Author Archives: babyspark

Luau Cupcakes

A friend of mine’s daughter recently had a luau-themed birthday party and she asked me to help out with cake ideas. Twenty-three children, ages 2-10, were expected to attend! We discussed cake ideas, including a volcano cake, hula girl cake, and just regular old sheet cake, but we settled on cupcakes — one of my favorite things in the world to be honest with you.

I hit the internet looking for luau, hawaiian, or tropical cupcake ideas and came upon several pictures of sandy beaches and ocean waves, with some variety of items stuck on top — starfish, candy flip-flops, flowers, surfboards, teddy bears sitting in gummy rings (Haribo makes a good one — you can find them at World Market). But we settled on a flower.

I think they turned out really cute!

So here are some tips on making these cupcakes. The cupcake itself was out of the box (I know, gasp!), but it was for kids and what kid doesn’t like the boxed funfetti cupcakes – plus the mom hosting the party was responsible for baking the cupcakes. I tend to agree – why waste time pureeing fresh fruit and getting all fancy for a bunch of kids who are just going to scarf down the cakes for the sugar. I did make a simple buttercream icing, which we then colored to our liking with gel food coloring.

After cooling, I iced half of the top of each cupcake with a thin layer of buttercream. The sand for the “beach” is just graham crackers, ground into a powder with a food processor. Holding the cupcake over the sink, I sprinkled the graham cracker crumbs over the buttercream and gave it a quick shake. Then, I used a wavy tip to make the blue ocean waves. Here’s another important tip – leave a little empty space on the beach sand side — so one little fingertip-sized area where there is no icing and no graham cracker b/c otherwise, whatever you choose to decorate the top of the “beach” with will not stick! I learned this after the first several frustrating attempts to pipe the flowers onto my cupcakes.

Stick in a paper umbrella and voila! Tiki luau cupcakes.

Oh, another word of caution, IF you should be hosting an outdoor party in 90+ degree heat, wait until the cupcakes are ready to be eaten to bring them outdoors. After an hour+ of sitting in the sun, it wasn’t pretty. The pristine ocean waves got a little drippy. Oh well, the kids didn’t mind at all. Gotta love kids!

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Posted by on August 1, 2011 in Baking, Cupcakes


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American Girl doll dress sewing pattern

I tried my hand at a doll dress for a friend’s six year old daughter. I don’t have any daughters, so it was kind of a thrilling project for me. I got this particular little girl a toy (working) sewing machine for Christmas, so it was fitting that I give her a dress sewn from scratch on Christmas morning! To make the gift special, I went to the fabric store with her so she could pick out coordinating fabrics to make the dress.

I then cut out the pattern and all the pieces, ironed them, and did the bodice work on my own. She wanted to see how a real sewing machine worked, so I waited until she came over one day to show her how to sew on the skirt and bottom trim. She was so excited! It was adorable and exciting for me, too.

Here is the finished dress.

The doll modeling the dress is actually mine (not a real American Girl doll) but she was the right size to try the dress on. Kit Kittredge is the lucky American Girl recipient.

The pattern was from “All Dolled Up” by Joan Hinds. Fairly easy to read, but there were definitely a couple of times I had to read the instructions more than once, turn the pattern this way and that way before I could get my head around how certain pieces went together. In the most critical light, I feel as though there were a couple of steps that could have been detailed more with respect to cutting the fabric from the patterns and assembly.

I think I will be making more doll clothes in the future!


Posted by on January 6, 2011 in Sewing


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Amy Butler Nappy Bag – a diaper bag

Continuing my diaper bag, general bag and sewing obsession, I tried my hand at the Amy Butler Nappy Bag – a stand alone pattern purchased from my local fabric store. This pattern sewed up super quick and easily. I used a Michael Miller corduroy fabric for the exterior and a coordinating cotton fabric for the interior.

Like many of Amy Butler’s other diaper bag designs, this one comes with a number of functional interior side pockets, which are always welcome in an everyday diaper bag.

The Michael Miller corduroy fabric sewed up like a dream. I was a little hesitant to try it, because I’d never sewn with corduroy before and was concerned about working with the fine ribbing, but it wasn’t a problem at all. And the feel of the cord is so luxurious and yummy, it felt nice running through my hands as I worked with it on the sewing machine. To give it stability, I used duck cloth, which makes the bag a little heavier, but at the same time gives it a nice heft that says, “I’m a diaper bag – I can take whatever you can fit into me.”

This is a big bag — but I like big bags because I get annoyed when I can’t fit all my stuff into whatever I’m carrying. Here’s a picture to give you an idea of its size.

I think this is a great bag, even for the beginning sewist.

