Tuesday

How to make a simple birthday cake with home-made marshmallow fondant!

How to make a sweet 'n simple birthday cake with homemade marshmallow fondant! Click through for an easy tutorial at a house full of sunshine.

I'm going all Betty Crocker on you today.

Now, if you're a professional cake decorator, or even someone who's made a cake more than, say, 3 times in your life, please don't laugh at me unkindly.

This tutorial is for the average mum like me with zero cake decorating skills, whose sum total of prior experience includes staring bleary-eyed at their batter-splattered copy of the Australian Woman's Weekly cookbook at midnight the night before a party, trying in vain to stop the icing wheels from falling off the icing train and cursing the person who ever invented the concept of the novelty cake.

There's this kindy mum I know who decorates cakes for fun and profit, and I've seen photos of her incredible and intricate birthday-cake creations, so of course with an upcoming birthday party, I had to pick her brains a little. For starters, how is it even possible to make any money doing this?? Last time I made a cake I spent about five months of my husband's wages on those little bags of ready-made fondant icing alone.

I knew there must be a cheaper way, and turns out - ta-da! - there is!

The secret is homemade marshmallow fondant. My kindy-mum friend assured me it was super easy to make.

I doubted her intensely.

"Easy" is, after all, a relative term, and this is after all a woman who whips up three-dimensional fondant models of golf-buggies and little golf-playing human beings to adorn her 18-hole birthday-cake golf course, and does it all without breaking a sweat.

But she was very persuasive, so I decided to give it a go. And you know what? She was right. It IS easy.

I'm going to give you the step-by-step exactly as she gave it to me. Be warned - there are NO MEASUREMENTS, but even if you have recipe OCD like me, there's really no need to freak out. It actually is much quicker and simpler to do it by feel rather than by measured quantity.

YOU'LL NEED:

1. Marshmallows (My cake-maker friend swears by Woolworths Homebrand!)

2. Icing sugar (truckloads - I used that entire Tupperware container full, which I'm guessing is at least 1kg.) (U.S. at least 2.5 lb powdered sugar.)

3. Food colouring if you want a different colour from white and/ or pink.


Let's talk quantities. How many packs of marshmallows will you use?

My cake-making friend uses 2 x 250g packets of marshmallows per cake. That's for a coloured cake, because you can use the whole packet (both pink and white marshmallows) and tint it with food colouring to whatever shade you desire.

If you want some (or all) of your fondant to be white, on the other hand, you'll need to separate out the white marshmallows, meaning you'll go through twice as many packets (but have heaps of pink ones left over!) You could also just use a whole pack of white marshmallows, but for some reason these are a lot harder to come by (in Australia at least.)

For this particular cake, I used 1 x whole packet for my small pink tier, with a couple of drops of pink food colouring added, and 3 x packets for my white tier, ONLY using the white marshmallows.


HOME-MADE MARSHMALLOW FONDANT: EASY 3-STEP METHOD

1. Place marshmallows in a microwave-proof bowl, add 1 tablespoon of water and mix through to wet the marshmallows.

2. Cook for 20 seconds in the microwave, stir, and repeat in 20 second intervals until the marshmallows are melted. The mixture should be silky smooth, with no lumps.

3. Add icing sugar and mix well. Continue to add icing sugar until the mixture is no longer sticky, and becomes kneadable. You'll know you've added enough icing sugar when the mixture doesn't stick to your bench.

That's it! Once you have a lovely kneadable lump of fondant, sprinkle a little icing sugar on your bench and roll it out to roughly 5 mm (1/4 inch) thick.

You'll need to "dirty-ice" your cake with a thin layer of frosting or ganache. I made my own ganache, but next time I think I'd skip that step and buy a tub of frosting. I'm all for easy.

The fondant can then be draped over your cake, smoothed and trimmed with a sharp knife. I did the tiers separately and then placed the second tier on top, already iced.


