Leave a comment

DIY Custom Wooden Puzzle

Like many others, my mother got really into puzzles during the pandemic. So when Hanukkah rolled around the boys wanted to give her a custom puzzle as a gift. Being a maker I knew we could make one ourselves, and here’s how we did it. With 3 weeks left until Hanukkah and even longer until Christmas you’ve got plenty of time to make a custom gift for the puzzle lover in your life.

To get started you’ll need a puzzle to customize. We wanted a wooden one to be sure it would hold up to being painted then colored. We found this one at our local Dollarama but there are a number of good options on Amazon. You can get a 4-pack of flat puzzles or go for a cube style and make a custom puzzle with multiple images!

Assemble the puzzle over a drop cloth or protective surface. If your puzzle has a gift box or lid you’d like to decorate as well, open it flat. Our box simply unfolded; if yours is glued together you can ease it apart and re-glue it later, or prime it in sections.

You have two options for primer – you can go with a spray primer option like we did, or you can use white gesso and foam brushes and paint it on instead.

Use light, thin coats of primer to get a solid, even coverage. If spraying indoors like I did make sure your drop cloth covers ALL nearby surfaces. (My black dining room chairs now have faint white stripes…oops!).

Once the primer is fully dry you’ll want to disassemble the puzzle and lightly sand the edges of each piece. This will ensure no primer dripped down which could prevent proper assembly later.

Put the puzzle back together and you’re done! You now have a blank, white puzzle and box ready to customize however you’d like.

From this point it’s no longer a tutorial as there are unlimited ways you could decorate your puzzle, but I’ll show what the boys did for their grandmother.

They used the Crayola Air Marker Sprayer Airbrush Kit. I’ve got a full review of the airbrush coming soon but spoiler alert – it’s great! It comes with a few markers in the box but we’ve found that it’s compatible with all Crayola markers that have the same barrel size, so I picked up this pack of 16 Crayola Pip-Squeaks washable markers so the kids would have extra colors to choose from. They worked perfectly with the airbrush and washed off all hands, clothes and my plastic protective cloth.

The boys took turns adding colors to the puzzle and then used the airbrush kit’s included stencils to add little details like the stars and sun.

The primer does keep the water-based marker ink from absorbing as quickly as it would into paper, so it’s a good idea to let it dry fully before handling. While ours was drying the boys took turns decorating the gift box.

They had fun testing out the different stencils and playing with color, and then we let everything dry further.

The final step for the kids was to use glitter glue to add sparkle to the puzzle, and then let that dry as well.

Here’s their completed puzzle:

It reminds me of the tie-dyed scarves we used to hang on our bedroom walls in the 90s!

A combination of the puzzle fitting really well together and the primer filling any residual cracks meant that there was no bleed-through of the primer or marker spray onto the back of the puzzle.

They added more glitter glue to the gift box and a few extra details like a birthday message and some outline work.

I’d accidentally left the plastic window on the box when spraying it so I cut a new square of plastic from some leftover packaging and glued it into place. Then I put the plastic handle back onto the box.

With that the boys had a completely unique gift for their puzzle-loving Bubbie.

There are SO MANY ways you can customize your own puzzle! These can be painted, colored with markers, watercolor, colored pencil, or even decoupage with tissue or thin paper (and then re-cut the puzzle shapes with a sharp blade). You can even play with the texture of the primer you use, like giving a waterfront scene sand medium for the beach and texture medium for the lapping waves. The possibilities are truly endless.

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.


Leave a comment

Play Furniture and Pretend Food From Recycled Materials

November 15th was National Recycling Day and I thought it would be fun to share some toy accessories that you can make by recycling materials you have on-hand.

This all started back when Henri had received a Zhu-Zhu Pets toy hamster for Hanukkah one year. It wasn’t long before his “pet” needed to have its own house and so we adapted a shoe box into rooms with a garage.

Of course every home needs furnishings and that’s where these projects came in. According to Henri there was a bedroom, kitchen and living room, so I tailored what I made to that, but you can easily adapt any of these little projects to your rooms of choice.

The first recycled materials to be used were an egg carton and a plastic bendy straw. Cut out sections of the carton to create different types of furniture.

The cups that hold the eggs became armchairs (when the upper rim was kept on 3/4 of the edge) and a table (when flipped upside down and trimmed to have legs).

