Take a Hike – How I Made a Sloped Birthday Cake

Turns out I had to come up with my own plan for this hiking theme cake. I searched and searched for ideas. I have some on my Hiking Party Board, but nothing was going to work with the time available and I didn’t need 30 people worth of cake. In addition to that, I made a camping theme cake several years ago for the same kid, so I wanted it to be different. (aka no tents)

Hiking Trail Cake -- Easy Hiking Theme Birthday on a Budget

As I mentioned earlier this week, the end of July we spent with our oldest daughter in the hospital, leaving very little time for preparing for this birthday. I made the cake (from a box mix) the night before, but I set the temperature wrong and it turned out dry. This set me behind. Usually I freeze the cakes before assembling and frosting them, but after our birthday breakfast we made a new cake (thankfully we had a back up box of cake mix!) and set it to cool on the counter.

First of all, I baked the cake with these even-bake strips from Wilton. They help the cake to rise more evenly. After lunch I was ready to begin frosting the cake. I leveled my cake layers like this (a great video about leveling and frosting cake layers.) I set the tops off to the side to be used later (I had to guard them well as there were several children floating around looking for scraps. )

Frosting the layers was little trickier since they weren’t frozen, but it worked. I did something different for me this time and used a piping bag to pipe the frosting between the layers. (Here is another great video about frosting cakes.) Piping it on helped greatly since the cake wasn’t frozen and was apt to fall apart as I spread. I’m still not great at all the techniques of cake decorating, but I’m having fun learning with each new birthday. πŸ™‚

The Layers

[Ack! There are no pictures of the process. Time was short and I was working as fast as I could to get done in time for an early dinner and celebration. But I’ve drawn pictures for you… I hope they help!]

One of the cakes was falling apart on one side (whether this happened coming out of the pan or with the help of one of my smaller children is undecided). It worked out though, because I used that spot, after the second layer was on, to cut and shape a slope out of that layer down to toward the first layer(see diagram… these are not to scale!!).

Then I frosted only part of the top in a semi-circular way. Then I placed one of the cake tops (saved from before) on top of the frosting and trimmed away the cake that went over the side.

I then added frosting to that layer and repeated with the second cake top saved from before, but I offset it even further (see diagram… still not to scale!!). Then I trimmed away the rest of the cake top and handed out scraps to the hovering children.

This is what it looked like from the side when all the layers were ready.

I then applied the crumb coat and stuck it in the freezer for 20-30 minutes to harden so that I could finish the decorations (and make more frosting.)

Hiking Trail Cake -- Easy Hiking Theme Birthday on a Budget

I frosted the whole thing with a light green buttercream frosting I made from scratch.

the Creek

On top of that I used blue cookie frosting we already had on hand. I don’t recommend this particular icing, though, because it took a long time to set and ended up sagging down the slope after the pictures were taken. I can already tell in this photo that it had begun. I picked a random place on the cake for the creek and worked a line across the cake and down to the cake plate. Then I just did that several more times to make it thicker . The lines of it melded together nicely.

Hiking Trail Cake -- Easy Hiking Theme Birthday on a Budget

The Path

I mixed in some white buttercream with chocolate frosting I had in the freezer, left over from another birthday, and it made for a nice “path” color. I piped that onto the cake, making sure to cross the creek, and ended it in a larger area at the top. The kids decided that the picnic tables would go there (the imaginary ones). πŸ™‚ My oldest son figured out how to cut a pretzel so that we could use it for the bridge. Good luck with that, mine kept breaking! πŸ™‚

How I made a Sloped Cake for a Hiking Themed Birthday

The trees

For the trees on the cake I used left over Cupcake Icing we had from another birthday and used the star tip that came with it. I don’t know what color it was because I used the last of it and threw it away, but it was super handy for a quick decorating job. You could do the same thing, though, by making your own frosting and using a star tip. It worked a lot like “spray cheese.” I made both the trees on top of the cake and the ones on the tall side of the cake. Then I put “bushes” around the cake on both sides of the creek until I ran out. The trunks on the back trees are the chocolate frosting I had kept back before adding the buttercream to make the lighter brown for the path.

How I made a Sloped Cake for a Hiking Themed Birthday

A few hints on tree placement:

1. I put several “trees/bushes” close together at the start of the creek to give the illusion that it started there in a hidden spring under the trees.
2. I put a tree in the crook of the path to give a reason for the sharp bend in the path.
3. I put several trees at the top around the “eating area” of “path” frosting to mimic a shady picnic area.

