Sunday, August 28, 2011

Bathroom Renovation, 1/6 Scale

The place: GI Joe house
The job: Bathroom renovation
The materials: Tiny shoe box, serger thread spool, white nail polish

As you may recall, the GI Joes have been roughing it for a while. We did get a sink installed in the bathroom and kitchen, but the Joes have been running for the bushes any time nature called. Well, no more. I'm proud to announce that the Joes not only have a toilet now, but a bath tub. (No shower faucet or curtain yet, but baby steps, my friend.) See below:

This is what we started with. The bathroom was hastily
put together, and it's obvious by the way the wallpaper
gaps, but it's better than nothing.

This little shoe box happened to be the perfect width to fit in this spot. We
cut the end off to make it short enough and taped it into place. (I'd recommend
hot glue, but the tape was more expedient at the time.)

I used the scrap end of the shoe box for the toilet: I cut it in two, cut a hole
 in the center,and mounted it on a plastic serger spool. I used white nail
polish to paint it, which gave it a nice "porcelain" look. The handle is made
from a hook from a hook and eye clasp.  

And while we were crafting, I made Rick some pants. He's
much happier now, although I bet he wishes I had had enough
nail polish to paint his tub to match. Maybe I'll do that with
white acrylic and mod podge. We'll see.
This addition didn't take any specialized equipment or skill, just a lucky hunk of cardboard, and now the Joes house is a lot more livable. And my kid approves, which is the most important thing. (Now all I need to do is find another shoe box for my niece's dollhouse... Barbie will need a bath and a potty too, methinks.) 

Picture of the Day: Petite Bistro Set

This is super cute. Shared by a friend, she knew I would love this. I use these pizza spacers all the time in my dollhouses, although I don't really do anything in quite this small a scale. Find it here on etsy.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Sometimes You Just Get Lucky

This has been a really long week for me. With last weekend's festivities and getting ready for the pirate party, I didn't take much time to relax and recharge my batteries from last week. So when I got done with work today, I needed a few minutes to mentally transition from work mode to home mode. I decided to stop by my neighborhood Goodwill store for a little shopping. 

I thought perhaps I would find some ballet flats or wedge heeled shoes for work, or maybe a cardigan. I have been keeping my eye out for some cheap shoes that I can wear with my work clothes but are still comfortable for running laps back and forth between my desk and the copy machine. No dice. However, I did find a few other things that caught my interest: loads of doll furniture. 

I got this stuff for my niece's dollhouse. My son already has a couch, but
this flowery couch and loveseat set will go nicely in my girly-girl's dollhouse.
Also the vanity and this baby bed. (I can't see the Joes needing these.)

These are for my son. I'm thinking of painting the car black, but we'll see. We
may also see what we can do about changing the color of the china cabinet,
although he doesn't seem to be bothered by the pink (yet). I also picked up a
few more dolls for my boy. This Ken doll (whom Eli has named Brandon) needs
some clothes, but is in otherwise great shape. This Barbie (Brooke now) is one
of the ones whose arms and legs are jointed almost like the GI Joes, and she came
with jeans and a shirt. The other Barbie is purple... I thought she might make a good
superhero or something.  

It's a good start for the living room. The "coffee table" needs some work,
and we need to get the wall paper and flooring done.

We need a stool for the vanity, but I think it goes pretty well with the rest
of the bedroom.

This piece was actually a music box. I love it when I can repurpose something
like this. I think it's just about perfect, although maybe for a smaller baby.

Setting up his house. It may be time to renovate again...
The Joes are running out of room.

I also found these today. They are the perfect scale for a Barbie/GI Joe
fish tank. I got one for each dollhouse. Pink for my niece, green for my son.
Hope she likes it as much as he does!

I've been scouring eBay for doll furniture and accessories ever since the GI Joe house was first built, but haven't found anything priced low enough that I was willing to spend my money on it. Guess how much this stuff cost? Except for the fish tank ($1.50), the most expensive thing was the car ($1.00). The rest was $0.50 or less. I think I really scored on this stuff today. I think that my kid was as excited as I was (I hope), and hopefully my girly-girl niece will be pleased as well. I know Barbie and Joe are living more comfortably after today.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Dessert Island

I used to order cakes for my kids' birthdays from the Wal-Mart bakery, until it hit me that I was paying $20-30 for what I could probably make with $5-10, and you know me... the pennies have to be pinched, whether they like it or not, so mama got creative.