Two of the flat base of the egg cups were cut out to become vessels for food and water, and finally the divider piece that separates the eggs was cut out to become a lampshade.

One of the cup bases was painted silver to become a serving plate and the slightly deeper one had the inside painted blue to appear like water. To make the most out of using what I had on hand (pun intended!) I painted them both with nail polish!

The lamp shade was painted Henri’s color of choice with regular acrylic paints and then set aside to dry.

Once dry it was time to assemble the lamp. You need a base that’s sturdy and heavy enough to support the weight of the shade. You could use wood blocks, a little box filled with rice or sand, or anything else heavy enough. I used a few spare washers I found in my toolbox.

I cut a felt circle for the base and hot-glued the washers on top in descending size order, making sure to keep their holes lined up. I also glued a decorative bead to the top of the lampshade.

The shade was filled with hot glue to set the straw in place and then more glue was used to attach it inside the tower of washers.

With that, the little hamster’s living room lamp was complete!

The bendy bit of the straw was a nice touch, allowing the lamp to be angled wherever the little guy needed.

The silver platter received a coat of clear nail polish to seal it and the water bowl was filled with more hot glue to look full.

To make the pretend food for the hamster takes only three supplies – a pool noodle, fabric paint, and scissors.

That’s right – all these little pretend foodstuffs are actually squishies! They’re really easy to make: simply cut pieces of the pool noodle foam into the general shape of the food item then use fabric paint to make them look like their respective foods. A toothpick comes in handy instead of a paintbrush when working at such small sizes. I scaled my foods to the size of the egg carton “plate” and made (clockwise from top right) pepperoni pizza, chocolate chip cookies, donuts, a cheeseburger, and a chocolate cake.

The food storage bin was made from plastic canvas and yarn scraps.

First I made a base large enough to hold all the food. The lid is the same size but less deep, and the faux latch is simply stitched on top. The lid was sewn to the base all along the back edge but I used the same gold yarn as the latch to embroider 2 fake “hinges”.

The living room furniture was painted black and copper “studs” were added with a paint pen. One neat thing about using the egg cups is that the furniture will stack which makes putting it away after playtime that much easier.

Finally the hamster’s cardboard box bed was upgraded to one with a full headboard and footboard, and painted with gold glitter paint.

I used scraps of white felt and stuffing remnants to make a mini mattress and pillow, and leftover sock yarn knit up quickly to make a colorful blanket.

One evening of crafting and by morning the hamster had his house completely tricked out. Henri was really excited to set everything in place and added more to the decor by painting a rug in the living room and even drawing a TV on the wall!

Bonus – I wanted to take some current pics to show how well these little accessories held up after 6 years and we thought it would be really cute to include Jakob’s REAL hamster for scale. Here’s Dusty enjoying a little nap…

…and here he is foraging in the snack box looking to see what other treats there might be.

These were such simple, quick and easy DIYs to make and became playtime accessories that were loved and used over and over, AND held up incredibly well over the years. I hope this post gives you some ideas on how you can recycle items from around the house and give them new life with a new use.


Leave a comment

The Secret to Blending Crayola Markers

In a recent post celebrating The Princess Bride movie’s 35th anniversary I shared my completion of a double-page spread from the official The Princess Bride adult coloring book and teased a special secret that allowed me to blend Crayola markers as if they were Copics.

We’re not talking some special “Premium” art supply here – these were regular old water-based Crayola Super Tips markers, and as you can see in the finished page not only was I able to blend two shades each of red and green to get a subtle watercolor effect in the roses, but I was also able to get a beautiful gradient using 5 shades through the sunset and again in the hill.

Even preschoolers know that if you try to layer non-alcohol markers on regular paper you end up with streaks or smears and not a blended gradient, just like you see in example B below. While the paper in this book is decently thick it’s still just regular light cardstock – heavy enough to hold up to water applications but definitely not special blending paper.

Same 5 markers, same paper.

So if the trick isn’t the markers, and it isn’t the paper, what is it?

It’s what goes in between!

