Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Simple Halloween Party for Children

I am just so brilliant and fantastic that I gave my children the awesome idea to throw a Halloween party for their classmates. Since I work at night we had planned to do it in the afternoon from 4pm-5:30pm. I thought this would be a bad time because of work schedules, siblings, lessons, classes, day care and other things. So I came up with the brilliant idea to give each of my children 30 invites and give them to everyone they knew. Give them out on the bus, give them out at lunch time, at recess. . .  And I'll be a monkey's uncle if everyone didn't just show up to my little Halloween party.

My daughter, Miriam, as a Strawberry, standing next to the mutilated ghost piñata. My son, Josh, as a cheeseburger. :) We like food at our house :) In fact, I hope you aren't looking at this blog post for decorating ideas, because I spent so much time preparing the food that I didn't do a lick of decorating other than put a pumpkin tablecloth on the food table.

So here's what we served:

Wrap a hot dog with cheese and crescent roll dough to look like a mummy, leaving a little slit for the mustard eyes.
Fruit and Cheese cut from cookie cutters
A bat, a pumpkin and a cat cut from small fondant cutters. Some who have read my blog before know this is one of my favorite simple things to do to add a little more fun to food. We cut watermelon, cantaloupe and cheese with the Halloween shapes fondant cutters and arranged them on plates and in bowls. It is fun to here the little bursts of excitement from around the yard as each child sat down to eat their snacks and realized they were shapes.
Carmel Marshmallow popcorn
This was the easiest thing in the world and so good!
Pop 12 cups of popcorn
melt 1/2 cup butter and mix in 1/2 cup brown sugar in a microwave safe bowl ( I use my pyrex wet measuring cup)
then at about 8 of the large marshmallows and melt them into the butter and brown sugar. Be careful though because any experienced Peep microwaver knows that marshmallows blow up when microwaved. I let the microwave for 15 second intervals and then mixed. I did this until it was completely liquid. It was probably about 45 seconds in total.
Then drizzle over the popcorn. To make it easier for the kids to just grab and go I formed them into popcorn balls, which was very easy to do since they were sticky from the marshmallows.

Skeleton Cake

And then we had the skeleton cake. Oh, the skeleton cake. . .  I once googled "Decorating gone wrong" for a blog post and saw the most terrible living spaces in creation. I will not be including pictures of the skeleton cake in this blog post lest someone google "Cake decorating gone wrong" and my blog comes up! First, it looked like a gingerbread man. Then when I tried to fix it with icing, instead of looking like a skeleton, it just looked like a desekating human being with its entrails exposed, but still functioning. I had to make another one so I wouldn't frighten the kiddos too badly. Don't need to give them any more therapy fodder. So this is all you're going to get. Skeleton fabric:
ha! This is called Estrella De Los Meurtos. You can find it at Bobbie Lou Fabric :)

BUT, my cake recipe is awesome! So I have a special way to make the box cakes a little more homemade tasting and a little less boxy. :)

So here's what the back of the box looks like:

