Halloween Crow Curiosity

This last Quick and Easy Halloween Party Idea is a table top decoration made from a combination of items you might already have around the house.  I made this Crow Curio from a glass dome, styrofoam rounds and tissue paper.

Glass domes are wonderful decorative accents to have for all kinds of events.  They can make a cupcake feel like a treasure or a crow feel like a Victorian curiosity!

I have styrofoam rounds around my house because I use them in prop cakes, this one in particular was once had a life as a Candy Cake.   I first cut a large circle in the tissue paper and taped it to the top of the stack of styrofoam rounds.  To make the fringe, I cut 4″ strips of tissue paper and folded it in half and then cut 1/2 inch fringe through both layers.  I taped the strips in rows from the bottom up and made the tape hidden on the last row.   Give the fringe a bit of a fluff and its ready to be topped with all sorts of creepy curiosities!

My crow sat on a bed of candy corn to break up the black and give a little whimsy but you could fill the dome with spider web and plastic spiders or miniature pumpkins, anything that you already have in you Halloween decorations stash could be featured .

I hope my Quick and Easy Halloween Party Ideas have given you some inspiration for you party this weekend, don’t miss the rest of the posts here:

Black Magic Candy Apples

Easy Halloween Invitation

Happy Halloween!

XOXO NB

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Black Magic Candy Apples

Next up for last minute Quick and Easy Halloween Party Ideas is a twisted classic.  I call them Black Magic Candy Apples.  Candy apples are very easy to make, this was actually my first time doing so and instead of using red food coloring I used black and then dipped the apple in black sanding sugar to give it a spooky magical look.

The apple is setting in a cupcake liner, a black straw is slid down over the wooden craft stick and plastic spider ring finishes off this Halloween treat!

Candy for the apples is made from only 2 ingredients that you probably have in your pantry right now.   You can make this before the kids even get home from school today!

Black Magic Candy Apples by Nikki Berry (adapted from a recipe from Allrecipes.com)

Ingredients

15 apples

2 cups white sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

1 1/2 cups water

8  drops BLACK food coloring

Black sanding sugar

cupcake liners, plastic straws and plastic spiders

Directions

1. Lightly grease cookie sheets or lay out parchment paper on a tray.  Insert craft sticks into apples

2. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine sugar, corn syrup and water. Heat to 300 to 310 degrees F (149 to 154 degrees C), or until a small amount of syrup dropped into cold water forms hard, brittle threads. Remove from heat and stir in food coloring.  (sugar takes about 20 minutes to get this hot, I used the cold water test to check it for readiness)

3. Holding apple by its stick, dip in syrup and remove and turn to coat evenly. While apples are still warm roll them in a shallow bowl of sanding sugar.  Place on prepared sheets or cupcake liners to harden.

4. Add black plastic straws over the craft sticks and black plastic spider rings around the straw.

Have a Happy Halloween!

Don’t miss the other Quick and Easy Halloween Party Ideas:

Halloween Crow Curiosity

Easy Halloween Invitaiton

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Easy Halloween Invitation

It may seem like there isn’t much going on at Nikkiikkin but I have a lot in the works that I’m excited to share very soon!  Right now Im going to squeeze in a few last minute Quick and Easy Halloween Party Idea posts with a decoration or treat that anyone can do!

I have been hand making most of my party invites for more than 10 years, even before I had kidos, we had BIG Halloween and Valentine’s Day parties every year.  While I was digging through our Halloween decorations I came across something that I should have thrown away, but glad I didn’t.  I found the printing process that I created to make one of my favorite Halloween invitations from 2005.  This is pre-photoshop ability for me and it wanted to share it to show that you can make creative invitations for any event without needing knowledge of photoshop or purchasing printables.  You just need a marker, Word and a copy machine!

Here you can see that I literally cut and pasted in my text that I printed from Word.  I drew a simple Halloween silhouette scene (pretty sure I drew this by looking at some other Halloween illustration) and I copied the page onto orange card stock at a kinkos.

What we loved about this invitation it’s that we personalized it to each guest by adding a color photo copy on the back (because my pictures were real pictures from film, not digital) of the guest at a previous party or of our decorated home if we didn’t have a picture of them!

While it might be too late for sending out Halloween invites, there is still time for you to use this same method for tent cards, favor tags and toppers!

Next up in Halloween Party ideas:

Black Magic Candy Apples

Halloween Crow Curiosity

 

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A Tour of the Historic TWA Flight Center

The TWA Flight Center was designed to capture  the spirit of flight.  Completed in 1962, this bird is undoubtedly the most famous architectural work of Eero Saarinen.  Composed of four thin-shell concrete lobes and fully supported by only four piers.  The main lobby’s soaring, swooping walls and sculptural staircases stretch onward until they reach the cavernous ceiling, the beginning becoming its end and the end becoming its beginning again.   Theres no doubt when you see this building that you know it is special, which is why the city of New York designated both the interiors and exteriors a historic landmark in 1994 and has spent 20 million to restore it so far.

“All the curves, all the spaces and elements right down to the shape of the signs, display boards, railings and check-in desks were to be of a matching nature. We wanted passengers passing through the building to experience a fully-designed environment, in which each part arises from another and everything belongs to the same formal world.”—Eero Saarinen, 1959 from Peter Gossel and Gabriele Leuthauser. Architecture in the Twentieth Century. p250

The terminal was in use until 2001, changing hands throughout the years to American Airlines and now Jet Blue. Restoration of the “head house” is now mostly complete and the building is opened up for public and private tours a few times a year.  Hudson and I were fortunate to attend a very intimate tour sponsored by Archtober and AIA last week.  I have over 50 blog worthy photos, its been hard to narrow it down to the very best but here it goes!

