For the love of Pinterest!

23 Oct

I pin, therefore I make!

~Eliany

How I plan a birthday party

5 Nov

I love love love planning my son’s birthday parties. And it takes me a while to do… and sometimes (always) ends up being a lot of work… but oh so worth it! So, I just wanted to share with you a few things about how I plan a birthday party and what I did for my son’s 3rd birthday. We went with Where the Wild Things Are theme and it was great!

1. Theme – First things first… thinking about the theme. I usually have a few possible themes at a time. I make a choice when we’re about 2-3 months away from the actual birthday dependent on my son’s interest at the time (and now he has an opinion as well ;) ). I make a Pinterest board (will talk about that next) for every theme. That way, when is time to choose a theme, I have all the ideas I like in one place and don’t have to do as much research/planning.

Example of my Pinterest boards for birthdays

Example of my Pinterest boards for birthdays (Sesame Street, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Where the Wilds Things Are) *Click to see the boards on Pinterest

2. Pinterest board – I pin and pin and pin… every little idea that comes my way.

  • cake – I make my son’s birthday cakes. I’m not a trained cake decorator but can totally put together a cake. Sometimes very kind people will share their creations and even do a step-by-step tutorial. Just search! I followed this tutorial.
  • invitations - I love mailing invitations. I love seeing what others do and use it as inspiration to make my own. I usually also have a Facebook event going (it is a great reminder).
  • food – Sometimes I make the food, sometimes I order out. This year we had pizza and wings from Great Northern Pizza Kitchen. It was great. Specially since the birthday party was around lunchtime.
  • decorations – You can find pretty much an idea for most things that come to mind on Pinterest. Finding ideas for parties is just great… from simple to all out… from DIY to you-can-buy-this-here. You’ll find something for your taste and budget.
  • other – I add activities, favors, costume, etc.

Obviously, not everything that gets pinned, gets done for the birthday… although I wish I could! ;)

3. Make/send invitations – I make and mail the invitations a month-ish before the birthday party.

Inspired by a few invitations I found online.

Inspired by a few invitations I found online.

4. Make cake - TIP: Make sure that you allow enough time to finish your cake! This is the most stressful part of the whole birthday party planning. It is hard to predict what’s going to happen. This last cake took me a good 3 days to complete… but a month after the party, I still have people talking about it. Not too bad! ;)

Cake

Love this cake!

5. Birthday Party Day - We are fortunate to have an entertaining room in the apartment complex that we can use for this kind of activity. It is a big room with tables/chairs already set up. There’s also a kitchen. I love it! Minimal setup… we just have to clean at the end. I’ve had birthday celebrations at home before and I feel that there’s much more to do/clean before and after the party. See if you can find a room like that for your next party!

We were able to bring a ball pit, tunnels, and a huge inflatable bowling set. They were all a huge hit with the toddler crowd. My husband did story time and read a couple books including Where the Wild Things Are.

Story time!!!

Yes, he was wearing his Max suit!

Yes, he was wearing his Max suit!

6. Thank You cards – I believe in sending Thank You cards. People take time of their day to come celebrate with us and I think it is a very nice thing to do. I love receiving thank you cards (any kind of cards/letters), so I love sending them too. It is also a great learning experience. Talk to the little one while you write them and explain why you’re mailing cards.

Hope this post helps you a bit on your future birthday planning! :)

Learning to decorate cakes (with Wilton)

28 Oct Class 4 Sample

Just last night, I finished the Wilton Course 1 – Building Buttercream Skills. I took my classes at Michael’s because they had a special offer when I signed up. Here are some pictures of my projects!

