{Happy 2015!}

happy_2015_chalkboardHappy New Year!  Today, I uploaded some WordPress plugins to my blog and I also added an About page.  I simply copied the bio that I wrote for my Etsy shop.  Go me!  It’s day 1 of my blog mission and I feel accomplished.  I’m going to try to do one thing each day towards making my blog successful and one thing to be healthier.

My son and I spent New Year’s Eve 2015 bowling with my sister’s family.  My daughter is a little too young for bowling and my husband was working.  Maybe next year, all of us will be together to ring in the new year as one happy family.

 

How did YOU spend New Year’s Eve 2015?

{Celebrating with Cupcakes & Fondant}

Baby Agnes turned one in May.  Um, what?  Yes, I said it.  She’s one already.  We spent the whole year in shock that we had a girl and now we’ve moved onto the phase where we’re shocked that she’s one already.  There’s nothing like a growing child to show you just how quickly the time passes.  They are like living, breathing scrapbooks or time capsules.  You look at them today and your memory plays a movie in your head of the days that have passed.  Jeff and I spent the whole weekend singing “Happy Birthday” to her over and over.  Poor child.  We also kept saying things like, “Remember when she used to fit in our arms like this?” and “Remember when she just laid there on her playmat, not able to really do anything?”  Now she’s cruising the furniture like nobody’s business, climbing up on the couch using anything close by as a step stool (including dad’s face), and taking just one single step unassisted before hesitating and sitting back down.

Jeff and I took off from work on her actual birthday to spend the day with her.  Since the weather was crappy, we didn’t do much of anything besides get things ready for the next day’s party.  Luckily, the forecast for party day was perfectly cool & sunny.  I love the month of May.  We all enjoyed having birthday tea on the playroom floor using the new tea set we bought her, even Grandpa.
She likes to share and tries to very forcefully jam the spoon into your mouth.  Then she chucks the cups and saucers over her shoulder in a very Mad-Hatter way.  I originally wanted to do a rainbow theme or a Mad Hatter Tea Party them, so I almost bought her this top-hat by LilBirdsCouture on Etsy to wear for the big day.  
{$24} Pink Lemonade Vintage Inspired Birthday – Mini Top Hat Headband (or fascinator)
But, Jeff practically insisted on a May Flowers theme, and I agreed it was easier and more fitting for the time of the year.  I’ll re-explore the Mad Hatter theme for when she’s older and has real girlfriends to invite for tea.  
That night, Jeff made dinner and we celebrated with the Grandparents and some cupcakes.  I spent the rest of the night decorating more cupcakes with homemade chocolate icing that I made with Ghirardelli cocoa powder and a mini cake that I covered in fondant.  Screw making my own cake batter.   When people rave over them, I always tell them the batter is from the box.  I’m not one to take credit for something I didn’t do.  Mr. Hines and Mrs. Crocker are my friends and they do quite a fine job in this busy mother’s opinion.  Can I, and have I made my own?  Yes.  Maybe one day the negative stigma over boxed cake mixes will be a thing of the past.  What’s your take on it? 
Oh, and while at the store, I also picked up a box of this blue velvet cake mix just for the heck of it and mostly because it’s my favorite color. I don’t care when or how I use it, but I can’t wait.  Maybe some tri-colored cupcakes for the 4th of July or something like that.   
The little flowers on the chocolate cupcakes are made out of royal icing, which dries rock hard.  It’s the cement for bakers.  I made a big batch of these flowers a long time ago after my mom sent me a birthday package full of Wilton cake decorating supplies.  She used to be a cake decorator at a local arts & crafts store called Lee Wards.  Michaels bought them out.  I remember going in there as a kid and seeing her decorated cakes hanging up on the wall.  I was like, “How do heck do they stay up there?”  I didn’t realize they were fake.  Anyway, royal icing decorations keep in an airtight container FOR.EVER.  This is the third time I’ve used them and I still have a bunch left.  I recommend making a ton if you have the time, so you’ll always have a stash to make your cupcakes pop. 