Substitute the water for buttermilk. Use 4 large eggs instead of three, or use three jumbo size eggs.
Badda bing, badda boom! Done! It tastes delicious! And no one will ever know it came from the box! They think it's homemade because there's just something a little bit different.
Sometimes I also decrease the baking temp by 20 degrees and cook it for ten minutes longer for more even baking and color. But that really varies from oven to oven, I think.
What remains of the ghost piñata.
For games we did the ghost piñata. We had two age groups, 3 and 6 year olds, so what we decided to do was prepackage goody bags with 5 pieces of candy each, then stuff them in the piñata. When they cracked open the piñata each child got a bag of candy instead of the bigger kids taking over and pushing the little ones out of the way. It worked really well.
Then we played pin the tail on the witches cat. My son made that up! And I'm not putting pictures of that up either because subjecting the party crowd to my artwork was bad enough.
Then we played truth or dare! This one was a lot of fun.
My husband cut and sanded two 4 by 4 blocks of wood. We covered them with paper and wrote the truth questions and the dares on them. For dares we had:
1) Lick your elbow
2) Spin around 5 times and try to walk straight
3) Eat a spoonful of mustard
4)Act like a gorilla for ten seconds
5) Do a crabwalk across the room
6) Stuff your mouth full of marshmallows and sing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."
Then for Truths we had:
1) Are you afraid of the dark?
2) Do you walk or talk in your sleep?
3) Do you sneak snacks when your mom isn't looking?
4) What super power would you have and why?
5) What's the most disgusting thing you've ever eaten?
6) If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
So everyone in the world showed up and it ended up being a great party. Even if I didn't decorate :)
Here are some fun fabric and home décor finds!
This one makes me laugh. Silliness. It's called Calaveras, also found at Bobbie Lou's.
Thinking ahead to Thanksgiving. This would make a great table runner.
And this Towers tablecloth from Rainey Creek Home.
I love this time of year! So many great decorating opportunities!
Happy Halloween, everyone!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Ask Melissa: How To Dress an Eybrow Window or Half Circle Window

Ask Melissa:
The Eyebrow, Half Moon and Arched Window
Traditionally, the arched window is intended to be the decorative part of the window and not meant to covered or dressed.

The curtain rods or other window treatment mounting device is meant to be mounted right below the eyebrow window leaving the window entirely exposed.
Flat Panel Curtains below an  eyebrow window.

Roman Shades below and arched window.
But the arches can be dressed. I have had some people tell me they really dislike their arched window and want to dress it or cover it in some way. Here are some ideas:

Stationary panels beside the window will dull the effect of an arched window.

You can use arched curtain rods and cover the window with curtains.

Or you can use a standard straight curtain rod and hang it about 6-8" above the highest point of the arch.

This image shows the curtain rod right at the arche's peak. I imagine this is because of the slanted ceiling. Ideally is should go a few inches higher. But this is an option for dressing an arch.
And finally, shutters. Shutters are a great way to dress a window and allow it to still have it's dramatic effect on the room. I grew up in Arizona where leaving the arched window exposed left a room too hot. Dressing it with shutters was a great option because you still had the look and feel of the arched window, but the shutters blocked out the heat.
Here are some great fabric and curtain selections I found for you.
First is a set of curtains to be hung below the arched window:
This curtain set is from Swags Galore and is currently on sale for $8.49 for standard 84" long panels! It is available in Vanilla (pictured), Chocolate, Ruby, Gold, and White. They are made of crushed satin. Here is the chocolate brown version:
If you don't like the arch and want to cover it completely and dull it's affect on the room, a wide vertical stripe would perform that function well.
This is a white and navy 3" wide vertical stripe, Premier Prints brand, sold by Bobbie Lou's Fabric Factory. She also carries it in black:
If you are going with stationary panels to accent the window, or panels on an arched rod, a floral fabric is a great idea as the round shapes of the flowers will accent the round shape of the window. I found this fun floral by Robert Allen at
It's called Robert Allen Courtyard Vine Blossom. Very cute, bright and fun! The pattern is embroidered a Rayon/Linen blend. It's just lovely!
Do you have any questions about home décor, sewing, DIY or anything else you'd like to ask us? Please send your questions to and we'll discuss your question on our blog!
Have a great Monday!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Giveaway Tuesday Winner!

