Minnie Mouse Birthday Cake

Minnie Mouse Cake

When my daughter told me she wanted a Princess Sofia birthday cake, I thought…uh oh. That sounds like a stretch. 

We’ve had trouble finding a nut-free bakery, so I have been making birthday cakes in recent years. So far, they’ve turned out fine, but Sophia is far beyond my limited skill set.

I was grateful a week later when she decided she wanted Minnie Mouse instead.

Minnie Mouse? Phew, I actually think I can do that.

My talented best friend made a Minnie Mouse cake last year for her daughter’s first birthday. She sent me pictures and it was so pretty! It was her cake-making skill and encouragement that gave me confidence to make this cake for our daughter’s Ballerina third birthday party. With a little practice under my belt, a Minnie Mouse cake seemed reasonable to attempt.

The process is pretty straight forward. Bake, freeze, assemble, and decorate. I carefully took a ton of photos while making it only to have my trusty camera memory card meet its untimely and frustrating death…along with those photos. Ugh. Such a bummer!  But, I think you’ll be able to figure it out from the description below and I’m happy to answer any questions.

The birthday girl couldn’t decide between Funfetti or Chocolate cake, so I made a two-layer cake. One layer Funfetti, one chocolate. I am so grateful to Rose Bakes for her Crusting Cream Cheese Buttercream Recipe {Great for Decorating}. It is quick, easy to work with and tastes delicious.

You guys, you need to make this Buttercream. It’s fantastic.

One box of each cake mix was divided between one 10″ pan (head) and two 6″ pans (ears).  After cooling, each baked cake was wrapped in cling wrap and frozen overnight. Freezing makes them easy to handle. Cutting a semi-circle from each 6″ cake so they fit snugly against the 10″ cake was easy. The bottom layer was Funfetti, the top Chocolate.

A generous layer of frosting was used to secure the ears, head, and layers together. For a little extra flavor, Santa Cruz Seedless Red Raspberry Fruit Spread was added between layers with the frosting. Who would have thought a little jar from the jelly section of the grocery store could taste so decadent?

So far, so good.

Then I started to decorate the cake and things got a little messy. Literally, frosting was getting everywhere. The cake board is a mess (see those greasy spots?). Next time it will be covered while decorating since I’m apparently incapable of not making a mess.

That is when I began to panic. It had been a while since I piped frosting and I was quite rusty.

I decided this was going to be the ugliest cake attempt that ever was.

At that point, I may have asked, er…demanded that my husband remove the children from this house. He may be a saint because he patiently and kindly obliged, asking no questions and reassuring me it was going to look great as he swept them out the door. True story – he’s awesome.

20 minutes later in a silent house, I stood looking at a finished cake feeling foolish for freaking out.

My husband was right, the cake did turn out fine and was delicious.

In the coming weeks I’ll post the Minnie Mouse party decorations but in the meantime…

sunshine girl 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Sunshine Girl.

DIY: Wood Mudroom Bench

When I shared a couple of weeks ago that we bought thirty common boards for our winter organization project, what did you guess we were making?

If you guessed a bench, you were right!

Our mudroom is a disaster of boots, shoes, backpacks, coats, gloves, hats and well, you get the point…

Walking in there, we can’t help but feel overwhelmed – the ‘stuff’ just doesn’t have a place to go. Shoes, coats and bags get shoved into the closet only to pour back out. Or, it all just gets left all over the floor (mostly that). None of us can quickly find what we need before to get out the door.

It is long past time for an organization solution.

The long term project will be a bench and lockers. But step one is the bench.

I love the look of a butcher block bench but its so expensive – especially 8 feet of it, so we can do 5 cubbies beneath and 5 lockers above.

I am grateful my adventurous husband agreed to help me make our own bench using common boards. It won’t be as flawless of butcher block, but I was confident hoped it would be lovely. In full disclosure, I desperately need his help (aka. tell me what to do) because although eager to learn, I’m just not experienced or savvy in this area.

The first post detailed the supplies used, purchased and borrowed, so today I’ll just share a bit of the process and where we are so far.