The first step is always searching the internet for inspiration. I found a few great pirate cakes online, including a treasure chest, a jolly roger, and an awesome pirate ship, but none that felt quite right... (meaning I didn't have supplies on hand that I could adapt to my purpose.) Finally, inspiration hit, and I decided on a "desserted island" theme. (Yes, I know deserted is spelled with one s... I meant to pun, deal with it.)

So I gathered my supplies, including yellow cake mix (because you know I don't really bake), a cardboard cake board left over from the 50 Sucks cake, a skeleton from my Haunted Dollhouse, a scrap of fabric from the Pirate Pennant, and other sundry items.

The cake pan is a flower pan, but I thought it would make a nice island shape.
The skeletons were 4/$1 at Dollar Tree, I made the flag out of a scrap of fabric
and a shish-kabab skewer, the treasure chest is one of Eli's toys, and the rest
is scenery.
I baked my cake like normal, using my flower pan for the island shape. Yellow cake seemed the most sand-colored, so I went with that.

While that was cooling, I prepared the cake board as follows:

I mixed together white and blue acrylic paint, using an egg carton as my
palette. The goal is to simulate water.

Painting it on in a circular pattern, I simulated waves lapping up against the
island. I thought about putting saran wrap over top, but decided it wasn't
necessary. Acrylic paint is non-toxic and water proof, so it wasn't going to
hurt the cake.

Ta-da! Yes, it's a flower cake... but I had a plan to make it look more like a
desert island.
I was undecided on whether it needed icing under the sand-topping I was going to make. In the end, I decided to skip it because I didn't want to make it TOO sweet. No icing meant that the sand wouldn't stick to the sides of the cake, but the color of the cake was acceptable, so I skipped it.

I made the sand out of graham cracker crumbs and brown sugar. I couldn't find any graham cracker crumbs in the store, so I just took my mini chopper and chopped them up. See:

The chunky graham cracker crumbs gave my sand some texture and the
brown sugar added sparkle.

I just spooned it on the top and around the edges to make my sand. 
The island is pretty well done, now time to add my stranded pirate. I cut a scrap of red silky fabric for a weathered bandanna and sewed a small bit of black cloth into a tricorn hat. I had to prop up the birthday candle with a bit of wooden skewer since my skeleton was leaning on top of it, but it turned out pretty cute:

This pirate may not have a ship, but by golly, he's got his treasure.

The rocks are toffee-covered peanuts. Chocolate peanut clusters would have
worked as well, but I didn't have time to get any.
The cake got rave reviews. Not only was it cute, it tasted pretty good too. One guest mentioned it reminded her of coffee cake (one of my favorites), so I was pleased. With more time, I may have made it more elaborate, but honestly it was good enough, and that's sometimes all one can aspire to.

Even though I didn't get to do all the things I had hoped to accomplish, my kid enjoyed the party, and that is the most important thing.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Treasure Hunt

I almost never plan "activities" for my kids' birthday parties, but since my son is getting a little older, it seemed like the time to start. I've been so busy since I started work that I was unable to really work on all the fun little details of this party way ahead of time like normal, but my sister (whose birthday also happened to be this past weekend) had put some thought into it and suggested a treasure hunt.

Originally, we planned to make a map, but that seemed like it would make finding the treasure a little TOO easy... so I came up with a series of clues, one leading to the next, and finally to the treasure. What kind of treasure were the little pirates hunting? Why, my son's birthday presents of course! You didn't think we were just going to GIVE him his presents, did you? No siree, I made him work for them!

These are the materials I used. Recognize the brown paper? That's right, it's
the same paper I used for the Barrel O' Rum. Also I had my page with my clues,
scissors, markers, sealing wax, and a seal (left over from my wedding invitations
so many years ago).

Because the paper is from a large roll, it wants to do nothing but roll up when
cut. To combat this, I wadded the sheets up into little balls. This also helps
with the aged/parchment look of the paper.