Lindsey Weber!
Thank you to all who participated. It was fun to hear from you all. We'll be back at it again next Tuesday. We'll be doing lots of giveaways throughout the Holiday Season. Enjoy!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Ask Melissa: The Thimble

Last week was the first post in our new segment called, "Ask Melissa." This weeks reader question is about the use of thimbles in sewing:

"Are Thimbles still used while sewing, or has it gone out of fashion?"
I've set out to see if thimbles are a thing of the past, just a monopoly games piece, or still an active part of sewing today. With the help of my research experts, whose name starts with a "g" and rhymes with doogle, here are some fascinating tidbits I found out about the thimble.
Early Use:
Thimbles date back to 10th century, but weren't found to be widely used until about the 14th century. They were typically made of  metal, leather, wood and even glass. Some have been found made from bones, horns and ivory. They were used then to push needles through fabrics in sewing. Particularly difficult fabrics, like leather, would often leave a dimple in the thimble from the needle. Later, mass producers made the dimples to help "get the job done."
Mass Production:
As thimbles began to be mass produced, and makers desired to brand their item, manufacturers would often adorn their thimbles with diamonds, saphires and rubies. Before the 18th century, when thimbles were mass produced, they were made individually and were quite bulky and large. Mass production allowed creates to experiment and explore other options. In these 18th century production was created what we now recognize as the thimble.
Boozing and Whoring:
With mass production, thimbles were found useful in areas other than sewing. They were used to measure spirits, which lead to the phrase, "just a thimbleful." Additionally, prostitutes used thimbles in the practice of "thimble knocking" where they would knock on the glass of a door to announce themselves. However, "thimble knocking" is also the term used when a school teacher would thump the heads of poorly behaved children with a thimble on their finger.
Use Today:
The most common use of the thimble today is in collecting. Thimble collectors are called "digitabulists." While thimbles are still used by some in hand sewing, you are more likely to see these finger protectors or those who shuffle and sort papers to avoid paper cuts. The thimbles used specifically to avoid paper cuts are called "thimblettes" and are considered a disposable item. (The image above is of thimblettes.
At Window Treatments by Melissa:
Here is what our panel said:
Melissa: Nope! I would though, but I already have so much on my fingers to keep them functioning and I don't want to add anything else. But hand sewing through blackout liner is a BEEEAST and a half and I would definitely use a thimble if my hands didn't look like this:
And I'm not even wearing all the splints. I have one for each joint on my hand. I just snapped this picture really quick while I was typing. I had to remove a few of the splints to play the piano at church today. If I had to add one more thing my hand to make it functional I don't think my hands would, in fact, function. (For new readers, these splints are for a joint disorder I have called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Type III).
Garren: (my husband who keeps the books and cuts the mounting blocks and dowels. . . ) (. . .and hand sews all the repairs in his work pants. . . ) "HECK YES! I don't want to poke my fingers!"
Trena: (pillow covers and window seat cushions for WTbM): "I hate thimbles....I would rather poke myself in the finger than try to sew feeling like I'm wearing gloves. Maybe they work for some people though?" 
Kelsie: (classic roman shades for WTbM): "I use thimbles while sewing flat felled seams. I do a lot of historically accurate costume sewing and, depending on the thickness of the fabric, I may use a thimble for regular seams as well. My husband recently became a scout master and I think a thimble is probably the only thing saving my hands when it comes to hand sewing on patches- those suckers are thick!"
Heather: (classic roman shades for WTbM): "I hate poking myself, but I hate thimbles more. Only use if desperate, or sewing canvas/leather, which is almost never."
Becky: (Curtains for WTbM): "It's not a matter of "going out of style" for me. When hand sewing or quilting through many layers of fabric, thimbles have been indispensable for getting the needle through. I don't wear the thimble, but put it on when I get to tough spots."
How about you? Do you use a thimble for hand sewing?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Making your window treatments last: Preserving Textiles

Let's face it: There is something about textiles that makes us want to touch them. How many of you have had to shop for your fabric in store instead of line because you have to touch it and feel it?
Today we are going to talk about what you can do to preserve your fabrics and make them last as long as possible.
There are things we can't avoid. We have to open and close the curtains,

Shumacher Imperial Trellis in Madarin

Straighten the pillows,
Amsterdam pillow cover from Rainey Creek Home
Situate the pouf. . .
Waverly Bluebell pouf from Rainey Creek Home
We naturally have oils in our skin, but additionally, we touch things throughout the day and get more oils and dirt on our fingers. Then we close, straighten and situate our the items in our home transferring the dirt and oils to our textiles.

