Friday, December 7, 2012

Anteater Cake

For my most recent foray into cake decorating, I was challenged to make a cake for one of my co-workers whose favorite animal is an anteater. I considered making a cake with a fondant anteater on top, but decided to up the ante and make a cake that was actually shaped like an anteater. This was my first cake that was not cake-shaped.

I practiced a few techniques the week before the party and ended up with what appeared to be a seamonster on the counter. I diagrammed how to make two 8-inch rounds into a body, tail, head and neck so I could replicate the proportions. I also baked the cake differently so it would be dense and easier to work with, like sponge cake.

The body piece below is comprised of one 8-inch round cut in half and glued together with icing. I also thinly covered it in chocolate icing.

 For the tail piece, I cut out most of the edge of the second 8-inch round in two pieces and stacked them.

The head and neck are wedge-shapes cut from the remainder of the 8-inch round I used for the tail pieces. The proportions here are a little off because of the size of tray I needed to fit the anteater onto. I think the head should actually stretch out more to the left.

  I used semi-circles from the second 8-inch cake for legs and covered him in fondant except for the tail. When I covered the head I created an extension for the nose that is all fondant with no cake underneath and tried to smooth out the seam. Then I made facial features from black fondant. I think my favorite part of this cake is the adorable ears!

I put a stripe down the anteater's back with a strip of black fondant and then I added fur (after much experimentation attempting to approximate the color gray) using a decorating tip intended for making grass. If I were more ambitious, I could have covered the whole body, but I decided to be more of a minimalist because the coloring in the icing gave it a funny taste (also it would have taken forever).

With the addition of tiny ants and a red tongue (all fondant), he was starting to at least marginally resemble a giant anteater, which was about all I could hope for, since it was my first "shaped" cake.

Hopefully I'll have a reason to continue expanding my repertoire of decorating techniques with more cakes that are this fun!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Beach Cupcakes

I haven't had much time to do any elaborate cake projects lately, but for my mom's birthday earlier this month, I did manage to throw together some cute beach cupcakes. There are similar cupcakes all over the internet so I had no shortage of photos for inspiration.

Making this batch of cute cupcakes was actually pretty simple. First I baked some gluten-free cupcakes and gathered my supplies.

I used a gluten-free cake mix to bake the cupcakes and went the easy route with the icing and just bought some Pilsbury blue frosting instead of coloring it myself. I put a little smear of the icing on half of the cupcake and then rolled it in smashed up gluten-free animal cookies.

After the "sand" was glued on, I added the ocean part of the cupcake using a closed star icing tip to make swirls. Gummy sharks and Swedish fish served for tasty sea life. Cocktail umbrellas gave these cupcakes the finishing touch.

Monday, November 5, 2012

DIY Custom Electrical Panels

My previous home improvement blog post involved "sewing" and painting some curtains to cover my closet, which have turned out to be a wonderful investment of time (just a few hours) and money (just a few dollars!)

Now it's time for another frugal and fun home improvement project: custom electrical panels. Because we (okay, I) chose a theme for each room in the house, I've been toying with inexpensive ways to unite the furnishings and decor while conveying the theme. Also, because we did a lot of painting and tearing down sheet rock, many of our electrical panels ended up stacked on various counter-tops.

For our travel-themed room, I used some pages of maps from an atlas of Alaska that I bought for a dollar at an estate sale. I traced around the panel and adhered the map to the panel with decoupage glue. Then I used a craft knife to cut out the space where the plug-ins go through or the light-switch flips up and down. Lastly I covered the maps with a few layers of the same glue and sprayed a clear sealer over the top.


I used the same method to create some panels for one of the spare bedrooms where I've decided to have an owl theme.

The cute owl wrapping paper came from World Market, and I used the same paper to add some pizazz to an old Ikea bookcase.

I also covered the panels in the hallway bathroom in a giraffe print to match the tile and mirror:

The living room downstairs is going to be outer space themed, but I wasn't able to find paper that satisfied me, so I painted them with acrylics.

I'm hoping to do more of these fun (and easy) decorating projects, and I'll try to keep up with blogging about them!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

DIY Painted Curtains

In an effort to rekindle the excitement of this whole home renovation thing, I tried some fun projects that I hoped would also add to the overall appeal of the house (without having to do ANY MORE washing, sanding, painting, etc.)

The master bedroom closet is very long and the previous owners had a curtain stretching over it, rather than closet doors. We'd taken down the curtains to paint and carpet the room and had been staring into the disarray of the 96 inch closet ever since.

I decided to make some curtains that would coordinate with the duvet cover I found at Bed, Bath and Beyond's clearance section for super cheap.