That’s right – this painter’s supply is an excellent addition to a coloring crafter too. Unlike the opaque white variety that is generally used to prime wood or canvas for painting, clear gesso is completely transparent and can be used on regular paper or within coloring books to protect the page from water damage and bleed-through. I don’t claim that using gesso in a coloring book is my unique, original idea. However it is the unexpected benefit of what this will allow you to do that I haven’t seen shared anywhere before.

Any brand will work, with the main distinction being that you use clear and not white. Liquitex is a great brand, I used Mont Marte as it’s what I happened to have, and Amazon has the U.S. Art Supply brand for a good price.

The idea came to mind when I picked the As You Wish/silhouette roses spread as my WIP. Not having used clear gesso before, I felt it would be smart to test it out before tackling my coloring page. I wanted to make sure that not only would I be able to see the printed lines clearly, but that they wouldn’t smear or bleed. I was also curious if the gesso would discolor the paper.

In order to properly test things out I marked off a square in a corner of one of the tester pages at the back of the coloring book and painted it with clear gesso and allowed it to dry fully.

While there is clearly an addition of texture to the page I was very happy to see that there was no discoloration or ink smearing. I then got to work testing an assortment of media to see how they worked with the gessoed page.

At the time I’d been debating painting the background black, so I tried that at the top of the page, followed below with black and colored Sharpies. I did a little colored pencil (the pink and yellow stripes) and a little with my brush tip/fineliner markers (the ones I used for the Eagle pointilism image), but spent most of my effort playing around with the Crayola Super Tips I intended to use on the actual coloring page. In order to compare the difference between the protected and untreated paper I deliberately overlapped my testing samples across the border of the gessoed section.

A quick look at the back of the page showed it was working! None of the media bled through the treated side of the paper!

This is also where I first realized that the Crayola markers were blending. To be sure I tested across both sides of the paper and, indeed, on the gessoed side the orange and red were forming a gradient whereas on the plain paper side they were overlapping with blocky, chunky edges.

Now that I knew it would work I was able to start on the actual pages. A little goes a long way with gesso and it didn’t take much to evenly coat both pages with a thin layer. I like protecting the underneath pages with a bit of wax paper and the lid from a takeout container makes a great palette.

This is a closeup of the dried, treated page. As you can see there’s no discoloration to speak of and no ink smears. There is a faint bit of grainy texture which would make this an equally excellent tip for use with colored pencils though you’d need to be conscious of your brush strokes and try to keep everything even and not streaky.

The coloring part itself is no different than were you to be using colored pencils or alcohol markers. You can blend the shades by overlapping them and blending out with the lighter color. In this example I colored horizontal sections of the 5 colors chosen for my sunset and then blended them by using the lightest yellow overlapping onto the yellow/orange, and then that marker overlapping onto the orange, which then overlapped onto the red, and then finally overlapped into the darkest red section.

Much like alcohol markers you have a long working time as applying new color will allow you to mix and move the colors below.

Just keep in mind that since the gesso stops the water-based markers from absorbing immediately into the page they will be transferrable until they dry completely. So be careful to avoid smudging or smearing the wet marker with your fingers or the side of your hand.

I found this to be a wonderful, fun process and absolutely adore how the final image turned out. I enjoy finding new ways to use existing supplies and love that this one product opens the door to so many coloring possibilities!

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.


1 Comment

Mythomorphia’s Chinese Dragon in Pointilism

In celebration of today being “Circle Day“, I’m posting the process of coloring the Chinese Dragon page in Kirby Rosanes’ Mythomorphia coloring book.

Can you tell why I’m posting this today? Look closely – every single drop of color in this image is created with a tiny circle. That’s right- over the course of the entire month of November 2018 I painstakingly tapped markers to the page to color in the whole picture with teensy little dots.

(The glare from my mini clip light makes for a bad photo but was a fantastic way to help see all the millions of dots without going cross-eyed!)

Of course a project of this scale requires fineliners and so I pulled out my pack of Soucolor markers. Not only do they come in 100 colors but while one side has a fantastic brush tip, the other has a 0.4mm fineliner tip, making these markers great for coloring books and perfect for this attempt. (Note: I own these same markers by two different brands. The Soucolor ones only seem to be currently available in sets of 34 but they are completely identical to this 100-count set by Feela that I also use regularly.)

The best way to start a project like this is simply to just begin, so I found a small, contained shape in this lantern and began to tap individual dots of red and yellow, I worked tighter groupings of dots anywhere I wanted to create shading, like in the vertical ridges on the lantern above.

