Easter Piggy

Smaller holidays (or should I say, less promoted, marketed, or advertised than Christmas) have a way of creeping up on me in which I’m usually scrambling last minute to pull something together. As I was talking with Myla last week about Easter, she reminded me that the Easter Bunny leaves coins in the eggs at our house (instead of chocolate or toys). A few years ago, the Easter Bunny made a special Patchwork Piggy Bank for Myla when she was old enough to collect eggs - and understand that something was supposed to be in them. When she was Maddox’s age, we got away with just doing an empty egg hunt - just finding the eggs alone was joy enough for her. BUT, since Maddox will be able to collect eggs this year, I’m sure Myla will question why he doesn’t have a special piggy bank like hers to put his coins in. Alas, I realized I had a project on my hands despite how busy this coming week was going to be.

Therefore, starting this past Saturday I began working on Maddox’s special Piggy Bank. I’ll admit that I was in a rush and was thinking that maaaaaybe I should have come up with some cool design to paint on the pig - like make it into a racecar pig, a camo pig, an argyle pig, or an airplane pig. Instead, I went with what I already knew and did another patchwork type piggy bank. Luckily I still have a HUGE book of scrapbooking paper in all sorts of colors and interesting patterns. I chose the colors we are hoping to do his toddler room in - blue and orange - because seriously, the way this kid climbs, I’m sure he’s going to be out of his crib even sooner than Myla was and he’ll need a big boy bed all his own.  

Finished Piggy Bank

Back to the Pig… I used my paper cutter to cut one inch squares from 5 different blues, and 4 different orange/browns. I started by marking on the pig where the color would change and then began Mod Podging the orange and browns from the bottom. Since the legs make it a little difficult to work around, I didn’t try to keep the pieces in any specific pattern until I made the last row where the color changes to blue. Then I kept working all the way to the top and when finished made sure to give the entire pig another really good coat of Mod Podge. I cut some brown felt for the ears, eyes, and nose and glued those on with tacky glue. And finished it off with a piece of twine detail where the color changes. (Twine does seem more masculine than ribbon, right?) You can view the steps in pictures when I made Myla's Piggy Bank.

Back and Top Views

I’m so looking forward to Easter morning - not only is Maddox really into working his fine motor skills, so I know he’ll enjoy putting the coins into the bank, BUT Myla will be so excited to see that her little brother got his very own bank for all the Easter Egg coins that will arrive that morning. She's truly such a sweetheart who loves her brother immensely - it makes my heart smile.

Patchwork Piggy Bank

I know, I know… I’m late sharing this post. And I know, I know, it really shouldn’t matter because this blog is about sharing my creative projects with you whenever that may be - with the hope of inspiring you to “create”. However, I really wanted to share this Easter Gift Idea well before Easter. But, I underestimated my free time and had to call in my mom, and my niece and nephew, to help entertain Myla yesterday while I finished up this project.

Making Myla a custom Piggy Bank has been on my to-do list for quite some time. I remember my own from childhood. A little white pig with a yellow bow and flower - It was a super special place where I stored all my special coins and two-dollar bills. Therefore, when I spotted a huge porcelain piggy bank, and had a 40% off coupon, I almost started jumping up and down. It was perfect! And even more perfect for only $5. 

I thought about materials I already had on hand including a book of scrapbooking paper in a ton of different colors - I just needed to buy some ModPodge - and I could cover the bank with bits of colorful paper. I was already loving the idea I had - but of course, most good ideas have already been thought of by someone else. Which is why I thought it was funny as I was walking around JoAnn’s and came across one of their project idea instruction sheets for a Piggy Bank similar to the one I wanted to create for Myla. Although mine is definitely better. (wink wink)

I began by pulling out all the materials I thought I might use including feathers, ribbons, flowers, paper, and felt. And I got to work.

I started by choosing paper in three similar colors for the bottom portion of the pig and three for the top. Then, I cut those into one inch squares. I marked off a two inch high line around the pig as a guide for placing the first row of paper squares. Using the ModPodge I worked the squares around the entire bottom portion of the pig in an irregular pattern after the first row. I noticed too that by rubbing the brush with glue a few extra times, that it gave the paper a slightly worn look which I just so happened to like. It almost made it look like worn leather. Then I began on the top section, but this time, I kept all the squares in the same pattern to make it look like patchwork.

Once finished, I covered the color split with ribbon. Then I cut out felt for the nose, ears and eyes - and made a little bow for the top with a few feathers tucked in.