First, we picked the 27 best of those 30 common boards – pretty much every board was warped, had a big chip out of it, or had big knots. It’s good we want a perfectly imperfect benchthis will have character whether we like it or not.

We lined the boards up and arranged them so the wood grain on each board is oppasite the next. My husband trimmed each 9 foot common board to 8 feet.DIY: Mudroom Storage Bench Update | thisgratefulmama.com

Wood glue was used to secure the boards together – half the first night, then the rest the second. We used 4 clamps to squeeze them together for 24 hours. When the clamps are secured, lots of glue dripped out on the plastic table cloth – I’m glad we protected the table or it would have been a mess! clamps-collage

With the boards glued, it was even more evident just how not-straight common boards are. Even with effort to keep them lined up while gluing. Smoothing would take forever with a belt sander. What we really wanted was access to a large wood planer but we didn’t know anyone with the equipment. So, my husband suggested we try hand planing.

Hand planing is kind of fun, although my husband may not agree (he admittedly did more than me). It isn’t exactly a quick process, and requires persistence and elbow grease. We took turns – when one got tired the other took over. It took a couple of evenings after the kids went to bed to get it fairly even. We (read: my husband, with me on kid duty) sanded the boards using a belt sander. The change was amazing – honestly, the before and after pictures don’t do it justice.

So smooth.DIY: Mudroom Storage Bench Update | thisgratefulmama.com

Wood was sanded one last time using a palm-sander before using a pre-stain wood conditioner.  MinWax Espresso stain was applied using a stain pad. In the past I used a brush, but would consider using a stain pad again – less mess and even coverage. We allowed the stain to sit 1o minutes before wiping it off. We did reapply one time to try to darken the color but it didn’t add much. We used grubby old t-shirts to wipe the stain off and let it dry overnight before sealing it.

This bench is going to be used in the mudroom. We live in Minnesota – winter gear will be wet and snowy when it gets hung up, especially by the kids. We want this wood bench to be long-lasting and not be damaged by water. That is why we used Helmsman Spar Urethane to seal it – it is for indoor/outdoor use and is tough enough to endure heavy traffic and moisture.

Spar Urethane requires two coats, with a light sanding between coats. Surprisingly, the odor was less intense than expected. When I used the spray-version of Spar Urethane to seal the DIY Outdoor Vertical Stencil-Painted ‘Believe’ and ‘Grateful’ Sign, the aerosol spar urethane odor was much stronger. I think I may only use the brush-on version going forward.

Here is the top of the bench, stained and sealed with a satin finish.DIY Wood Mudroom Bench | thisgratefulmama.com

Isn’t she pretty?

This project is already so gratifying, even though it took quite a bit of elbow grease. And it was even better to make it with my husband – a gift to work on something together. It will be sweet knowing we made something for our family will actually use and enjoy for years to come.

Next we’ll build cubbies underneath for shoes and boots before adding lockers for backpacks and coats.

Until then…

DIY: Winter Organization Project Sneak Peak

 

My husband and I went out and bought thirty 1×3″ common boards.

DIY Winter Project Sneak Peak | thisgratefulmama.com

Can you guess what we’re making?

Here’s a hint: We have one particular room in our house that makes us feel overwhelmed every time we set foot in it. This will be an organization solution for that room.

Guess away. I promise to give you the answer, but not today.

First, let me tell you what we learned about 1×3″ common boards.

First, there is no such thing as a straight common board. They are thin, and the wood is fairly soft. Naturally, they warp easily. Just when you find a straight board length-wise, you realize it is warped across the width.

Second, the boards are, well, common. They are full of knots, dings and unfinished edges. But you do get what you pay for – they are one of the most inexpensive options for a project like this.

Third, and possibly the most surprising, 1×3 common boards are actually NOT 1″ x 3″. They are actually 3/4″ x 2-1/2″ – I know, go figure. So, when you do a project, make sure you take into account the adjusted size or it may turn out just a little smaller than you planned! I’m grateful my husband knew all about it. I was looking at him like he was crazy when he told me, but turns out (as with many other things), he was right.