Class 1 Sample

Class 1 Sample

Class 2 Sample

Class 2 Sample – Yellow cake with apricot filling

Class 3 Sample

Class 3 Sample

Class 4 Sample

Class 4 Sample – Chocolate cake with raspberry filling

What I liked:

  • Even though I’ve decorated cakes, cupcakes and cookies before, I liked that there was plenty for me to learn. I’m self-taught, so it is always good to have a veteran decorator give you pointers. The instructor was very patient and gracious.
  • I only paid $10 for the class (plus course materials)! I think it is a great price especially if you just want to give it a try!
  • I love the manual. I think it is very well written and will be great to refresh my memory on some of the techniques. (I wish it included links to videos that showed somebody going through the techniques… just a thought!)
  • I love the course kit. They really provide you with quality materials. It contains all the tools you need. (Although, I ended up buying a cake leveler and a turn table (which I love and think are a must have!).) And I know that I won’t have to buy any of those things again (or at least on a very long time!).
  • I really feel like I can produced a decent buttercream cake! I learned to properly layer and fill a cake. I’m no expert, but I know that lots of practice will help.

What I didn’t like:

  • My classmates were never prepared. This made the instructor have to deviate from the course schedule to accommodate for them. Somewhat annoying.
  • We had schedule issues, so we ended up having 4 classes in 2 weeks. I know this course is offered in 2 classes sometimes. But it felt too back to back for me. Like I didn’t have time to let anything sink in or practice on my own. We had to bake and prepare icing for every class and that takes time as well.

So… I really enjoyed the whole process (don’t let my dislikes discourage you from trying a Wilton class… after all, that was just my experience). Getting ready for class was a bit stressful at times but it got me out of the house and gave me time to learn more about something I’ve always enjoyed. I’ll definitely take the other courses… I’m particularly interested on trying fondant and making gumpaste flowers. If you give it a try, let me know what you think! :)

Homemade Laundry Detergent & the First Load of Laundry

23 Oct

Just a few days ago I made my own laundry detergent (as seen on Crystal & Co.)! It took us (the hubster helped with the mixing) less than 5 minutes to combine all the ingredients. I used the following recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 (55 oz) box of Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda
  • 1 (4 lb) box of Arm and Hammer Baking Soda
  • 1 (76 oz) box of Borax
  • 3 bars of Fels Naptha Soap
  • 1 (3 lb) container of OxiClean (I used the unscented one)
  • 1 (13 oz) container of Downy Unstopables (I used Fresh) scent (optional)

This is what my laundry detergent looks like! Love it!

Crystal & Co. claims this recipe makes 271 loads of laundry. I’ll try to keep tract of how many loads of laundry I get out of this batch. The ingredients costed $26.67 which makes it a little less than $0.10 per load (can’t beat that!). I love that it makes a decent quantity of detergent, it’s inexpensive, and it smells great! [The first time I made laundry detergent, it was quite a small batch and felt more like an inconvenience.]

Just now, I moved the first load of laundry (washed using this detergent) to the dryer. It came out smelling fresh and clean from the washer. Way better than commercial laundry detergent which has left my freshly-laundered clothes smelling a little funky lately and in need of a re-wash. I’ll keep you posted about all the laundry happenings around here! :)

For the love of Swag bucks!

9 Jan Swag bucks

Swag bucks

I love using Swag bucks! No, they’re not paying me any money (or swag bucks!) to say that. I’ve tried many survey-answering, point-accumulating, etc programs that don’t really give you anything. Swag bucks is one of two programs I use on which my time is rewarded with something I can use. [The other program is Pinecone Research.]

I joined on 2011, but it wasn’t until late last year that I really took advantage of what Swag bucks offers. These are the things I do everyday to earn Swag bucks:

  1. Search – Not every search will give you points, but I’ve earned up to 24 points on just one search. I search for stuff online anyway, so I don’t feel like I’m just using up my time.
  2. Answer the daily poll – Get a point everyday! It takes just a few seconds.
  3. Complete the NOSO everyday for a couple points It takes less than a minute.
  4. Use the toolbar everyday for a point. See #1.
  5. Watch videos on my phone for even more points!
  6. I take some time everyday to complete surveys. Lots of points can be earned this way but it requires a time investment.
  7. Keep an eye out for Swag codes and special offers.

