I'll be teaching a full-day workshop on natural beauty and handmade skin care at The Open Center in New York City on May 13.
I'll be teaching a full-day workshop on natural beauty and handmade skin care at The Open Center in New York City on May 13.
My first project for A Beautiful Mess was such fun to make. This tutorial takes a more in-depth look at the technique used to create gemstone cluster soaps - taking you through the step-by-step process with helpful visuals the whole way. Plus, I included the soaps in three more colors! Learn how to make amethyst, rose quartz, citrine, and quartz in the full tutorial over on A Beautiful Mess.
I'll be teaching a full-day workshop on natural beauty and handmade skin care at The Open Center in New York City on May 13.
Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #MyWayToVeg #CollectiveBias
Looking for a way to stand out in the lunchroom crowd? I've been seeing a lot of blog posts lately featuring bento bags, cute little lunch sacks that tie shut from the top. Bento bags are Japanese in origin, inspired by the fascinating art of Furoshiki. Similar projects are used to wrap gifts and to hold or transport things in and around the home - in the most beautiful way possible!
Believe it or not, these ethereal clusters of amethyst are actually made from soap! The first time I saw this technique being used was in a DIY video on Youtube. I was totally mesmerized, and knew that I was going to have to try it out.
By the way, these soaps have been a big hit with everyone I have gifted them to. They make excellent holiday or birthday presents, and making them in six bar batches makes them super easy to stock up on.
While this project can be a tad time consuming, the method is surprisingly easy, and very forgiving! The crystals actually look better when they are cut a little differently every time so you don't have to worry too much about keeping your technique consistent. You can just slice away - happily embracing any imperfections.
If you'd like to see this project in action, check out this video tutorial from mimi'z world on Youtube.
If you are able to work with a double-boiler instead of the microwave, that inexpensive piece of equipment will make this project a whole lot easier. Because this is a layered soap, the melted soap you are working with may harden between steps. The double boiler makes keeping the melted soap warm a breeze, and allows you to reheat it gently. Microwaves can also make soap feel dry and brittle - especially when the same base is melted over and over.
Amethyst Soap Gems
Shop the Project:
- 2 pounds Clear Melt & Pour Soap Base
- 4 teaspoons Lavender Essential Oil, divided
- up to 1/2 teaspoon Purple Mica
- 1 1/8 teaspoon Silver Mica
- Rubbing alcohol in Mini Sprayer Bottle
- Circle Soap Mold
- Heatproof Measuring Cups
- Double Boiler
- Cello Bags
- Dice 1 1/2 pounds soap base and melt in double boiler on stove top or in microwave using short, 30-second bursts.
- Remove soap from heat, let stand 30 seconds, then add essential oil. Stir slowly until oil has combined.
- Fill six soap molds about 1/3 of the way up with soap. Spritz soap with alcohol then let stand for 2-4 minutes, or until the top has formed a thick skin.
- Pour about 1/2 the remaining melted soap base in a heatproof measuring cup. Add small pinch of purple mica and small pinch silver mica. Stir well to blend. Pour the mixture between the soap molds - leaving about 1/3 of space. Spritz soap with alcohol then let stand for 2-4 minutes, or until the top has formed a thick skin.
- Add about 1/8 teaspoon purple mica and 1/8 teaspoon silver mica to remaining melted soap base. Stir well, then pour into molds - topping them off. Spritz soap with alcohol then let stand for 2-4 minutes, or until the top has formed a thick skin. Transfer to refrigerator and chill soap for 30 minutes or until completely hardened.
- Turn hardened soaps out onto a clean cutting board and use a sharp knife to slice the bars into 1/2 to 1 inch rectangles. Make sure to cut so that each rectangle shows 3 layers of color.
- Slice the tops of each rectangle at random angles to give them a faceted and pointed shape. This forms the crystals. Reserve the shreds of soap cut from the and mince them into gem dust.
- Clean out the double boiler, chop remaining soap base and add it to the pot to melt. Once melted, add the remaining essential oil and silver mica and stir well.
- Pour melted soap base into six soap molds. Spritz with alcohol, then immediately begin stuffing the molds with soap crystals and gem dust. Fill each mold as much as you can. The more crystals each soap contains the more sturdy the finished soap will be.
- Allow the soaps to cool and harden completely before removing them from their molds. After they are removed, wrap them in airtight cello bags or saran wrap to keep them from sweating.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for helping support Mary Makes Good!