People call me crazy when I do creative stuff like this, but this is my therapy.  This is my yoga.  This is my xanax.  This birthday cake for my daughter’s 1st was the first time I experimented with covering a cake with fondant.  The design was inspired by the Cake Boss and thanks to his TV show, I felt like a real pro.  “I’m not a professional cake decorator, but I learned how to be one while watching TV.”  I had a little extra help with this Cake Boss kit that I bought at Michaels.  I didn’t buy the pre-made fondant like the book suggests because I made my own a while ago (fondant keeps for a long time too), and used it to make the ears, eyes, eyebrows, and nose of a fox cake that I made for my sister’s birthday.  
I had a huge chunk of it leftover, so I brought it out and added my own Wilton gel colors to it to match the colors in my daughter’s birthday decorations.  
This stuff is like play-doh for adults.  So. Much. Fun!  It probably helped that I had a few drinks while making the cake.  I’m not a drinker so a little goes a long way with me.  As you’re rolling it out, you’re supposed to periodically lift the fondant sheet up and dust your table with more powdered sugar.  Well, I didn’t.  I blame it on the alcohol.  

It ended up sticking to the mat in a very big way so I had to scrape it off with a bench scraper and start over.  Oh well, lesson learned.  You’d think all the cookie dough I’ve rolled out would have taught me that lesson, but no.  I like to learn things the hard way.  Over and over.  Ironically, I also blame my calmness about the above on the alcohol.  I should drink more often.  I really should.    

I displayed the cake on a boring clear glass cake stand.  I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect vintage cake stand like this one sold by SwirlingOrange11 on Etsy:

{$295} Turquoise Blue Milk Glass Cake Stand, Opaque Blue Milk Glass Wedding Cake or Cupcake Pedestal

So far, I haven’t been able to find one at the price I’d like to pay.  When I finally find the one, though, I may just have to bite the bullet and pay a little extra. 
The cupcake stand is also a Wilton product.  I used a 50% off coupon at JoAnn Fabric so it cost me about $10.  It collapses so it stores nice and compact on a shelf in my basement.  The nice thing about it is that the tier surfaces are slanted outwards so the tops of your cupcakes are displayed, not the sides so much.  You can also attach ribbon, lace, or any other decorative trim to the sides to add another element of design to your cupcake display.  I haven’t done this, but if I ever do, I’ll probably use sticky scrapbooking tabs or something to hold the trim on instead of hot glueing it.        
For the party decor, I went to Party City and bought the standard party stuff.  Cups, plates, napkins, tissue paper hanging thingies, paper lanterns, and helium balloons.  I wanted to add a little personalized touch, so I printed out one picture from each month of Agnes’s life and hung them in chronological order.  I used a strand of pink & white baker’s twine and mini wooden clothes pins to hold each photo.  It was so hard to pick my favorite one, but the experience of going through all of those photos was a nice way to reminisce about the year. 
I saved the triangles of scrapbook paper that I cut out for her baptism decorations, seen above, and hung them in between each photo.  The big tissue paper pom poms can be made yourself, like I did here for Agnes’s baptism.  I used all the tissue paper that I got in baby shower gifts.  The pom poms for her birthday were store-bought because I was feeling lazy and wanted to focus my energy and time on her cake.  Call me cheap, call me frugal, call me a hoarder, but I save all of it.  I flatten it out as best I can and store it in my basement with the hundred and one gift bags I’ve received over the years for baby showers and birthdays.  You have to understand too, that I’m an environmentalist by profession.  I do care about not wasting resources, so when I can, I try to recycle things, especially paper.  When I need to use the tissue paper, I’ll iron it on a low setting if I need to and if I have the time.  Otherwise, it gets shoved into a gift bag, crinkles and all.   
Well, the party was a success, and everyone enjoyed the cupcakes and mini cake, especially Agnes.  I was able to really enjoy myself and the weather, thanks to everyone who helped that day.  Jeff manned the grill, and Grandma made the sides.  Everyone pitched in and helped clean up too, which is always so helpful.  Happy Birthday to our sweet, happy-go-lucky, baby girl who has put smiles on all of our faces since the day she was born.

