Jan 05

Pirate Party, Aaarg!

by Hannah Holt »


My oldest recently celebrated his golden birthday. He was really excited about the “golden” part. Perhaps I let him get a little too carried away with birthday madness, or maybe I got carried away myself.

But whatever the case, I helped him plan a pirate themed birthday, and it was a lot of fun. Maybe every other year I’ll let him do something like this.

First I let him design his own invitations:

I helped him pick out fonts and colors, but not bad for a seven-year-old, eh?

Then we went to the party supply store, where I accidentally left my budget in the car.

But our games were cheap. We had a pirate obstacle course that included walking the plank [couch], climbing up the crows nest [stairs], going under a pirate cave [the table], and hopping across rocks.

We also had a treasure hunt leading to gold [of the chocolate variety].

We topped off the evening with a pirate ship cake:

Here’s how I made it:

1) A few days before the party, I preprepared two 9×13 inch cakes, wrapped the cooled cakes in plastic wrap, and placed them in the freezer. Freezing cakes doesn’t affect the texture, and it makes them easier to carve. I used this recipe for chocolate cake.

2) The day of the party I placed one of the unwrapped but frozen cakes on a bread board lined with aluminum foil. Then I frosted the top of that cake with butter cream frosting, and topped it with the remaining cake.

3) I used a cardboard cut out as a guide for cutting the boat shape.

4) I used some of the extra pieces of cake to build up the front and back of the ship, like this:

5) Next I tapered the sides of the cake to more resemble a boat.

6) I frosted the outside of the cake in no-cook fudge frosting, added dried butter cream details*, and topped it with a pirate action figure. Fondant would have made a more elegant finish, but I can’t stand the taste of fondant.

7) Finally I rammed three small dowels through the cake and prayed that they would stay up. They did. So I made a few black sails out of construction paper and called it good. {I removed the sails and masts before lighting the candles.}

*This is how you can make dried butter cream details. In hind site, royal icing details would have been easier to work with, but my butter cream details held up.
1) Draw the designs you want {I made porthole windows}, on wax paper. Then make a batch of butter cream frosting.
2) Pipe the frosting onto the designs and let it set for at least a day but preferably two.

3) Using a knife, carefully transfer the dried butter cream details onto the freshly frosted cake.

Jan 02

Printable Thank Yous (with Toys)

by Hannah Holt »


This year I wanted to do something special for my Christmas thank you cards.

After Christmas I took pictures of the gifts we received and fashioned them into cards like this:

You can click on the pictures for a larger image.

I should perhaps explain the nails. This year for Christmas my mother gifted us a few family heirlooms. Among the collection of antiques and nostalgic items were four square nails. This type of nail was common in construction in the early 1800’s. Nails with round heads and shafts weren’t developed until the late 1800’s. So there you have it– four printable thank you cards and a bit of nail trivia for your next cocktail party.

Also, if you are looking for more crafts to do this New Year, I’m running the Twelve Days of Craft-mas on my Facebook Page. Come on over and check out some of the festive crafts we’re doing, including pudding portraits:

Dec 28

DIY: Personalized Journal

by Hannah Holt »


The New Year is almost here. I’m not a resolutionist. Resolutions seem more like ultimatums than goals, and I’m not a big fan of ultimatums.

Instead I try to go with the flow.

Along with my goal setting, I keep a regular but eclectic journal. My journal is part meditations/part shopping list/part brainstorming station.

“Goals that are not written down are just wishes.”

~ Unknown

I like my journal to reflect a bit of me was well. Here’s how you can take a common composition notebook and fancy it up.

What you’ll need:

  • a foam brush
  • Mod Podge glue
  • scissors
  • a composition notebook
  • scrapbook paper

1) Measure and cut your paper to the size of the notebook.

2) Paint glue onto the outside of the notebook.

3) Press the paper onto the notebook, and firm it into place by scraping over the top of the paper with a plastic card.

4) If needed, trim the edges. Let the glue dry completely before using.

Happy (almost) New Year!

Dec 18

Feelings Coloring Pages

by Hannah Holt »


Feelings have been on my mind this weekend. My heart goes out to those in the Newton, Connecticut community. The events from this weekend make me feel heartsick.

When my seven-year-old got off the school bus today, the shooting was the first thing he wanted to talk about. He’s taking it well, but I’m making an extra effort to keep the lines of communication open.

If your child is worried or if he or she just wants to talk about feelings, I put together a few coloring pages:

You can click here for the pdf version of the coloring book or below for the individual jpgs.


I patterned the pages in this coloring book after the different stages of grief.

I also created several “fill in your own feelings” pages:

Here are a few additional resources for helping children through difficult times:

Wherever you are and whatever you are facing, I hope these pages help your children explore their feelings in a safe and nurturing way.

Dec 12

Parties, Persimmons, and Ginger Squares

by Hannah Holt »


Today is one of those fun dates: 12/12/12. It’s even more special for me because I recently turned a score and a dozen years old.

I love birthdays. Well, mostly I love cake. This week I ate plenty of cake, and now I’m in a plenty good mood. Here are some of the highlights from my week:

  • I finished Julie Hedlunds 12×12 challenge.
  • Just over a week ago, I finished Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo challenge.
  • The persimmon tree in my backyard is starting to come into season.
  • Six happy little persimmons were turned into this recipe for cake by Emiko Davies.
  • My cute husband also turned another year older, and later this week we will celebrate our nine year anniversary.
  • My oldest turned seven. I have a seven-year-old!
  • I found my first grey hair, but let’s call it silver.

December is in full swing and that means it’s time to make one of my favorite snacks of the year– ginger squares. It’s basically a recipe for gingerbread people but cut it into squares (and I use whole-wheat flour to feel less guilty about eating them by the fistful).

Ginger Squares

  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp cloves (optional)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ tsp baking soda
  • 3 cups wheat flour, plus more for dusting work surface
  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.

  2. Beat butter and sugar together for two minutes

  3. Add the molasses and eggs, and beat until well combined (it will look a little grainy; that’s okay).

  4. Add the spices to the wet mixture, then the baking soda, and finally the flour. You don’t need to combine the dry ingredients together first. Just add them one at a time to the wet mixture. (I almost never use two bowls when making cookies.)

  5. Mix until combined, and then wrap the dough in plastic wrap and set in the fridge for one hour. The dough will be too sticky to handle if you don’t chill it first.

  6. Roll the dough out on a cutting board until it’s about the thickness of two nickles.

  7. Slice the dough into one-inch squares using a pizza cutter (or sharp knife).

  8. Place the squares at least ¼ inch apart on a greased cookie sheet and bake in the oven for 6-9 minutes. Six minutes will yield a very soft square, while 9 minutes will result in a crunchier cookie. Actual oven temperatures vary. Adjust the time as needed for desired texture.