My “if I had it to do over again” note on this one is that I might have chosen a different fabric for the coordinating interior. I struggled with my choice here. I like the way it looks, but to be honest with you, the dark, busy pattern makes it a little tough to spot things inside the bag when you’re rummaging around in there in a hurry. But in truth, I kinda knew this before I ever purchased the fabric. I just lived with my choice.

Happy sewing.


Posted by on November 22, 2010 in Sewing


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Everything Bag Diaper Bag

Not long after I took up sewing, when I still considered myself a “beginner” sewist (sewer? seamstress?), I picked up Amy Butler’s book “Little Stitches for Little Ones.”

One of my first projects from this book was the “Everything Bag” – a boxy, pretty, functional bag with lots and lots of pockets! The project is rated by Amy Butler as a “4,” which is well into the intermediate ranks of her rating system. But I was determined and up for a challenge.

I was nine months pregnant and seriously into my “nesting” phase of my pregnancy. I remember staying up until 2:00 and 3:00 am working on projects from this book! This bag was my first adventure into fusible fleeces, and pellon, and dividers… but all very invigorating watching the pieces come together. The layers got really really THICK at times. I worried about my poor little $80 Brother sewing machine, but (about 3 snapped needles later – and I did use the heavyweight needles) she made it through and I was happy with the result.

I did use the rather pricey Amy Butler fabric because I liked the aesthetics of it, but also her fabric seemed somehow higher quality than some of the basic fabrics you would find at a Joann or Hancock. This could all be because I am a victim of branding and it may have all been in my head after seeing all her beautiful already made bags in her book, of course made from her own fabric line.

A couple more shots of the bag, showing all the wonderfully useful pockets.

After completing the bag, I self-pronounced myself an “intermediate” sewist. 🙂

I thought Butler’s pattern was fairly easy to read — there were a couple of steps that required me to step back and think about things for a little while, but it all made sense in the end. One change I would make if I were to remake the bag is to make the straps a little longer. Here is a picture to show you the size of the bag. The straps are a little snug – still useable for sure but not *perfect.*

I also would consider adding feet to the bottom. I don’t know about you, but after taking the time to make a homemade bag, the thought of setting it down on a dirty floor or germy counter always makes me cringe. I’ll add this to my list of things to do. 😛

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Posted by on November 18, 2010 in Sewing


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Evolution of a Diaper Bag into a Stylish Camera Bag

Note: This is my first blog entry – finally took the plunge, so here goes.

I love bags.  Before I had children, I loved bags.  After having children, I continue to love bags… but the bags have changed.  All my lovely clutches, totes, and shoulder bags had to be traded in for diaper bags.  And as you fellow mommies know, a diaper bag is literally attached to your hip from the time your baby is born until they are out of diapers.

Last year, I picked up photography as a hobby and have really gotten into it.  BUT, I still need a diaper bag, so what to do? I’ve already abandoned my petite purses for giant diaper bags to carry two children’s clothing and daily needs, do I lug around a giant camera backpack as well?  I do have a Canon backpack, but I don’t like carrying it b/c it’s bulky with my diaper bag AND I feel like I’m advertising to everyone with eyes that I am walking around with some expensive camera equipment.

It’s worth noting that photography is purely a hobby for me.  Obviously professional photographers have their own needs for gear and you are probably not hauling your children to your professional photoshoots — so no need to have diaper bag and camera bag at the same time.

In my quest to find a pretty, stylish, functional camera bag, I came across Jill-e bags and Ephiphanie bags, but I had to decide whether I wanted to plunk down that kind of cash for a “designer” camera bag when I am not a professional photog and I DO have a lot of really really nice diaper bags sitting in my closet.

So I started googling.  I also sew as a hobby.  I didn’t find a lot of camera bag sewing patterns, but I DID find a fabulous tutorial posted by Lil Blue Boo – a site that I had not encountered before my search.  The tutorial is here: Camera bag insert tutorial.

I had this great Nest diaper bag that I decided to restyle.

Using the awesome LilBlueBoo tutorial, I made a custom insert that fit PERFECTLY in my Nest diaper bag. Voila!

And here’s another picture:

This insert is so cushiony and sturdy and great. It fits my body with a 50mm lens attached, an external flash, and a 24-105L — everything I need, frankly, to chase my kids around. Plus, I still have the ziparound bottom for diapers and a change of clothes and other pockets in the bag roomy enough to carry some personal items.

So… want to upcycle a diaper bag or big shoulder bag collecting some dust? Try this insert – I’m so happy about it. It finally gave me the kick in the seat to post a blog entry that I thought might help some other moms out there!


Posted by on November 16, 2010 in Sewing


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