Tips and Tricks:

  • Use one of these to smooth your icing before assembling the tiers. 
  • I created a "support" for the top tier by cutting four drinking straws to the height of the cake, then pushing them into the centre of the bottom tier in a circle, with one extra in the middle. They get covered by the top tier, so they're not visible.
  • To achieve the height of these tiers, I used deep tins available from a cake decorating store. You could also line a shallower tin with a collar of alfoil that sticks up past the rim of the tin. You'll need to multiply your cake recipe if you want this look, as the tins are quite deep!
  • You'll notice my cake is looking a bit wonky in these photos. That's because I used a strawberry cake packet mix, which just wasn't quite dense and heavy enough to support the weight of the two tall tiers. Don't do that. It all held together fine, and looked lovely on the table, but the wonkiness is pretty noticeable in the pictures. Note to self: use mud-cake next time.
  • Don't put your cake in the fridge, or it will go sticky. It will keep for up to a week on the bench.
  • If you want to get creative with decorations, you can cut out shapes or letters from your fondant - the decorations will stick to the cake with a little bit of water.

This time, though, I went for simple and minimalist (i.e. I ran out of time, panicked, wrapped a bit of ribbon around each tier and called it good.)

I also made a little bunting banner from washi tape as my cake topper.


This was just a matter of folding some short strips of washi tape over a piece of twine at regular intervals, then snipping a triangle from the bottom.


I cut a pair of wooden skewers down to the right length with a pair of tinsnips, then knotted the ends of the twine around the tips of the sticks and planted them in the cake at an angle.


So that's the finished cake. Simple, sweet, slightly wonky, but achievable - and hey, minimalist is in, right?

I loved only having to spend a couple of dollars on some packets of marshmallows, instead of selling my left kidney to buy ready-made fondant. And even better, the marshmallow fondant is delicious! So much yummier than the stuff you buy from the shop! I found it really easy to work with as well.

In more good news, my cake-decorating skills can only get better from here. I hope.

Let's chat: do you tackle birthday-cake making with glee, or with dread? Any more tips I should know about? Help a newbie out here - I'll love you forever.

Linking up here: Hit me with your best shot, Enchanting Inspiration

Pink circus-themed birthday party favours


Little Miss has just turned two. We've never made a big deal of first birthdays, because I figure a one-year-old is too small to appreciate all the fuss, and so really, what's the point? But by the second birthday, there's enough awareness to warrant a bit of a happening. So we generally pull out all the stops to make up for our vague guilt over doing nothing whatsoever the year before. 

After two little boys, Allegra's 2nd birthday was therefore my first EVER non-boy-themed birthday party! And after a run of Spiderman, Octonauts, Cars and Train -themed events, I was ready for something altogether pretty and girly.

No prizes for guessing what colour featured prominently in the party décor. As one friend put it, it was a "pink spectacular!"

Yes. Mummy went a little bit pink-crazy.

I'm going to reveal photos of the complete event in a few days time, but first I thought I'd walk you through a few of the projects I put together for this party.

After choosing a "pink circus" theme, I spied this inspiring image on Pinterest, and decided to do something similar for my party favours - but in pink, of course, and using smaller-sized jars. 

I used baby-food jars, which were just the right size, and a cheap packet of zoo animals from Big W.


The first step was simply to glue the animals to the lids using craft glue.


Once the glue was dry, I used Rust-oleum Paint + Primer in Gloss Candy Pink to spray both the animal and lid. Simple!


I found it easiest to flip the lid on its side first and give the underside of the animal a quick shot of spray, then sit the lid flat and spray liberally from the top and each side. The paint gave great coverage. You'll need to be very careful that the underside of the lids don't come into contact with the paint.

I also experimented with spraying the animals and lids separately, and then gluing them together, to see if that would be any easier. It wasn't. The animals did glue firmly even with the two painted surfaces, but I found it a bit more fiddly that way for some reason. I liked having them all in one piece - for me it just seemed easier to handle.


The last step was to fill the jars with mini marshmallows - the perfect colour combination for the pink spectacular.


And here's a sneak peek of the favours lined up on the party table!


Just forgive the awful quality of these photos. There's a story behind that. I was rushing to shoot a couple of pics of the party table before our guests arrived, and fumbled and DROPPED my DSLR camera onto the deck. It stopped working completely and I had to snap some pics with my iPhone instead.

Thankfully, it started working again perfectly within the hour, and I've had no problems with it since, but of course by the time of the camera's resurrection all the food had been eaten. Sigh! I'm no fabulous photographer by any stretch, but iPhone photos just aren't quite the same...