Decorating for fall is so much fun. Truth be told, it's my favorite season when it comes to decorations. I love the warm colors, the mellow spicy scents, and the natural themes of autumn. Leaves, feathers, turkeys - fall festivities really line up with everything I already adore. That makes working on seasonal art projects fun and easy.
Another thing that helps keep fall crafting simple is a good craft kit. I picked up this set of wooden garland and a package of foil transfers on my most recent Target run thinking they would be just right for a quick crafting session. The wooden feathers are already cut, sanded, and ready to go - all prepped and ready for color.
Shop the Project
I used sponge-tipped markers to color my feathers in a pretty sunset ombre pattern. This same technique could be achieved with watercolor paints as well. Colored pencil, crayon, or tempera paint could also be used to color this garland, but the effect would look very different.
To get the graduated tone you see here, just start with the lightest color (in this case that would be yellow) and color in about 2/3 of the feather. Apply the next deepest shade (orange) to the bottom half of the feather, overlapping some of the yellow. Use you fingertips or a cotton swap to blend the colors a little while the ink is still wet. Last, apply just a small touch of your darkest color (red) to the very bottom of your feather. Again, blend the color a little before it dries.
The last step in decorating the feathers is applying the foil transfer. This kit from Target is very easy to use. Just cut from the transfer sheet using a pair of scissors, remove the paper backing, then lay it (sticky side down) over the wooden feather. Rub the transfer with a popsicle stick, then gently peel away the plastic. You'll need to remove any excess foil from the edges or hollowed out portions of your feathers. You can do this by rubbing those spots gently with your fingers.
String the feathers onto one long piece of twine to create a garland. Or, you can make individual hanging ornaments by cutting the twine into 5-inch pieces and tying the pieces of string to individual feathers. That's a great way to make holiday gifts or gorgeous place cards for a holiday table.
Even little Charlie got in on the decorating fun. I think I might like his feathers best of all.
Recently I was invited to try out the Spire Mindfulness + Activity Tracker, and I must say, it couldn't have come at a better time. I've been under a lot of stress lately and I've noticed it taking a toll on my overall health and sense of wellness. I find myself fighting low feelings more and more often, and my body - well, that just hurts.
I'm stiff, sore, and far more plump than I'd like to be. It's becoming clear to me that something has got to change.
While there isn't much that I can do to eliminate the issues that are causing me stress, I am not completely helpless. I have control over something with the potential to be life-changing - my mind! I may not be able to stop life from being stressful, but I can choose how to respond to and cope with that stress.
By being more mindful of my moods, breathing, and activity level, I can face every day armed with tools to lead a happier, healthier existence.
So where does this little gadget fit in? The Spire Mindfulness + Activity Tracker is a small wireless device that tracks my heartbeat, breath, and movement. That data is sent to a companion app on my smartphone that keeps a record of my physical and emotional state during each day.
The tracker even alerts me when I become tense or have been sedentary for long periods of time. In this way, Spire makes mindfulness more attainable by alerting me in-the-moment. It even suggests breathing exercises and meditations to lead to a more mindful behavior change - either helping me reach a calmer and more focused state or even becoming more active.
Over the past week of using my Spire Tracker I have already become far more aware of both my mental state and my level of physical activity. I've even discovered anxiety triggers in unexpected places. Writing grocery lists, for example, really gets me going! I had no idea how much that simple task stressed me out, and it's something I often end up doing several times a week.
Thanks to my Spire, I've been re-thinking my approach to grocery shopping and meal planning. If what we are doing now causes me this much anxiety than clearly we need to simplify our routine. Life is too short to sweat the small stuff.
Using my Spire has also been a huge wake-up call for my physical fitness. I think I just assumed chasing a toddler day in and day out made up for dedicated exercise time. I was shocked to see that even on my busiest days my daily step count fell well under the recommended amount. No wonder it has been hard for me to lose weight. I'm just not moving enough.
Curious about the Spire Mindfulness + Activity Tracker? Click here to learn more.
Eight Tips for Creating a More Mindful Home
Spire asked me to share some of my own tips for making mindfulness a bigger part of everyday life. For me, life revolves around my home and family. I try my best to incorporate the practice of mindfulness into our daily routine simply by making an effort to be emotionally present. I look for moments of love and wonder between the spilled milk and temper tantrums.
I try to remind myself that no matter how hard life can be sometimes, this is exactly where I want to be. These are the best days of my life. I don't want to miss them.
Beyond embracing an overall philosophy of mindfulness, there are a lot of small changes you can make in your home to make it more conducive to being present. The following tips are shared from my own experience trying to become a more mindful mama.