I then found the other lanterns in the image and dotted them with the same two colors, creating patterns and stripes for more interest.

Next I used a brown marker to fill in both areas of cherry blossom branches and two shades of pink for the cherry blossom flowers and blowing petals. I completed the jade charm in the center of the above image and then used the original red and yellow to begin the firecrackers at the bottom.

It’s very peaceful to tap out little dots and then step back and have a complete shaded area of color and to then watch the whole image come together in the same way.

After finishing the fireworks I wanted a change of color so hopped over to some lotus flowers, then a koi, and then a decorative fan.

More fans followed. I’d noted what colors I’d used where so it was easy to have the fan’s cherry blossoms match those of the larger image. I then completed the little temple area in the upper right and the sword just below.

The pewter-look goblet was next, followed by the porcelain china.

Sometimes, when pages are as busy as this, it can be difficult to tell what’s what. For example, I found myself needing to decipher if some curls were clouds or waves. To help visually distinguish individual sections I decided to begin filling in the background. I used two shades of pink and darkened the edges around each icon so that it would have a nice contract against the planned colors for the dragon, clouds and waves.

As background areas were completed and it was easier to pick out clouds vs waves I used different shades of blues and grays to fill in each section.

I moved around the page in this manner, working first the pinks, then blues and grays. If I wasn’t sure yet what a random swirl was then I would fill in the areas around it until it became clear.

I kept going, making more itsy bitsy dots, until the entire background was complete leaving only the central, most important image of the page: the dragon.

For the dragon’s belly I selected two colors that give a golden effect when worked together – a coppery-orange for the darker areas and a ocher-y yellow for the lighter. Each segment was worked with the orange first (as you can see in the upper left) and then finished with the yellow.

I took a video of the process for a closer look:

After completing the belly I used the same golden colors for the dragon’s face and whiskers.

Then I moved on to the dragon’s scales.

I wanted to give him an oil-slick look with purple reflecting to green, so used those shades in tighter and looser groupings to indicate shadow and reflection.

Here’s another video showing a close up with more detail on how the scales were done (above).

Eventually all the scales were done and the dragon was SO CLOSE to being complete! All that remained were the frilly bits along his body, tail and face.

To keep things cohesive on such a busy page I used the same yellow, orange, purples and green and filled in the sections more densely to have deeper, richer sections of color.

And with that, the coloring is complete!

This project was SO much fun to do even though it took SO long to complete. There was something incredibly satisfying about working on each small bit at a time, tapping dot after dot, and then backing up to see how the image all came together.

Kirby’s designs are great for a project like this because there are dozens of self-contained little sections and he includes just enough shading detail to give you a guide to follow.

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.


Leave a comment

Game of Death Cake

Have you ever seen the movie Game of Death?

This award-winning horror movie came out in 2017 and featured a 90s-style game played by a gang of unassuming teens. Unlike Jumanji the consequences of playing this game are a LOT more gruesome and bloody. It also happened to be produced by one of my dear cousins, and he asked if I could make the cake for their wrap party.

This is the “Game of Death” gameboard as seen in the movie:

And this is my cake replica:

With Halloween just around the corner I thought it was the perfect time to share exactly how I made it!

The first step was to get a few good quality images of the prop that I could use for reference.

I was also asked if I could make a gluten-free option so there’d be something for those with intolerances. I was given a few reference images of the deaths and other props being used and when I saw that one character met an untimely end with a broken baseball bat I knew that would be something I could easily sculpt out of gluten-free puffed rice cereal.

While there were a lot of steps in making this cake it only took 3 days from start to finish. I’m going to break down everything but to avoid this being incredibly photo-heavy I’ve grouped the images of each step together.

The first step for all of my cakes is to sketch out an idea. Knowing I needed to transport the cake I went out and bought the largest cake board that would fit in a cake box I could find locally. That let me know what total dimensions I had to work with. That allowed me to size out my cake pans and figure out what would work best for the game cake. I then scaled a clear, top-down view of the game board to the appropriate size and traced it out so I could have an accurately-sized template.