Nevertheless, the favours were a big hit with the kids, and they were all quite excited to choose the animal they liked best from the line-up and have their own special jar to take home. All up, this is one of the simplest and most effective party favour ideas I've tried thus far. It gets a thumbs up from me!


Stay tuned - more party projects coming up this week! 

Let's chat: Before I had kids, I imagined that elaborate parties must be more for the parents' benefit than the children's, but having seen the way our kids talk about the event for the next six months, I know that ours appreciate the extra effort and creativity we try to put in. Our boys are already talking about what theme they'd like for their next party. But I think there's definitely a case for simplicity as well. Parties can be expensive! So, what do you prefer - a simple get-together or an elaborate event?


Friday

Blog hop round-up and happy 4th of July!

HAPPY 4TH OF JULY!!!!

As you know, I joined up with more than 30 AMAZING bloggers to tackle the challenge of creating a patriotic project or recipe without using the traditional red, white and blue color scheme! We started the first week of June and the projects have been flowing ever since. We shared over 30 awesome patriotic projects with you, and today, I am recapping all 30+ of them for you below. Whether you're American like the majority of my bloggy friends here, Aussie like me, or wherever else you may hail from, I hope you'll find some creative inspiration for your home in this round-up.

Stay and have a browse through some wonderful blogs by clicking on any link that takes your fancy. Don't you just love the uniqueness of each of these ideas? So much creativity goin' on here!

Oh, and you can still enter to win for your chance to win the $310 Target Gift Card using the Rafflecopter at the end of this post. But hurry, time runs out at 11:59 pm on July 4, 2014!

Do you have a favourite project? A top three...? Let me know in the comments! My two absolute faves are the star-stamped oar by Finding Silver Pennies, and the planked American flag by Maison de Pax. Stunning!

(Pssst - can you spot my project?)

Patriotic Projects without the traditional colors!
  1. DIY United States Pillow by Wood Grain Cottage
  2. Free Anchor Printables by Lovely, Etc.
  3. Weathered Star Wall Art by A House Full of Sunshine
  4. Vintage Patriotic Holders by Migonis Home
  5. Homemade Star Marshmallows by Confessions of a Secret Crafter
  6. DIY Wood Map by Bigger Than the Three of Us


Patriotic Projects without the traditional colors!
  1. Patriotic Vignette by House by Hoff
  2. 4th of July Party Printables by The Blissful Be
  3. Statue of Liberty Pledge Art by A Prudent Life
  4. Star Spangled Entry by Finding Silver Pennies
  5. Stars & Stripes Tea Party by My Creative Days
  6. 4th of July Subway Art by Just a Girl and Her Blog
  7. Canadian Map Art by Inspire Me Heather
  8. Star Spangled Door Decor by 3 Little Greenwoods
  9. Patriotic Mason Jars and Free Printable by Place of My Taste
  10. Neutral Pallet Flag by View From the Fridge
Patriotic SBH Week 2 Collage
  1. USA String Art by Sypsie Designs
  2. Lady Liberty Art by Delineate Your Dwelling
  3. Planked American Flag by Maison de Pax
  4. Fireworks Drink Stirrers by Homey Oh My!
  5. Mounted Declaration of Independence by Everyday Enchanting
  6. Land of the Free Because of the Brave Printable by Black and White Obsession
  7. Fireworks Table Runner by One Krieger Chick
  8. Chalkboard Bunting by The Dolen Diaries
  9. Vintage USA Framed Art by Made to Be a Momma
  10. Let Freedom Ring Utensil Caddy by Tiny Sidekick
  11. Wood Slice Canadiana Coasters
MUST PIN!  Amazing patriotic project ideas that DON'T use the traditional colors!  Very creative!  1. USA Map by Paper & Fox
2. Let Freedom Ring Gold Art by Life on Virginia Street
3. Wood Shim Flag by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body
4. Corrugated Metal Star Art by Addicted 2 DIY
5. Neutral Nautical Pallet Flag by Southern State of Mind

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday

Weathered star wall art tutorial

You may remember me mentioning recently that I'm part of something pretty cool. I've joined up with more than 30 AMAZING bloggers to tackle the challenge of creating a patriotic project or recipe without using the traditional red, white and blue color scheme!  Starting three weeks ago and running through July 4th, more than 30 projects have been shared on some of the most awesome blogs around.  I've really enjoyed checking out all the projects and hope YOU will find some inspiration as well. And now - it's time to share what I've been up to for this challenge! 