Now for the Easter Gift part of this project… 

I wanted to try to avoid giving Myla candy, at least for another few years before she “expects” it. I thought about stickers or trinkets, but she already has plenty of those. So what’s something that is fun to receive that isn’t trash-worthy? Money!!! I don’t know about you, but we tend to throw all our coins into a jar that sits around with no purpose. Therefore, I decided to give those coins a purpose and stuff them into the 48 eggs Myla would go out hunting for. And the Piggy Bank was the perfect complementing present to put all that treasure. We actually did our egg hunt this morning and Myla loved opening all 48 eggs and popping the coins into her very own Piggy Bank. 

Ocean Creature Bean Bag Toss

Here’s a perfect example of my craft to-do list being too long for the amount of time I actually have. The idea for this project came to me last fall, which is also when I bought all the materials… they’ve just been sitting around until now.

Over the summer, Myla and I spent most mornings at the playground - at least three hours each time we went, if not longer. For most of that time, Myla would be going non-stop at full speed - she’s a climber and a dare devil. There were times she even did cartwheels down the big-kid slides, hardly phased by the experience - always going back for more. After these mornings, Myla started napping like most kids her age - it just took a lot of work to get her there. Which is why as soon as the cooler months set in and I knew it would soon become too chilly to play outside for very long, I became really worried - how was I supposed to help Myla with all this energy that she clearly needed to release? (And to make sure Mommy got a few hours of peace in the afternoons.)

For starters, there are certain gifts we requested for her birthday and Christmas which we knew would help her: a ball pit, a trampoline that is great for jumping and hanging up-side-down on, a tricycle and a push bike - both of which we let her ride indoors. In addition, we have a big couch for doing superhero-flying jumps and lots of items to jump off of. Luckily, between those and indoor “playgrounds” - we survived this winter as it has been brutally cold.  

Anyways, I wanted to make her this bean bag throw toss game to help direct her “throwing energy” away from balls and toys to the bean bags instead. And perhaps use the numbers 1, 2 and 3 as the number of times she would have to do something like jump, spin or stomp, each time a bean bag would land on that number. As it turns out, all the other activities were enough, but I still thought this would be a good game to help hone her throwing skills. Girl’s got a good arm. Down the road, she could also use it to practice simple math by adding up points.

Of course I wanted to make this simple game visually fun - so what would be more fun than throwing sea creatures into an ocean? To begin, I didn’t want another large toy to find a home for so instead of the traditional cornhole wooden box, I opted to make a point target out of fabric that could be rolled up and put away. I just needed to figure out how to make sure the fabric target stayed flat when the bags hit it. As for the bean bags, many, many years ago I was given a sand-filled, little man bean bag (pictured at right) which served as my inspiration for making the bean bags into fun shapes.

For the point target and bean bags, I used fabric quarters from Joanne’s (an inexpensive way to buy small quantities of a certain fabric). For the bean bags, I chose to stuff them with crystal fill for vases. Although rice, beans and sand all make good fillings for bean bags, the thought of them getting wet (rice/beans) or exploding all over our wood floors (sand), just made my skin crawl. I did find some plastic bean filling online, but preferred to just buy something available in the store - and this crystal fill actually works really well. For the underside of the point target, a single roll of cabinet drawer liner worked perfectly. Non-skid carpet padding would work good too.

I drew my pattern pieces leaving extra seam allowances. After stitching each piece, I trimmed and made notches so they flipped inside out nicely. I decided to sew some of the extruding parts by themselves and keep them flat rather than stuffing them - figured it might help avoid a bean bag explosion. I made sure to leave almost an inch unstitched which I hand sewed closed after filling them. For the point target, I simply folded over one edge of the fabric and stitched a wavy line which I later trimmed, notched and flipped inside out. I then top-stitched it onto the next piece and repeated that one more time until I had my three sections. I traced numbers onto some steam-a-seam (same material used on the baby onesies, father’s day t-shirts, gnome costume, and homemade patch) and ironed them onto the the front of the point target. Then I laid out the drawer liner, sticky side up, on the reverse of the point target - folded and stitched around the whole thing.

Here’s Justin explaining to Myla how to toss the bean bags onto the point target. After tossing a few from a distance, she started running up to the point target and slamming down the bean bags on the numbers as she screamed them out: “ONE… TWO… THREE!!!” 

Oh, and see that shirt Justin has on? It’s the Pint t-shirt I made him for father’s day - He still wears it!!! I also made a matching Half-Pint t-shirt for Myla, which made for some really cute father/daughter pictures.

Masked and Painted Ikea Table

I had been keeping an eye out for a table and chair set for Myla ever since she was an infant. There are many cute sets out there… and many pricey ones too. Since I know how well young kids take care of their belongings, I figured finding an inexpensive set was the way to go - I just had to find one that didn’t look cheesy. Lucky me, I have a friend who took an Ikea table and chair set, painted it and shared her idea with me. I loved it! But of course I wanted to make it my own and started thinking what else I could add. 