Picking out common boards is not a common job. We ran by the store on somewhat of a whim, unprepared for the task at hand. I mean, why wouldn’t it be quick and easy to go to the store with 3 kids under the age of 6 and leave with what we needed in a timely fashion?

Rookies. 

We spent a very long time pulling out almost every common board from the stack. We chose the ‘best of the worst’ boards. Since it took longer than expected, one of us examined boards while the other kept the little people from getting too rowdy – reminders to ‘be kind’, snacks, bathroom breaks, rattle shaking and rocking the baby.

And then there’s the cart problem. It’s kind of hard to buy large supplies when one cart is full of just children. We were a bit of a parade with our flatbed of supplies and cart loaded with children – apparently high ceilings mean outside voices. We may have drawn attention to ourselves and stuck out like sore thumbs. Maybe.

It wasn’t exactly the most relaxing trip to the hardware store I’ve ever taken.

But, I’m happy to report we did survive. Next time we’ll be a little more prepared and perhaps leave the little people at home. Here is the list of what we used, borrowed or bought for our project:

  • Supplies
    • Clamps
    • Belt Sander
    • Hand Planer
    • Palm Sander
    • Wood Glue
    • Miter Saw
    • Table Saw
    • Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner
    • Espresso Colored Wood Stain
    • Spar Urethane Sealer
    • 4×8′ Plywood
    • White Paint and Primer

look-what-weve-been-up-to

It might not look like much quite yet, but we’re having fun creating something for our family to enjoy. 

Can’t wait to share our progress soon.

 

 

A Kid And Guest Friendly Nautical Themed Bathroom

A Kid And Guest Friendly Nautical Themed Bathroom | thisgratefulmama.com

The hall bathroom is mainly used by our 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter. But often, it is used by guests. Almost 3 years after moving in, the bathroom was still builder-white.

With two little people using the bathroom, the walls were starting to look dingy from wet hands and water splatter on flat white paint.

The bathroom needed a satin-finish paint job to protect the walls and clean it up.

Plus, with a colicky baby keeping us home more than usual, I needed a project.

Bad.

With a start and finish.

And I roped my husband into it when a simple paint job became a slightly larger project. We picked out navy paint for the space, but navy was just too dark for the window-less bathroom.

To keep the space bright, and protect walls from the wear and tear that is inflicted by small children, we decided to add white bead board.

Home Depot carries this two-foot width bead board product with pre-cut grooves to fit seams together. We needed just 5 two-foot boards for our small bathroom. We spent $35 on bead board and under $10 on chair rail and caulking.

The spendy part of this project was the paint. Sherwin Williams matched the white paint to our existing trim. One gallon of satin Super Paint along with velour rollers for an ultra-smooth finish was $50, even with a $10 off coupon!

Yikes.

But now we have enough high quality white paint to use for our future mud room lockers and bead board border.

A Kid And Guest Friendly Nautical Themed Bathroom | thisgratefulmama.com

We taped and painted the navy color during nap time one day.  My husband spent half a day working on the bead board. And I spent one more nap time applying two coats of white paint to the bead board.

 

 

 

 

Paint completed, we just needed a few finishing touches.

A Kid And Guest Friendly Nautical Themed Bathroom | thisgratefulmama.com

We found the wooden ‘Splash’ sign for $15 at Home Goods. You can find something similar from this Etsy shop.

 

 

 

A Kid And Guest Friendly Nautical Themed Bathroom | thisgratefulmama.com

The wooden Whale was found on clearance for $7 at Hobby Lobby.

 

 

 

A Kid And Guest Friendly Nautical Themed Bathroom | thisgratefulmama.com

Hand towels are hung using $9 wooden fish hangers from Marshalls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Kid And Guest Friendly Nautical Themed Bathroom | thisgratefulmama.com

The space was completed with the Wave Blue shower curtain from Target. Usually $17, we paid $14 using a 20% off Cartwheel deal.

 

 

 

 

 

Voila.