I had built up Hudson’s excitement by telling him that we were going to see a building that looks like a spaceship.  He only heard “spaceship” and was very excited to go.  Saarinen did not disappoint this two-year old.  Hudson’s favorite spot was in the sunken red lounge, that is until he discovered the red tubes.  We entered our tour at the original main entrance, unlike the UHNY tour where Jet Blue opens terminal 5 for visitors to enter through the tubes, so unfortunately I could not let Hudson run down them like he wanted too via Catch Me If You Can style.

Hudson modeling for Banana Republic’s fall/winter ads

The upstairs lounge portions of the head house are not restored yet.  Most of my pictures are cringe worthy, so I’m going to spare you the disgust.  Sometime during the during the 80’s and 90’s it was someones grand idea to remodel the lounges with cherry and brass.  Really.  I have also come across photos from the 90’s that show very unsympathetic alterations to the building’s character, such as floor to ceiling drapery on the 30 foot wing windows, ramps over the grand stair entrance and the sunken lounge was leveled!  I don’t know if the photos I’m including are of original lounge furniture and details but they aren’t far off from the feeling that Saarinen used in the rest of the building.  I enjoyed looking for construction elements that we are not allowed to do in American anymore because of our strict building codes.  Besides there only being stairs to the second level, there were other non accessible areas like entry to the back of the grand information desk and narrow doors

I had to rush through the second floors, running out of time and Hudson out of patience (he was really distraught about not being able to run down the red tubes) but I got some great shots of the first floor from up there.

But my favorite photos to take are always of the details, so here’s for all you detail oriented designers!

I also caught two great photos on my way out, these are exterior shots at the front of the building.

As an interior designer I was ecstatic to come across the survey drawings for the restorations by Beyer Blinder Belle Architects, here are 2 of my favorite sheets from the set.

I hope that the restoration continues for the TWA Flight Center and I plan on returning to any tour that I hear about, it is truly an amazon building to visit.

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Filed under Design 101, I heart NY

Baby Shower Cookies

I’ve never really been interested in cookie decoration.  Its only last year that I attempted my first royal icing cookie.  I think one of the reasons is because I never saw many tips online at baking sites, I was probably more focused on cakes though.   I’ve known how to make and use royal icing for a long time, I just never knew the correct recipes for consistency, I experimented until I got it right. And often wasted too much icing doing so.   That is probably why I never craved creating cookies with it, I found it very frustrating and draining to make two batches of icing: one to outline, one to flood.  Besides, I don’t have a very steady or a strong hand for piping bags, which is why I leaned toward fondant as my medium.

I often come across beautiful cookies on Pinterest and finally realized that many of them come from a site called Sweetopia.  I just recently browsed around the site and came across the best royal icing tips ever.   First off the number one royal icing to work with is this:

image via Sweetopia

Next I have tested out the method to beat all methods for getting the consistency right for the icing. (watch Sweetopia’s video on consistency HERE) Its a 10 second test in which the icing should self heal to smoothness after you run a knife across the batch still in the bowl.  Too long to heal and its too thick, too short, too thin.  Then using a #2 Wilton tip you can outline and fill in immediately using the same icing.  Give the cookie a little jiggle and its done.  No excessive waiting, no double batches of each color. After the icing field dries overnight you are ready to pipe with that same icing.  To pipe intricate lines, Sweetopia likes to use a kopykake projector to outline any image flawlessly (watch her draw the Eiffel Tower HERE).  I do not have this projector, but it would be nice if I did!

So the last set of cookies I made to celebrate a friend having a new baby girl I used Sweetopia’s methods and tips.   While I still see room for improvement on my cookie style and technique I definitely improved my time efficiency and found the decorating to be easier and most of all enjoyable!

I choose to do a mixture of baby related cookies but I didn’t buy any new cutters.  I got innovative with a few cutters I already had. The bib is a scalloped circle with a notch cut from it and the baby shoe is a pumpkin cutter!  Macy actually figured out that the pumpkin could be turned sideways to look like a shoe and buckle.

The baby face took some time with the layers, I think I could streamline the face and background into one layer next time.  My favorite cookie was the chenille teddy bear. I’ve used Wilton tip #233 for fur before on my Where the Wild Things Are cookies, but as I started to give this teddy bear fur the icing formed more what I thought looked like a chenille fabric.  He’s sorta that messy perfection that I love about using tip #233.  After the fur is dry I flooded drops for the ears, hands, feet nose and eyes. The teddy’s bow was pipped on wax paper and dried before placing on the fur.

I wanted to give the new brothers their own special cookies and I let Macy pipe and decorate these all by herself.  Proof that if a 10 year old can decorate cookies with these tips & methods than anyone can!

Rocket ship cookies decorated by Macy!

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Happy Fall Ya’ll

Traditionally, celebrations in autumn are associated with harvests and country life.  Maybe its just how we see it, but it seems like that country life is stereotyped as Southern culture. “Happy Fall Ya’ll!”  is not a phrase we hear in New York, but in the South its on nearly every front door wreath during September and October.    We still embrace our Tennessee roots and instinctively have the need to get away from the city every now and then.  Luckily, just about an hour outside of the hustle and bustle, in any direct you drive, there is farm and country.  Today we took the kiddos to a farm in Long Island called White Post Farms.

 Even at $15 per person, (plus extra for pony rides, train rides, sheep food, bird food, etc) I thought this farm was wonderful and would recommend it to other parents. We spent nearly 3 hours there and our kids had a great time petting animals, bouncing on air bouncers, riding a hay ride, picking out pumpkins and playing in storybook play houses.