I tried to do as much in advance as I could, as some of the parts would need time to dry or cool. The next task for day 1 was to make the gameboard’s window pane. I’d been asked to write a congratulatory message to the cast underneath, and while I could have simply written the image on a slab of fondant and set it in place I was determined to see if I could make the “glass” too. While browsing my local bulk store I noticed these clear candy mints and thought they’d be perfect!

I crushed the candies in a plastic bag using a meat mallet and then slowly melted the candy powder in the microwave until they reached a soft, pliable stage. Since I had a scale template I was able to test my cookie-cutters to find the right size and then trim off the excess with a kitchen knife. Once my “glass screen” was ready I set it aside to cool and harden.

Still on day 1 I rolled out some white fondant and made the center skull, all the minis, and the curved bits that line each player spot. I also cut out a base to put under the glass screen so I would have somewhere to write the message. Using a fondant roller and mat was really convenient as the roller has level guides so the pieces were all of equal thickness and the mat has measurements built right in.

I then made a large batch of gluten-free puffed rice treats and sculpted them into the two halves of a baseball bat, ensuring they would fit properly on my cake board. (Another benefit of having a scale template!).

The final thing I did on day 1 (not shown) was to bake the actual cake. I was given free reign on flavor and picked vanilla as it would work best with a special request I’d been asked – could I make the cake bleed when cut. I followed my usual methods and baked a bit of extra batter in a mini cake pan as I wanted to test the bleeding effect. I didn’t want to take a chance on the actual cake just in case it didn’t work so this little tester would be perfect.

Day 2 began with making edible fake blood. The best recipe I’ve found is to mix up chocolate syrup (like for chocolate milk) with clear corn syrup and a bit of red food coloring. Adjust the ratios until you get a consistency you like. In a subsequent cake I made a thicker version that is more realistic but for this cake I deliberately thinned it a touch so it would be able to be runny when cut.

I cut a well into my test cake’s bottom layer and iced it carefully so the “blood” wouldn’t soak into the cake itself. I then added the top layer and iced the whole thing and waited a few hours to be sure no red tint seeped through to the exterior. Then my kids helped me cut it and test if it worked:

It did! I was really excited knowing I could add additional wells into the real cake for an even more horrific effect.

I then painted the baseball bat treats with chocolate candy melts. Using a mug warmer was the perfect way to keep the candy warm long enough for me to get both pieces fully coated.

Then I wrapped each half with white fondant leaving the matching edges broken and torn to simulate where the wood would have splintered when the bat snapped in half. I used my fondant detail cutter to fray the edges further and add more realism, and then painted the fondant to look like wood. I’ve used this technique before and have a full tutorial on how to do it here.

With all the accessories and add-ons ready, day 3 was where it all came together!

I leveled my cake and torted it into 3 layers. These cake levelrs make it so easy to divide a cake into multiple levels evenly! The first layer was placed down on a round cake board and then iced, and the second layer was applied. I used a cupcake filler to cut a well in the center as well as add additional little surprise blood spots around the resulting ring. I was careful to not put them too close together so the cake would still have structural integrity, as I knew there would be a lot of fondant on top and I didn’t want it to collapse.

I also made sure to keep the cake bits from the corer as they’d come in handy in a minute.

I iced the middle layer, being careful to not disturb the cut edges too much while still evenly coating them in icing to provide a barrier between the blood fill and the cake itself. Then I carefully filled each well with the blood mixture leaving about a half-inch of space and then plugged the gaps with the cake pieces I’d saved. Finally, I iced the underside side of the remaining tier so when it was flipped onto the cake, the icing completely covered the plugs. This will prevent any of the blood from potentially bleeding into the upper tier.

Now that the cake was fully stacked I was able to use my scaled template to trim it to shape.

I then set the cake into place on the cake board, using a dollop of icing to “glue” it down. It was iced and then covered with gray fondant to match the game in the movie.

Then I used my template to cut out a slab of white fondant and used one of the fondant detail tools to trace each of the sections of the board, leaving imprints on the fondant that I could use as guides. I used edible food markers to color in each section, blending them with water when necessary to avoid too many streaks.

The topper was set into place and the edge trimmed with a border of white fondant. I “glued” each of the pre-made bits in place with a bit of water and then finally wrote the game’s logo on the front edge. (It went on all sides in the movie but I didn’t trust myself to write it evenly 8 times!)

