How to make your own character cake

I wanted to make an edible Thomas the Train birthday cake topper or Thomas the Train cupcake fondant toppers for George’s upcoming birthday but I didn’t want to buy the $uper ex$pensive toppers off of etsy. Thankfully, I found this easy tutorial on how to frost your own professional-looking character and all you really need is a coloring page!

Now, being a crazy planner and scheduler-type of mom, I made this topper a month in advance and stuck it in the chest freezer. I’m not 100 percent certain it is going to go well when I take it out and put in on a cake next month. But I am 100 percent certain I could make this again no problem. It would probably go faster the second time, too.

I started out by tracing all of the black outlines.

I started out by tracing all of the black outlines.

Start adding in your colors!

Start adding in your colors!

Here is the link to the exact image I used for our cake. Now that I know how to make a character cake, you can bet I’m never going to buy another pre-made cake ever again. When your kids are older, I bet they would love to decorate their own cake, and it would be a great birthday activity to do together.

 

Upgrading the exterior of your home – adding curb appeal

Before I get to exterior upgrades…can I just share that this happened?

Ross caught a huge muskie!

Ross took his dad fishing for a day to celebrate his 60th Birthday. What an awesome gift idea he had, too – “experience” gifts are the best kind! I cannot think of one thing that his dad could have wanted more than to spend a day with his son. Plus they caught the largest muskie to ever roam the Land of 10,000 Lakes. But onto the curb appeal and shtuff…

These days new build homes are so plain from a curb appeal standpoint. They are cookie cutter, which serves to make the neighborhood more uniform but also loses that luster of old historic neighborhoods where every house is different yet custom with personal touches. Whether it is a little bit of decorative stone, some decorative corners on trim, a detailed front door or decorative gables, each house should have something to show that someone cared.

Our house started out as the most basic of houses with grey siding and not much else. Nothing else. Ross agreed to add stone eventually and we decided on brick after we drove around a bit. We noticed red brick was a nice compliment to grey siding on similar houses. After he added the brick I started to notice the particular triangle of grey siding above the garage door as well as the inequality of the red brick around the garage door, but grey siding everywhere by the front door. Ross and I decided to add red cedar shakes around the front door, the kitchen window and above the garage door. It really helped our house stand out on the street and look less like a “new-build.” Check out our journey below!

Ross applying brick to the front of the house (see the triangle of grey siding above?)

Ross applying brick to the front of the house (see the triangle of grey siding above?)

Finished brick but something's still missing...(cedar shakes!)

Finished brick but something’s still missing…(cedar shakes!)

Bricked over the cedar post by the front door, but it still wasn't "enough" on that side of the house

Bricked over the cedar post by the front door, but it still wasn’t “enough” on that side of the house

Currently our house is a mix of brick, cedar shakes and grey siding....and we love it!

Currently our house is a mix of brick, cedar shakes and grey siding….and we love it!

Making a bench from old farm wood

Our entryway before and after is crazy like a Miley Cyrus makeover. For nine years, we lived with an entryway that had a tiny closet and enough space for maybe three people to stand. Now, we have so much storage I want to sing.

What our entryway looked like before - with the antique-store bench that I recovered

What our entryway looked like before – with the antique-store bench that I recovered

My dad, keeper of fatherly advice and knowledge, who is also basically a human GPS system, logistically explained the necessity of split levels and how they make the most efficient use of square footage. Being someone who has lived in a split level for nine years, I abhor the fact that you walk in and immediately have to move up or down. It’s the opposite of welcoming. It is also nearly impossible to keep the entry clean and orderly, due to the simple fact there is usually not enough accessible storage.

Old barnwood Ross turned into a bench

Old barnwood Ross turned into a bench

Because my husband is awesome and he has dozens of dollars and that’s right, he decided to diy a barn wood bench where we previously had a small iron(read: tippy) bench. I was always afraid to put any sort of storage in the entry due to the already minimal space, thinking it would just make it look smaller, but the risk of shrinking the space was worth the reward of storage that goes on – and on – and on!

What the barnwood looked like before refinishing and after refinishing

What the barnwood looked like before refinishing and after refinishing

The small antique bench in the entry was worthless. I bought it at an antique store in Winona Minnesota and reupholstered it, because it has amazing crackled paint (allelujah patina) and a great shape, but because of the age it was always a little rickety. In fact, it never felt stable enough to be roughed up by kids, winter boots and large adults. Because it was reupholstered with a beautiful ivory fabric, I never wanted anyone to leave dirty gloves, hats or coats laying on it. In other words, it was completely impractical and we usually just sat on the stairs to put on our shoes so the bench wouldn’t get dirty. There may have even been a period of time when I placed a dish towel over the fabric to protect it. #yeahso

Cleaning up the hinges for the bench

Cleaning up the hinges for the bench

Because we don’t have a ton of room in our entry for a built-in, I knew that we needed a bench where we could tuck away a lot of snow gear. #minnesnowta Small closet + Minnesota winters = coats all around the house.

Finished top of the bench

Finished top of the bench

Here is the cost and materials breakdown of this project:

  • My husband bought a planer on an equipment and furniture auction site called K-Bid.  So it really depends on if you buy new, already have a planer, or borrow one. Don’t ever speak about K-Bid to a man, because it is addicting, as evidenced by my brother, who bought almost all of his furniture for his house off K-Bid.
  • Reclaimed wood – Free! Ross was lucky enough to have an old barn in the family and salvaged wood off of this ruined structure.
  • Polyurethane – Ross bought Cabot brand polyurethane (one of the least expensive brands) for about $20 but he said quality did not matter too much here.
  • A good brush is important for clean lines – my husband recommends Purdy brand brushes.
  • Ross already has almost every piece of equipment known to man, but for this project specifically he used his Ryobi table saw, Craftsman miter saw, Ryobi router with a flush trim bit, Bostitch air compressor, Bostitch finish nailer and brad nailer, and Skil jigsaw.
Attaching the top to the base of the bench

Attaching the top to the base of the bench

The finished bench in our entryway

The finished bench in our entryway

Now…I’m still thinking about what to do the antique bench that we pulled from the entryway. I’m thinking it might look nice (and not take up too much room) at the foot of our bed. Do a lot of people actually have benches at the kitchen table or is that just what I see in fake Pinterest land? I’m wondering if that would get uncomfortable. It would probably be too messy to have kids at the table on top of upholstery anyway. For now, the old bench is just sitting in our downstairs living room, but if nothing else I’ll use it at the rental. It could work to the left of the front door, in the actual living room area, or maybe on the kitchen wall by the chimney.