Do you have an event coming up that could use a sloped mountain or hiking cake?? Pin it for later. πŸ™‚

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How I made a Sloped Cake for a Hiking Themed Birthday

Gathering here.

Recommended Reading:

Easy Hiking Birthday Theme on a Budget
Mountain Rice Krispies Treats
Birch Log Pretzels
Get Away to the Mountains Simple Watercolor Painting

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Easy Hiking Theme Birthday on a Budget

I wasn’t sure how I was going to make this “Hiking” themed birthday different from the “Camping” theme we did a few years ago, and let me tell you, inspiration was not coming. I had only general ideas going into the evening before the big day, but hopefully that is just proof of how easy and budget friendly this whole theme was.

Birthdays are a big deal around here, and if you’ve been around a while, then you know that there is always a theme. I was really struggling with what the theme would be this time around since the interests of my now nine year old haven’t changed much over the last few years. I’ve done all the themes already. What he really wanted was a hiking theme, but I kept fighting against it since we just did a camping theme a few years ago.

Added into all that, my husband and I spent 10 days during July in the hospital with our oldest daughter and, while she is in full health now, the week we got home was full of recovery and catching up from being away from home and the rest of the kids for so long. That left only a few days to figure out what I was going to do for this birthday.

Finally I gave in. Hiking theme it was… but I had no idea what I would do. Pinterest is always a huge help, but most of the “hiking” searches brought up tons of great “camping” themed party ideas. Or “national park” themes. Still not exactly what I was looking for. (See my Pinterest board for more ideas!)

One thing I did find was cute hiking signs I could print… but my printer wasn’t working at the last minute, so we didn’t have those.

So what’s a girl to do with no balloons, no streamers, and no idea what to start with? I headed upstairs to to the attic for the Christmas/winter decorations. Yes I did! You may recognize some of these from the Cozy Mountain Lodge Women’s Retreat I decorated for earlier this year too.

I put some of these decorations on my much loved shelves.

Adventure Awaits Hand Painted Card -- Easy Hiking Theme Birthday on a Budget

And I try to paint/illustrate a little card for each of the kids on their birthday. It’s become something that is really special to them. This time I thought it fit nicely in the decoration. You could totally do this painting. I painted the green part of the tree loosely, leaving gaps here and there in a light green. After that dried, I did it again with the same paint, but not going all the way to the edges. Then a third time after it dried again. Once it was all dry the fourth time, I added the brown trunk. Sometimes I simply use a tall triangle for a pine tree. It works great!

The mountains I put on a pedestal in the middle of the breakfast table. (Excuse the wrinkled tablecloth… the epitome of last minute.)

Birthday breakfast was cinnamon roll mountains. Super easy! Two cans of cinnamon rolls from the refrigerated section of the grocery store (though you can make your own if you have the time and inclination). I just unrolled each one and re-rolled it in the slightest cone shape. A little tip: don’t go too high with your cone or it will topple over… but I just made that one mine. πŸ™‚ No big deal.

I made little flags out of scrapbook paper and glued “take a hike” circles on to them. The stick is a skewer I cut into three parts. I hand wrote the “take a hike” but you could use something printed off the computer or even stickers if you can find something you like.

Life's An Adventure... Go Hiking! Chalkboard -- Easy Hiking Theme Birthday on a Budget

The chalkboard was really easy to do. Honestly, the hardest part was the lettering. Again, you could even use a simple tall triangle for the tree if the scribbled lines are too much. I found that the orange chalk gave enough of a brown feel over the black of the chalkboard that it worked perfectly.

Hiking Trail Cake -- Easy Hiking Theme Birthday on a Budget

The cake was the most last minute of all. I baked the cake the night before… but I used too high of a temperature and it was dry. So my daughter and I remade it that morning. That afternoon I was assembling my cake unfrozen (freezing them first makes it super easy to assemble and frost!!) and with no real idea of what I wanted to do. None of the 2-3 pins I found were what I wanted/had time for, so I was on my own. The cake has it’s own post! Click over to find out how I made it! πŸ™‚

And that’s how we did our easy hiking theme birthday on a budget! To top it off, we recommended some hiking themed birthday presents to family who were looking for ideas, so the back pack, nature journal and compass really added to the excitement! πŸ™‚

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Easy Hiking Theme Birthday on a Budget

Gathering here.

