DIY Faux "Mantel"

Have you ever noticed how obsessed bloggers are with decorating their mantels?


What's up with that?

Back in the day (before I became a reader of blogs and peruser of Pinterest) I thought people only decorated their mantels for Christmas.  

Silly, silly me!

Turns out mantel decorating is a year-long affair.  

But what do you do if you don't have a fireplace?  You kind of need one in order to have a mantel, don't you?  

Not necessarily!  A little creative shopping and you too can have a mantel to decorate to your heart's content.  

I give you my DIY faux mantel:

Step one, purchase a pretty mirror.  (I got mine several years ago at Cost Plus World Market.)

Step two, purchase a shelf ledge.  (I got mine at Pottery Barn.)

Step three, decorate like a mad-woman.  (Okay, so I haven't quite embraced this yet, but I'm going to.  For now, though, my "mantel" is a repository for some family photos and my DIY "zinc" letters.)

How about you?  Do you have a mantel?  Do you decorate it?  Leave me a link in the comments if you've done a mantel post.  I'm looking for ideas for mine.  :)



Random Art I've Made with my Silhouette

In the two months since I received my Silhouette I've really been enjoying it.  

Though my favorite project has to be the DIY photobooth props that I made for my daughter's 12th birthday, I've also made a few other things worth noting.  In fact, one of those items was actually a byproduct of the photobooth props.

You see, after I cut out these mustache props...

...I was left with a mustache "template" of sorts:

And of course I had to save it.  (Yeah, I am about one mustache template away from making my debut on Hoarders...)

But in this case my hoarding instincts proved spot-on because I wound up using the template to make this cute little canvas for my younger daughter's room: 

All it took was the template, a small blank canvas and a Sharpie paint pen (both of which I already had).  I think she's going to love it.

And of course what you do for one you must do for the other, so I also made a little somethin'-somethin' for daughter #1.  Again, I grabbed an existing canvas from the craft warehouse that is my garage.  Then I used the Silhouette to cut the word "love" out of a piece of blue card stock.  A little spray adhesive and this bad boy was ready for its closeup:

Pretty nifty, huh?

Surely I'm not the only person who got a Silhouette for Christmas.  Did you get one?  If you've made any fun Silhouette crafts feel free to link them up in the comments.  I'd love to drop by for some inspiration.  



This is Me!

My good pal Amy over at While Wearing Heels is doing a series of linky parties with the theme, "This is Me."

As you might expect, the idea is to post a self-portrait which you then link up at her monthly party.

And I have to admit, this is a little out of my comfort zone (because I don't usually post pictures of people on my blog).

Oh there's the occasional sighting of my kids and/or husband, like in this little gem...

...but for the most part I stick to photographs of things.  

Sometimes it's good to step out of one's comfort zone, though, so I present to you my first, "This is Me" self portrait.  February's theme is your reflection.

Somebody's car needs a washing...

And yes, Amy also posted a picture just like this but, truth be told, of all the reflection-pictures I took this month, I liked this one the best.  So there you have it:  this is me.

Want to link up to the party yourself?  Check out Amy's blog here:

While Wearing Heels



Happy (Thrifty) Valentine's Day

The theme of our holiday this year?  "Use what you've got!"

Step one:  Customize sugar cookies (from a tube) with a clean stamp.  (Inspired by the lovely Karianne at Thistlewood Farm.  Go here for further instructions...)

Step two:  Place said cookies in a brown paper bag embellished with baker's twine, stamps, and a heart punch.

Step three:  Bring to school and watch the classmates smile.

And for my own little Valentines?  Conversation hearts in a mason jar that has been jazzed up with--wait for it--baker's twine, scrapbook paper, and a label from the office supply store.

The only items I had to buy for these projects?  The cookie dough and the conversation hearts.

I love a thrifty Valentine's Day!

Have a great one!



Popcorn Cupcakes

Hey, who likes cupcakes?!

Well, I hope you guys do because this is my second cupcake post this week!

In case you missed the first one, check it out here.  In it, the talented Lauren from Much Ado About Somethin' teaches us how to frost gorgeous cupcakes for Valentine's Day.

 My cupcakes are a little less gorgeous, a little more gimmicky, but a huge hit with the kids:

I made them for my daughter's "Red Carpet" themed 12th birthday party last weekend.

After the kids "walked the red carpet" and had their pictures taken at the photo booth (read more about that here), they had dinner and cupcakes.  Sticking with the Hollywood/movie theme, we decided to make "popcorn cupcakes."

My daughter pinned this image which led to this recipe.  I was pleased to discover that the cupcakes were super-easy in addition to being super-cute.  (Definitely one of my favorite combinations!)

Basically you make yellow cupcakes with vanilla frosting.  I made mine from scratch but you could easily make them from a box with a can of frosting.

Then you take miniature marshmallows and cut them with a small pair of clean scissors.  (Don't cut all the way through.)  After that make a second cut, criss-crossing the first, so the marshmallow bursts open (kind of like a popped kernel of corn).

You end up with a bowl full of faux popcorn.  (My daughters thought they kind of looked like molars.)

Next wrap your cupcakes in the popcorn wrappers.  I ordered the wrappers from LollipopParty's Etsy Shop and I highly recommend them.  I have purchased cupcake wrappers in the past that wouldn't stay closed and it was really frustrating.  These held up beautifully and I would not hesitate to buy from her again.  

After your cupcakes are wrapped, sprinkle in some marshmallows to cover up the frosting.