It’s amazing how just one little project can make you feel energized…and ready for the next one.

Spray Painted Flower Pots

Since baby girl was born in May, nothing has been created. And I have been in desperate need to make, decorate or complete something, anything, for my own sanity.

Since we moved in, I’ve wanted large, blue flower pots in front of our house.

Have you ever purchased large planters for your home? Talk about sticker shock! When I find one with a price I can stomach, they aren’t the color I want. And when I find pots I love, well, they are so expensive I just can’t handle it.

Last spring I told myself I would wait and find some on clearance.

Of course I then forgot to look. So this year, spring rolled around and still, no planters.

Then wandering around Target with a sleeping baby I saw these flower pots on clearance for $15 each. I like the shape and metal handles.

A Fun Weekend Project - Spray Painted Flower Pots | thisgratefulmama.com

As usual, the price was right, but not the color.

Still wandering through aisles, I stumbled upon matte Valspar Devine Color spray paint in pale blue. With paint and primer in one can, and good for interior and exterior projects, it was worth a try!

A Fun Weekend Project - Spray Painted Flower Pots | thisgratefulmama.com

I returned home excited to paint. But the problem with spray paint is you need a day that is not too hot, not too humid, and not too windy.

A tall order in MN.

So the pots sat in my garage.

Waiting.

Finally, two weeks ago it was 75 degrees with little wind over the weekend.

One nap time and two cans of spray paint completed the project.  This paint coats pretty well, but definitely needs multiple coats. The handles were protected with painters tape while painting.

A Fun Weekend Project - Spray Painted Flower Pots

These planters are pretty light weight. Instead of filling them with dirt (which is hard to get rid of in the fall, and makes the pots unbearably heavy for me to move), we decided on a different plan. We bought cinder blocks for $1.05 a piece.

They didn’t fit as perfectly as I’d imagined, because I didn’t take into account basic geometry when I measured the pot…turns out 8 inch diameter means the DIAGONAL of the cinder block needs to be 8 inches, not the edges. Whoops. Not my brightest moment.

Thankfully my resourceful husband rescued me with a helpful and can-do attitude (and no complaining!). He used a hammer to break the cinder blocks up so they fit into the bottom of the pots.

A Fun Weekend Project - Spray Painted Flower Pots

The cinder blocks provide weight so the pots won’t blow over. They’ve survived some pretty severe weather in the past two weeks and I’m confident they’ll stay put in the wind. The blocks add just enough height so our already planted flowers in their pots could be placed on top of them.

A Fun Weekend Project - Spray Painted Flower Pots

Voila.

I’ll follow up in September to let you know how the spray paint held up outside for the season.

DIY Snow Day Survival Kit

DIY Snow Day Survival Kit | thisgratefulmama.com

Somehow, Christmas has passed, and I haven’t given all our gifts yet. I’m not sure how it happened, but it did.

I love giving gifts and am usually done with cards and gifts long before Christmas arrives. And to this list-making, pre-planning girl…procrastination is rather uncomfortable.

I woke up this morning with the NEED to get things done. Time to kick procrastination to the curb.

Better late than never?

For a handful of friends, I’m putting together Snow Day Survival Kits with an assortment of goodies to keep them warm on a snowy day.

Good thing we FINALLY got measurable snow in MN this week.

Simple, warm and tasty.

Each DIY Snow Day Survival Kit includes:

  • Plastic storage container (Hello, dollar section of Target)
  • Hot Chocolate Mix (Packets of Starbucks Salted Caramel and Starbucks Peppermint hot chocolate and/or small tin of specialty hot chocolate)
  • Plain Marshmallows in cellophane bag
  • Peppermint Marshmallows in cellophane bag
  • Chocolate Covered Spoons (homemade using plastic spoons dipped in melted baking chocolate – dry on wax paper then wrap each chocolate end individually in plastic before packaging in cellophane bag)
  • Baking Mix (Brownie, Blondie or Cookie Mix)
  • Caramel Corn or Popcorn

The marshmallows and chocolate spoons were hand-packaged in cellophane bags. Labels were created using PicMonkey and attached with ribbon.

labels for snow day

What you include in a Snow Day Survival Kit may vary depending on the recipient. The kits we made went to families with small children. If you are looking for other ideas, there are plenty of ways to personalize this gift!