Recommended reading:

Take a Hike: How I made a Sloped Birthday Cake
Ladybug Birthday Party Theme
Every “BUG”ys Welcome Adoption Party
Mary Poppins Birthday Party Theme

Dog Stuff Pattern for Fabric, Scrapbook Paper, Wallpaper, etc.

Dog Stuff Pattern for Fabric, Scrapbook Paper, etc.

I created this dog print with my sister in mind. I thought it may be cute to make a bag or a doggie bandana or a whatever. I’ll be honest, a dog person I am not, but I know that people love their dogs and I now have a new love for dog stuff. It was super fun to doodle these little dog things!

I didn’t just decide one day to doodle dog toys, food and beds. Spoonflower is at it again, pushing me out of my comfort zone and into the unknown. This time the theme is Dog Days (may as well add “of summer”, right? Maybe I should have gone a different direction with this theme?)

Dog Stuff Pattern for Fabric, Scrapbook Paper, etc.

Dog days? As a non-dog-person, I’ve never really spent a lot of time illustrating dogs. I thought about it for about a half second before disregarding the whole idea. Living things are hard, People! But their stuff… now that’s another animal all together. (See what I did there?)

So here it is, my entry for the Dog Days Design Challenge over at Spoonflower. It’s open for voting between July 18-23, 2019. Click over and check out the compitition. Oh, and vote for mine too if you like it. πŸ™‚

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Dog Stuff Pattern for Fabric, Scrapbook Paper, etc.

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Easy Watercolor Flowers YOU Can Paint

I painted these cards for a party we attended this weekend for a graduate in our church. I sat down Friday night with no inspiration of what I wanted to make. What I ended up with an hour later was easy watercolor flowers YOU can paint. I didn’t start out to make a tutorial (the party was the next day), so I don’t have pictures to share of the process, but I want to talk you through what I did, because these really are Easy Watercolor Flowers YOU Can Paint!

I painted this whole thing without a pencil drawing. This makes it easier for me because I don’t have to worry about getting the petals just right when the time comes.

Getting Started

The first thing I did was to paint yellow dots where I wanted my flowers. If you are making a greeting or verse card, give some thought to where you want your flowers, if you are practicing, just put them anywhere. They would be cute in a semi-strait line across the middle of your work space. Remember to leave space between the centers for the petals for each flower.

Let the yellow paint dry.

Adding Petals

When the centers are dry, you can begin to paint the petals. I chose a color palate ahead of time and thought through where I wanted them. I begin by painting the outline of the petals where I want them, sometimes 4 petals, sometimes 5. You can do what you like.

If the petals aren’t exactly the right size or shape, just add more paint and change them a bit (this is why I like painting with pencilwork first.) When I am filling in the color on the petals, I try to leave white spaces for a little textural interest.

Stems

While allowing the petals to dry I worked on the stems and leaves of this card. I am careful to leave a little gap between the still trying flower and the green of the stem, otherwise the colors will bleed together. I simply used the very tip of one of my size 7,8, or 9 brushes (though you could use a smaller one if you are more comfortable with it.)

I dragged the tip downward from the flower to the bottom of the card. Be careful to draw an imaginary line from the center of your flower through the petals so your stem placement is realistic. Go back and add paint to make it darker, or more water for thicker stems as needed.

Easy Watercolor Flowers YOU Can Paint -- My Creative Process at mamasbrush.wordpress.com

Leaves

I first added leaves to the stemmed flowers because they are further removed from the wet paint of the petals. I chose a very traditional leaf shape and deliberately left them running off the edge of the paper and behind a nearby flower (though you need to make sure the flower it touches is dry first).

Easy Watercolor Flowers YOU Can Paint -- My Creative Process at mamasbrush.wordpress.com

For the leaves on this card, I waited for the petals to dry and added leaves coming from behind the petals. Do you see the faint leaf behind the others on the purple flower on the left? That was the original leaf for that flower and it was way too big. I added a bunch of water and tried lifting the already dry paint with a paper towel, but it didn’t lift all of it. I was a little disappointed that I’d ruined the card, but I moved ahead and added the smaller leaves instead, just for practice.

