3 Easy Ways to Carve a no-mess Pumpkin

Skip the mess with these easy DIY pumpkins that you can display all season!

It happens almost every year and yet it is always still a surprise-Halloween has snuck up on me again. Between my reno projects both inside and outside my house, my kids and my blog I have barely had time to binge on Halloween candy, let alone decorate the house. So this year, I decided that if I was going to carve some pumpkins, I wanted to do it without the stinky mess and in a way that will last more than a few days.

Reusable craft pumpkins

Indian Summer

The beginning of October had me constantly guessing between sweaters and shorts. While the timing may have been perfect for apple picking (another thing I failed to do this year) it was way too warm for pumpkins. The last thing I want to deal with is a bunch of rotten Jack O’lanterns on my porch.

Stinky smelly mess

In our modern age of store-bought pumpkin seeds, I see no reason to put myself through the torture which is known as carving pumpkins.  While I was forced to endure this torture as a kid, in my adulthood I have chosen to avoid at all costs.

As a parent, I don’t want to deprive my kids of this Halloween ritual. I have tried having my husband take the lead while I relax in another room, but I still find myself getting sick to my stomach off the fumes. In turn, my husband often finds that he is left to complete the job alone once our kids abandon the job five minutes in.

The Perfect Pumpkin

After weeks of procrastination, I discovered I waited just long enough to get a great deal on pumpkins from Micheals I had always wanted to give their artificial pumpkins a try and this seemed like the ideal year.

Originally I planned to print a stencil off the web to carve a couple of really cool designs that could be used over and over again. Once I realized that I was about to do hours of work for a few days of enjoyment, I decided to do something that I could be enjoyed for the entire Fall season instead of just a few days.

I scoured Pinterest for some inspiration and then recruited my somewhat willing husband to help. We kept one pumpkin traditional with a carved Jack O’lantern face and decided to use a drill to make patterns on the other two.

The first thing I did was draw out a pattern to follow with the drill. On one pumpkin I choose to follow the lines along the pumpkin with alternating drill bit sizes (one small, one large).

On the other pumpkin, I drew a swirling design and also used alternating drill bits to add some interest to the pattern. I found with the swirl pattern I needed to use smaller bits to make the intricate design.

Easy clean-up

Instead of a stinky, gloopy, mess, these pumpkins were easily cleaned up with our vacuum. I used a toothpick to clean up the holes and push through any hanging bits. I decided I wanted to paint the two pumpkins so I used some simple dollar store paint. I used gold on the smaller one and a mixture of white gold and pink to paint the larger one.

Once the paint had dried I used a lighter shade of gold to highlight the pumpkin’s crevices on the smaller pumpkin and to add dimension to the larger one.

I added some battery operated tealights and we were ready to celebrate! The best part is that as soon as Halloween is over I don’t have to put my pumpkins away since they are perfect as fall decor as well.

Would you ever use craft pumpkins instead of the real thing? Let me know in the comments!

Easy Fireplace Makeover

A chalk painted fireplace

When it comes to enjoying the holidays with your family, many picture cuddling around the fireplace. But what if a brand new hearth is well outside of your budget but you still want to make some cuddly memories? Take a page out of this frugal mommy’s book and upcycle an old clunker into the fireplace of your dreams!

When my husband I started house hunting for our second home, we had a fairly long ‘wish list’. We had lived in our first home for almost six years and had learned what we didn’t want and were focused on finding our’ forever home’.

Amongst the en-suite bathroom, multi-level layout, and beautiful neighbourhood, I was harbouring a deep love for a cozy addition to our livingroom: a fireplace. But of course, with any home search, it came down to a question of wish list versus reality and when we finally found our dream home (a 1980’s back-split fixer-upper) it did not have a fireplace.

A Dream Fireplace

Of course, my husband and I were well-aware of the fact that we could always pay to have a gas fireplace installed, but two years later it is low on the list of priorities and likely still years away.

Hearth for the holidays?

With the temperature starting to dip and the return of fall, I found myself once again longing for my cozy fireplace. With an tiny budget and an open mind, I decided to check out my favourite place to shop: VarageSale.

Among the many high priced resale fireplaces, I found the perfect diamond in the rough. A chipped white and brass number that was the perfect DIY candidate and a great price: $45.

Although there was a lot of interest in the unit due to the low price, I ultimately was able to snag the deal because the unit needed a little TLC and I believe the other interested parties didn’t want to take on the work. Their hesitation was definitely my gain!

DIY Fireplace Makeover

The first thing I did was clean up the unit with a clean rag. Once I removed any surface dirt and dust, I was able to take a closer look at any damage to the hearth. From there I roughed up the surface with some sandpaper and then wiped off any excess dust.

To address the chips in the corners I built up the chips with wood filler and sanded once dry. I had to repeat this process several times to get the desired smooth finish. I also had to use wood glue to reattach a small detail at the bottom.

Making the Perfect Mantel

Once the unit was ready to be painted I applied several thin coats of chalk paint. I choose an antique mustard colour because I have used yellow as an accent colour in the upper living and dining room and wanted to introduce it in the lower level of our home. I also wanted to get a little bit out of my comfort zone in terms of colour choice. This yellow was definitely a bit of a bolder choice for me, but I am very happy with it.

It took about three coats to get the desired effect on this piece. Sometimes I like to have the original colour peek through when I use chalk paint, but for this fireplace, I choose a complete cover.

Chalk Paint Makeover

Although the colour was a departure for me, I still wanted to add my signature stencil accent. Once the paint was fully dry (24 hours) I applied the stencil and used white acrylic paint to add this cute little accent. My husband always says it should say: ‘this is our happy fireplace’.

