Last Minute Floating Water Wish Lanterns

Floating Lanterns

Two days before New Year’s Eve Party:

Gary: Can you get some of those floating water lanterns for New Year’s Eve?
Shannon: Sure. They’ll be here in about a week and a half and we can store them until next year.
Gary: Well, can’t we buy them somewhere here in Syracuse?
Shannon: We live in Syracuse.  And I’ve looked before. Maybe Party City? [checks Party City website while speaking] Nope, Party City doesn’t have them.
Gary: I’m sure they do. What’s the number, I will call them.

Shannon provides magical phone number to magical elves at Party City.
Magical elves at Party City disappoint Gary.
Shannon makes quick trip to Michaels and purchases the following:

2 Pieces of Birch Plywood 1/4 x 12 x 12 inch ($3.99 each)
16 1/8 Dowels ($.29 each)
12 White paper lunch bags ($.39 each)

Shannon wanders through the house collecting these items:
Cordless drill/screwdriver with 1/8 drill bit
Scissors
Glue gun and glue sticks
Black india ink (any type of black paint would work)
Paintbrush
Bag of tealight candles

Shannon does the following (or would have done the following in the methodical way outlined below if she had thought about it ahead of time – organization is inherent in hindsight):
Step 1: Mark the birch wood into 6 sections (divide the 12 x 12 in half, rotate and divide into thirds to end up with 6 sections of 4″ x 6″).

Step 2: Using a chop saw (or hand saw or circular saw) to cut the birch wood into sections.

Step 3: Drill holes into the four corners of each section of birch wood. (note to reader: it is not recommended you drill these with a towel or other fabric under the birchwood because when it goes all the way through the drill catches on the towel forcing you to extract it by reversing the drill. Definitely don’t do it twice. You’d have to be stupid to do it twice.)

Step 3: Cut your dowels (scissors work fine) into chunks 1/4″ larger than the length of your paper bags.

Step 4: Glue one tea light onto the top side of the birch wood.  Burn yourself on the glue gun tip (optional, not recommended).

Step 5: Squeeze a small amount of hot glue into each of the four drilled holes in the birch wood and insert a dowel into each one.

Step 5

Step 5

Step 6 (optional): Using the internets, find Chinese characters representing the wishes you would like to make (like the ones on this site).

Step 7: For each wish, write the English word on the bottom of the lantern and using the india ink (or black paint) and paintbrush transcribe the Chinese character onto the front of the paper bag.

Step 7

Step 7

Step 8: Cut a big rectangle out of the bottom of the bag and snip a hole in each of the bottom corners of the bag.  Snip your finger (also optional, also not recommended.  Especially not recommended if you are following this project up with another project involving squeezing limes.) and try not to bleed on the lanterns.

Step 9: Lining up four holes in the bottom of the bag with the dowels, slide the opened paper bag onto the dowels until almost touching the birch wood base.

Step 9

Step 9

Step 10: Hot glue the bottom of the paper bag to the birch wood base.

Step 10

Step 10

Step 11: Line them all up and admire your handiwork.

Step 11

Step 11

Step 12: Schlep all the lanterns to pre-arranged state park over a huge snowbank where you discover the body of water in which you were planning to float these biodegradable wish lanterns is frozen.

Step 13: Get shooed out of said state park by a police officer looking for unruly hooligans setting off rogue wish lanterns at state park.

Step 14: Shlep the lanterns back to the car while making disparaging remarks about the police officer and drive them back home where you line them up on the front sidewalk.

Step 15: Toast the new year with great friends.

Step 16: Ask husband to proof blog who continues to state that the correct use is ‘internet’ not ‘internets’.  Reply by stating ‘internets’ is funny.

Cake Fail

Project: Make a fabulous graduation cake for Uncle Steven. Did I mention it needed to be FABULOUS?

Concept: Two of his most hated textbooks (you really need to understand Uncle Steven to appreciate how funny this would be) with a graduation scroll on top.

Browsed the internets to find beautiful cakes that looked like stacks of books.

Like here and here

As I was already planning on cheating by purchasing a full sheet cake (frosted but not decorated) to save time, I figured how hard could it be?  How long could it take?!  I was also planning to have the bakery print out the covers and spines on sugar paper so all I would have to do would be to:

1. Cut my cakes into the pre-determined sized ‘book’ squares

2. Make rolled fondant and place on top of the books

3. Place the sugar printout on the books

4. Make a diploma (using Ho-Hos as the base, covered by fondant and the sugar paper ‘DIPLOMA’ words)

5. Make a fondant ‘ribbon’ to drape over the scroll and down the sides of the cake.
Easy, right?  Maybe an hour or two at the most.

