The Blog of a Bluegrass Belle

Sunday, September 21, 2014

"Deerly" Beloved DIY Cake Topper with Cricut Explore

This post is sponsored by Cricut and is part of Design Space Star

Unique cake toppers can be hard to find, and they can also be expensive. I am currently planning my own wedding and bridal shower, and it has been challenging to find pieces that I fall in love with. My teammates for Cricut's Design Space Star chose a "woodlands" party theme. I decided that would be a great opportunity to design a few potential pieces for my own wedding and bridal parties. I created a cake topper suitable for several occasions. It was inexpensive, quick, and different.  This isn't your typical "cookie cutter" cake topper. 

Image files needed:
  • Stag
  • Doe
  • Heart
  • Banner
  • Laurel 
  • Assorted heavy cardstock dependent on theme and color scheme 
  • Wooden dowels
  • Glue
  • Cricut Explore
  • Cricut Design Space installed on your computer 

Load the image files onto Cricut Design Space and cut them out on desired cardstock.
The length of your support dowel rods will be dependent on the thickness of your cake. I cut the dowel rods for my project 5 1/2 inches long. I began by gluing the stag and doe on the banner, taking care to center them as much as possible. I glued the laurel to the back of the banner, doe, and stag. I cut a small rectangular backing strip to fit across the back of the topper to cover the dowels. I glued the dowel to the back of the cake topper, and glued the rectangular backing over the dowels. I centered the heart and glued it to the front of the banner. I used a small book as a weight while the project dried. 

Here are a few extra ideas and tips:
  • You could use a single stag or doe silhouette for a baby shower.
  • Metallic cardstock is beautiful in person but does not photograph well.

I have also created matching cupcake wrappers and thank you bags, and I will show you those in a later post. 

Do you have any great DIY wedding or party ideas? I would love to know what you're making.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What Stresses You Out? Hyland's 5-Day Stress Challenge

This post is sponsored by Hyland's 

Trying on wedding gowns after gaining
a few pounds is a stressful experience. 

This past year has been of the most stressful, but it has also been one of the most rewarding year’s of my life. I wrapped up a painful divorce, moved with my 4 year old son, changed careers, and gained a few pounds in the process. I also met an amazing man that I plan to marry in a few short months, and wedding planning has its own set of highs and lows.

There are so many factors that influence stress, and everyone handles stress differently. The only healthy way I knew to de-stress was to run, but I suffered a hip injury which completely prevented me from running for a few months. Personally I tend to overeat when I dealing with an unusual amount of stress. Chocolate becomes my “nerve pill”. The added calories makes me gain weight, and that just adds to my anxiety. Weight gain is rarely a good thing, and especially not before you get married.

This is why I am excited to participate in the Hyland’s 5-day Stress Challenge. I am hoping that if I can de-stress my life that I can gradually lose the weight I gained from stress eating.

What is the Hyland’s 5-day Stress Challenge? Hyland’s will feature daily challenges, and offer information about natural solutions for stress reduction and how to cope with stress on their Facebook page.

Participants will have a chance to win a Hyland’s  Stress Less Duo which includes Hyland’s Calms Forte and Hyland’s Nerve Tonic. Each day they will post a question about stress and ten winners will be chosen at random. On Saturday, October 4th one lucky participant will win the Grand Prize basket filled with various Hyland’s products and a $100 Spafinder gift card.

Registration for the challenge begins on Wednesday, September 17th at 1pm EST. The challenge begins on Monday, September 29th and ends Friday, October 3rd. The first 1,000 participants to register for the challenge will receive a 32 count box of Hyland’s Nerve Tonic®.

You can learn more about the Hyland’s 5-day Stress Challenge here.

What stresses you out? What do you do to cope with stress?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Banana Butter Pecan Cupcakes and a Recipe for Love

I had some very ripe bananas laying around. I hate for food to go to waste. It is hard to advocate for people facing food insecurity if you feel like you are wasting food. I started digging through the cabinet for recipe ideas because Gabe or I would not eat them that ripe. Gabe also wanted to help me cook. He drags his Cars stool into the kitchen and hovers over the island. There isn't a whole lot a 4 year old can help with. I spotted a Butter Pecan cake mix in the cabinet and thought I could do some improvisation. I don't know that I would call this a recipe, it isn't much more than a butter pecan cake mix with some adjustments including the addition of bananas.