The top piece shows the original colour and the bottom shows the difference after the wax finish.

I really wanted to do an antique wax finish on this. I started with a coat of ‘antique’ brown wax which I applied liberally and then wiped off the excess with a rag.

I used a white wax for the next layer and wiped off the excess.

I repeated both these steps again to get my desired look. I find that by doing this technique you can add texture to smooth furniture so I especially like to use it on MDF pieces like this.

Irresistible Insert

The final step for the hearth was to apply a further coat of clear wax on the top of the hearth. I really wanted to make sure it would be protected in case anyone was to ever place anything on top.

While the painting of this fireplace hearth was an involved process, there was still one more necessary step. The heating unit of this unit was an dated brass. I used 600 grit sandpaper to rough up the surface, taped off the glass and sprayed the brass with a high heat black paint. This easy step really did make a huge difference in the look of the whole fireplace! It is very important to use high heat paint. I got mine at Canadian Tire.

Now that the fireplace project is complete, I love turning the unit on and getting cozy on the couch with the kids. I can’t wait to have a fireplace for the holidays so we finally have a spot to hang our stockings!

While we will eventually replace this fireplace with a gas counterpart in a few year’s time, for now, I don’t have to sacrifice style or comfort because of a tight budget.

Have you ever done a fireplace makeover? Let me know in the comments and tag me on Instagram @keepupwiththerobertsons! Your project could be featured!

The Perfect Cupcakes for your Little Mermaid

Cupcakes are the perfect handheld treat for birthday celebrations. A perfect portion for everyone, they are an easy cake alternative for the busy party-planner. Check out my mermaid cupcakes inspired by under the sea. 

When my daughter and I decided on a mermaid theme for her eighth birthday, I quickly decided to try and make her own cake this year. After all, it is generally cheaper and tastes better than store bought, but how was I going to pull it off?

After finding inspiration for some shell-shaped cookies, I decided to use them to top cupcakes to stay on theme and on budget.

I used a cake mix and premade icing from the local bulk food store to save on costs. After preparing my cake mix according to the instructions, I added sprinkles to create the requested ‘funfetti’ flavour. Once the cupcakes were baked, I used an icing tip to create a hollow space and added some star sprinkles for an extra bit of crunchy fun.

After replacing the cake circle top, I added two different shades of icing (teal and purple) to my icing bag and piped on a multi-colour swirl. The trick to this is to put each colour on its own side of the piping bag for a cool swirl effect.

From there I let my creativity take over with some pearl accents, gummy fish and of course, my shell cookies.

I wanted to make my daughter’s cupcake stand out, so I added two shell cookies together with a huge swirl of icing and then put a pearl in the middle.

 

The cupcakes were a big hit! While I momentarily feared there would be fights over who got which cupcake, they all disappeared within minutes and without a fight. We were even able to persuade guests to take the leftovers home to enjoy the next day.

 

Are you a DIY baker? Let us know in the comments!

Make Your own Mermaid Party Popcorn!

When you combine an easy to make recipe and cheap ingredients you have yourself a real party hit! Check out our simple mermaid-inspired party popcorn mix that will be perfect for your next soiree!

One of my favourite frugal investments has been our air popcorn popper. Not only is it easy to use, but it makes for a cheaper, healthier alternative to microwave popcorn. It’s also a great base for sweet party treats.

All you need for the mermaid popcorn:

  • 2 cups popcorn kernels

  • 2 cups white melting chocolate wafers

  • 1tbsp of coconut oil

  • Food colouring*

  • Edible pearls*

  • Sprinkles*

  • Edible glitter*

  • Gummy fish*

*All of these add-ons are optional but delicious!

Pop the kernels in batches to avoid burning. Fill up to your machine’s fill line and make sure to remove any unpopped kernels from each batch.

Melt the chocolate wafers over a double boiler with coconut oil. Divide into two equal parts once melted. Add one colour of food colouring in each bowl and mix.

Put prepared popcorn into two separate bowls.

Add melted chocolate into each bowl. Cover completely. Add sprinkles, pearls and glitter if desired. Once the chocolate has hardened, combine the two colours together.

Are you planning a mermaid-themed party? Check out our super simple shell cookie how-to!

Enjoy!

Super Simple Shell Cookies

Do you have a little mermaid at home that you are planning to celebrate? These shell sugar cookies are an easy and fun DIY for your next birthday party.

When it comes to decorating my own cakes, I often choose to forgo the fancy decorations in favour of placing on-theme toys. Check out my LOL birthday party cake here. For my daughter’s eighth birthday party, a sale on sugar cookie mix inspired me to make these under the sea themed treats!

Let’s Bake!

I followed the box recipe (doubled) for the sugar cookies and then divided into three equal parts. I used food colouring to tint them to my desired colours (two parts blue and one part green for teal) and mixed well.

 

I made three equal balls and then combined the dough loosely to make a tied dyed look.

I had found these cookie cutters that reminded me of the top of a shell. I used the cookie cutter to make a perforated edge and then shaped the bottom of the cookie into a shell with a knife. I then followed the edges of the top to create shell-like ridges with the knife.

I added a pearl decoration and some dusting powder to add a little bit of flare. If your pearl melts during the baking process, just add a new one. The old one will work as glue to keep it in place.

Under the sea

Bake according to package directions and let cool. If you plan on making the cookies as a stand-alone, try combining two cookies with icing and add a pearl in the middle. Instant hit for any under the sea themed party! Or add to our mermaid-style cupcakes for a delicious duo.

 

Do you rock your baking or do you tend to ‘nail it’? Let me know in the comments!