Monday, May 30, 2011

happiness is...

...looking over my shoulder at a tight prototype for Gramma Wolfie while I'm editing the instructions. Crossing my fingers to finish it up soon and jump on the companion Little Red doll that is living in my head. Maaaaaaybe something similar to this, with a wider face.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

make a mini memo book cover

This is a reprint of a guest tutorial I did for the Southern Institute. Enjoy!

Well, hello Southern Institutioners! I'm so happy to be guest tutorialing here today. I met Jenny when she and Dana and a host of other talented ladies descended on Whipstitch for a class in Atlanta a while back, and let me tell you, that was fun. Delighted to do it again sometime, Jenny!

So a bit about me. I'm a graphic designer turned home schooling mom of two lovely girls. I love to make stuff and drink coffee, and even better if I can make stuff while drinking coffee. I write a blog, mmmcrafts, where you can find tutorials and see all my creative endeavors in sewing, papercutting, and felt makery. I also run an etsy shop where I sell my patterns and the occasional finished piece. Ok, enough about me, now on to the actual making. I'll wait a second so you can top off your mug.

Make a Mini Memo Book Cover

I love these inexpensive little 3.25 x 4.5 inch composition books. They are just the right size for tucking in my purse. I always seem to need paper to jot things down or keep an antsy child occupied, so I try to keep a supply handy. When I went to the Netherlands several years ago with my BFF, I took one as a travel journal and it was just exactly the right size and number of pages. You can find them at Wal-Mart, office supply and drug stores (and even a few places online), usually for less than a dollar US each.

So here's how to pretty them up with a nice re-usable cover. It can elevate a 77-cent memo book from plain jane to Gift Worthy.

You'll need:
  • this template
  • printer
  • letter sized card stock
  • scrap of decorative paper
  • craft knife
  • ruler 
  • glue (I used Fabri-Tac)
  • optional brad
  • optional embroidery floss
1) First step is to print the template at actual size on the back of the card stock. Then score on the dashed lines. I just use the back side of the craft knife blade to score, but be careful not to press too hard at the point. After all the folds are scored, cut out the template on the solid lines.

2) Use the provided spine pattern to trace and cut out a spine from a scrap of decorative paper.

It will be a bit longer than the cover, so it will overlap nicely when you glue it on and it is a cinch to get it centered:

 Then you just trim off the excess with your knife, and the spine is done:

3) Here's where you can opt for the brad/floss closure, or you can leave those off. If you want to leave it off, skip to step 6. If you are going to include it, insert the brad in the spot marked for it. I happened to have a decorative brad on hand, but a regular brass brad (like the one shown below) will work great too. Don't squish the brad down super tight. You want it to have a bit of play.

4) Now get your large embroidery needle out and thread it with a double length of embroidery floss that has a knot at the end. Poke through the card stock where it says 'optional string placement' and pull the floss through until there is about an inch left before the knot.

5) Put some glue on a small square or circle of paper and press it over the floss, flush with the knot and the hole. I just grabbed my circle punch and popped out a circle to use. Whichever is easiest. Make sure the glue has a nice bond over the floss.

6) Now fold all the flaps/tabs toward the wrong side and crease the spine folds. Since the scoring is on the back side, sometimes it makes a nicer fold if you fold the score backwards first, then toward the wrong side.

7) Glue the flaps to the tabs. Insert the memo book by laying the cover flat and inserting the front and back memo book cover under the flaps.

8) Wrap the floss around the brad two or three times to secure. Once you see what a good length will be, tie a knot in the floss and trim the excess. (Waxing the floss will also make it easier to wind around the brad.)

9) Cut out a label from contrasting paper and glue it to the front of the cover, if you like.


There! The cheap memo book is now a dressed up mini journal. Have fun. You can experiment with different paper color and pattern combinations. Use decorative edged scissors to give added cuteness to the spine. The possibilities are numerous. You might need to go get more coffee. Enjoy!

Thanks for having me here, Jenny!

Monday, May 23, 2011

officially seven


My sweet May baby was birthdayed a couple of weeks ago and it was a great party, if I say so myself. Nothing fancy. Just some old fashioned fun. She chose a Martha Speaks theme, and since there are no readily available Martha party accessories, I had to improvise. You can see her birthday outfit above, which is looking bedraggled post-party by repeated water gun soakings. The purple tank was found at Target, and I made the Lazy Days skirt from madras and purple grosgrain ribbon the night before the party. Easy.