As always, I encourage you to take what resonates with you from this list, and leave the rest. You do you. No one can do it better.
Impose Tech-Free Zones
I try not to make a habit of staring at my phone or zoning out in front of my tablet. Still, I find that my husband and I have a tendency to waste our precious time alone together scanning social media or news headlines.
One way to combat our weakness for technology is to designate certain areas of the home or times of day as tech-free. That means that anything with a screen, whether it’s a phone, tv, or computer, must not be used. For us, that’s every meal time and the last few hours before our son goes to bed.
I’ve considered making the living room a permanent no-phone zone, but the idea hasn’t gone over too well with my husband. Yeah, that’s one big catch. You’ll need to find a plan that your entire family feels comfortable with and fully supports. Otherwise, it may feel more like a punishment than an opportunity for mindful togetherness.
Tip: Another way to approach this issue is to implement the opposite rule, giving family members free reign to binge on screen-time during designated times of day.
Make Your Bed
This is a truly simple practice that has afforded me an abundance of peace of mind. Before starting your morning routine, try and take a few moments to make your bed. Pull the sheets tight, tuck them in with care, and fluff up your pillows. This tiny act of tidying can help the day ahead feel less overwhelming.
Take it a bit further by flopping down on that freshly made bed and just breathing for a little while. Even if you only have a minute (literally) to spare, spending it in quiet reflection can help you feel relaxed and refreshed. If you can, try repeating this mini-mediation after getting home from work, or right before you put the kids to bed. It works all day!
Tip: Try creating a tidy space for mini-meditation at the office, in your car, or anywhere you can catch a minute to yourself.
It’s incredibly easy to fall into the habit of throwing things away. Almost everything we use on a daily basis is available in a disposable form. Not only is the careless consumption of materials wasteful and troublesome for the environment, it also discourages mindfulness. We use things up and then throw them away without a moment of consideration for where it came from or where it is going.
Instead, try taking the time to think about the things you use everyday and how you might make more or better use from them. Practices such as recycling, up-cycling, and composting are all wonderful ways to stay mindful of our role in the world and to feel connected to the eco-system as a whole.
Making an effort to sustain natural resources can help us remember that we are part of a global community!
Tip: Investing in sturdy, re-usable objects like food containers, dryer balls, and water bottles can impact your home’s footprint drastically!
Detox Work Spaces
Clutter can be extremely distracting, especially when you are trying to focus on a job. This is not only true for the home office, but also in the kitchen, laundry room, garage, or anywhere else that you are required to focus on a task. De-cluttering those spaces can make anything from doing laundry to working on homework far more pleasant.
Start by thinking about what job the space is meant for. Take a hard look at the area and eliminate anything that doesn’t help you get that job done. This allows you to be present for the task at hand. So while you are doing the dishes, you can JUST do the dishes. You may even find it to be a pleasant escape from outside stress.
Tip: Try hanging art with inspirational images or positive messages in work spaces.
Create Shared Spaces
We’ve all got important things to do, but by creating spaces in your home that include everyone’s needs, you can at least do these important things together. Take some time to make sure your family or living room has space for everyone in your family. That means plenty of seating, toys and books for little ones, and work surfaces for doing homework, folding laundry, or sharing snacks.
Once you’ve got everyone together, don’t forget to enjoy it. Maybe strike up a conversation with your spouse or offer to let your little one “help” with whatever you are working on. Or, simply sit back and observe your loved ones just doing what they do.
Use a Tidy Timer
Establishing a reasonable clean-up routine is a great way to set boundaries on the stress of a messy home. Pick a time of day when everyone is home and available. (After dinner or before breakfast works for a lot of people.) Decide on a reasonable amount of time to dedicate to cleaning up. 30 to 45 minutes is a good time frame, but even just one 15 minute group cleanup can make a big difference.
Turn on a timer, then get to work. If the whole family cleans as a team you should be able to tackle at least the most important jobs in no time, and you can prioritize better if you know you have a time limit to work with. When the timer goes off, stop cleaning. Just stop. Let it go, and free your mind to focus on something more important, like spending some quality time with your loved ones. The key is to only think about cleaning up only when you are cleaning up.
Tip: Try adding a longer weekend or day-off cleanup time to tackle bigger jobs, like cleaning the windows or mopping the floors.
Whether it's a house plant or a backyard garden, caring for things growing and green can help lift your spirits and give you a sense of connection with the earth. Sharing this connection with the people you love makes it even better.
In a way, gardening can also be a form of meditation. Taking the time to pause and observe the plants that you tend can also help ground you in the present. If you approach the daily task of maintaining your plants with this intention, the benefits of the habit are easily increased.