Fixing “Mistakes”

I set it aside to dry while I worked on other details, and while was working I had an idea. I decided to paint very faint large leaves all over the background of the card. I painted with a lot of water, let it sit a moment or two, then dabbed it up with paper towel. Not only was the card not ruined, it was the one I decided to use for the graduation party. When you find that you’ve made a mistake of your own, set it aside for a bit and see if you can brainstorm a way to make it part of your design. You may just like it better than your intended design! πŸ™‚

Easy Watercolor Flowers YOU Can Paint -- My Creative Process at mamasbrush.wordpress.com

Another layer of color

When everything was dry, I went back in and added another layer of color to each of the elements. For some of the flowers I went around the edges with a darker color (see the purple flower on the bottom card). For others I made streaks of darker color coming out from the middle (the purple flower on the top card. For others still, I gave an extra layer of color on half of each petal. For the leaves, I added another layer (or two) of green on one half of the leaf. There are so many ways to do this, just experiment and see what you like!

Easy Watercolor Flowers YOU Can Paint -- My Creative Process at mamasbrush.wordpress.com

Finishing Touches

This is when I add my pen work. I usually do this the next day, since I do most of my painting late at night. The trick is to make sure your painting is completely dry! For the leaves I think a pointed version of a spiral is fun. For the petals, I trace each one twice, sometimes staying right on top of the first line, other times leaving a gap all around or even just on the end. I think this makes it look like the petals are curved around on the ends. I add some squiggly lines at the base of each petal and a spiral at the center.

My goal for these finishing touches was to make the painting cute and whimsical. If I wanted them to look a little closer to realistic, I may have used dots in the centers and simple vein like lines on the leaves. Go with what you like and have fun! Shayda Campbell once said, if I want it to look exactly right, take a picture. Painting is about giving it your own creative interpretation.

When all was said and done I added the verses I had in mind and the border. Since I was short on time, I just did a simple lettering and added the verse reference into the border as I like to do. I think it worked though. The flowers dressed it up enough and the lettering style didn’t distract from the painting or the message.

So will you try it??

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Easy Wafer Cookie Pencils for Back to Homeschool

Easy Wafer Cookie Pencils for Back to Homeschool

These adorable Easy Wafer Cookie Pencils for Back to Homeschool were super easy to make and so fun for the kids on our first day of school!

With the the approach of the 4th of July and all the other summery goodness, comes the start up of a new homeschool year for us. But who has time to spend blogging in real time? What? People DO blog in June? I don’t know how you all do it. I actually did post 3 times in June and I’m pretty sure other more important things didn’t happen because of it. June is just crazy for our family!

Easy Wafer Cookie Pencils for Back to Homeschool

That’s right, we start school July 1st around here. (Pop over here to find out why.)

Easy Wafer Cookie Pencils for Back to Homeschool

I saw the idea originally on Pinterest here, but you can find her amazing tutorial directly, by clicking this link.

As per usual, I didn’t click over to read the directions until after I’d done my own thing. That means I used different means to a similar end. πŸ™‚

Instead of melting candies, I mixed up some powdered sugar and milk to make a simple frosting. I started with the white and dipped all the pencil tips. I then added the chocolate chip (mini chips would work better as Keri suggests, but I worked with what I had.) I put the sheet pan in fridge to set up after this.

A while later (30 minutes to an hour?) I added some powdered sugar and milk to the left over white frosting and then a bit of red food coloring. I had to go back and forth a bit on the amounts until I got the consistency I wanted, and even then it could have been thicker if I had been more patient.

I dipped the “eraser” side of the wafer into the pink and set them to dry on the lined cookie sheet.

Easy Wafer Cookie Pencils for Back to Homeschool

Then back into the fridge they went.

In the end I could have trimmed the run off of the pink frosting like I did for the white, but I figured the kids wouldn’t mind the extra frosting. πŸ™‚ They turned out so cute and the kids love this little tradition we do for the first day of school (two years in a row establishes tradition around here. Good thing it’s easy.)

Easy Wafer Cookie Pencils for Back to Homeschool

To be honest, I had a dozen other ideas I wanted to do for the first day of school, but it’s a busy time and this is the only one I actually carved out time for. You can find all my fun back to homeschool ideas on my Back to Homeschool Board. I hope you will find some to make your first day of school special… whether you homeschool or not! πŸ™‚

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Easy Wafer Cookie Pencils for Back to Homeschool

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No Sketch Challenge: Watercolor Painting with a Summer Theme

Challenge: No Sketch Watercolor Painting with a Summer Theme

This collection of summer themed watercolor illustrations was a spur of the moment adventure.