While we are thankful that there is somewhere nearby to let our city kids experience animals and “farm life” we can’t help but joke about this faux farm experience. It sorta pains us to pay for our kids to have experiences that back in Tennessee we can enjoy in a much more realistic way.  I’d like to share one of the favorites we like to mock.

Here are my kidos petting goats at the petting farm in New York:

And here are my kidos petting goats on their Grandmother’s farm in Tennessee:

See the difference?  I hope they do too.  It’s important to us to make sure our city kids get back to their roots at least once a year.  Next summer Macy might even go to Tennessee for the entire summer!  And while she is there, there will be plenty of family farms to visit, all kinds of animals to feed without the fences and she can practice saying “Ya’ll” like a true southerner.

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DIY Maps on Closet Doors

Maps are nostalgic.  They take us back to a time and most definitely a place: a city that you visited, were born in or went to college in.  We all can relate some part of our life to a map.   I used to hang souvenir maps of amusement parks on my wall as a teenager.  I relived and dreamed about my trips to Disney World, Cedar Point and Sea World.  When I was designing Hudson’s nursery we made sure to include a map of New York City, the Hudson River being his namesake.

Wanting to take NYC maps in our decor to the next level, I decided to wallpaper the closet doors in the childrens’ room with MTA maps.  These are the easy to get, free maps of our subway system in New York City.  All you have to do is ask a MTA booth attendant for one.  So over the course of a few months  I randomly asked for them until I had about 6 or 7 maps.

To hang the maps on the doors I had some criteria, the most important being that it had to be removable with no damage.  The maps also needed to withstand wear and tear that a 2 year old can inflict on it.

I bounced ideas off of my DIY and interior design friends and several ideas came up.  One was to mod podge the maps to canvas sheets and wrap the doors with the canvas.  This was a great inexpensive idea because rolls of canvas for framing doesnt cost much but I wanted something that would be more durable.

The next idea was combining the maps with clear contact paper, the drawer liner type.  This idea stuck with me but I had many questions about how the end result would look.  Contact paper only comes in 24″ width rolls so that meant that there would be a seam.  Would the seam show?  Is clear contact paper really clear?

I decided to go with the contact paper idea because a single roll of supermarket contact paper could cover 2 closet doors and this project was only going to cost me $6!

Then I sat wondering how I would hang it.  Would I roll out the contact paper sticky side up and arrange the maps on it first, then hang it like real wallpaper?  Or do I tape the maps to the door and then cover it with the contact paper?  I went with the latter.  I sparingly used double stick tape to stick random sizes and shapes cut from the MTA maps on the door. Then I covered it with full sheets of contact paper leaving extra at the top and bottom to wrap around to the back of the door.  The side of the doors where they meet each other also needed to wrap to the back, but I didn’t need to wrap on the hinge side.  Ensuring the contact paper wrapped to the back of the door was an important part.  The contact paper will surely peel if it stops at the edge of the door or on the side of the door.

So did the seams show?  Nope!  Is the clear contact paper truly clear?  YES!  I was prepared to except that the image would be hazy or blurred from the transparent looking vinyl but it wasn’t, it was just as clear as without.

As an after thought and bonus I realized that this vinyl surface could be written on with dry eraser markers.  I haven’t let Hudson do it yet, but I think that he will have fun drawing out a path on the maps or marking up sites he’s been too.  Macy has also used the maps as a quick reference as we were heading out the door and discussing which train to take.  She’s been riding the rails for 6 years now but she is just now interested in knowing how to get around, not that she will be going anywhere alone until she’s like 20.

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Filed under NBID, Paper + Fabric

NYC Art and Design Events in October

Hooray for the cooler weather!  Im a fall & winter person.  Im even happy about rainy days.  The end of September in NYC always brings excitement for this weather along with our favorite month, October.  We love Halloween, its our favorite holiday to decorate, celebrate and dress up.  This year I have a lot of other plans in October that aren’t Halloween related, they are art related!

The biggest of the events is Archtober,  Architecture and Design Month in NYC presented by Dwell Magazine and New York Magazine.  Everyday during month of October there are architectural tours, lectures and exhibitions, most of the are free too!  As soon as I received the guide I sat down and ordered all the tickets to events like a tour of TWA Flight Center, Diane von Furstenberg Studio Headquarters, Gracie Mansion, a lecture by Christo and an architectural boat tour of NYC.

TWA Flight Center

Gracie Mansion

DVF Studio Headquarters

Wrapped Reichstag, Berlin – 1995 Christo
Photo: Wolfgang Volz

City Modern is also presented by Dwell Magazine, New York Magazine and Audi in October, its a week long celebration of New York design and is focused around Modern home tours in Manahttan and Brooklyn.  The home tours require a ticket purchase but I have volunteered to be a guide at one of the homes so I am excited to get more of an inside view of the events.

We just stumbled upon this next exhibition and I have to say that I think Im most excited about it.  The Public Art Fund is presenting a birds eye view of the Columbus monument in Columbus Circle. ‘Discovering Columbus’ is an installation that had me galking at the once in a lifetime opportunity to see.  Scaffolding has been built around the monument and a full on living room is surrounding  the 13 foot Mr Columbus.  Tickets are free and timed and you must be able to climb the 6 flights of stairs to get to it.

russo’s sculpture before being built into his impermanent home
image by jesse hamerman, courtesy public art fund, ny

Discovering Columbus, a living room atop Columbus Circle Monument
Photo: Justin Lane/EPA

‘discovering columbus’ by tatzu nishi, 2012
image by tom powel
image courtesy of the public art fund, ny

Lastly, we plan to squeeze into the month of October a visit to the MOMA to see Edvard Munch’s 1895 version of “The Scream”.  Which became the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction at Sotherby’s in May, it went for nearly $120 million!  This is the only version of the 4 paintings by Munch that is in private hands and its has never been shown publicly in New York before.  It goes on viewing on October 24th for 6 months.