When Gabe helps in the kitchen I try to let him participate as much as possible. The first task I gave him was peeling the bananas. I could have let him mash them with a potato masher but I wanted the texture to be as smooth as possible. I had him drop the bananas into my mixer and we let it do the work.

I basically used the same recipe on the back of the box except I adjusted the amount of water and added 3 ripe medium bananas. Preheat your oven to 350.


  • 3 ripe medium bananas
  • 1 Betty Crocker Butter Pecan cake mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
After we mashed the bananas, we added everything else to the mixer. I let Gabe count out the eggs, empty the cake mix into the mixer, showed him the lines on the measuring cups, and let him add in the wet ingredients. He also put the cupcake liners in my pan.

I spray my liners with a non-stick cooking spray, the cupcakes don't stick to the liners as bad if you do this. We filled each cupcake liner just over 1/2 full with batter. I didn't want them rising above the liners so that I could put the icing on warm. 

The cupcakes are soft and moist. The flavors in the butter pecan cake mix don't overpower the bananas.   They are very sweet, so I don't recommend much icing. I put a dollop of cream cheese icing on the top of each warm cupcake and allowed it to melt across the top.

It was fun cooking with my son and a great way to introduce him to cooking with recipes.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Cricut Design Space Star Team 10 Giveaway

This post is sponsored by Cricut

I have been having fun the last few weeks with my new Cricut Explore machine and the Design Space software. My teammates and I were tasked to create unique themed projects. I created an aztec print design, and used it to create a shirt and bracelet set. There was so much talent on our team and the several other teams competing. One of my teammates made the Top 10 and eventually the Top 5 with her whitty Alpaca Lunch set. We are excited that Cricut is allowing us to give one of our lucky readers a Cricut Explore this week.

Here are the members of Team 10.

Here are the individual projects that we created. 

Fashion & Aztec-nology by A Southern Mother
Hexagon Necklace & Earrings by One Krieger Chick
Yellow Submarine Tote by Let's Eat Grandpa
Painted Pony Tee by Sweet Rose Studio
DIY Baby Moccasins by Confetti Sunshine
Hot Air Balloon Sweatshirt by Crafting in the Rain

What would you create with a Cricut Explore? You can enter to win your own Cricut Explore on the Rafflecopter widget below, and stay tuned in the coming weeks to see what my teammates and I create for the next challenge. 

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good Luck,

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Don't let a big move leave you #SheetOutOfLuck

This post is sponsored by Angel Soft® as part of #SheetHappens and #SheetOutOfLuck campaign. 

Last week my son, fiance, and I moved into our new home. Moving is a stressful experience. No one wants to be #SheetOutOfLuck when you relocate and you are trying to adjust to a new place. There are certain supplies that you must have when you move in.

  • Toilet Paper
  • Paper Towels
  • Window Cleaner
  • All-purpose Cleaner
  • Disinfectant
  • Laundry Detergent
  • Dish Soap
  • Hand Soap

One of the first items on my list of household supplies to buy when we moved in was toilet paper. We live about 10 minutes from the nearest store to purchase toilet paper or other household items. I bought Angel Soft® jumbo roll toilet paper which has over 2x more sheets than regular rolls. Who has time to constantly run to the store to pick up household supplies? These Angel Soft® jumbo rolls last longer than your typical toilet paper roll. 

Here are a few photos from our move.

My 4 year old son Gabriel is always the one to inform us that we are out of toilet paper, he is usually the person who uses the last of a roll and doesn't tell us when he does. 

Congratulations to the winner of the one year supply of Angel Soft® toilet paper Susan C. from Wichita, Kansas. She shouldn’t be #SheetOutOfLuck. 

My stockpile of Angel Soft toilet paper. 

Follow the hashtags #SheetHappens and #SheetOutOfLuck, and join the conversation with Angel Soft® on Facebook and Twitter because Angel Soft knows their #sheet.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Chili's® at Home Heats Up the Frozen Food Aisle

This post is sponsored by Chili's® at Home

It is hard for me to eat a decent lunch. I am always busy, and I hate typical fast food. When I can't find what I want to eat, I will skip lunch altogether. These new Chili's® at Home meals caught my eye when I was shopping at both Wal-Mart and Kroger. I found the single serve meals for less than $3 each, so the price point was good.

Jeremy and I had been busy working on the new house. We were trying to do some of the finish work ourselves to speed up the process so that we could move in sooner. It isn't uncommon that we get busy working and miss lunch. I grabbed these two Chili's® at Home meals from the freezer and heated them up. It was a very quick way to have a tasty lunch.