I love the look of natural wood and wanted to somehow mask a design that would allow the wood to show through the paint (perhaps this is coming from my days of designing bike graphics and paint masks). Anyways, I went to Michaels and found this stencil film that you can use to make your own stencils and masks. It has a paper back lining to draw your design on and once you cut it out (Xacto knife worked just fine), you can then peel off the paper to reveal an adhesive backing - which stuck perfectly to the wood. I chose to do a three star design and used my favorite See-Thru ruler to draw it out. I used carbon paper to repeat the pattern four times - 2 sets for the table and 2 sets for the chairs. Once I cut everything out, I also decided to use the leftover stars from the inside of the outlined stars.

I began by spray painting chalkboard paint on the table top which my friend did as well. I tried spraying the reverse side thinking I could always flip it around if I didn’t like it. But silly me didn’t have it on a totally flat surface and as the paint sprayed, some black specks found their way underneath. (Lesson learned - although I haven’t tried the Magic Eraser on it yet. Hmmm.) 

Then, I primed all the wood pieces, as the table comes in true Ikea style: unassembled. Gave it two coats of bright green paint - which Myla chose from a pile of paint chips. (A darker color would show a better contrast where the stars were masked). After it completely dried, I used an Xacto knife to make a little cut in the paint along the masking and lifted it up to remove it. If you try this, make sure the paint is completely dry. Finally, we assembled all the pieces.

Myla hasn’t used the chalkboard top yet.. she’s been mostly using her table to serve tea and lunch. And the best part... she loves it!

TableStencil_TableDetail.png

Choo-Choo Myla is Turning 2 (Part 4)

What an emotional past week it’s been and what an amazing outpouring of love I’ve received from family and friends. Although I was hesitant to publish last week’s journal post, I’m happy that I did. It’s opened the door for conversation and has helped me begin to heal. But most importantly, it’s helped me get back to my little pumpkin, Myla. And now while my little one naps, I have this blog to occupy my mind. I have been so excited to share this last post with you… so here it goes.

Decorations!!! 

In addition to the streamers, balloons, and shiny spirals hung around the house, we made a giant balloon “chandelier”. Since we have cathedral ceilings in our family room and foyer, I didn’t want helium balloons flying around as it would probably take awhile to get those things to come down. So we tied a bunch of balloons together (with a napkin ring), threw some line from the balcony railing above, over the fan and tied the balloons up in mid air. It was a great way to fill the large open space with some festive fun… and it’s something I’ll probably do again as it can work for any party theme. Although I think we could have used more balloons and maybe had a bunch of curled ribbon hanging down - but hey, this was a good start.

I also made a train themed “Happy Birthday” banner to match the invitations. I found a pack of card stock with 5 different shades of pink at Michaels. Here’s a helpful hint: If you enjoy making paper crafts, or even sewing and making your own patterns, there’s a really cool ruler that cuts down on your time measuring. It’s a “see-through dressmakers” ruler as seen below. Instead of marking a certain distance at two points and connecting the dots, you can easily line this ruler up along one of the lines (up to 2” wide) and draw a line. I have this ruler from my fashion design classes and I’ve found a million uses for it during all types of crafting. It’s definitely my go-to ruler.

For a fun little centerpiece, I created a Peppermint “Coal” Train. I bought the white mini loaf pans at Michaels and added some pink “wheels”, cut a track from the pink card stock, used a wooden train (made by Justin… more on that later), and made “coal” candy. I used the recipe from Martha Stewart which was super easy - but here you can find it with pictures I took and a few helpful hints if you've never made candy before. This “coal” would be a great Christmas treat too!

Another idea for the train would be to add a pretzel “log” car, animal (cracker) car, etc.

Favors!!!

As I just mentioned, Justin made a bunch of wooden trains for the kids. I absolutely adore how he had to get in on the craftiness… and I’m pretty sure he one-up’ed me here - they came out amazing!!! We thought about having the kids paint them as an activity to do during the party… but the thought of 10 toddlers/kids with paint inside the house made me freak out a little bit. So we figured the kids can just play with them as is, or paint them when they get home. Instead, we opted for a coloring station with crayons and 6 different train-themed pictures to color. I had also planned on making a “Pin-the-Caboose on the Train” game and/or a “Create-a-Train” felt board as an additional activity… but alas, time got the best of me. 

In addition to the handmade trains, all the little engineers received an engineer cap, bandana, and train whistle. I had planned on painting and personalizing all the train whistles and adding a little flower to the caps for the girls, but again… there just isn’t enough time in the day. Perhaps I need to hire a party planning crew next year.