Tip: For super low-maintenance plants, look for succulents, cacti, and air plants.
Make It Good
This little phrase comes from my chef in culinary school. He asked us to always keep the thought in mind, no matter what kind of food we were cooking or what kind of setting we worked in. He tried to teach us that taking pride in the task at hand, no matter how simple that task may be, would lead to a sense of joy and satisfaction.
I've found this to be true in so much more than cooking. Whether you are whipping up a pan of scrambled eggs or reading your child his favorite bedtime story for the umpteenth time, choosing to make an effort in that moment to do what you are doing well can make it much more enjoyable. And, it keeps you anchored in the moment rather than counting the moments until the chore is over.
Tip: You don't have to be a perfectionist to take pride in everyday tasks. Try to find the fun in honing your skills and don't let the imperfection get you down!
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
When the spider bites. When the bee stings. When you're feeling bad.
The practice of using poultices to draw out toxins and cleanse wounds is age-old. This is pretty much medieval medicine we're talking about here.
While great advances have been made since people started slopping mud onto insect stings, there is still some virtue to be found in the original idea.
Bentonite Clay, most well known under the Aztec Clay brand, is extremely effective at pulling out nasties from deep under the skin. This makes it a great first-aid treatment for bug bites, bee stings, or spider bites.
You can mix this with plain water to make the most simple of treatments, but I like brewing a cup of chamomile tea instead. The soothing anti-inflamatory properties of the tea can help take the edge off any itchiness and discomfort you may be dealing with.
The addition of honey is totally optional as well. Manuka honey is the best choice. It is a bit pricey, but the only variety of honey that has been documented to have real medicinal and antibacterial properties. (You can geek out about that over here.) All honey, however, is known to have humectant properties. That means that it can help draw moisture and keep things well hydrated. That's a helpful quality to have in a poultice too. Also keep in mind that honey may not be safe for kids under one year old.
Reality Check: Just in case this doesn't go without saying, this is a home remedy - on par with gargling salt water to treat a sore throat. It's lovely and all, but no replacement for modern medicine. If you have a serious injury, an allergic reaction, or a gnarly festering wound, get thee to a doctor! Post. Haste.
Honey & Chamomile Clay Poultice
Makes about 1/2 cup
- Whisk together clay, tea, and honey.
- Refrigerate any unused portion in an airtight container for up to one week.
How to Use
- Apply a liberal dollop of the clay poultice to a piece of gauze.
- Using medical tape, adhere the gauze to the skin, covering the sting or bite with the poultice.
- Let the poultice set for 2-3 hours before removing. Cleanse the skin and dress the wound accordingly.
- Repeat 2-3 times per day as needed.
What are your favorite methods for treating bug bites and other minor injuries. Share your tips, recipes, and links in the comments below. I'll share my favorites on Twitter and Facebook.
There's nothing quite like spending an evening just hanging out with your friends. These days, getting the chance to just kick back with a glass of wine and some adult conversation is right up there with bungee jumping as far as soul-bending thrill rides go. I love my child, of course. But there are only so many conversations one can have about the sanctity of buttered macaroni before going slightly crazy.
So, when an opportunity arises to remove my mama hat and spend a night just as Mary, I'm all over it. A backyard bonfire is a perfect way to enjoy such an evening. It's an easy party to put together, and can be made to accommodate just a handful of friends or a rowdy crowd with ease. You don't need much in the way of preparation to throw a great bonfire. Really, a small fire, some good friends, and an everyday wine, like JaM Cabernet, is all you need to have a great night.
To make your bonfire even more special, you can try adding some of my favorite finishing touches. A few small luxuries, like gourmet bonfire snacks, cozy throw blankets, and festive lighting can kick your casual little party up a notch, making it feel like a proper celebration.
Need help finding the perfect wine for your backyard bonfire? Enter your zip code in the JaMCellars Wine Finder to locate a retailer near you.
A little mood music wouldn't hurt either. Click here for more ideas and to download a summer chilling playlist from JaM Cellars.
Setting the Mood
Mason Jar Lanterns: Help guests make their way from the back door to the bonfire by placing some jars with tealights around the yard. Any glass jars you have hanging around in the kitchen will do. Just pop a small candle or led light into each jar before setting them outside.
Seating: Provide plenty of seating to surround the fire. Benches, logs, Adirondack chairs, or folding chairs are all great choices.
