in.  You could use yarn or ribbon and just do a loop and cut into it later if you want.  You can also use binder rings.

To keep small fingers from opening the brads, I covered each one with stickers.
Step 17.  Attach the Sharpie.  These were perfect since they had the little hook on the cap.  I simply tied a double knot and trimmed the edge a bit.
Step 18.  Decorate the cover.  I picked up some cute glitter mickey stickers, so I used some of the extra card stock to create a background and then I placed my stickers and added each girl's name to the cover.
Obviously, this is Emily's finished book. Did you notice what is "wrong" about these?  Take a good look at the paper.  The words are upside down.  The second book is just a page filled with the outline of Mickey's head so it's a LOT more noticable noticeable but such is life.  I didn't have the character paper to start over with, and the girls didn't even notice until I pointed it out.  Not all projects turn out perfect.  What's more important to me is that it's done, and in this case cute and functional.

I'm thrilled with how these came out and the girls seem excited to use them.  Here's hoping we'll have enough room for all of the signatures we collect!

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