The duvet cover has a pattern with a silhouette of a bird on a branch, which I wanted to replicate on the curtain. I made a stencil by tracing the bird on tissue paper and then gluing the tissue paper onto cardstock. The result was this:

I bought a king-sized sheet which would stretch across the whole closet for 6$ from Goodwill. I cut the sheet in half and "hemmed" it using Stitch Witchery. This stuff is amazing! It's an iron-on adhesive that holds fabric together and is so much easier (for me) than sewing a seam!

Once I had two panels of blank canvas, I experimented with some spray fabric paint and a scrap of fabric to see if the stencil would work. I tried the spray paint, some acrylic paint and bleaching out the color to see what looked best.

The bleaching didn't work at all for this stencil and the fabric paint wasn't precise enough for the detail either. The acrylic paint with a small brush would have to do, though that was the most time-consuming option. I had to free-hand most of the design and I came up with it right on the spot, so I might have done something more organized like a repeating pattern if I'd known ahead of time what method would work with the stencil.

I started making a black tree with a mixture of the fabric paint and acrylic paint, but I had to pour the fabric paint out of its bottle and scrap the pump spray because it wasn't accurate enough:

I used the stencil for the birds, but otherwise free-handed this whole panel. Then I added the white accents.

For the second panel, I wanted a design to complement the first, but knew I could never replicate the whole thing. So I did this:

The white horizontal lines are just from sun streaming through the blinds. Sophie is inspecting my work as it dries.

 When they were dry we hung them on a wooden rod that the previous owners had left us with.

Right panel:

Left panel:


Again, my photography skills are woefully insufficient, but in person the curtains look pretty good! The entire project took me probably around 8 hours, but it only cost about $12. Not too shabby.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Laundry Room

Another time-consuming project we had underway during our move was the laundry room, which is also the bathroom for the lower level. When we bought the house, there had been a washer and dryer in a homemade laundry room that had been sectioned off from the garage. It needed a bit of new flooring but we thought that wouldn't be a problem.

When the occupants left, they took their washer and dryer, which should have remained, to their new home. After a little investigating, Jared discovered that not only was the floor rotting out, but the vent hookup had not really been done properly either. We were left with this:

So we decided to put the laundry room back where it belonged, rather than try to fix the strange set-up that the "remodelers" had constructed.

Jared's dad patched the hook-up holes for us:

Then we had to go about tearing up the walls in the perfectly good (except hideously painted) bathroom where the laundry hookups needed to be returned. I say "we" but what I mean is "Jared and his parents."

With all the walls down, Jared figured out how to reroute the water and the dryer vent back to the house's original design. I was impressed to say the least!

With the addition of entirely new walls, the space started to look like a room again.

I was especially pleased with the water hookups and dryer vent. They work!

Add a little paint and put the fixtures back in (easier said than done) and voila! It's a laundry room/bathroom!

Jared also added vinyl  wall-base trim and a lighting fixture, not to mention the washer and dryer units themselves, but I don't have photos of those yet. The last items to add are the mirror above the sink and maybe a shelf. Yay, Jared!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Homeward Bound

Well Blogfans, in case you haven't heard the news, Jared bought a house that (now) looks like this:

It's unfortunate that it's so difficult to photograph entire rooms, because these pictures hardly convey the amount of work that has been (and will continue to be) going on in this house. There are too many projects to put in one post, but I'll start with one that was a major concern: the sloping cement floor.

We pulled up carpet, padding, tack boards and trim, scraped adhesive, and convinced one of the brilliant operations employees from the zoo to come measure the uneven spots with a laser level

Then Jared ground down the exposed cement and built up twenty little mounds to mark how far up each low spot on the floor had to be raised. Our savior from the zoo, plus my mechanically-gifted brother-in-law and an extremely generous friend of Jared's spent several hours mixing, pouring and smoothing what turned out to be over 4,000 pounds of cement!

There aren't any good "after" photos yet because the room, even though it is now carpeted and full of furniture, isn't really set up. We aren't quite to the "after" stage yet.

Another project that was rather time-sensitive was the hall bathroom, which needed to be in working order for us to live in the house, since it would become our primary bathroom. It started out looking rather shabby, with some strange safari wallpaper border, a lazy paint job (they didn't paint near the door trim and also neglected to paint near or around the mirror).

Additionally, Jared found that the caulking in the shower was...insufficient. Unless you really want a removable soap dish. And rotten drywall.

After some intensive scraping with a putty knife, (and some help from Jared's hard-working mother!) we eventually removed all of the hideous wallpaper as well as the caulk. The joints in my hands did not thank me. Here is the room with the new paint job, soap dish and complete re-caulking:

Okay, so the photos don't look like we're transforming the house quite the way I FEEL like we're transforming the house, but they're all I've got. Trust me, we're working hard.