Flatten and select your writing implement. I absolutely cannot do calligraphy.
I spent weeks in high school art class trying to master the basic lines with a
handy-dandy left-handed calligraphy pen, but alas, I failed miserably. Instead,
I am just going to use a regular washable Crayola marker, but a Sharpie would
work as well. I chose brown.

I wrote out each of my clues on a sheet of paper, drawing little swirlies and
doodles in the margins.

Next I lit my candle to melt the sealing wax. In my memory, this worked better
years ago when the wax was new, but I managed to do a passable job of sealing
my pirate clues. I folded up my notes, dripped the wax on, and pressed the
seal into it. Easy peasy.

The gold seal really adds some authenticity to these clues. The next step--
hiding them! See how I numbered them in the corner? I kept my original list
of clues (which were also numbered) so I would know where to hide them.
What kind of clues did I leave, you ask... Well, rhyming clues with lots of pirate slang. See below.

**Feel free to duplicate this in your own pirate party! The kids LOVED the treasure hunt. I think it was the high point of the day. Honestly, it went way better than I thought it would.

If ye mean to find my cursed treasure, ye’ll have to journey far beyond measure. So board yer ship and stand ready to steer, for at the wheel the clue ye’ll be near. (at the ship’s wheel)

Steer yer ship toward the plastic fort, built for young pirates who are very short. Look under the chute the color of blood, or turn back now for yer own good. (beneath the slide on the plastic fort)

These wooden planks will lift ye up to the deck; if ye reverse direction, they’ll take you down a peg. The clue be hidden under the bottom board, but to find it mateys, ye must go ashore! (under the bottom porch step)

Head over to a snake as wet as the sea, spitting out water at you and at me. Yellow and scaled, with a nozzle for a nose, this coiled serpent can soak your clothes. (the water hose)

The treasure be hidden in a cave dry and dark, behind a plank door to keep out the sharks. There’s a large cushioned seat as blue as the sea, nearby my cursed treasure chest be.  (the building)

Monday, August 22, 2011

...and a Bottle of Rum

When planning the pirate party, I wracked my brain for piratey foods to serve, wanting to keep everything within the theme. Fish? Rum and Hardtack? Nothing that I could think of that pirates might eat seemed appropriate for our backyard pirate party, so I opted to just go with hot dogs and burgers. (And goldfish crackers :) But that didn't meant that things couldn't LOOK piratey.

I found some planters in my backyard that looked like barrels, so I cleaned those out and lined them with plastic before filling them with ice and reasonably-priced diet beverages. And then I had my big idea: we needed a keg of "rum."

On-the-ball mom that I am, I still hadn't returned my father-in-law's 5 gallon drink cooler that I borrowed for our yard sale/lemonade stand three weeks ago. It was roughly keg-shaped. All it needed was a bit of a face-lift. I formulated my plan, and executed it as follows:

This is the cooler I started with. It's shaped pretty much like a barrel.

These are the tools you will need to transform your cooler into a Rum keg:
brown wrapping paper (Dollar Tree, $1), scissors, sharpie (black or brown),
packing tape, duct tape.

Measure your paper so that it covers your "barrel" but does not cover the
top. (You'll need to be able to remove that to add your punch later.) Tape
the paper to your barrel with packing tape, and tape along the seam vertically.

Draw vertical stripes for the seams between wooden slats on the barrel. Next,
tape around the top and bottom with packing tape so that the paper is snug.

Tear a long strip of duct tape to make the bands for your barrel. One strip
split lengthwise will make both bands. I used my sharpie to "stencil" the
word RUM on my barrel, which was a nice touch.
I rushed through this project, as you can probably tell by my crooked lines and skewed barrel bands, but even so, I thought this was a good way to add some authenticity to the pirate party. And this brown paper is awesome. I used it for all kinds of things, including maps and other piratey documents. (You will see later.)

Punch Recipe:

2 2-liters of "Tropical" clear soda
1 2-liter of Orange soda
1 2-liter of lemonade soda
1 container of orange-vanilla sherbet.