Cake (& Cookies)!!!

I had this vision of re-creating the train on the invite for the cake. And in grand “Tricia-planning” style, I winged it the day before the party, crossing my fingers, hoping it would all come together. In the past, I admit, I used boxed cake mix and frosting… but this time, I wanted to make everything from scratch. While researching train cakes in general, I came across a train cake pan from Williams-Sonoma which had a recipe for both cake and frosting. I figured if it held up well to a molded pan that it would work for what I had planned. I made the recipe 2 and half times. Twice to fill up a 9 x 13 pan, to make a layered cake, and the last half recipe was to make 4 regular size cupcakes and 24 mini cupcakes. The cake held up incredibly well - it didn’t rise and bubble up high in the middle and really kept it’s height after being stacked with frosting in-between. I didn’t even have to trim the tops to make it sit level. Excellent and DELICIOUS recipe!!!

After stacking the two 9 x 13 cakes, I cut around the smoke stack. Since I’m not well trained in cake making, I opted for a simpler design than the invite and left a straight smoke stack. I was worried about trying to frost it later. I had a bit of trouble frosting that area, but learned later that I should have filled a frosting bag and ran it up and down the side instead of trying to use just the frosting knife. Lesson learned! I used the 4 large cupcakes for the wheels and the mini cupcakes for the smoke. For the large cupcakes, I cut rings from the butter boxes and covered with a cupcake wrapper upside-down and placed them underneath so they ended up the same height as the train itself.

Because this cake was a unique size, I had Justin cut a piece of wood to place it on. To give the board some color, I wrapped it in pink wrapping paper and then used wide parchment paper to cover it. A hint of pink showed through the parchment to compliment the cake and cupcakes.

And finally… a few days prior to the party, my mother, Myla and I made butter cookie. It was a recipe from my Grandmother - making it a special activity for us all. We used a train cookie cutter to make over 100 cookies!!! We decorated them in pink, silver and white. And there was plenty to send everyone home with some. But have no fear if you ate some - We kept the cookies Myla made to the side as she had to sample and smash most of what she touched.

Choo-Choo Myla is Turning 2 (Part 3)

Train Table Re-do: This is one project that I can admit I'm a little crazy for undertaking. We were handed down a used train table from my nephew and niece. The top boards were in bad condition (one almost completely destroyed by being left outside in the rain), the table frame had marker lines scribbled on it, and a rail on each drawer had gone missing. Fixing up the frame wasn't that big of a project. Justin tightened all the screws, built new drawer rails, added some drawer stoppers and I used the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to clean up the table. (I swear that Magic Eraser is the perfect cleaning tool for my OCD).

Justin picked up some new MDF boards for the table top. Instead of cutting three pieces like the original, we cut two - by doing so, we only had to buy two pieces of MDF board saving some money. However, we had to add some extra blocks for support around the inside of the frame to make sure the table top wouldn't tip inwards when pressure was applied. Simple enough so far.

Then it came time to paint the table top. I thought about painting a simple green top with some trees and a river - but why not go design-crazy instead? I know kids use train tables for more than just their trains… they use it for puzzles, building legos, etc, so I decided on a fun design that wouldn't hinder the imagination but would also work with the train set.

I began by finding a little inspiration from The Land of Nod. They had some Nordic/Folky type images that were really cute on their website. (Alright, I almost pretty much copied some of them, but used the rest as inspiration for the majority of my design). I ended up spending THREE hours drawing out the sketch on paper which I cut to the length of the MDF boards. This is when I should have known I was undertaking a project much bigger than originally anticipated. 

Once I finished the drawing, I started painting the boards. I taped off the boards where I would paint solid green - I didn't really need a hard line here just yet, but I was going to be painting a light blue on the edge and didn't want to have trouble covering the green. After painting the green, I removed the tape and painted the light blue. Once dry, I taped out a one inch line between the green and blue where I painted the gray (with a little imagination, this gray could be a little road).

Once completely dry, I removed the tape and got ready to transfer my design onto the boards. I used some carbon transfer paper which made the task really easy. 

Then came the hard part. If it took me three hours to do the original design… how many hours would it take to paint it? More than FIFTEEN hours of painting (three naps and several evenings later). I still need to spray a clear coat on it which will hopefully add some protection. I also planned on repainting all the little trains and cars that came with the train set - but I've decided that can wait… and perhaps wait indefinitely. 

I absolutely adore how it came out but I can't believe I spent so much time on it. Hopefully Myla appreciates it and doesn't decide to scribble all over it on day one. Not only will this serve as a birthday present, but it'll be a fun activity for the kids at the birthday party - all the little engineers can "chugga-chugga" the trains around. 

Here are some close-up views of the little town.