Music Basket: We like to keep a small basket stocked with tambourines, maracas, and harmonicas for random musical outbreaks. This basket usually resides in our living room right next to the guitar and ukelele, but all three are usually carted outside in the event of a bonfire.
Throw Blankets: It can get chilly during a backyard bonfire. Try draping a few throw blankets over the seats before your party begins. Guests can wrap themselves up and get cozy later on.
Party Trays: Give guests a special place to set down their wine glasses and snacks by placing small serving trays in between seats. If you don't have any serving trays on hand, try using cutting boards or wooden crates instead.
Bug Spray: Make sure to have plenty of bug spray available to keep guests from getting nibbled while they enjoy the party.
JaM Cabernet: An excellent choice for a backyard bonfire, JaM Cab is made in the tradition of great California winemaking—rich, bold and luscious. This easy-drinking Cabernet is bold and fruity, with notes of fresh berries, plums, and vanilla. JaM Cab also happens to be one of the best Cabernets available for under $20 a bottle!
Craft Beer: Stock a cooler with your favorite craft beers to satisfy the brew lovers.
Soft Drinks: Don't forget that not everyone partakes in wine or beer. Throw some bottled water, sparkling water, and even a few choice soda pops in the cooler to make sure you have something on hand for everyone.
The following goodies can be prepared ahead of time using your broiler or barbecue. Or, let your guests try their hand at cooking over the bonfire instead. Just make sure that you and your guests take extra care to cook their treats safely. Use extra long skewers or roasting sticks and exercise caution with hot skewers and freshly roasted food!
Blistered Italian Peppers: Sweet Italian peppers are just the right size for popping on a skewer and roasting over an open flame. Prep your peppers by placing 2 or 3 onto a skewer, drizzling with olive oil, and sprinkling with salt and pepper.
Brown Sugar Pineapple Spears: Roasted pineapple is made even more delicious with a sprinkle of brown sugar and cinnamon.
Chile Lime Mango: Peel and slice fresh mango into chunks before sprinkling it with chile powder, salt, and lime juice. For an extra kick, add a touch of cayenne or chipotle!
Gourmet S'More Baskets: Classic s'mores will always have a place in my heart, but why not dress this classic up a bit now that the kids have gone to bed? Make your s'mores more gourmet by providing artisan or handmade marshmallows* and a variety of chocolate options. Try dark chocolate bars mixed with toffee, fruit, cayenne, or caramel, or something really unique - like a peanut or almond butter cup! Pack the s'more ingredients in small baskets to make assembly quick and easy.
*My Bourbon Cherry Marshmallows would be amazing in a s'more. Get the recipe here.
How do you like to spend a relaxed evening with friends? Share your favorite bonfire or party night ideas in the comments below!
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
When I found out that my sister, Heather, would be having a baby I was thrilled. The addition of a new baby to our family is something that makes my heart feel so full - and I knew that getting to watch my little sister, one of the people I am very closest to, discover the joy of motherhood would really be something special.
Of course, I was also very excited to plan her shower. Y'all know how I love a good theme party. When Heather told me that they wanted the shower to be a Jack and Jill backyard picnic I was even more excited.
I love co-ed baby and wedding showers. While traditions are great and all, these days it is much more common for men to take active roles in parenting their kids, so why should they miss out on baby showers?
This is one of your last opportunities to really kick up your heels before baby arrives, so why not do it right. Invite your best friends of both genders, put some cold drinks on ice, and turn up the music.
Making a shower co-ed is a great excuse to think outside the box and forgo the stuffier shower traditions for rowdier, more celebratory games and activities.
Plus, it takes the heat off of Mama. I don't know about you, but I feel a wee bit uncomfortable being the center of attention - never mind having a group of women measure my belly or guess my weight. Ugh.
My goal for this party was to make it as fun as possible. I wanted to make Heather and her husband Ben feel like it was a really special day while keeping things casual and laid back. This was going to be a pretty big party - with kids, families, and friends of all ages. We needed the decorations to pop, the games to be fun, and the food to be easy.
We chose a nautical theme since both Heather and Ben love of sailing, the ocean, and being outdoors in general. It just so happens that nautical themed kids clothes and decorations are super hot right now which made our party planning even easier!
The party was held in Heather and Ben's amazing backyard. To make this huge space look festive we took on one really special project - a balloon arch! I originally got the idea from one of my favorite blogs, The House That Lars Built. Ours didn't turn out quite as spectacular as Brittany's, but I still think it looked great and really made the yard say PARTY!