We also can't avoid the sun, using lights in our homes and the occasional little person who likes to leave love notes to mommy on her couch, pillows, curtains, walls, whatever surface is nearest the crayon.
Let's take care of the easiest one first: sunlight. The best way to preserve your fabrics from the sun is to line your curtains. 
Hidden Tab Panels from Window Treatments by Melissa
Lining your curtains will not only preserve the fabric used for your curtains, or other window treatments, but it acts as an additional filter that will catch any UV rays from the sun that the window didn't already filter.
And I'll bet you wouldn't have guessed that the light bulbs in your lamps and light fixtures will make your fabrics fade, too. If preserving the life of your textiles is important to you I recommend getting the lowest wattage possible on the light bulbs. The worst indoor light for fabrics is fluorescent lighting, commonly used in dark shadowy areas of the home like basements. Keep this in mind when selecting a window treatment or other décor fabric going in a basement and consider using a less expensive option that can be replaced often, if necessary.  
Cotton fabrics, like the ones below from Bobbie Lou's Fabric Factory, are good to consider for a situation where you may be replacing items often. Stylish and affordable.

Blue Herringbone from Bobbie Lou's Fabric Factory
Maritime Chevron Wave from Bobbie Lou's Fabric Factory
Poufs and pillows in high traffic areas are also best in inexpensive cottons that are easy to wash and easy to replace, if necessary. Consider these options from Rainey Creek Home.
Chartreuse zig zag pouf from Rainey Creek Home
Utah Grommet in Spa
Aruba pillow cover from Rainey Creek Home

Now, onto the oils and dirt. Textiles are made from natural fibers. Cotton and linen are plant fibers and silks are made of protein fibers and contain salt. The best way to clean your textiles is simply to vaccume them. If a "love note" from your child finds itself on your textiles, or dirt or oil come in contact with your textiles, there are products out there that not only claim to, but do in fact remove stains and love notes from your textiles. :) But one thing you need to know is that the textiles your home décor items are made from are natural fibers and, therefore, are already undergoing their own chemical changes and natural breakdown processes. When you introduce a harsh chemical to an something that is already undergoing chemical change, you are speeding up the deterioration process.

Schumacher Bleecker in Spark from Lynn Chalk
Schumacher Kiribati Ikat from Lynn Chalk
If you use designer fabrics such as the ones above or below, you should consider the stain. Is it significant enough that you want to introduce the textile to harsh chemicals? Small dirt spots or smudges should first be cleaned by vacuum before you attempt to introduce chemicals, or even water.
Sheer Linen Casual Shade from Lynn Chalk
Consider the use of water on natural fibers. Cotton and linens can stand up to water. It should be distilled water as other water sources contain dirt and other elements.
But think twice before using it on silk. Remember that silk is a plant fiber and contains salt. Water on silk will cause it to break down and deteriorate quickly. With silks you should consider either living with the stain or replacing the item before introducing it to water, let alone harsh cleaning chemicals.
Schumacher Manor Gate from Lynn Chalk
If children's love notes are not a concern in your home and you generally keep a clean house, then the best thing you can do to keep your textiles for as long as possible is to purchase the most expensive fabric you can within your budget. It's true that you get what you pay for. The more expensive fabrics are higher quality and will last a long time.
Sinclair Grommet Panels from Swags Galore
If you have young children, and dirt and oils coming in contact with your textiles is a concern, I recommend going with affordable textiles that can be replaced often.
*Line your window treatments.
*If you MUST, use only distilled water, but never use any water or chemical on silks.
*Buy the most expensive fabric in your budget
*Always vacuum first before attempting to treat stains. See what the vacuum will get out first.
--If you see a fabric you like, click on the image to find its source.