The big kids were at summer camp, leaving me with the little three, ages 3-7. It’s been a long time since my oldest was 7. It was quite the adventure, and to be honest, while I had more chores to do without them here, it was like a mini vacation.

The kids wanted to paint, so instead of my usual “no”, I actually said yes. (Point for mom!) I grabbed their paint sets and got them some water and brushes and paper towels. Then I grabbed some for me.

But what would I paint. I don’t paint as much during the summer due to more demands on my energy, less time, and less inspiration. I just get more excited about painting the other seasons I guess.

I started with the little blue crab in the corner. It reminded me of our weekend in St. Michael’s, MD this past fall (you should totally go, by the way, super fun little harbor town!) From there it just sorta turned into a summer theme. I laid down some paint for a handful of illustrations and when one was dry, I added the next color or layer. (I like having more than one painting going at a time for this very reason!)

Challenge: No Sketch Watercolor Painting with a Summer Theme

The catch? Whatever I wanted to paint, I had to start with the watercolors. No pencil sketch first. My reasoning was lazy enough. I didn’t want to take a bunch of extra time getting things laid out. Who knows how long the kid’s attention span would last this time anyway.

Way back in the beginning, when I was just learning to paint, I painted like this all the time. I hadn’t fine tuned (ummm… still haven’t) my drawing skills and I didn’t know any better. I don’t paint like this as much anymore, mostly because I usually have a purpose to my painting and I want to sketch it out first to get the look and layout just right. But it is so fun to just paint. It frees me from the need for perfection (ahem) and lets me experiment. I have to remember two things when I paint this way.

Challenge: No Sketch Watercolor Painting with a Summer Theme

2 things to remember:

  1. It does have to be perfect. Things won’t be laid out just right or centered or anything. (Note the position of the palm tree to the cloud. If I was going to be all crazy, I might wish it was a smidge to the left, but who’s going to be like that?) And the end result doesn’t have to look exactly like the real thing… it’s my creative interpretation. (aka I can do what I want.)
  2. I don’t have to love every illustration in the end. There are a couple little illustrations on here that I really love and will probably scan for use later, or at least try to paint again sometime. (I think that tiny firefly is just adorable!) Others, I wasn’t happy with at all, and if I do them again, it will be to improve upon them. (The bee needs a lot of work people!)

So now it’s your turn! Grab a set of watercolor paints (your kid’s are fine!) some water and paper (I began my painting adventures with card stock if that’s all you have) and just start painting. It helps to have an idea or theme in mind to get you started, but paint anything you want. No sketching! And have fun!

Leave me a link to the pic in the comments if you upload it somewhere! I’d love to see it!

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Challenge: No Sketch Watercolor Painting with a Summer Theme

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Whimsical Tree Artwork and borders for Family Tree Record Books

Whimsical Tree Artwork and borders for Family Tree Record Books

I sketched out this whimsical tree illustration last year, but never got to do anything with it. This year when my mom asked me to make a cover for the book she was putting together for her aunt’s family tree, I knew the two would come together nicely. I’m so pleased with how it turned out.

Whimsical Tree Artwork and borders for Family Tree Record Books

My mom has gotten into the whole ancestry.com thing in the last year. She has a lot of time when she can’t do much else than to research online and so it is a good fit for her. And she loves it. I love hearing about it, but the research of it all sounds tedious and awful to me. Maybe it’s the stage of life I’m in.

Whimsical Tree Artwork and borders for Family Tree Record Books

I barely had the energy this time of year to make it pretty for her. πŸ™‚ And though I procrastinated like crazy (I don’t usually want to paint after a day of being outside), I did eventually get it done.

Whimsical Tree Artwork and borders for Family Tree Record Books

She’s putting together a binder of all the information she found about her aunt’s family. She is going to fill in these forms, but wanted them dressed up a bit. Her original request was for me to doodle something in the margin for her to color in. She really wanted to color it herself… I offered to paint it. While we were brainstorming, I asked if she wanted something for the cover.

Whimsical Tree Artwork and borders for Family Tree Record Books

That’s where this was born. I love the way the root tendrils frame not only the title, but also the “researched by” area. And the whimsy of it all just makes me smile.

Have you done any research on your family tree?

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Artwork and borders for Family Tree Records

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