Ideas to Personalize a Snow Day Survival Kit:

 

Our family Christmas card and the note below were included in each gift.

Snow Day Survival Kit

These were fun and simple to put together and I think they turned out pretty cute.

DIY Snow Day Survival Kit | thisgratefulmama.com

Hopefully they bring some warmth and fun to our friends on the next snow day.

Merry Christmas!

DIY Snow Day Survival Kit | thisgratefulmama.com

 

DIY Glass Photo Pendant Beaded Necklaces Tutorial

DIY Photo Pendant Beaded Necklaces | www.thisgratefulmama.com

Over the past few months, I slowly bought supplies with coupons or when on sale to make photo pendants. It was something I really wanted to try but did not have a specific project in mind. I finally had all supplies just days before recent family birthday celebrations.

Perfect timing to make personalized gifts.

The process was easy and gave a stunning result – even for a beginner like me.

Last week I jumped the gun and showed the final result before this tutorial was ready. As promised, a detailed description of how the pendants were made is included below. Since then, I’ve been on a bit of a photo-pendant making binge, creating gifts to give for birthdays and holidays to come.

Ahem…some of you have one of these coming to you in the near future 🙂

Supplies

Steps

1. Select, edit and crop photo

DIY Glass Photo Pendant Beaded Necklaces Tutorial | thisgratefulmama.com

Photos were edited using PicMonkey. Photos were printed to size using Power Point – check out quick instructions here.

2. Cut photo to size

DIY Glass Photo Pendant Beaded Necklaces Tutorial | thisgratefulmama.com

If your photo is already sized correctly, just cut along the edges and slightly round the corners with an X-acto knife or scissors. If not, align the tile over the photo, trace around it and cut just inside the lines. Check your work and trim any overhanging edges before proceeding.

3. Apply photo to the glass tile

DIY Photo Pendant Beaded Necklaces | www.thisgratefulmama.com

Apply a pea sized bead of diamond glaze to the tile. Use either the tip of the diamond glaze bottle or a paint brush to spread glaze evenly across the tile, removing bubbles as much as possible. Align and press the photo onto the tile, face down. While not fully secure, adjust as needed. From the center, sweep your finger outwards to seal the edges and remove any remaining air bubbles. Allow to dry a minimum of 10 minutes or until the photo no longer seems wet

*Note: be sure to wait for the glaze to dry before proceeding or it produces a dark shadow that looks like a wet spot and remains even after drying

4. Seal the tile

DIY Photo Pendant Beaded Necklaces | www.thisgratefulmama.com

Apply a pea sized bead of diamond glaze on the back of the photo. Use a paint brush to evenly coat the back of the photo. Use the residual glaze on the brush to seal the edges. Allow to dry a minimum of 1 hour.

5. Affix baal to the tile

DIY Photo Pendant Beaded Necklaces | www.thisgratefulmama.comDIY Photo Pendant Beaded Necklaces | www.thisgratefulmama.com

Apply super glue to the baal. Align over the top, center of the tile and press firmly into place. Obviously avoid contact of super glue with skin – we all know super glued fingers are no fun! Check alignment quickly and adjust if necessary. Allow to dry fully.

 6. String pendant with beads

DIY Glass Photo Pendant Beaded Necklaces | www.thisgratefulmama.com

Once the pendants are dry, string with mixed glass beads of your choosing.

 

Diamond Glaze and Super Glue come in large quantities so there will be plenty of leftovers for future projects – I’m looking forward to experimenting with different shapes and sizes of glass tiles.

I’d love to see if you make your own pendants or necklaces. Please share in the comments if you do!

 

This post was shared on the {Wow me} Wednesday at Gingersnap Crafts link party

Wow Me Wednesday at Gingersnap Crafts