Filling the balloons was a group effort. I enlisted the grandparents, aunts and uncles in puffing them all up using both a balloon pump and good old-fashioned lung power. In hindsight I really should have invested in a few extra pumps OR something easier to use, like this electric pump. The next step was to stick the balloons into a strip of something called Decorative Balloon Tape. This was actually pretty easy, though the balloons sometimes popped out of place while I was working.
The strip gives you a very flexible tower of balloons that you can either curve into an arch, stack as a column, or hang in the air like we did. If you want to create a true arch (like an upside-down horseshoe), I'd suggest checking out an Arch Kit - or you can use my husband's favorite balloon arch method of sticking balloons to a curved PVC pipe with packing tape. We hung our balloon arch over the tables where folks would be eating and hanging out.
We used some hammock tree cords to attach one side to a large tree and attached the other side of the strips to a string of lights that was already strung up permanently. Wherever you choose to hang your balloon pillar, just make sure that the rigging is sturdy and the balloons are placed well away from branches or leaves that could pop them. When the wind picks up this decoration can really move!
Blue and White Balloon Arch | Shop the project:
Our other decorations were fairly simple. We picked up some fun streamers, paper lanterns, and pom-poms at the local party store and hung them around party focal points, like the drink and gift tables. My Mom also bought some really cute decorative wooden sailboats. These helped dress up the tables and doubled as game prizes for the guests. You can find a list of the decorations we chose on this Amazon list.
Food & Drink
We had lots of fun working on the party's buffet lunch. Along with some delicious cold salads, savory appetizers, and flatbread pizzas, we included a few special party recipes that matched the party theme. Almost all of these were inspired by recipes we found while cruising Pinterest, so I've included links to several tutorials and recipes below.
Sailboat Deviled Eggs | One of the very first projects that caught my eye were these adorable deviled egg sailboats. Super easy and cute to boot! Our friend, Sara Holliday, put this perfect little fleet together for the party.
Carved Watermelon Ship | I love to carve things, particularly pumpkins and melons, so of course I had to make a nautical themed fruit salad bowl! This was so easy though. Maybe too easy. You seriously just cut a square out of the side of the melon, stick a chopstick in it and blammo! You have yourself a watermelon sail boat. The peskier park is scooping out all of the watermelon but again, that's no big whoop. I vote watermelon fruit ship as the best mix of easy and impressive.
Sailboat Cake Pops | I have never really mastered the art of creating smooth pretty cake pops. Mine tend to come out gloppy and oddly shaped, but that doesn't stop me from making them. To cover up my cake pop ineptitude I simply roll them in sprinkles before letting them cool. I figure everyone loves sprinkles so it's a victimless crime. I cut triangles of craft paper and punched little holes in them to make sails, then topped each of my "boats" off with a small piece of washi tape to serve as a flag. Stickers, cello bags, ribbon, done!
Sailboat Sub Sandwich | In my opinion, big sandwiches are pretty much the best-ever party food. They are relatively inexpensive compared to other kinds of catering and they are built to please a crowd. We used craft paper and skinny dowels to transform our sub sandwich into a massive sailing ship - making it both a main dish AND a centerpiece! I used blue bulletin board borders to add waves to the table, and to serve as labels for each dish. Easy peasy.
Aquarium Jello Shots | These were so fun! We made two batches, one alcoholic and one non-alcoholic, and made sure to use different colored jellos for each and to label each bunch clearly. Even so, little ones kept trying to run off with the booze cups so just keep that in mind at your own party. If we did these again I would probably elevate the alcoholic shots to keep them further from reach.
Candy Fish Aquarium Jello Shots
Makes about 16 2-oz. shots
- 2 6-oz. boxes Berry Blue Jello
- 2 cups boiled water
- 1 cup Margarita Mix
- 1 cup tequila (or for a virgin version, use cold water or juice)
- 2 cups ice
- 1 package Swedish Fish
- 1 package Lifesaver Gummies
- Mix boiled water with contents of Jello packet and stir continuously for 2 minutes.
- Stir or shake margarita mix and tequila with ice and strain into bowl of jello. (Use a cocktail strainer or colander.)
- Mix the jello well before pouring into cocktail cups.Pour about 1/4 cup (2 ounces) into each cup.
- Chill for four hours to allow the jello to set.
- Top each cup with one Swedish Fish and one Lifesaver Gummy.
Oyster Pearl Cookies | My Mom made these little cuties. We opted for Pepperidge Farm Lemon Cookies over the more commonly used Nilla Wafers. This gave the "shells" a prettier texture. The candy eyes were my mother's idea. It took something pretty and made it goofy in the best possible way. Big win on the googly eyes, Mom. Big win!