The last step was to use a bit of watered-down fondant to “glue” the bats into place and then drizzle them with the fake blood mixture. I added in a few bits of fondant “gore” as an added touch. 😉

With that the Game of Death cake was complete! We delivered it to set on the final day and from the feedback I received it was a big hit!

(And it oozed “blood” perfectly when cut!)

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.


Leave a comment

Ghost Cupcakes DIY

In today’s post I’m going to show you how to make these fast and easy ghost cupcakes, perfect for Hallowe’en!

The sweet treats can be prepped in advance and top homemade cupcakes or you can pick up store-bought cupcakes and throw the whole thing together last-minute.

I’d seen versions of this style topper on various sites around the internet and put mine together using the features I liked from various ones, plus added my own twist. These and these have fondant over marshmallows but I didn’t like the square look it gave the ghosts. These and these achieve a more rounded look by draping fondant over lollipops, but as my cupcakes were for a party for adults I didn’t think the lollipops would end up eaten. After browsing my local bulk shop I came up with the idea of topping the marshmallows with rounded gumdrop candies.

What you will need for the ghosts:

You can place each ghost in a treat bag and hand out as-is or use them to top homemade or store-bought cake or cupcakes.

Step 1: Assemble your marshmallows, gumdrops and sticks to prepare the ghost bases

Push the lollipop stick up through a marshmallow and halfway into a gumdrop. You can wet the top of the marshmallow first with a thin smear of icing, clear piping gel or light brush of water to help the marshmallow and gumdrop adhere together, however I found that the tackiness on the stick from being shoved through the marshmallow did not make this necessary.

Repeat until you have as many ghost bases as you need, then set them upright by pressing into foam, flower foam, egg cartons, etc…

Roll out your fondant and cut out a circle with your cutter. I topped each gumdrop with a small dollop of icing so the fondant would stick, but you can also use clear piping gel or water. Apply the fondant over the ghost base, centering the circle over the gumdrop and smooth into place. Use your fingers to crease the excess into ghostly folds. Note: don’t apply too much icing/water/gel or the fondant can thin and tear if it gets too wet.

Repeat for each ghost and set them aside in your chosen support so the fondant can set up a bit. If desired prep a cake or cupcakes to be ready for the toppers. I’d baked up some chocolate cupcakes and gave them a thin layer of vanilla icing.

Once the fondant is no longer pliable you can finish off your ghosties by adding black eyes with a black edible marker. You can play around with the eye shape to give them all unique expressions!

Repeat until all your ghosts can see and then set them into your cake/cupcakes (if using). If you are placing them into treat bags to give out as Hallowe’en favors, allow them to air-dry until the fondant sets up.

These were served along with the Paint Nite cake and cookies from my last post, and made for a really fun Hallowe’en party treat table!

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.


Leave a comment

Annual Halloween Roundup

It’s October, so that means it’s time for my annual roundup of costume-related patterns and tutorials available here on the blog.

Here’s a step-by-step tutorial on how to make Minecraft Steve & Creeper heads.

Next up (with over 420,000 impressions on Pinterest in the last 60 days alone!) is a similar tutorial, this time for making a Minecraft Enderman head along with a diamond block trick-or-treat box.

Both projects include full charts for game-accurate colors and the exact hex codes for perfect color matching!

If your idea of fantasy is less block-based and more magical, here’s a free knitting pattern for an easy scarf in the Gryffindor house colors.

If training a dragon is more your thing, here’s how to make a viking vest.

If you prefer Pokemon to Night Furies, here’s an easy, last-minute Pikachu costume idea.

If your friends-group themed costume runs more Grease than Greninja, here’s how you can make a super simple Poodle skirt.

If you’re looking to visually upgrade some inexpensive props, here’s a demo on repainting plastic swords.

If you’ve got a last-minute party invite to deal with, here’s a SUPER quick ‘n easy Jughead Jones (from Archie Comics) costume tutorial with free burger dream bubble printable!

If your group costume needs accessories, here’s a free tutorial on making Super Mario Bros Mario, Luigi, Wario and Waluigi hats

If you want to take those Mario Bros costumes one step further, here are instructions on making their respective mustaches

If you REALLY want to go all out, here’s the full costume breakdown with instructions on making an entire Wario costume

Finally, if you’ve got enough knitting time on your hands, you can knit my Baby’s First Superhero Costume pattern as-is with cute designs for boys and girls, or convert the chart and the colors to create your superhero of choice.