{I Heart You}

One of my Craft Night companions, Pat, came up with a brilliantly crafty idea. She took a previous project, mentioned in the last post, and gave it a little Valentine’s Day spin!

Using the cover of Martha Stewart’s magazine as inspiration, she decided to make hers out of paper cupcake liners. Martha’s was made from real flower carnations. Pat’s can be used over and over again! Thanks for the great idea, Pat. For mine, I used four different varieties of liners all in shades of red and white.

I cut out a piece of cardboard into the shape of a heart then covered it with some cute striped fabric.  This is the back…not that anyone will ever see it, but I couldn’t leave it plain brown cardboard, now could I?

I glued the edges of the fabric around and then started hot gluing the liners to the form, starting at the border.  I used the eraser side of a pencil to press into the center of the liners, then used my hand to fold the sides down onto the pencil.  I squirted some glue onto the end and again, used the pencil to press it onto the cardboard form.  The pencil saves your fingertips from getting burned too! 

Here is the finished product.  You’ll have to forgive me for the quality of the photos.  I took them with my iPhone so the colors are way off.  The finished product looks more pink than red.  You can see I added a silk rose as an embellishment as well as a red polka-dotted hanger. 

As Always, Stay Cozy!
Mandy

{Latest Project ~ Puffy Felt Hearts}

Last night, I was finally able to escape to my craft room and get creative. After a trip to the craft store with my sister and a well needed therapy session, I made these three puffy felt hearts. I used some of my long neglected vintage fabric stash, buttons, and embroidery thread. After making these, I discovered that I really like hand sewing! It’s relaxing and theraputic and when you’re done, you even have something like these cute hearts to show for it. I turned them into little pins you can wear on your coat or sweater by sewing a little pin onto the backs. Check them out in my Etsy shop, One Cozy Nest.

My sister has also been a busy little thing over at The Vintage Sister Studio. Just look at her adorable Valentine’s Day nest head.

{A Little Halloween Tale}

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Meet Weena…Weena Spookington. She’s a good little witch who loves baking gingersnap cookies on a crisp sunny October day. She’s wearing her trusty apron because she doesn’t want to get her pretty dress covered in flour. You see, tonight is the Harvest Moon Ball, and her longtime crush, Franky, is going to be there. They met at last year’s Ball, but each was with another. Alas…timing is everything. Over the year, Franky and Weena bumped into each other on numerous occasions; the caldron shop on Elm, the dog park where she takes her dog Weenie to play. Franky was always such a gentleman to her. After each encounter with Franky she would go home and daydream about him. She would sometimes practice writing her future name in big swirly cursive…”Weena Stein…….Halloweena Stein…….Mrs. Frankfurter Stein“.
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After realizing her crush on Franky went much deeper, Weena finally came to her senses about her current boyfriend. Afterall, who wants a boyfriend that has to carry his head around all the time? He could never hold her hand. So, she severed ties with him. Last Weena heard, he was dating a girl who had no arms (hence, no hands to hold), so it looks like it’ll work out between them. Weena hoped Franky would notice that she was available and dump his girlfriend but weeks went by with no luck.
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With the coming of the full moon, Ms. Weena Spookington’s luck is beginning to change! Recently, while at the local potions emporium, she overheard two witches gossiping about Franky’s girlfriend having an unfortunate broom accident. And on the eve before the Harvest Moon Ball! Apparently the hem of her robes got caught on a weathervain. You can guess what happened. Weena tried hard not to feel delighted at the news but she just couldn’t help herself. Now with Franky being date-less, and Weena being totally in-love-with-him-but-he-doesn’t-know-it-yet, the planets were finally moving into alignment. Weena flew home on her striped broomstick as fast as she could, avoiding all weathervains of course, and got herself all dolled up for the dance. She’s a joiner, you know, so she’s a member of the decorating committee. She made this banner out of scraps of fabric and found objects she had lying around her house. As soon as her gingersnaps are done cooling, she’ll throw off her apron, freshen up her lipgloss and head to the dance where she’ll tell Franky exactly how she feels.