Here's her birthday mixtape. I really enjoyed putting these together last year so I think this might become a birthday tradition. It makes them feel really special to have some music to mark the occasion. This year's selection for Thing 2 was chosen mainly for the toe-tapping beats and rollicking melodies, but some were snuck in there for my own benefit because I know I'll be listening to this in our van for a while. We had this playing outside during the party and also used it for the Pass The Martha game.

I tried not to go overboard on indoor decorations. My felt buntings from birthdays past and some balloons did the trick, plus some homemade Martha signs I put around. I found a picture of Martha online to use for those. 

I piled a bunch of jump ropes, bubble makers, frisbees, water guns, ring toss sets, lacrosse sets and hula hoops on a table outside the screened porch for easy access while the party goers were arriving.

After the party got underway, we played Put The Tail On The Martha on the screened porch. I had to make this game myself, so I sketched a picture of Martha from one of the girls' chapter books and painted it on yellow poster board. That was kinda fun because I rarely just get to draw and paint. I used loops of tape on the tails instead of tacks. I was worried that the kids would think this game was completely lame, even though they were mostly younger than seven. Boy was I wrong. They loved it, and it actually became pretty cutthroat with some blatant cheating thrown in.

Passing the Martha

Michael vids the kids pelting around the house, hot after a buried bone.

After Put The Tail there were several other games, including Pass the Martha (aka Hot Potato, except with a stuffed Martha doll), Dog Dog Cat (aka Duck Duck Goose), and a scavenger hunt for buried cardboard bones helped along by written clues from Martha. Prizes were won by all. We couldn't have asked for a prettier day to have it outside. It was very mild but when things got a little sweaty, I broke out the Popsicles.

What you see here is the extent of my cake decorating abilities.

The birthday girl requested eclair cake for her dessert. If you don't know this southern church potluck staple, it is a combination of layers of french vanilla pudding, whipped cream, graham crackers and a dark chocolate glaze. It tastes like guessed it. Eclair. I like to whip my own fresh cream instead of using the store bought kind. Mmm mm good.

As far as other party food goes, we devoured take out pizza, homemade greek salad, homemade limeade, hummus, chips and dips. I am a huge believer in take out pizza for birthday parties. All kids/adults love it, and no prep for me.

I want to thank you all for your clever and amusing party game suggestions! You got my gears grinding. I haven't done a big party for the girls for the last three years, so I was kind of rusty. And guess what Thing 1 is already planning for her birthday in August?

Friday, May 13, 2011

corners of my house: foyer plate wall

Hey, thanks for your nifty party game ideas. I'll blog her party eventually. Right now I'm shirking my party prep duties to write this post. I should be making the cake. So I'll be quick.

I've been doing little decor spruce ups around the house and you'll probably see several posts about it. I tend to leave things the same way for far too long, then suddenly I have this maniacal urge to change it all. It's happening bit by bit. This is one part of it, my new foyer plate wall. Just pretend that door bell box is not there. Man, I hate that thing.

I've seen this done several times on the web, including this beautiful example by Lisa Congdon. Plates were the perfect way to bring some interest and color to my foyer wall. Pretty cheap too, since I already had most of what I needed.

I love looking at it. I didn't think about it too much, just did it. I had the idea the other day, so I dug around in cabinets and gathered a bunch of plates I've accumulated over the years. Some were gifts, some souvenirs, and some thrift store finds. And a few I bought recently just to fill in the holes.

Then I started with three large plates in a triangle. Then I just randomly added more plates one by one until I felt it was finished. Having assorted plate sizes is a big help in giving it direction and swoop. Making new holes in my (freshly painted and mended) wall usually makes me nervous but for some reason I was able to just let go and whack the nails in without a second thought.

I like the effect at night too. Ok, I gotta go make party stuff.

Monday, May 9, 2011

anniversary card

Thematic anniversary cards are my thing. Ever since we were married, I've made Michael a card that reflects the prescribed anniversary gift for that year. There's usually two choices, traditional and modern, so I just choose the one I feel would make the best card. Ok, sometimes the easiest card. This year was a watch.