For your final step you are going to paint on the "butter" (yellow food coloring) with a pastry brush.  (I watered down my food coloring a little bit so it wasn't too yellow.)

And that's it!

It really couldn't be much easier.

Of course I have no idea how I'm going to to top these next year but I'm sure my daughter will figure something out...




Sweets for Your Sweeties: Valentine's Day Cupcakes

Are you ready for Valentine's Day?  I most definitely am not.  So when the talented Lauren from Much Ado About Somethin' offered to stop by with a little Valentine's Day tutorial for you all, I jumped at the chance to have her.  Check out these cute cupcakes!  Then stop by her blog for even more Valentine's Day goodness.  She makes it look so easy that I just might have to try my own!  

Hi there!  I'm Lauren from Much Ado About Somethin.  I was pretty excited to put together a few Valentine's Day inspired cupcake ideas for all of you at 'A Casarella. A few years ago I got the itch to take a cake decorating class at AC Moore.  After the first class I was completely hooked, and have loved making festive treats ever since.  After all...they say you eat with your eyes first!  

Without further ado, here are three different Valentine's Day cupcakes you can make with one icing color and one decorating tip.  No need to buy lots of tools for one day!  You'll need... baked cupcakes, icing (here's a buttercream recipe I use...or you can use store-bought!), "No Taste Red" Gel color, toothpicks, piping bag (or a Ziploc bag), Coupler Star Decorating Tip number 21, and sprinkles.  You can get all of the above tools at AC Moore or Michael's.  It's nice to speak with an associate about what to buy too, so you make sure you're getting the right thing. 

Start by mixing your pink icing.  Add the gel color little by little with a different toothpick each time (you'll gum up the color if you double dip) until you reach your desired pink! Once your icing is mixed, cut the tip off your piping bag, put the coupler on, and secure the piping tip.  (Here's a good video on how to use a disposable piping bag with a coupler and decorating tips.)  Then fill the bag half-way with your icing.
I always recommend practicing a technique before actually doing it on your cupcake.  Tape a piece of wax paper to the counter and set aside some of your icing for "practice".  That way you can reuse this icing and get the mistakes out of the way before you start on the cupcakes. The first cupcake is going to be a Bouquet of Pink Flowers.
1 - Your baked cupcake 2 - Pipe one small flower in the center of the cupcake.  Start with your tip in the very center, pointing straight down.  Begin piping with firm pressure, moving in a tight circle.  As you complete the circle, lessen pressure and "whisp" away.  Make sure to keep your tip relatively low so the flower doesn't grow tall. 3 & 4 - Pipe six more round flowers around the center one, making sure they are very close together. 5 - Put a small dot of icing anywhere you see cupcake.  You can make cute little stars to do this by holding your tip straight down and applying pressure at first, then pulling away quickly while releasing pressure.  (Again - practice this on your wax paper first!) 6 - The finished product from the top. Super cute, huh?

The second cupcake is a little funkier - a Pink Dots Cupcake. This cupcake uses the same dotting technique mentioned above.  Each should should look like a tiny meringue - wide at the bottom with a point at the top. Make the first dot in the very center of the cupcake.  Do so by holding the tip just above and perpendicular to the cupcake surface.  Apply pressure at the beginning and release pressure as you pull away from the cupcake. Now work your way out - apply 6 more dots around the center dot, trying to keep them close enough that no cupcake shows through.  Then apply 6 more dots where the previous dots meet.  Repeat this until the whole cupcake is covered!

The final cupcake is by far the easiest - and uses sprinkles! This cupcake is simply a swirl topped with sprinkles.  The trick to a good swirl is consistent pressure, a steady hand, and practice.  Start the swirl along the outside edge.  Trace the edge with heavy pressure on your piping bag.  Once you do the first round, continue around until you reach the center.  Then top with heart, lip, or colored sprinkles!

Pick your favorite design or do all three - they look great together too!

I posted another Valentine's Day cupcake blog last week on Much Ado with swirls of icing and fondant hearts - check it out for more V-day inspiration!

Thanks again to Elena for letting me crash 'A Casarella today, and I hope you all have a happy, delicious, and sweets-filled Valentine's Day!


DIY Photo (or "Faux"Tow) Booth

Hello Readers!  

Remember way back (in my last post) when I talked about buying this?

Do you also remember the post before that where I talked about making these?

Well this weekend I put the two together to make a DIY Photo Booth for my daughter's "red carpet" 12th birthday party.  

The project was inspired by this pin.  (Original source found here.  Definitely take a minute to check it out!)

After removing the glass and the picture from the frame I added these hooks to the top of the frame.  It was pretty easy.  I just drilled two tiny holes and then screwed them in. 

Then I purchased a length of gold chain from Home Depot, strung it through my banister, and attached the ends to the hooks.

After that I added a backdrop.  Talk about jerry-rigged.  I took two plastic tablecloths, folded over a piece at the top of each one to make a pole pocket and then threaded a length of twine through.  I tied the ends of the twine to some Command Hooks and added a few thumbtacks for good measure.  (Thankfully we have textured walls/ceilings so the tiny thumbtack holes don't show at all.)

Since our guests were arriving after dark, I added a lamp to illuminate things a bit.  The entire set-up is pictured below.  

This is how it looked through my camera...

...And of course I was able to crop out the parts that fell beyond the curtain.

Naturally I removed the wire before our guests arrived.  

And here's the end result.  I have to say, the girls loved it!

And so did my husband.  Nice 'stache, honey!

Here's what things looked like behind the scenes.  Check out the paparazzi!

And be sure to come back later in the week for more birthday party madness!


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