Graduation Cake

Graduation Cake Fail.

Right.  Six hours later, here are some lessons learned that I am happy to pass along to you, faithful reader:

1. Just because you pick up a pre-baked, pre-frosted, yet un-decorated cake does NOT mean it is perfectly square and flat.  The cake I picked up was rounded on the top (just like if I baked it myself and did not trim it flat).  Because it was already frosted, my options were to a) live with it or b) scrape off the frosting, trim it, and frost again.  Irritated, I went with a).

2. Rolled fondant, even the cheater marshmallow kind, is a pain.  Getting it right required a ruler, and a lot of patience.  And math.  Not my strong suit.

3. Sometimes, okay, most of the time, you should probably think things out in your head before you jump in and do them.  Like putting your second layer of cake on the first one before you cover it with fondant (confectioners sugar palm to the forehead).

4. Just because you have (thinking yourself oh-so-clever) had the bakery print out your beautifully Photoshopped textbook covers and spines, does not mean they are easy to transfer to a cake.  Especially once you have cut off the ‘outsides’ of the sugar paper.  After doing so, I realized why the bakeries always pipe borders around sugar paper pictures: it’s because they are a B*TCH to get off the backing, and the edges, no matter how careful you are, get raggedy.  And sometimes completely fall apart on you.  Several times.

5. Ho Hos are yummy. Husbands that buy lots of extras are extra nice to have.

6. Food coloring painted onto a not-so-perfect cake, while it may look the same shade as your sugar paper graphics, will not dry the same color.

7. Candy sprinkles, however liberally applied to a crappy looking cake does not effectively hide imperfections.  It just looks like sprinkles on a crappy looking cake.

8. If you serve a lot of alcohol and precede cake cutting with a champagne toast, most people are too happy to care what the cake looks like.

This project TOTALLY looked better in my head (and on other people’s websites).

HOPE4US Team Bake Sale

I am fortunate to know and work with some of the most amazing women – women who, several times every year, organize fundraisers and participate in walks supporting multiple charities.

Last Friday, they organized a building-wide bake sale to benefit their team, HOPE4US in support of the 2012 Making Strides of Syracuse Walk.

Because I never seem to find enough time after work hours to bake during the week, I decided to cheat on my contribution to the bake sale (those of you who know me, feel free to register your surprise).

I found some really great pink ‘french fry’ containers at www.OrientalTrading.com that I thought would make cute packaging, and used them to hold two cookies each (BJ’s makes GREAT white and dark chocolate chunk cookies – are you starting to see a BJ’s theme here?).  I also dipped some pretzel rods in white chocolate and drizzled pink chocolate on them to put in the rest of the containers.  I slipped each filled fry box into a dollar store treat bag (I find the pink and red swirls on clear bags around Valentines Day and stock up), and tied it up with a pink ribbon.

 

Oriental Trading Company Pink French Fry Boxes

Oriental Trading Company Pink French Fry Boxes

Chocolate covered pretzels in pink french fry boxes

Chocolate covered pretzels in pink french fry boxes

I had also purchased some breast cancer support trinkets, like mints, buttons, pins, and bracelets, thinking it would be nice to have some non-food items.  Note for next year – stick with the food!!!

Breast cancer support buttons

Breast cancer support buttons

Breast cancer support bake sale stuff: buttons, pins, mints, bracelets, chocolate covered pretzels and cookies

Breast cancer support bake sale stuff

I wish I had taken some pictures of the sale tables – the ladies at work did a beautiful job and made some truly lovely and delicious things and I was so excited to hear they raised over $700 for their efforts at their bake sale.

If the determination and strength of the women I know who work so hard on behalf of these charities, and in some cases are also survivors themselves, I am sure it will not be long before they find a cure.

 

Diploma Scroll Graduation Invitations

For an upcoming graduation party, I wanted to do something interesting for the invitation.

Invitation Contents, graduation party invitation, scroll

Invitation Contents

I started with a graphic of a certificate; I used a free clip art image of the frame, but you can buy certificate paper with the frame already printed on it.

Figuring a circumference of the overall rolled scroll diameter between 1″ and 1 1/2″, I placed the word “DIPLOMA” using the ‘Old English Text’ font.  I then added a return address and a box for the mail-to address.

Invitation Address Side

Invitation Address Side

On the back side, I used the ‘Old English Text’ font again for the ‘Invitation to Celebrate’ at the top of the page, then used ‘Copperplate Gothic’ for the remainder of the text.  I used a mix of text sizes (some bold) to make the inside look like an actual certificate.