Munch Museum/Munch-Ellingsen Group/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Munch’s 1895 “Scream” will temporarily be at the MOMA

All that and Halloween to celebrate!  I look forward to posting updates as I experience all of these art and design events!

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Pink & Gold Cake and Backdrop

This precious pink and gold cake was for my daughter Macy on her 10th birthday.  No matter when her birthday party takes place I always make another cake for us to celebrate together on her real birth day.  I had an itching to create a little more for this cake because I wanted to experiment with some backdrop ideas.

First off, the cake had a special importance to me.  The porcelain birthday doll on top was the same doll that my mom put on top of my 10th birthday cake.  Inspired by the pink and gold, I then designed the cake around that doll.  If you’re wondering why it has two different looks, it’s because as I was assembling the cake I thought that it was also pretty as a single ruffled tier without the extra flower and tier so I took some picture of it like that.

I try to experiment with each opportunity I get to make a cake.  This was my first ruffled cake, I thought the process was easy enough.  My technique was a mixture of pinching and folding and I made each band of ruffles in 2 sections to circle this 8″ cake.  I am just beginning my love affair with gold luster dust.  I want to use it on everything ever since I made these Tea Party Toppers.  I probably would have used it even if it wasn’t an accent on the porcelain doll.  This fondant flower is styled like a fabric brooch and has been popular in my Etsy Shop, I make it in several sizes and any color to be used on cupcakes or a cake.

For the grande finale I put it all together with a few homemade garlands and tissue paper backdrop.  I wanted to make a backdrop with minimal effort and cost but still eye catching.  I popped into a Party City and spent less than $20 for this backdrop and assembling it took about an hour because I created all of it from scratch.  The wall and tabletop are covered in plain old gift tissue paper, layered for color depth and for an imperfect look.

Macy and I  assembled the pom-pom garland using a bag of metallic gift shred.  I know it sounds crazy to think about creating each pom with single strands but I knew that I needed less than 10 poms and a small bag of shred was only $3.  It took about 30 minutes to gather and tape the top of all the poms.  Then I threaded fishing line through the tape with a needle.

The glitter ball garland started as a prepackaged set of glittered sphere decorations in the wedding section at Party City.  I thought it was a good price at $8 but I could have also purchased a solar system styrofoam ball set and rolled them in glue and glitter to make my own.  I threaded them with fishing line and a needle too.

The last garland is gumballs.  Ive been experimenting with gumball necklaces lately and although I like the idea and the look of gumball strands, they are a bit of a pain to work with.  I’ve found that the quickest and most efficient way to make the hole is to drill it, but even then its messy and still takes a great effort.

After all the garlands were done I simply used tacks pushed in the drywall to hang.  Getting a balance in swag shape was the hardest part.  The gumball garland is pretty heavy too and fell a few times.  Whenever I use them again I will use temporary hooks from 3M.

There she is Miss Macy Berry, 10 years old!

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OH Emma!

Image

Emma Belle Brown

 

I have a 4 year old niece that I adore.  This week she is staying with us while my sister and brother-in-law enjoy a late honeymoon cruise to Bermuda.  Yesterday was the first full day of Emmapoloza and my husband and I were so worn out we went to bed before 10 pm.  Its not that Emma alone is a handful, well she sorta is a drama queen, its that she is smack dab in the middle of Macy age 10 and Hudson age 2.5.  So she plays well and fights well with both of them in different ways.  We have lots of activities planned for her stay but I think the best activity is simply to wear them out at the playground.  At least then they will go to bed easily and maybe even early!  

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WAIT JES!! I think I can get her to the boat from here!

 

Photo by my fabulous sister Jes Brown at www.capturedbyjes.blogspot.com

Dress by the fabulous Michelle at www.daydreambelievers.net

 

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A Ballet Journey Begins

Macy Berry’s ballet shoes

Yesterday Macy’s dancewear arrived.  Nothing in the order was out of the ordinary, except the amount.  Never have we had to order so many leotards and tights for one year of ballet.  It’s a small symbolic moment to compare the move she is making from dancing 1 hour a week to 6 hours a week.   I studied her little ballet slippers this morning, thinking about how much wear and tear they will soon be receiving.  This is our last lazy weekend, next Wednesday Macy will start her classes at School of American Ballet.  We enthusiastically anticipate this new journey and I look forward sharing our joy and stories with you all!

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Filed under The Chic Tween

Toddler By Design – part two

 

I love modern childrens’ furniture.  Its a trend in juvenile products that has caught on like wildfire.  But the funny thing is, most of the popular modern pieces are reissued mid-century designs.  Something fabulous and unforgettable was happening in the 50’s.   My second child Hudson is my modern child,  I happily splurge on designer furniture for him that is a fraction of the size and cost as the originals.   My inner child lives vicariously on those indulgences without sacrificing my adult decor style.  I’ve already featured my son’s bedrooms as he progress from Nursery to Toddler, and along with a toddler comes (lots of) toys and play spaces.  Here is how I live happily with ours.