By the way, that sand that you see on the tray full of cookies is just plain old brown sugar. My mom is a genius.
Oyster Pearl Cookies
Makes 20 Cookies
- 2 6-oz. packages of Pepperidge Farm Lemon Cookies
- 1 batch buttercream frosting (recipe here)
- 2 - 5 drops blue food coloring (optional)
- 40 small Candy Eyes
- 40 white/shimmer sixlet candies
- Mix buttercream frosting with food dye, if using. These also look very nice without color, or you can dye them to match your shower's theme colors.
- Fill a pastry bag fitted with a star tip with buttercream frosting.
- Place 20 cookies onto a baking sheet or tray, flat-side up. Pipe a generous dollop of frosting onto each cookie. (If you don't have a pastry bag you can simply spoon the frosting on.)
- Place one cookie on top of each frosted cookie, flat-side down.
- Fit the pastry bag with a writing tip, then frost two small dots on one cookie to adhere the candy eyes. Stick the eyes onto the cookie before moving on to the next cookie (or they may dry before you can glue them on.) If you aren't using a pastry bag, try using a chopstick or the tip of a teaspoon for this step.
- Finally, stick one sixlet candy into the "mouth" of each cookie sandwich.
- Serve right away or cover (gently) and refrigerate for up to four hours.
Fondant Shower Cake | My sister, Sarah, who runs the adorable handmade clothing shop Bub Bub, makes amazing cakes. (Just LOOK at this Dragons Love Tacos Cake she made!) Her works of art in fondant never cease to amaze and the cake she made for Heather and Ben's shower was no exception. Just look at that tiny knotted rope border! Stupendous. She even crafted two little kitties (modeled after Heather and Ben's beloved Chairman and Frattie) to ride in the wooden boat placed on top of the cake.
No party is complete without some interactive fun. We tried to put together games that fit the casual atmosphere of the party and would help keep guests of all ages well entertained.
Little Fishes Guest Book | Our friend, Rachel, put together this beautiful art project to serve as a guest book for the party. Guests signed tiny cut-out fish that Rachel later mounted on a paper background and framed for the new parents.
Kid's Craft Station with Cork Sailboats and Sailor Hats | Since we knew we'd have little ones in a pretty wide range of ages we thought a craft table would be the perfect way to get them in on the fun. We set up a station with supplies for making cork sailboats and for decorating kid-sized sailor hats. By the end of the party there were even some adults with funky sailor hats running around.
Kiddie Pool Boat Pond | This one couldn't have been easier. We picked up a few plastic sailboat toys and filled a kiddie pool with water. The kids did the rest! Splashing, sailing boats, and even diving right in. Nothing keeps my kid happier than water. It seems to be true for most others too!
Nautical Knot Tying | Ben's sister, Betsy, stopped by an old-timey candy shop in town to pick up several yards of rope licorice for guests to practice tying knots with. My Dad, a diver, sailor, and former merchant marine, manned the knot-tying table where guests stopped by to try their hand at a variety of tricky nautical knots. I made up a picture board to help things along and my Dad, the knot-master, handed out prizes to the best knot-tiers of the day.
Donut Eating Contest | This was hands-down the best baby shower game I've ever instigated. This wouldn't be a great match for just any baby shower, but if your friends are silly, adventurous, and really love donuts, than have I got a game for you. We tied glazed donuts to long pieces of ribbon before hanging them from Heather and Ben's clothesline.
This would work just as well with a tree, or a rope strung across the yard. We rounded up our most rowdy guests and challenged them to gobble up the donuts WITHOUT using their hands. Whoever finished the whole donut hands-free won the game. This was absolutely hilarious to watch!
Backyard Sack Boards | My husband took on the project of crafting two boards for sack (also called cornhole) to double as a party game and a shower and housewarming gift. To tell you the truth, I don't know exactly how my crafty man cut, sawed, and shellacked these two gorgeous game boards from scratch, but I know he did an incredible job! My Mom even sewed the bean bags herself.
This game kept folks busy all day long and well into the late afternoon. Impromptu tournaments erupted throughout the day while the guests kicked back with a little cold beer and friendly competition. If you don't want to build your own boards from scratch you could always buy a pair from a hand-maker on Etsy OR swap out corn hole for another backyard game.
You can check out even more fun ideas for your own nautical baby shower by checking out my Nautical Baby Shower Pinterest Board. The board includes pins for the projects we used and many more that we didn't get to.
Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Mother Dirt.
I used bacteria-based products to care for my skin and here's what happened.