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You can own Weena Spookington! Come see her in my Etsy shop!

{Haunted House}

Could this happy little ghost really be haunting this adorable little cottage? Nah, he’s too cute for all that scary stuff. He just likes to keep an eye on things, that’s all. Check him and my sister’s other Halloween and Christmas pieces at Spookytime Jingles. New art is posted on the 13th of every month. Lots of great artists and lots of great Christmas and Halloween stuff. Free shipping too!

{Books, books, and more books}

Hello friends! I love vintage books. I love the smell of the pages and I love their dusty covers. I’ll buy a book just for it’s pretty cover or subject matter. This is sort of a strange love because I’m not a big reader. I read, but it takes me forever to finish a book because I tend to easily fall asleep. A few pages a night is all I can do! My sister is an avid reader. I love listening to her tell me what the books she’s reading are about. It’s just like watching a movie preview! One of her all time favorites is The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. It’s set in the 1960’s in South Carolina. I haven’t read it yet, but my sister lent me her copy. Wikipedia says that the story is about a girl named “Lily Owens, whose life is shaped by her blurred memory of the afternoon of her mother’s accidental death. When Lily’s black “stand-in mother,” Rosaleen, insults three racists in town, they escape to Tiburon, South Carolina, a town that holds the secret to Lily’s mother’s past. Taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters, Lily is introduced to their mesmerizing world of bees and honey.” They made a movie based on the book so my sister and I have a date to go see it together. I better get to reading! I’m almost finished book 5 of the Harry Potter series so after that, I plan to read the bee book. Anyway, here are some of the vintage books I have up for sale in my Etsy shop, One Cozy Nest.
French BookArt Book Collection
The Alternative

{New Jersey’s Not So Bad}

Hi everyone! I was born in NJ. I was also raised in NJ. I went to college in NJ. I reside in NJ and work for the NJ Government as an ecologist. Aside from a cross country trip after college and vacations, of course, I have spent 99% of my life right here in good ol’ New Jersey…not “New Joisey”, thank you very much. I don’t know one person who says it like that, so I have no idea where that stereotype came from. You can probably tell I’m a little overprotective about my home state. I’ve heard a lot of out-of-staters put it down and say how bad and polluted it is. I’ve also heard a lot of negative references to New Jersey on TV shows that take place in New York. Well, I travel all over the state for my job and I am very fortunate to be able to see just how beautiful it is. I was at a project up near the Meadowlands Sports Complex and afterwards, for lunch, I drove up the Palisades Parkway and went for a hike along the cliffs. See the picture below? Yes, that’s New Jersey…not Maine, not Vermont…good ol’ Jersey.

{It’s My Birthday, It’s My Birthday!}

Hi everyone! Friday was my 32nd birthday and what a wonderful day it was! First, the weather was so beautiful. Partly sunny and in the mid-60’s. Perfect! My birthday festivities began at happy hour(s) on Thursday night, the eve of my birthday. Everyone was so generous with the birthday drinks that I ended up staying until about 12:30am! Thanks everyone, I had a really great time. And the life-size Jenga game was the best. Here I am with a Jenga block. Why am I so happy?When I got home later that night, my Cooper was up crying with a cold, so I was lucky enough to spend some time comforting him until 2am. I say lucky because the next day and a half I wasn’t going to see him at all. Since it was my birthday, when Cooper got up again at 4am, Jeff tended to the poor little thing. The baby ended up sleeping until about 10 so both Jeff and I got some extra zzzzzzz’s too. Jeff brought my card to me in bed and inside it was tickets to see Cirque De Soliel up at Madison Square Garden in NYC. We’ll walk around in the city after the show and probably have some dinner too. I’m excited!