And yes - it WAS a challenge. Would you believe me when I say that when I signed up for this, I had NO IDEA it was a 4th of July thing? I just got asked to be part of a "blog hop". And said yes. And signed my name on the dotted line. And THEN found out (quite a bit down the track) what the deal-io actually was.



Coming up with a 4th of July project is a challenge when you happen to be Australian. (Minor detail, right?) Luckily, I have a long-running obsession with star motifs for kids' bedrooms. So I knew that I could pull off something with an American patriotic vibe that I would also be happy to display for keeps in my son's room. I actually love the classic North American aesthetic and have quite a "thing" for Hamptons style. I'd already been mulling around with the idea of some star motif wall art for Jaxon's room - and this gave me the kick up the rear that I needed to make it happen!



I started by purchasing some rough pine fence palings from Masters. At $1.73 for 1.8m, they came in waaaaaay cheaper than the dressed and sanded version. Total cost for five lengths of timber? $8.65. I liked the rough, neglected feel, very similar to old pallets (which you could also use for this project if you have any handy). I had the palings cut in half at Masters to create ten x 900mm lengths.


I wanted to improve on the raw timber and create some interesting depth and texture, to give my artwork a real vintage, weatherbeaten look. I started out experimenting with various methods, like you see above - painting stain onto the timber and then dry-brushing over top with grey acrylic paint (latex for my U.S. readers); using watered-down stain; painting the timber first and then dry-brushing stain over the top; and various combinations of these. Once I'd found the look I was after, it was time to begin. Let me break it down step by step for you!


1. Assemble lengths of timber to create a rough square. I'd had my palings cut to 900mm long, and they were each meant to be 100mm wide, meaning I should've been able to use 9 palings to create a perfect 900 x 900 square. Actually, as it turned out there was quite a bit of variation in the widths, and with 9 palings my square was higher than it was wide, and looked too top-heavy, so I removed one paling. It looked more "right" that way, even though it's not a perfect square.

2. Screw two more palings onto the back of the square to hold all the pieces together. Be sure you choose a screw long enough to embed firmly in both layers of wood, but not so long it pierces through the front of your artwork. I used a pen to mark the correct depth on my drill bit when pre-drilling the holes, so I didn't drill right through. (There's probably a more technical way to do that, right?)

3. I used Minwax Express colour wiping stain in walnut, but on my test samples, I didn't like how it went on thick and opaque like paint. It completely covered the grain, and because the timber I used was so rough, it did not wipe off effectively either. So I chose to water it down and apply more coats, building up transparent layers to get the same richness of colour. I used about 1/4 stain to 3/4 water, and applied three coats in total.

4. Next, I applied a wash of watered-down grey paint for a weathered effect. I used some leftover Dulux "Timeless Grey" with a mix of about half paint, half water. I swiped this on unevenly, allowing the stained timber to show through quite a lot. I also went back over using a dry-brushing technique and a stronger concentration of the paint in places. The trick here is not to over-think it! Just whack it on.


5. I created my oversized star template in Microsoft Word. First, I set the document size to 500 x 500, which was the actual dimension I wanted my star to be.


Then, because I only have an A4 printer, and this shape was well outside the printable area, I copied and dragged the shape into a separate A4 sized document, which had the effect of cropping the star into a printable-sized portion without altering its dimensions. I repeated this for each section of the star.


I then printed out my star piece by piece, and re-assembled the sections, as you can see below.


6. Tape around the star, and remove the paper template. I thought I'd try something new, so I used "FrogTape" (From Masters.) The little blurb on the back of the packet suckered me in: "FrogTape is the only tape treated with PaintBlock technology. PaintBlock is a super-absorbent polymer which reacts with latex paint and instantly gels to form a micro-barrier that seals the edges of the tape, preventing paint bleed. The result: Very sharp paint lines!" Hey, sounds fancy. I'm all for super-absorbent polymers and micro-barriers if they mean no bleeding paint. Would the super-tape work? Only one way to find out!