Part 2 – Play Area

While his bed and dresser are in the bedroom, Hudson’s toy box, table and chairs are in the living room.  He drags all the toys out there anyway so I decided not to squeeze them into the shared bedroom.  There’s a funny little family story about how I’ve been on the hunt for a coffee table for a few years.  With transitions in our life, moves and changes in spaces, I finally thought I was ready to pick something.  Then Hudson needed a play table and pouf!  I gained a “coffee table”, at least is looks good in my living room!

Hudson’s play area may intrude on our living room space, but I’m happy with the modern childrens’ furniture that I get to add to my collection.  Like little works of art, the Eames Elephant and Panton Junior chairs are not just pleasing on my eye, their colorful, sculptural and nearly indestructible construction are perfect for my son’s rambunctious pretend play. And like all of our polypropylene furniture, they clean up like brand new with a Mr Clean Magic Eraser.

Modern childrens’ furniture isn’t cheap.  You have to appreciate that you are paying for the design to justify buying it.  I’m a big advocate of buying licensed design products, I don’t buy knockoffs, its sorta a professional courtesy.   That doesn’t mean that I think there aren’t great designs out there without a big name designer name attached to it.  Target and Ikea are excellent companies cranking out modern and on trend products.  Hudson’s toy box is from Ikea and his table is from Target and they all look perfect together.  We also pick up more expensive items one at a time.  Obviously the pink Panton Junior chair is Macy’s, so we’ve had it for a few years.  Hudson got the orange one for christmas and the elephant for his birthday.

My kidos love building blocks, this natural wood set from Melissa and Doug, sits out in a wire basket (from Moon River Chattel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn) ready to be made into an architecural masterpiece on a whim.

So there are “toy box people” and there are “cubby box people”.  I was once a “cubby box mom”, all of Macy’s toys were housed in cute little pink wooden boxes that sat on a shelving unit.  I would stress over the collections being separated properly and spend way to much time organizing it all.  I got over that and LOVE throwing all of Hudson’s  toys in the toy box now.  But it doesn’t mean that its completely an unorganized mess.  The majority of the childrens’ bedroom closet is shelving designated for board games, playsets and a few cubbies. And within the toy box, I came up with a solution to keep collections like cars, puzzle pieces, block sets & Schleich animals grouped for easy play.  I reuse the cloth pull string bags that sheets and other home items are packaged in for a few of those popular toys…..and then I toss them in the toy box, done!

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Put A Bird On It – BIRDday Cake & Cupcakes

A few weeks ago my cake decorating skills were out shined by my 10 year old daughter.  It’s not hard to believe that being surrounded by my crafts and cakes for years that she would pick up a few tricks.  Of course I’m actually very proud of her and happy to share her creations, that I promise I didn’t suggest, influence or implement her cupcake designs below.

So here is the cake I made a few weeks ago for a dear friend.  The request was a sparrow.   A simple silhouette on a 6″ cake is easy to make for a small group of friends getting together for dinner.  I love to use the FMM letter cutters for my name plates.

After I finished the cake, we craved some cupcakes so Macy mixed and loaded the cups, I don’t allow her to work with the oven so I did that.  The icing was already colored blue from my cake so she had to work with that color but she pipped the cupcakes.   She told me she was going to make fondant birds for them and I left the kitchen to her.  I came back to see that she made these adorable molded birds, eggs and nests!  The colors were perfect, so cheerful and modern!  Beautiful work and consistency on each topper.  Best of all she enjoyed doing it and that’s what makes me happiest.

I’d like to give credit to my husband and friend Jenn for the title of this post.  Its an inside joke but also describes these cakes perfectly :)

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Toddler By Design – part one

Preschool of Art rendering by Nikki Berry

Just shy of 10 years ago there was a major shift in my personal design style.  After beginning design school and absorbing knowledge of design theory like a sponge, I had a gravitational pull toward modern design, especially design that spoke of a child’s delight.  My design school projects always leaned toward fanciful and whimsy, my biggest dream was to design interiors for Disney.  As I developed my senior thesis on symbolism and a child’s built environment I was inspired by Post Modernism, Maria Montessori and the grand idea that arose to create Kindergarden for children.  I would have benefited significantly to have seen the MOMA’s latest exhibition: Century of the Child, as scraping together resources for my thesis research was tough.   But my intelllectual design voice was understood and my senior project that bloomed from it was a gorgeous, modern Preschool of Art.  It was 2005 and the boom of modern children’s product had not yet taken off.  But with sources like Design Within Reach’s children’s store JAX, The MOMA store, Kido, Modernseed and Vitra my modern preschool was well furnished and flowed with symbolic references that would appeal to the child in all of us.  Little did the jury panel know, I was really just nesting for my next child.

Part 1 – Bedroom

My daughter Macy, now 10 years old, is an old soul.  Her style has always been more traditional.  She might have been a Victorian they way she likes to collect tchotchkes. So when my design style changed to modern I used the birth of my second child Hudson, now 2.5, as a reason to buy all the reissued mid-century childrens’ furniture and toys that I really wanted for myself. Giraud, Eames, Panton, Nelson and new comers Stark, Ouef, & Dwell Studio are high on my radar for Modern children’s design.  All of their products work in harmony in a home like mine where I collect mid century  and modern furniture and color is always welcome.  Where form is the priority and the history behind a piece always the price tag.  Items like the Panton Jr chairs and Eames Elephant will never be packed up and stored away when my children are older.  They are pieces of art to me.

I’d like to share how my toddler design collection is coming along.  I have already shared Hudson’s Nursery HERE.  Its a big hit on Pinterest and one of my most popular posts.  He and Macy share a room in our Brooklyn apartment, these pictures are only of his spaces.