I took off from work for a day all to myself. My husband took the baby down to his parents house for a sleepover. Jeff was in a golf tournament with his father and Jeff’s mom had Cooper all to herself. After Jeff and Cooper left, I enjoyed some coffee and quite time with the dogs out on the front porch, cuddled under a blanket, breathing in the fresh Autumn air. I love the month of October. Then I got dressed and started trimming some trees. I’ve been working on a landscaping project for several weeks now and thought that my day off was the perfect time to get it finished. I installed a rain barrel a couple weeks ago and I need to put in a gravel garden path next to it and through the garden. In order to do this I had to bury a drain pipe that I attached to my rain downspout. Well, I was busy chopping away at some stubborn roots when I realized I had chopped right through our cable wire. Oops! Now, if you read my previous post about the rain barrel, you’d know that I also cut a critical wire for our sprinkler system. So my heart sank and I panicked for about a minute. Then I took a deep breath, laughed at myself, then went inside to call the cable guy. A few hours later, it was fixed. The guy said the line was bad anyway and he was surprised we hadn’t had a lot of problems with it before. So now we have a new line and hopefully better service. Here you can see the new white cable wire. After the cable problem put a stop to my gardening project, I moved inside where I pulled out my Autumn decorations and put them up here and there while, at the same time, straightening up the house. See my mums and pumpkins? My sister came over later that night and she gave me the best present ever! It’s a painting that she did just for me. It is a portrait of me holding Cooper and it is so darling, I can’t stand it. I’ve been walking around the house looking for the perfect spot for it. Look how wonderful it is! You can read more about it on her blog. She also brought cards that my nephews made for me. Each of them feature pictures of me, with my glasses of course, and funny drawings of Cooper. The two of them are so creative. Jake drew a diaper on Cooper and Alex drew this adorable little tree with an acorn. Those little details are so funny to me. I love how stylin’ I look with my red heart shirt and my kick ass boots. Tracy and I went to the movies that night to see Nights In Rodanthe….UGH!!! What a terrible movie. I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie that I hated as much as this one. It was utterly predictable, and amazing that two actors could act so poorly. It was so bad that we were laughing at the parts that were supposed to be all dramatic and mushy. At the end a few people actually clapped, so I made sure I boo’ed. We spent the ride home laughing about certain parts of the movie. I won’t ruin it for anyone but I’ll just say that I liked the preview so much better than the actual movie. We came back to my house, had a margarita, and watched Ugly Betty and Supernanny together. Then I read my Harry Potter book until I fell asleep. Ahhhhhhh, what a perfect day. Happy Birthday to me….it’s a shame that they only come once a year. But then again, it’s a good thing they only come once a year because I’d be 64 years old!

{Latest Project ~ Rain Barrel}

A couple weeks ago I installed a rain barrel on the side of my house to collect rain from my roof to water my plants. The rain barrel was made by a company called Terracycle, owned by two Princeton graduates. They turn unwanted wine barrels into useful things like rain barrels and compost bins. The inside is still stained from the wine and you can still smell it when it’s wet. Pretty cool. I’m quite proud of my accomplishment because I did it 99.9% by myself. The only thing I had help with was getting it into and out of my car. Thanks Jeffy! However, this sense of accomplishment was a teensy bit marred by the fact that, in the process of installing this barrel, I cut a wire that screwed up our sprinkler system. The problem has been fixed but it cost some dough. Anyway, it gave us an excuse to upgrade our ancient control box. Below, you’ll find some pics of the project. Next project will be to complete a gravel and steppingstone pathway, next to the barrel, leading from the driveway and through the garden.