7. Apply an undercoat to the star. I went with a mint colour, so I could later sand back my top layer and have some colour peeking through. I used a custom mix of paints that I had leftover from other projects. I also took a deep breath and dry-brushed some mint paint on the background. Just ignore the patchy awfulness: sometimes things have to look worse before they look better. (Incidentally, I'm hoping that will prove true of other things in general, such as, oh, my face.) Anyhow, unlike the ageing process, this is all pre-meditated - there's another step to come here. It's all part of building up depth and texture, one layer at a time.

8a. Paint the star white.

8b. Leave the garage for 5 minutes to go to the toilet, and come back to find THIS.


Uh-huh. Yep. That permanent marker that I used to mark my drill bit earlier? Turns out I left it lying around, and little Miss Two seized her opportunity with wild abandon and joyous glee. She has fully fledged DIY ambitions, that girl.

8c. Freak out completely. Clutch hair. Walk around huffing and puffing very deeply like an asthmatic rhino at a yoga class. Narrowly avoid a complete meltdown.

8d. Gather my wits and do what one must always do in a crisis: Google it. 

8e. Follow Google's instructions for "How to remove permanent marker". A frantic rub with some Nail polish remover does the trick. Ta-da! Amazing! Sunshine and happiness is restored. I decide to keep my two-year-old after all.

8f. Remove tape and decide that the makers of FrogTape are geniuses. 

Guys. GUYS. The super-polymer micro-barrier thingamajig ACTUALLY WORKS. Even on that rough, grainy, unsanded timber. Incredible. It totally worked.


9. The final step: sand back the entire surface, particularly the painted areas, then apply a final watered-down wash of stain to bring out the rich tones of the timber and tie everything together.


I'm just loving the texture - exactly the layered, weathered effect I was going for! Did you notice that mint paint peeking through on the white star?





To wrap up, I thought I'd style my star wall art is if for a celebratory gathering. If you're one of my readers who celebrates the 4th of July, I wish you the happiest of holidays!





And if you're on Pinterest - a special pin for you! This has turned out to be quite an in-depth tutorial, so I've created a less holiday-focused pin that won't be out of date in three days' time. My star art is going to end up in my boy's bedroom, after all!

DIY Rustic star motif wall art from A house full of sunshine

Now, before you head out, be sure to check out the AMAZING projects that were shared the last three weeks AND be sure to enter for your chance to win a $310 Target Gift Card by using the Rafflecopter at the end of the post!

Patriotic Projects without the traditional colors!


  1. Patriotic Vignette by House by Hoff
  2. 4th of July Party Printables by The Blissful Be
  3. Statue of Liberty Pledge Art by A Prudent Life
  4. Star Spangled Entry by Finding Silver Pennies
  5. Stars & Stripes Tea Party by My Creative Days
  6. 4th of July Subway Art by Just a Girl and Her Blog
  7. Canadian Map Art by Inspire Me Heather
  8. Star Spangled Door Decor by 3 Little Greenwoods
  9. Patriotic Mason Jars and Free Printable by Place of My Taste
  10. Neutral Pallet Flag by View From the Fridge
Patriotic SBH Week 2 Collage
  1. USA String Art by Sypsie Designs
  2. Lady Liberty Art by Delineate Your Dwelling
  3. Planked American Flag by Maison de Pax
  4. Fireworks Drink Stirrers by Homey Oh My!
  5. Mounted Declaration of Independence by Everyday Enchanting
  6. Land of the Free Because of the Brave Printable by Black and White Obsession
  7. Fireworks Table Runner by One Krieger Chick
  8. Chalkboard Bunting by The Dolen Diaries
  9. Vintage USA Framed Art by Made to Be a Momma
  10. Let Freedom Ring Utensil Caddy by Tiny Sidekick
  11. Wood Slice Canadiana Coasters
MUST PIN!  Amazing patriotic project ideas that DON'T use the traditional colors!  Very creative!  1. USA Map by Paper & Fox
2. Let Freedom Ring Gold Art by Life on Virginia Street
3. Wood Shim Flag by Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body
4. Corrugated Metal Star Art by Addicted 2 DIY
5. Neutral Nautical Pallet Flag by Southern State of Mind

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I'm linking up here: Hit me with your best shot, Enchanting Inspiration

Our playroom and kids' rooms so far (and one heck of a "to do" list!)