Find more tips and tutorials on my How-To page!


Leave a comment

Iced Angry Birds Cake

Over the years I’ve made a couple Angry Birds-themed cakes. Two of them were for members of the same family, and even though they were made years apart I wanted them to each feel unique. For this first one I used minimal fondant and worked with an iced base.

Cakes like this are pretty easy to do, and while I don’t have full step-by-step pics I’ll outline the process.

The bottom layer was baked and prepared exactly as in my post on how to bake a cake and prepare it for decorating. I then decorated the sides with Smarties (M&Ms for my American readers) and set it aside.

The top layer also started as a 9″x13″ cake which was cut into the shape needed. As for most of my shaped cakes I started with a paper template scaled to the proper size on my computer.

The template serves two purposes. First I used it to trace out fondant pieces for the eyes, brows and beak. As I didn’t want to cut into the template I used a straight pin (that I keep for food use only) to pierce the shapes’ outlines into rolled fondant. The resulted dotted line is easy to cut out with a knife or fondant cutter and the individual pieces can be attached to each other with a bit of water or fondant glue. The eyebrows and pupils were cut from pre-tinted black fondant, the beak was cut from white fondant tinted yellow with icing gels, and the eyes were cut from white fondant later outlined with a black food marker. Before putting away my fondant supplies I also cut out the birthday boy’s name from red-tinted fondant with alphabet-shaped cookie cutters.

Then I used the same paper template on top of the cooled cake and cut around it to cut the cake itself to the proper shape. (You can do these steps in the reverse order but sometimes cake will stick to the underside of the paper and that can discolor your fondant. Another option is to trace the cake shape onto wax paper or parchment paper which won’t stick as easily)

The second cake was then iced with red and white icing to match Red’s proportions and finally the fondant topper was added.

The fondant pieces give the cake a polished look while requiring minimal shaping or sculpting ability, making this a great way for beginners to try out fondant for the first time.

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.


Leave a comment

Cake & Brownie “Sliders” with Cookie “Fries”

In today’s post I’m going to show you the super easy steps to make these yummy cake/brownie mini “sliders” that you can pair with sugar cookie “fries” for this adorable tromp l’oeuil dessert platter. While they’re a fun surprise for any occasion they work especially well for Father’s Day which happens to be tomorrow. Since they can be made with all store-bought supplies they can be whipped up last minute meaning you still have time to make them yourself!

These sweet treats have been around the internet for a LONG time, so this is by no means my idea. I actually got the idea from Bakerella’s blog back in 2009 and made my version pictured here for Father’s Day for my dad in 2014.

Angie’s original post is linked above, and she reissued it here with updated templates for other holidays and occasions including birthdays, Canada Day and the 4th of July.

Foodstuffs you will need:

  • vanilla cupcakes – “buns”
  • brownies – “burgers”
  • sesame seeds
  • sugar cookie mix – “fries”
  • Toppings: (all optional as desired)
    • icing – “ketchup” & “mustard”
    • granulated sugar – “salt”
    • orange starburst (or other taffy-type candy) – “cheese slices”
    • red gummy candy – “tomato slices”
    • green gummy candy – “pickle slices”
    • green candy tape/roll up – “lettuce”
  • Other candies to make any other desired burger toppings

I forgot to take pics of the fries-making process, but you can find the full instructions at the Bakerella blog post. Basically you bake vanilla or sugar cookies (I used Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie mix) and bake the cookies as wide rectangles which you slice into “french fry” strips once baked and then toss in or sprinkle with granulated sugar to simulate salt crystals.

Most versions of the faux sliders start with vanilla cupcakes for the buns and brownies for the burgers.

I baked mine using store-bought box mix but you can go an even easier route and purchase ready-made plain cupcakes and brownies to skip this baking step completely. Slice all cupcakes in half horizontally and then use a cookie cutter that best matches the bun diameter to cut burger “patties” from the brownies.

For the burger toppings I’d basically wandered the aisles at my local bulk store looking for candies that could pull double-duty as other foods.