We had the Chicken Bacon Ranch and the Bacon Mac 'N' Cheese, both meals were delicious. The flavors were similar to those found at Chili's® Restaurants.

Chili's® at Home comes in several delicious varieties.

Single serve meals:

  • Bacon Mac 'N' Cheese
  • Cajun-Style Chicken Alfredo
  • Cheesy Chicken Pasta Florentine
  • Chicken Bacon Ranch
  • Chicken Fajita Rice Bowl
  • Island Chicken & Rice
  • Mango Chicken with Rice
  • Pepper Jack Mac 'N' Cheese
  • Bacon Mac 'N' Cheese
  • Chicken Bacon Ranch
  • Chicken Fajita Rice
  • Nacho Potatoes with Beef and Bacon
  • Seasoned Chicken Bites with Honey Chipotle Sauce 

You can head over to the Chili's® at Home website for more information and to download a coupon for $1 off any one entree. In my hometown Wal-Mart and Kroger both had them in the freezer food aisle but they are carried in several other grocery stores in the freezer aisle. 

What type of meals do you serve or eat when you don't have time to cook? 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Fashion & Aztec-nology with Cricut Explore and Design Space

Cricut Explore

I was giddy when FedEx dropped off my new Cricut Explore nearly 10 days ago. I am not a craft blogger but I love doing crafty projects. I have never owned a machine like Cricut, so I was excited to explore all of the features. The Cricut Explore is different than previous models, it doesn't require cartridges (but you can use cartridges if you have them). You can buy projects or create projects using their software called Design Space.

I will openly admit, I get a little jealous when I see my girlfriends and their daughters dressed in "mommy & me" matching outfits. I have a son and there are very few unisex prints or designs that you can use. I decided it would be fun to coordinate our clothing on occasion before he was too old to refuse (he is 4.5, so my time is ticking away). My current fashion obsession is aztec and ikat print items. I thought it would be fun to create slightly matching shirts for Gabe and I using a general neutral pattern.

Not a flattering photo of me, but he sure does look cute! 
Here is what you need:
  • Cricut cutting mat 
  • good quality, pre-washed cotton shirt (or a thrift shop find denim jacket would be gorgeous too!)
  • Cricut iron-on vinyl 
  • aztec print design image file
  • Cricut Explore 
  • Cricut Design Space software
  • iron
I browsed around the internet looking for aztec print inspiration. Many of the prints I found were too busy for me (and I thought they were too intricate for a first project). Luckily I am handy in photoshop so I created a design and replicated it (I had a second project in mind). 

I uploaded the design into Cricut Design Space. A program on the software will help you convert basic jpg files to vector files. 

Once you have the image uploaded, you need to clean it up. You need to make sure that you click on all the white areas which will become void space in the design. 

cricut aztec

If you look at the image below, you can see that I have most of the image cleaned. 

Once the image is completely cleaned you can resize it.

You need to place the iron-on vinyl shiny side down on your cutting mat and load it into the machine.

Make sure you click "mirror image" on the final page before you cut the image.

When the Cricut is finished cutting your design, unload the machine.

You need to weed out all the excess vinyl carefully, you don't want to ruin an entire design because you pulled too fast or too hard.

Preheat your iron and then iron the shirt. You can measure your shirt (or other material) and center your design.

Iron-on your transfer according to manufacturers directions, and then peel off the clear backing.

I made a smaller one and added it to Gabe's shirt sleeve.

cricut and aztec

If you notice the leather bracelet in the above photo on the right, I made that using the same pattern and my Cricut Explore. I just cut the design into a leather bracelet that I picked up from a local craft store, and then slightly stained the leather to accentuate the cuts. The possibilities are endless with the Cricut Explore.

It was a relatively quick and fun way to create a stylish pair of shirts for Gabe and I. I spent less than $20 in materials for both shirts and my bracelet.

If you are considering purchasing a Cricut Explore I highly recommend it. I have so many projects dreamed up that Cricut could help make a reality. Here is a sneak preview of my next project. 

You can search for more projects like this using the hashtag #DesignSpaceStar. 

Interested in ordering a Cricut? You can use the code FREESHIP35 to get free shipping off any Cricut order over $35.

Check out other great posts from my Team 10 teammates in the Cricut Design Space Star challenge.

What are you creating today?