I’m a very proud stay-at-home mom that tries her best to contribute $ anyway she can. Swag bucks has allowed me to redeem my points for useful gift cards (can you say Amazon!)! My goal is to use my Swag bucks to buy gifts (birthdays and special occasions) and board games throughout the year without having to use any “budget money”. Earning swag bucks is not hard and it doesn’t take all day. They’ve won me over. I encourage you to give it a try! It’s free! =D

Revisiting Evernote…

8 Jan

So, I’ll give you a little backstory. I “collect” (or hoard… depends who you ask ;) ) recipes. I get them from the internet and from the million-and-one magazines I receive (another post completely). I’m starting to see a pattern here. In any case, I do keep the recipes that look interesting to me, but I couldn’t find a good way to organize them. What good are a bazillion recipes if you can’t find what you’re looking for? That’s when my OCD tendencies kick in and I go crazy looking for a solution to organize a huge stack of magazine clippings and links. I’ve tried many methods without any real success… including putting the clippings on binders. That requires a lot of time and shelf space. I live in an apartment and storage is at a premium. Accumulating clippings is not really the way to go. I had tried Evernote before but couldn’t get things to work like I wanted to… and I stopped using it altogether. So, I’ve been trying things… and I think I’ve found my solution.

Scanner Pro

The App Store was offering Scanner Pro (by Readdle) for free (as their App of the Week). You can scan documents using your phone’s camera. I got it without really thinking that I wanted to use it for my recipes… but it hit me when I saw that I can scan recipes and send them to Evernote! That means that I can scan my recipes (keep them forever on digital format) and recycle the clippings!!! I don’t have to save pages from magazines any longer… I can scan directly from the magazine and send to Evernote!

logoevernote

Evernote is also free! So this is what I did. I created a notebook which will become my Recipes: To Try repository. I will send all my scans there making sure that I tag every recipe. Tagging is essential since that’s what I’ll use to search for my recipes on Evernote. Once I try a recipe, it’ll go to my Recipes: Tried and True notebook or trash depending on how I like it. :D Recipes found on websites are super easy to send to Evernote using Evernote Web Clipper. Easy-peasy. Even if the website goes offline (or if I don’t have internet access), I’ll still have the recipe. I can access Evernote on my computer, iPad and iPhone. Awesome, right!?

Well, guess what?! It gets awesomer because I found out that Evernote has another product that is super appropriate for this project. Enter Evernote Food! You can use it to keep track of what you’re cooking and eating, restaurants, and, of course, recipes!!! Evernote Food links up to Evernote and finds your notes that contain recipes. So smart! I love that it all works together super smoothly. I have to play with this app some more (it is available for iPod, iPhone, iPad and Android devices). You probably don’t need to have both Evernote and Evernote Food if you just want to organize recipes, but I know that I will use Evernote for other things as well.

Evernote_Food

I can’t wait to scan my recipes and organize them! This is what my Recipes: To Try notebook looks like right now. The first note is a recipe from a website sent to Evernote using Evernote Web Clipper (an extension on your browser). The second note is a recipe scanned using Scanner Pro on my iPhone and sent over to Evernote. If you click on the Tag icon on the upper right hand side, you can search the tags.

My Evernote

I will come back and show you what it looks like and share updates once I have more recipes on my notebook.

Covered Apples!

21 Oct

On Sunday, we went apple picking! Of course, we picked way more apples than we should have… not a problem! What to do with extra apples, you ask? How about chocolate caramel covered apples? I used granny smiths for this recipe. Follow the caramel recipe exactly, it works perfectly!

20131021-071417.jpg

 

I didn’t have any craft sticks, so I used plastic knives leftover from my son’s birthday last week. They were a bit flimsy for the apples but got the job done. Next time, I will use a sturdier handle. With this caramel you have to work fast and stick the apple in the fridge quickly to set.

20131021-071425.jpg

 

Once the caramel sets, go ahead and melt the chocolate chips. I used Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips (I just love it!). I think my apples were a bit to big and ran out of chocolate. I also like the pretty uneven swirl and that uses up a lot more chocolate. Stick them back in the fridge to set.

20131021-071434.jpg

 

You can add even more to these delicious treats! I chose some ghost sprinkles (perfect for Halloween). Nuts would be great too.

20131021-071442.jpgGive them a try! They were a bit more work than I anticipated but well worth the effort, because these apples are delicious!!!

 

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