Sunday, 24 February 2013

Cupcake birthday party - personalised aprons

I wanted the girls at Sophie's cupcake party to have their own aprons when they were decorating their cupcakes and these would make up part of their going-home gifts.

I toyed with the idea of letting them decorate the aprons themselves as one of the party activities but realised early on that this wouldn't work: paint and glue-on decorations wouldn't dry in time for the girls to wear the aprons when they were decorating their cupcakes; fabric markers wouldn't do either as the ones I have are too fine and it would be an extra (expensive) cost to buy new ones; and the girls are not old enough and it would take too long to sew anything onto the aprons. So that left me with creating the aprons myself before the party.

I also toyed with the idea of actually making the aprons myself. There are lots of very cute and apparently simple-looking designs out there but as my sewing skills are limited and it would take me a long time to make 10 aprons, I resorted to buying ready made aprons and concentrating on decorating them. I searched around and found some very simple plain unbleached cotton ones from Crafty Crocodiles which were inexpensive and perfect.

Next step was to create the design. I found a simple cupcake picture that I liked and used this as a template to cut some foam stamps, one for the case and one for the cake. I taped a triangle of cardboard to the back of each stamp to give me something to hold as I stamped them onto the fabric. I used some sparkly acrylic paint that I already had (diluted with water to make it less stiff on the fabric once dried) and stamped a cupcake onto each apron. I separated the case and cake and stamped the cupcakes in various combinations of colours. Once dry, I outlined the design with a fabric pen and added the swirl at the top of the cake.
The finishing touch was to write each girl's name in 3D glitter fabric paint. I found a font I liked, then printed the names onto plain paper before tracing them onto the apron (the aprons were thin enough that I could see the writing through the material). Once dry, I ironed the reverse of each apron and folded neatly, ready for the party.

The final touch to each apron was a curly ribbon brooch pinned in the top corner. I made the curly ribbon (from an abundance of ribbon that I already had) by wrapping the ribbon around a wooden skewer and securing each end with a wooden clothes peg before baking in the oven at a very low temperature for about 25 minutes. Once cooled the ribbons kept the curl.

For each brooch, I cut the ribbon into shorter lengths and took a selection of colours which I pushed onto the pointy end of the safety pin, then twisted the ribbon around the loop of the pin onto the opposite side (so that it doesn't fall off when the pin is opened and the pointy pin part can then be used to attach the brooch to the apron). This can be quite tricky to begin with but once you get the hang of it it's very simple.

I finished off each brooch by sewing on a sparkly flower bead to the middle of the curly ribbons; the beads came from a pretty bracelet I found in Claire's Accessories and subsequently dismantled.
Since the ribbon was from my stash, the colours weren't as coordinated with the cupcake design and writing as I probably would have preferred, but in hindsight I think that the complete mix of colours adds a brightness that works well and stops the aprons being slightly too sickly!! 
So another thing done on the party preparation list, and I hope the girls like their personalised aprons (and don't get them too messy when they are decorating their cakes!).

© 2013 Nicola Noble: Please observe the rules of copyright and blog etiquette. If you use my ideas or images, please link back to my blog. And do let me know - I'd love to take a look.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Chinese New Year - Year of the Snake

We went to Chinatown in London on Sunday to join in the Chinese New Year celebrations (Mr Snowballs grew up in Hong Kong so it's always been something fun to celebrate). We braved the crowds with both children and a friend and her son and for the second time ever we didn't take the pushchair into London (thank goodness - we would have struggled even more to get through the crowds when the lions were dancing outside the shops and restaurants).

We stopped for lunch at our favourite restaurant, The Friendly Inn in Chinatown; we have been going there for more years than I care to remember and have got to know the owner pretty well. Justin and Mr Snowball even got to dangle the lettuce and red envelope out of the restaurant window for the lion and Sophie and I stood in the doorway and watched the Lion dance from the front door.

On Monday Sophie wanted us to make up a Chinese game so we created a snake board dice game which both children have had lots of fun playing since.

Kung hei fat choy to you all.

© 2013 Nicola Noble: Please observe the rules of copyright and blog etiquette. If you use my ideas or images, please link back to my blog. And do let me know - I'd love to take a look.

Cupcake birthday party - the invitations

Sophie will be 7 in March and the  plan is for a cupcake decorating party. After the huge number of children that came to her party last year I made myself a promise that this year she would only be allowed to invite 9 children (plus her making a grand total of 10).

The theme this year is cupcakes - the plan being that they will decorate their own cupcakes (plus some other things that Sophie has requested). First step: the invitations ...

I searched far and wide for inspiration for the invitations and found some very cute 3D ones but they were only available in Australia, so I decided to make my own version.
I loved the idea of the awning covering the invitation text and decided to decoupage a few bits to add dimension to the rest of the invitation; you can't tell from the photos but the cupcake, teapot, hair flower, bunting and chalk board were all raised up with foam pads. The finishing touch was a piece of card folded at the back of the invitation so that it could be stood up.

I was very pleased with the finished invitation and have had some lovely comments back, which made it worth the effort.
Next step, cake decorating place mats and aprons ...

© 2013 Nicola Noble: Please observe the rules of copyright and blog etiquette. If you use my ideas or images, please link back to my blog. And do let me know - I'd love to take a look.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Vanilla and chocolate biscuits

I found this simple recipe years ago (courtesy of Sainsbury's) and have made it a couple of times. I whipped up a batch this week when I ran out of after-school snacks for the kiddies: they didn't like the chocolate version which meant I had to eat them - what a shame!!  I made stars but the original recipe suggests hearts, and I thought I'd share as they will make lovely for Valentine's Day gifts.

Vanilla and Chocolate Love Heart Biscuits

Makes about 25 biscuits

110g butter, softened
55g golden caster sugar
few drops of good vanilla extract
175g plain flour
1-2 tbsp milk
2 tbsp cocoa powder

Turn the oven to 180°C, fan 160°C, gas mark 5. Cut two pieces of baking paper to fit two baking trays.

Beat together the softened butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Add the flour with the milk and using your hands or a spoon mix everything together to make a ball of dough.

Sprinkle a little flour onto the table. Split the dough in half and put one half on to the floured table. Add the cocoa powder to the bowl and using your hands knead the dough to mix in the cocoa powder.

Break the vanilla dough in half and roll out one piece until it is about 5mm thick. Using heart cutters, cut out heart biscuits. Using a very small heart cutter and cut small hearts out of the middle of each of the biscuits.

Break the chocolate dough in half, roll out and cut some small hearts to fit inside the big vanilla hearts – you will need to gently press the small heart into the big hearts to make sure that they stick together in the oven (this is really important so that they cook together). Carry on making the biscuits to any design you choose. Carefully use a palette knife or cake slice to help you move the biscuits to the tray.

Bake for 8 minutes until the biscuits are just golden and cooked – the time will vary depending on how big they are. Put the biscuits onto a cooling rack and leave to cool.

© 2013 Nicola Noble: The heart biscuits image courtesy of Sainsbury's. Please observe the rules of copyright and blog etiquette. If you use my ideas or images, please link back to my blog. And do let me know - I'd love to take a look.