Since moving in to our new house a few months back, the playroom has seen some progress. It's nowhere near finished yet, but it's a darn sight better than it was:


Here's where we're at right now:


I've already shared the story behind the sunny yellow birch-forest feature wall, which (in case you're new around here - hi there!) is not wallpaper, I painted it using a stencil. (You can read all about it here!)

I added Ikea Branäs baskets to hold toys, and installed cupboard fronts onto the unit to hide some of the clutter. I went for a random pattern with the cupboard fronts, based mostly on which bits I wanted to hide. I didn't want a solid row of cupboards at the top, because I thought it would look too top-heavy, and I also didn't want to alternate (one door, one open), because I had too much stuff to hide. It kinda turned out looking like a game of Tetris. The OCD in me is still really unconvinced about this look.

Unfortunately, the lazy girl in me is equally unconvinced about removing cupboard doors and re-installing them.

What do you think??


On top of the Ikea Expedit unit, I've added some chalkboard-fronted wooden trays (purchased at Pillow Talk) to store some of our frequently-accessed craft supplies, and puzzles that are too large to fit on the shelves.



I like how the woven baskets compliments the natural texture of the sisal floor rug. Other than that, to be honest, I haven't been thrilled with the 'ole Branäs baskets. At almost $20 a pop, they quickly add up to be a bigger expense than the unit itself. Which would be okay if the quality matched the price-tag, but sadly, I haven't found that to be so. The bottoms keep falling out quite suddenly and dramatically, dumping a basket-load of small toys all over the floor each time and causing small children to cry. (And perhaps Mummies too, on occasion.)

It's an unfortunate design flaw. I'm thinking of reinforcing the bottoms with zip-ties, but it's a shame to have to cobble them together already when we've only had them a few months. I'm also noticing a bit of wear-and-tear and catching of the fibers as the baskets are pulled in and out. Nothing major, but I'm wishing I read a few reviews before forking out the bucks.


The cushions in the window seat are from One Duck Two. The yellow chevron cushion is a cheapie from Target. As you can see, I'm going for a yellow, navy, green and red colour scheme. I wanted it to look colourful and cheerful, as fitting for a playroom, but also not too kiddish, because this window seat is quite a visible feature from the dining room.


I've also added a floor cushion in the corner. This little space is going to become a reading nook for the kids. I shamelessly brainwash my children into loving books. So far it's working out great.


On the other side of the room is the kids' little craft/ colouring table, and their play kitchen. Things are looking a little bare in this corner. Which brings me to my To-do list for this room.



TO-DO for Playroom:
1. Install a cork pinboard-gallery for kids artworks
2. Paint a chalkboard feature wall
3. Paint some frames for A4-sized artworks and install them as a gallery wall
4. Add shelves to the reading nook



4. Label baskets with pictures of toys, to assist with packing up


5. Upholster a seat cushion for the window-seat.


(How cute is this little guy? Rocking horse by Hape.)

Onward to the kids' bedrooms. Here's where you really have to use your imaginations.

Aran's room:


Yep, it's basically in it's raw post-move state. The toddler beds are cute, but completely lost against that very tall white wall. (All the rooms have high ceilings, including the bedrooms.)

TO DO for Aran's room:
1. Paint a patterned feature wall (I have a great concept in mind for this!)
2. Refinish a set of second-hand bunk beds. It's sad but true - the boys have grown out of those toddler beds. *sniffle-sniffle*
3. DIY two feature artworks for the walls. Hint: power tools will be involved. Yikes!
4. Add a rug and accessorise. Fun!

Jaxon's room:


This room was used as a guest bedroom for the first few months after we moved in. The boys were used to being in a room together, and we thought it would ease their adjustment to a new house if we kept things normal and familiar for a while. Now we've moved Jaxon into his own room (this one), and we just shift him back in with his brother if we have a guest come to stay.

Long story short, the neutral and boring ex-guest-bedroom is now in need of a bit of colour and personality for a little boy. But because it will also be used by guests, we want to keep things fairly classic in here. This room has already seen some progress in that direction - I'll be sharing photos in the next couple of weeks!

So that's our enormous to-do list so far. And there's still more rooms to come. Stay tuned!

Do you have a to-do list for your house? How's it going - making progress? Feeling overwhelmed? Bit of both? I'd love you to share!

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