So by now we have all heard how important probiotics can be to our overall health. We usually think of these kinds of "good bacteria" when it comes to our guts. Including fermented foods like saurkraut, kefir, or kombucha is an easy way to introduce helpful flora into our body.
But do you ever think about promoting helpful bacteria for other parts of your body? Your skin also relies on these kinds of flora to stay healthy. If you've ever suffered from a bout of candida than you know just how unhappy your skin can get when this balance is disrupted.
Like pretty much every other aspect of our lives, the natural biome that your skin maintains can be thrown out of whack by many of the modern conveniences we love so well. Commercially produced cleansers, lotions, and shampoos often include ingredients that can disrupt the skin's natural balance and biome, making it hard for your body to care for itself naturally.
Enter bacteria-based skin care. What a concept! Mother Dirt has formulated a very simple product line (just one head-to-toe cleanser, a shampoo, and a mist) that revolves around promoting the skin's natural biome. The method here is to cleanse your skin and hair using simple products that won't disrupt the natural bacteria on your skin and scalp, and then supplementing that bacteria with a twice-daily mist.
In addition to helping nurture a healthy skin biome, Mother Dirt products are intended to help users reduce their dependence on other supplemental products such as toners, moisturizers, and serums. The company argues that too many natural resources are wasted in the production and use of unnecessary beauty products.
I couldn't agree more on the virtues of simplifying one's personal care routine. After a quick glance at the ingredient list I was happy to try out Mother Dirt's product line. When my samples arrived I got started right away.
I was curious to see if the claims and experiences I read about in the company's brochure would hold true for my skin as well. The testimonials on Mother Dirt's web site report improvements in softness, texture, pore size - you name it.
How It Works
Mother Dirt pairs two simple cleansers, a head-to-toe foaming wash and a shampoo, with a face and body mist fortified with skin-loving bacteria.
Mother Dirt Cleanser is used to wash your face and body. It contains no bacteria, but is formulated to cleanse gently without disrupting the skin's natural biome.
Mother Dirt Shampoo is used to wash hair. Like the cleanser, this is a gentle cleanser that helps support your scalp's biome and natural balance.
Mother Dirt AO+ Mist is used after cleansing. This is the product that contains helpful bacteria. Spritz twice daily on your face, scalp, and all over the body. It's particularly helpful in battling bacteria in the sweatier regions of the body. (Think armpits!)
What I've Noticed
I've been using the cleanser once a day, the shampoo twice a week, and the mist twice a day for the past week. While my skin didn't transform overnight, I have noticed an improvement in overall wellness.
I have noticed some shrinkage in my pores, which is pretty encouraging since this is an area where I've been struggling with my skin for some time. I'm planning to give myself a charcoal masque this weekend to see if I can help the process along further.
Summer also has a tendency to send my skin's oil production into overload. Since I started the Mother Dirt products this has mellowed out quite a bit. My skin doesn't feel overly dry either, but I do wonder whether or not the spray will be enough when the weather cools off and starts drying me out. Will I need to add a moisturizer to the routine? We'll have to wait and see. For now, the balance feels just right.
This might be a little TMI, but obviously Texas summers are incredibly hot and sweaty. The brochure for Mother Dirt suggested spritzing sweaty spots of the body with the AO+ Mist to help manage bacteria that can cause body odor.
Since my favorite deodorants use essential oils and carrier oils to battle stinky bacteria, I was very curious to see whether or not these products would work, and they did! I noticed a difference right away.
After my first shower with the cleanser and body spray with the AO+ Mist I noticed a difference in my (ahem) personal funk factor.
What's Not to Like?
The only real gap I see in the 3-piece product line is the lack of exfoliation. After about a week of using the Mother Dirt products I can tell that I'll still need to use a scrub or exfoliating mask to occasionally lift dead skin.
This may not be the case for everyone, but personally, I need a good scrub now and then! I can also foresee the need for periodic moisturizing with my usual favorites, raw shea butter or rose hip seed oil.
Overall, I'm going to give bacteria-based skin care a big thumbs up. I look forward to continuing with these products to see how my skin reacts to a long term routine.
Ready to Try it for Yourself?
You can learn more about bacteria-based skin care and shop for Mother Dirt products at MotherDirt.com.
If you've already tried Mother Dirt, I'd love to hear about your experiences with bacteria-based skin care. Share your story in the comments below!
Disclaimer: This blog contains a sponsored Amazon links that helps support Mary Makes Good.
Mary Makes Good by Mary Helen Leonard is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License