Hudson’s side of the bedroom is in transition right now, its sort of an in-between phase for him.  While he’s done with a “nursery look”, the main components of his room aren’t ready to be replaced yet.  His Ouef Sparrow crib will soon convert to a toddler bed and he will continue with grey, green and aqua colors but I have changed out some smaller details to update his Nursery into Toddler room.  Later on I have I have ideas for a navy and orange room with bunk beds for his young boy bedroom.

Hudson’s Oliver the Owl nursery was inspired by the Dwell Studio Owl bedding. So now that his bumper and matching quilt are phased out I could work in the sheeting from the Dwell Studio collection.  We’ve also begun picking up softgoods, like the navy Star Wars pillow by Pottery Barn Kids, that we know will transition to his young boy bedroom.

We adore maps, especially the NYC MTA maps, making them art for the room was an easy addition. I just completed this awesome DIY wallcovering on the closet doors in the childrens’ room.  Look for a post on that soon.

Since I added plenty of map graphics in the room we replaced the framed vintage subway map with a circus letterpress print we pick up on a trip home to Nashville from the legendary Hatch Show Print.

We love books!  We started collection our favorite childhood classics even before we had children.  The wide window sills in the bedroom make for an easy book shelf and I used an Ikea Lack wall shelf that we no longer used as a color pop and platform to display the books.  The canvas art is my creation along with the Arctic Friends painting.  The Blue Brooklyn Brownstones illustration is from Claudia Pearson.

Im not done yet!  Check back in later for the second part of Hudson’s toddler spaces: the play area.

 

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Candy Party Cake and Invitations

For my daughters 10th birthday we celebrated at Dylan’s Candy Bar in New York City.  The party is all-inclusive but the cake and invitations included were not my style so I made my own.

My candy cake was inspired by the signature cakes that Dylan’s Candy Bar uses in photo spreads and displays in the store.

The striped second tier was the most tedious to decorate.  Each fondant stripe was cut to a taper as it wrapped the top of the cake, making a beautiful color wheel.  The top-tier mimicked a strip of nostalgic candy buttons and was topped with real lollipops.

Each sweet guest was sent a custom candy invitation that included a real candy necklace.  See my post on making these candy invitations HERE.

Also pictured is a gumball necklace that my daughter made and wore at her party.  I’ll be posting my methods and tips on making those soon!

To see how the party at Dylan’s Candy Bar turned out click HERE!

Like the cake?  It can be yours!  I am now offering a made to order Faux / Prop Candy Cake in my Etsy shop.  She the listing HERE!

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Macy’s 10th Birthday Party at Dylan’s Candy Bar

Macy Berry ready for her Dylan’s Candy Bar Party

On the last Saturday of the school year, my daughter celebrated her tenth birthday at Dylan’s Candy Bar in Manhattan.  It was a birthday wish that we promised her 2 years prior, when we weren’t even living in NYC.  Longing so much to get back to New York, we had a very long wish list of sites and to-dos that we promised ourselves we would never take for granted again.  As Macy’s tenth birthday approached she didn’t let us forget that she was due this dream party.

Dylan Lauren, the daughter of Ralph Lauren, opened this candy emporium in 2001.  Inspired by Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and a life long love of sweets it was her dream to open a candy store.  The original NYC location expanded in 2008 and is now 3 floors of sugar and wonderment for the eye.  A visit to the store is like walking around a real Candyland game board. It is hands down my favorite interior designed space…..well besides all of Disney World and Disneyland.  It just makes me happy to be there.  I don’t even have to leave with pounds of candy, but I always do.

 

nikkiikkin dylans candy bar invite 3

See how I made the candy invite HERE

We first moved to NYC in 2006  just a week before Macy’s fourth birthday.  We took her to Dylan’s on her birthday to celebrate.  From then on she was hooked (and yes she has the Barbie doll).  We never tire of it being a must-do on our list when we have guests in town and all of our friends are just as crazy about going as we are.   So when we decided to host Macy’s tenth birthday party at Dylan’s we extended the guest list to friends and family back home in Tennessee (as if they needed a reason to make a trip to NYC!) And we were overwhelmed with excitement when 3 of our extended families mod podge themselves into a large collaborative group on a mission to celebrate  a “Decade of Macy” with us.

Sweets Party at Dylan’s Candy Bar

Dylan’s Candy Bar has a special events room that is located on the top floor just off of the cafe.  When you book a general party there you choose between 3 types of parties packages that are all-inclusive.  One type is just for 1,2&3 year olds, one type is for 21 & up and the third is for anyone 4 to 20 years old.  Invitation, cake, pizza, drinks, favors, games, craft, decorations, guest of honor gift & lots and lots of sweets are all included in the party packages.  And of course the sky is the limit on add-ons.  The party coordinator was very easy to work with and even granted my out of the ordinary request of a signed copy of Dylan’s book and having one of their giant signature prop cakes in the room.

My parties are always very hands on….meaning my hands are what create everything from the invite, cake, food, favors, crafts & decorations.  It was hard for me to let go of this responsibility that brings me so much joy.  By booking an all-inclusive party there was no need for me to do a thing except show up with the birthday girl.  But I couldn’t really stop myself, while the included invitation and cake are both very nice, they were not my style.  So I made custom invitations that included a candy necklace for the lucky guest.  Not wanting to waste Dylan’s yummy cake, I made a dummy cake inspired by the gorgeous signature cakes that Dylan’s uses in magazine spreads and then displays in the store.(Here & Here & Here)   My cake was smaller than the original cake and there was only one reason I made it: to use as a photo prop!  I took a picture of each guest at the party holding the cake and we gave them the picture in their thank you cards.  It was funny to watch the girls timidly hold the cake thinking that it was heavy or that they would hurt it.