And then since that is actually a great gift idea for him as well, I also took a huge risk, closed my eyes, and bought him a watch. Do you have one of those husbands too? For whom it is next to impossible to buy anything gadgety, because if he wants it then he is sure to already be watching at least ten auctions on ebay for a much better one than you will ever think to buy? So I am astounded and gratified that he is going to keep the watch that I picked out for him. (Robyn, I know right? high-fiving self! whoo!)

And he always gets me flowers. This year it was these lovely red tulips, along with a little getaway trip to Charleston coming up.  I was so glad to finally have chance to use this flower holder thingy I bought at some party years ago. I forgot about it in the cabinet, and turns out it is perfect for tulips. Stick them in the holes, done. Flower arranging-by-number. And to cap it all off, we dressed up and ate a large amount of sushi in Atlanta. (We always chuckle when we hand the keys to our 1995 Civic beater to the valet attendant.) I feel we marked the Big Fifteen successfully. 

Now I have to switch gears to my daughter's birthday, quick like. She'll be seven and her party is this Saturday. Your assignment: provide me with the perfect, easy, cheap, not to mention wildly entertaining games for her birthday party. Which will have a dog theme. Go!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

window film

I have an endless list of small decor updates that patiently wait for my attention around the house. I recently finished this little project on my list, replacing the old colored static film on the sidelights and bathroom windows with new, clearish film.

I love this stuff. It's perfect to give privacy without cutting the light. If you are curious, this particular brand is Light Effects that I picked up on Amazon. It couldn't be easier to apply. You use slightly soapy water and a squeegee. Once on, it will not budge. I had the last batch on there for the past nine years or so and it never bubbled or came up. And it peeled right off when I needed to change it.

One distressing note, when I peeled the old film off there was suddenly an overpowering chemical/petroleum smell. It made me cough. I had to immediately take the old film outside. That was weird. No smell at all was present until I peeled it off. Uhhhh...Maybe you should not leave it on for nine years? The new film has no detectable smell.

Random blog maintenance announcement: I've added a new Google search field to the right sidebar, under my profile. There's always been a blogger search field at the top of the window, but I've noticed it is not the most effective or thorough. This Google search field seems to be more targeted. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

fifteen years ago today

I married my true love. Happy anniversary, Michael! I thank God for you each and every day, my greatest earthly blessing.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

make a momma bird card (or two)

I designed these two Momma Bird cards and the downloadable template is available for you to make your own. Perhaps your Momma Bird needs a handmade thank you from her little chick this week?

Here's how to put them together:
  1. Download the PDF template and print it on heavy paper. Cut out the shapes. These will be your re-usable pattern pieces.
  2. Cut a letter size piece of white card stock in half to make two 5.5 x 8.5 inch pieces. Fold them each in half to create two blank cards.
  3. Cut two 5.25 x 4 inch colored pieces of cardstock for the card backgrounds and glue one each to the fronts of the blank cards, centered within the white margin.
  4. Trace the bird shapes lightly on colored card stock and cut them out (using small, sharp scissors or a craft knife will help). I like to reverse the pattern pieces and trace them on the back of the paper, so you don't need to erase pesky pencil lines.
  5. Follow the build diagrams below to put them together. Use 1/16 inch thick pop dots to give each layer added dimension. For the smaller pieces, I put a blob of gel glue on a scrap piece of paper and use a toothpick to apply. The legs are tiny strips of white card stock.

To make the faces:
  1. Use a small circle punch to cut a hole in black card stock. Then shift the punch over a bit to cut a slim crescent shape from the side of the hole you made to make the eyes for both birds. I used a 1/2 inch and a 1/4 inch punch. 
  2. For the owl beaks, punch one 1/4 inch circle and one 1/2 inch circle. Trim off two edges of each circle to form a point.
Options to simplify for paper savvy kids:

  1. Skip the colored background.
  2. Don't use pop dots. Just glue everything.
  3. Cut small triangles for the owl beaks.
  4. Draw in the eyes and legs using gel pens instead.
Now send it to your Momma Bird with love. Perhaps along with an espresso machine.