I tested out a few orange taffy-type candies for the cheese slice and in the end went with orange Starburst. Laffy Taffy, Airheads or any other orange taffy that can be rolled flat would also work well. I found it easiest to squish the candy flat and then roll it out between two sheets of parchment paper. You can also use wax paper if necessary, as I did here for storing the candies and keeping the layers from sticking together.

I used the green portion from rainbow Fruit by the Foot to simulate lettuce by tearing it into jagged strips. If you can find an all-green version that would be even better, though my kids didn’t mind eating the other colors that were left over after I harvested all the green bits!

I used red gummy disks for tomato slices, first cutting them in half widthwise to get thinner discs, then I cut those in half again as a full circle of red candy would be a bit much with all the other candy.

My store didn’t have plain green gummy rounds to use for pickle slices, so I cut up some mint-leaf shaped ones instead.

Once you have all your toppings ready, tint some icing red and yellow to simulate ketchup and mustard, and then assemble your burgers as desired.

Mine had a slice of “cheese” on the lower “bun”, then the patty, and then tomatos, pickles and lettuce, all arranged to slightly overlap the sides so they’d be visible.

A drizzle of “ketchup” and “mustard” was the last step before placing the top half of the “bun” on top.

To really finish the look brush the tops of the cupcakes with a bit of water and then sprinkle on some sesame seeds.

Arrange them on a platter and sprinkle the faux fries around. If desired you can add condiment cups or little puddles of “ketchup” and “mustard” for dipping the fries into. These were as much fun to eat as they were to make and all these years later Henri still keeps asking me to make them again, which is the real testament to how much of a hit these were!

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.


Leave a comment

Peelable Base Coat Nail Polish Hack

Has this ever happened to you?

It would happen to me ALL THE TIME.

Whenever I would use a peelable base coat (like ÜNT’s Ready For Takeoff) I’d be lucky if my manicure lasted 8 hours, whereas with a regular basecoat I can get at least 2 weeks. I’d go about doing normal things and suddenly discover a thumbnail peelie in my dishes or pinky nail peelie in my sock. It was super frustrating so I looked it up and it turns out it wasn’t just me! While the ease of removal made it perfect for nail polish bloggers and reviewers, many people were complaining about the base not “sticking” long enough to make it worth it for regular use.

I’d written to my place of purchase and their reply was:

Your complaint isn’t unique. I have heard that some people’s problem with ÜNT’s peel off base coat is “that it works too well”. However, we can’t seem to discern as to why some people have such success with it, and others don’t. 

The conclusion the nail community has come to is that personal biological factors can affect a product’s success. Meaning, your body’s natural oils and your nail’s health may be the cause of a polishes’ or base coat’s success. The nail is often considered an impermeable barrier, but this is not true. In fact, it is much more permeable than the skin, and the composition of the nail includes 7–12% water. 

Following that I wrote to ÜNT themselves but their replies were unsatisfactory and seemed like a copy/paste:

We are sorry to hear that our product is not 100% satisfactory. I would like to further explain several possible reasons for this to happen:

1. READY FOR TAKEOFF or nail lacquer did not dry completely

2. Coat of READY FOR TAKEOFF not thick enough (if READY FOR TAKEOFF is applied very thin, it takes more effort to remove. We suggest applying 3-4 thin coats.)

3. If READY FOR TAKEOFF is applied unevenly, some parts of it may dry quicker than others, thus causing the issue. 

So in the end I decided to try and figure out my own solution. I know the exact ÜNT product I have is no longer available but they have a different peelable line and Holo Taco has its own Peely Base and I really wanted to make these products (and my existing UNT bottles) work for me.

After a bit of trial and error (note- do NOT try filing down the surface of your nails to make the base coat grip better!) I found a solution that actually made the product usable, and in honor of today being Nail Polish Day, I’m sharing it publicly. Bonus: it’s something I bet you already own!

Another base coat!

I use Orly’s Bonder as it’s what I have on hand but any clear base coat will work. (I don’t recommend a creamy base coat like a smoothing base for this).

All you need to do is apply one thin coat of the regular base BEFORE applying the recommended 2-3 coats of the peelable polish. The peelable polish will grip better to the base than to your nail surface, and the manicure will last much longer. It’s a really simple trick but it helps to make the peelable products actually work for those of us who have a hard time with them.

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.