Candy Cake by Nikki Berry

Hudson says: “I’m gonna touch the cake!”

First up on the party schedule was the craft, out of a list of candy related crafts Macy choose the gumball machine decorating.  The girls took home a 12″ machine full of  gumballs and decorated with stickers.

After pizza, the girls played Macy’s chosen sweets games: cupcake walk and freeze dance, which the winning guests received a boxed cupcake to take home.

Cupcake walk

Although the girls were surrounded by candy on the tables they were probably most excited to do the candy spree.  As their party favor each guest received a bucket to fill with whatever candy would fit from the hundreds of choices of confections on the main floor.  To build up the excitement the party directors marched the girls through the store chanting “CANDY!, CANDY!, CANDY!”  it was quite the experience!

Candy Spree at Dylan’s Candy Bar

Not only did the party include 3 very helpful party staff but at the door to the event room Macy had her very own security guard to keep out the paparazzi and we actually noticed several party crasher attempts!
Finally after the craft, game, pizza, & candy spree we sang Happy Birthday and ate cake.  I added-on extra cupcakes to our package to send parents and siblings home with a treat.

Cake by Dylan’s Candy Bar

Happy Birthday Macy!

Partially due to fun music played the entire time the party went on and a lot due to the sugar high everyone had, Macy’s party was full of happiness and energy!    I never repeat party themes but I think we could repeat a party at Dylan’s Candy Bar…..maybe a SWEET 16?

Candy Cake by Nikki Berry

Macy having fun with her Candy Cake

Like the cake?  It can be yours!  I am now offering a made to order Faux / Prop Candy Cake in my Etsy shop.  She the listing HERE!

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Lego Pirate Cake

Lego Pirate Cake

I have held this cake post hostage for 5 months.  Im not sure why I have taken so long to post it, its one of my favorite cakes ever!  This Lego Pirate cake is a real eyeful.  Its design is four-sided and has so much detail to find on each turn it was hard not to be click heavy with my camera.

This cake was for a cute little boy, Will, that lives down the hall from me and is a playmate of my son’s.  His mom, Nicole is a super chic lady.   When we sat down to together to discuss the cake we instantly clicked and the ideas flowed easily.   I squeezed all of those ideas into this little cake and think its one of the best original cakes I’ve ever executed.  The party theme morphed from just pirate to Lego Pirate after Nicole’s husband designed a Lego Pirate invitation for the party.  I instantly knew that I wanted to do a peel away Lego wall on the cake, its a cake design that I’ve always thought was whimsical and fascinating for little kids to see, as it looks like the cake is made from Legos and the sugar covering is peeling off.  Sometimes its paired with a construction theme and it looks like the Lego Men are constructing the cake.   I also knew that Im not the type of cake artist that needs to recreate what is readily available to feel that my cake is successful.  I had no intentions to make Lego Men or Lego Blocks when my design called for true to scale anyway.

This cake is full of pirate elements like a treasure map, gold coins and pirate ship.  The design was really about mixing all those elements together and balancing the colors and pieces.  Each side is a little scene.  With the back being the most surprising, the fondant is peeled away to suggest that the cake is made from a pirates booty of Lego Bricks.  Heavily guarded by Lego Pirates the bricks take on a sense of treasure themselves.

By using real Lego Men and Lego Bricks I made it a little easy on myself in the details.  But Im never one to take the easy road, I enjoy a challenge and put a lot of work into creating more elements on a cake than I typically would.  The treasure map dashes around the second tier to locations that include a parrot, anchor and finally the infamous red X.

One of the biggest obstacles I face on cakes is coming up with innovate ways to create an element. While its easy to just mold a large hunk of fondant into something, I wanted the treasure chest and pirate ship to be delicious too. Both are made from Little Debbie brownies.  I needed to make those pieces quickly and I wanted them to be sturdy.  The Little Debbies molded like play doh in my hands and the fondant laid on smooth and effortless.  I think it was a better base to work with than rice crispy treats.  At the party I knew they were a big hit when all the children tried to claim them as their cake piece.

My daughter being 10 years old and my son being only 2, I have a lot more experience doing girl themed cakes.  I surprised myself on how much I really enjoyed creating this cake.  Boy themes are growing on me!  This cake could easily be created for a pirate party without the Lego theme.  Just imagine a skull and bones as the flat topper and remove all the Lego toys.

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All My Duck Cookies In A Row

I recently received my biggest cookie order to date. I made 100 cookies for Joffrey Ballet School for their  gifts to the dancers after the spring recital.

Duck shaped sugar cookie with royal icing piping

I would have never guessed that sourcing a duck cookie cutter would be hard in NYC.   But I went to more than 6 bakery, party or home goods stores (by foot and train) to locate a simple duck cookie that I know existed online but I didn’t have time to have shipped on short notice.  I finally found a suitable cutter, not the one I really wanted but it worked out fine, more than fine the ducks looked great!

100 duck cookies

I really enjoyed making this large order of cookies, its seems like it doesn’t matter if its 10 cookies or 100 cookies, once you get all the ingredients out, the oven is hot and you have taken the kitchen over anyway, might as well make 100 cookies!  Its think that 100 cookies might be all the space my kitchen has for each round, it’s a good thing my table is an expandable.

After piping I added a quick brush of luster dust for sparkle and each duck was package in a favor bag with blue crinkle gift filler.   Of course all the girls loved them, they were delicious & fresh, (baked just 2 days before the recital), as well as cute.  And best of all Macy was proud to let everyone know that her mom had made them.