Because I wanted the scrolls to hold their shape during mailing, I went to the hardware store and bought a 10′ length of 1″ PVC plain white pipe and had them cut it to 11″ lengths for me (thanks, Home Depot!).  I brought them home and spray painted them to cover up the words and barcoding on them.

PVC & Spray Paint

PVC & Spray Paint

Once they were dry, I attached the invitations to the PVC with tape, and rolled the invitation around and secured very tightly with a piece of wide grosgrain ribbon and snipped the ribbon ends in a ‘V’ shape.

Invitation taped to PVC

Invitation taped to PVC

Assembly with ribbon

Assembly with ribbon

Finished invitations:

Finished invitations, graduation party invitation, scroll

Finished invitations

Update from my husband who mailed them that they cost $2.20 each to mail.

Let Them Eat Spaghetti and Meatballs Cake!

 

Spaghetti and Meatballs Cake, Spaghetti Cake

Spaghetti and Meatballs Cake

I will freely admit – none of what I did here was my own idea – I completely stole it from this creative person at:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/itsyourdaycakes/53712846/

I was inspired to look for a ‘pasta’ cake based on a conversation with my Oh-so-Italian MIL.  Went something like this:

Me: “Mary – what kind of birthday cake would you like next weekend?”
Mary: “Oh, you know me, I’d rather eat pasta than cake anyday.  I don’t care what kind of cake.  Whatever you want to bring.”

I thought with two small nephews (2 and 4) that the spaghetti cake in the link above would be fun to make.  And it was – other than the bright idea to try real Italian Buttercream frosting (two time fail, a trip to the store for a new set of beaters and canned frosting just in case.  Oh, and white food coloring).

Frosting and broken beaters aside, it was very simple as I didn’t even bake the cake.  I opted for plain pound cake (our BJ’s bakery is fabulous) sliced into three layers.  I filled one layer with peach pie filling, the other with strawberry pie filling, and after placing in the family pasta dish and trimming the sides to make it a little more circular, I did a quick crumb coat with the buttercream frosting.  I did add a bit of yellow food coloring to the already yellowish buttercream frosting to get it closer to true pasta color.

 

Buttercream 'spaghetti' and Ferraro Rocher 'meatballs'

Buttercream ‘spaghetti’ and Ferraro Rocher ‘meatballs’

Next, I used a small plain round frosting tip and squirted out the ‘spaghetti’ – truly no artistic ability was needed for this.  Then, I placed the Ferraro Rocher chocolate truffles in the bowl, mostly around the sides but with some on top.   The sauce did have me worried – I wasn’t sure strawberry jam could possibly come out looking like tomato sauce, but about a 1/2 cup of jam with a few drops of white and orange food coloring really did the trick!  The strawberry pips and lumps actually looked like tomatoes and meat – it was really convincing!

The finishing touch is a bit of white chocolate shaved on the top to look like cheese.  In fact, the whole thing was so realistic that the nephews during dinner were asking for ‘ronies’ (what they call macaroni), and when dessert came did NOT want ‘ronies’ and opted for sherbet instead.

Halloween party invitations – ever so much more fun than something in an envelope!

Don’t you just love gettingmail that is NOT in a flat envelope (how boring)?

Halloween Invitation - Invitation Text

I made these invitations for a family Halloween party.  I bought foam pumpkins at the dollar store (I didn’t know if there were laws about sending fresh pumpkins, though I really wanted to give it a try!), and used a really basic template to help line up the invitation wording and the placement of the mailing address (I’ve blurred out the names/addresses to protect the innocent).

Halloween Party – Invitation Wording

They were a little time consuming, and cost less than three dollars each to make (this includes the shipping).

The look on the postal employee’s face when I dropped an armload of pumpkins on the counter in front of him was one of my favorite parts.  And, btw, when I asked?  They said I could have mailed real pumpkins as well.  Good to know!

Hi there!

Thanks for finding me…

I am a compulsive idea person.  At least once a day, I will see something and think, “I could make that!” or “I’m sure I can use that for something interesting!” or, “That would be ever better if you did [fill in the blank]!”  Sometimes I will actually do something with the idea; mostly I don’t and then a year later I will see someone else has put that same idea into action, and get irritated.  I’m always sure I could have made a million dollars with that idea and been retired by now.

So, I will be documenting some of the things I actually follow through on.  I don’t promise it will be pretty.   I don’t promise the ideas will be good ones.  It might be mildly entertaining.  Though I don’t promise that either.

Enjoy.  Or not.

In the meantime, feel free to check out my Etsy shop at http://etsy.shannonkcomins.com, where I have a line of Limited Edition prints and hope to be including some of the stuff that looked good outside my head.