 

Macy Berry and her duck cookie

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Do You Know Vera?

Vera Neumann

No not Wang or Bradley.  Neumann.  Ive been in love with her prints for half a dozen years but only until recently did I figure out who she was.  The first time I came across her signature logo was at an old dusty dress shop on a town square in the middle of no where Tennessee.  My friends and I were antiquing and came across scarves and napkins.   We saw potential in the beautiful patterns to become pillows.   I was curious from the beginning about who Vera was but in my initial internet search many years ago there was nothing that gave me any knowledge about the person or company that illustrated these colorful patterns.

As the sewer of the group, I took home everyones Vera treasures to turn into pillows.  But I hung on to my set of napkins afraid to break them up until I knew who Vera was.  My napkins were pink tulips in various completed illustrated stages, some line drawings, some painted.  Being that they were pink and I had a 3 year old little girl at the time I gave them to her to use in her dress up and pretend play.  They were often set at her tea table or wrapped as blankets around her stuffed animals.

The first set of pillows I made for my friends were scarves in brown polka dot and floral patterns on cream backgrounds.  I sewed ice blue satin to the back being very careful not to cut the scarf incase we wanted ever wanted to take apart the pillow and reclaim it.    I loved them so much, it was hard to send them to her because they also matched my Dwell Studio bedding at the time.

Vera Neumann Scarves made into pillows

The third Vera treasure moved around with me from Tennessee to New York to North Carolina and back to New York again.  It was a larger scarf in two shades of springy green with polka dots and a center circle design.

Vera Neumann scarf

Then it was in New York this spring that I ran across a book about Vera Neumann.  Eureka!! I had finally found Vera!

Vera: The Art and Life of an Icon

image via: craftycookups.blogspot

Excitedly I searched and found so much information from recent product launches with Crate and Barrel, MAC cosmetics and Anthropologie to blogposts celebrating her endless illustrations, Etsy sellers crafting with the linens and information on her company history, which is still very much active.  Here is an excerpt from The Vera Company website:

“The Vera Company owns the extensive library of prints, original artwork, scarves, and the trademarks and copyrights of the late, iconic American artist, Vera Neumann. Vera was a pioneer in design who successfully cross-licensed her designs into linens, scarves and sportswear. Her company began at her kitchen table in 1947 and grew into a multi-million dollar international business. All Vera products started as original pieces of art from her own hand and sported the distinctive Vera signature (often with a ladybug) trademark. After years of being dormant, the beloved Vera brand is back and is experiencing a resurgence among old and new fans alike – for once you know Vera, you adore her.”

Between the 40’s through her death in 1993, with several company changes, Vera designed everything from wallpaper, bedding, table linens to dresses, blouses and her signature scarves.  All signed with her name and sometimes with a ladybug.  8,000 of her designs are copyrighted in the Library of Congress.  With so many works of art designed over a span of 50 years a Vera original can pop up anywhere.  An iconic Vera scarf was all Marilyn Monroe wore in her famous “Last Sitting” shoot in 1962 by Bert Stern.

Marilyn Monroe in Vera Neumann scarf

So I missed the boat on the Anthropolgie products released in 2009, the collection was called We Love Vera.  Apparently it happened during the month that I moved from New York to North Carolina.  So I see how I missed that,  I really wasn’t out shopping while I moved my family across the country and I guess my catalog wasn’t forwarded either.  Design* Sponge gave an excellent report on the launch here.

We Love Vera dress Anthropolgie 2009

We Love Vera skirt Anthropolgie 2009

We Love Vera dress Anthropolgie 2009

We Love Vera skirt Anthropolgie 2009

I also missed the MAC Cosmetics launch, but some products are still available online here.  The embossed “scarf” corner of the face powder is a perfect design element to represent The Vera Company.  Here is a good blog post on the rest of the collection (BTW this blog author gives EXCELLENT make-up tutorials on YouTube, I just realized she the same girl who taught me how to apply my Red Queen halloween make up).

MAC cosmetics Vera Collection face powder

But I did NOT miss the Crate and Barrel launch of dish towels and aprons.  Mainly because I receive the CB catalog every few weeks and I had already learned about Vera from the book.  So she was in my radar now.  I picked up a few dishtowels (the ones pictured below) and they go nicely with my green backsplash and orange Air Chairs.

After getting excited about discovering the beauty of Vera I realized I still owed my friend a pillow from the scarf that moved around with me for half a dozen years.  I turned that green dotted scarf into a large euro size pillow with luscious white silk envelope back.

Vera Neumann vintage scarf pillow

Vera Neumann vintage scarf pillow

Vera Neumann vintage scarf pillow

So now you know Vera and next time you are out vintage shopping or maybe just at the mall, pick up some brightly colored works of art and start your own collection.

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Hello Kitty Cake

Hello Kitty Cake

Just a short but sweet post to show off a cute little cake I made for a dear friend.  This 6 inch 2 layer cake is the purrrfect size for a small get together with friends to celebrate a birthday.   For this one I used a white cake mix with  1/3 of the batter set aside and mixed with dry strawberry jello.  Then I poured the strawberry flavored batter in the pan already filled with plain white batter.  This gives it a bullseye of strawberry and a surprise when it is cut.  The icing is cream cheese icing  and all the pink piping and dots are also colored from a little bit of dry strawberry jello.  The strawberry jello made it a beautiful pink color that has an orangish tone.

Hello Kitty Cake

Creating a flat fondant topper like this is super easy.  Just find the images online.  Scale the internet window to the correct size and lightly trace the image on to paper.  Then use the paper as a template to cut out the topper in fondant.

Enjoy!

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