Mix all in cooler right before party. Adjust amounts to taste. Enjoy! (And for the all-adult after party, add rum!)

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Day 2. The mast has been set, the lower deck has been laid, and the stud walls for the upper deck are in place. This thing will be a monster. The biggest decision now? What to put on the sides. My husband is split between barn sheeting and fence pickets. The FIL wants to use grey siding to match the house. Me? Well, I probably have enough cardboard to cover it temporarily until they can decide. (Pool tables come in BIG boxes.) But, alas, cardboard will not stand up to weather, and this baby's gonna be here a while. We have plenty of plans to trick it out, but for now, we just gotta get it finished enough (and safe enough) for the party. Good times. Wish us luck!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

All Hands on Deck

This is a work in progress, and I can't take credit for it, but my crafty husband and FIL are working hard to build a pirate ship for the big day. (Shhhh! It's a surprise for the birthday boy!) I'm pretty impressed so far, how about you? I'm so excited to see how it turns out!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Yo Ho Ho and a Bag of Loot

If you have been a follower of my blog for very long, you have probably picked up on the fact that I love to throw parties. I can think of at least three other posts I've written about party planning. (I'm too tired to link to them now, you'll have to search my list, if you're interested.) Anyhow, I normally start planning a party months in advance, purchasing plates, cups, decorations, and some food items long before the date arrives. However, with my new work schedule, I've barely had time to think about my son's 5th birthday party, much less plan it. And the party is a week and a half away. Crazy, right?

What I have done is selected the theme and begun thinking about how to incorporate it into this party. Also, tonight I put together some favor bags for the kids. Like all of his previous parties, this affair will likely be adult-heavy and kid-light, but there could potentially be more than just the one (that's right, one) child guest that we had last year at the upcoming shindig. My son has made a few friends in the neighborhood, so I have my fingers crossed that at least some of them will be able to make it.

This year we have selected a pirate theme. As usual, costumes are strongly encouraged. Luckily, my kids have acquired a large selection of costumes, including several pirate options, so I will not need to put a lot of time into making their costumes. Which is a good thing, because I don't have the time (sad face). Anyhow, I wanted to share with you what I HAVE accomplished so far, and that is (as I mentioned) the favor bags. See below:

I know you are probably looking for Waldo in all this mess, but bear with me.
I started with a few yards of the pirate fabric, thinking I might make the kids
some pirate bandannas for their party favor bags. (The original idea was to
use the bandanna AS the bag, but I changed my mind, as you will see.) The
rest of this stuff was party favors ranging from 75 cents to $1.50 per package.
I think I spent $9 on this project and made 9 favor bags. Not bad.

First thing I did was sort the favors into piles. And moms of multiple kids, I
do know that this will probably start some fights, but I didn't have enough
items to give every kid all the same things. Hopefully I can distract them with
cake and other sugary treats so they won't realize that some have whistles, some
have eye patches, some have whistles and eye patches, and some have none of
the above. At least this should keep things interesting.

For the bandannas, I cut the fabric into large squares and serged the edges.
Easy peasy. Hopefully I didn't make them too small... if so, then they are
handkerchiefs, not bandannas. I'm sure even pirates had to blow their noses
sometimes, right?

A finished bandanna. I made black with skulls for the boys and red with polka
dots for the girls. Yet another thing for the kids to fight over...

Every kid gets a compass, though. I absolutely love these and I think they
are the best item in the bag. 4 of these babies for $1.50 is not too shabby.
I'm not sure if they actually work, but hopefully none of the kids get lost in my
backyard and have to put this to the test... (and no, my backyard is spacious,
but seriously not big enough for anyone to get lost in.) I tied a piece of red
yarn to each one so the kids can wear them.

One of my packages of favors came with four favor bags, but they were kind
of cheesy and made of plastic... And although I originally planned to use the
bandannas as the bag, I came up with this brilliant little scheme while working
on this project: treasure map bags. These are just paper lunch bags which you
can buy at the Dollar Tree, 100 for $1 I think. I used these same paper bags for
the "loot bags" at my son's last birthday party, which was cowboy themed.
I left a space at the top above the picture to fold the bag over.

On the back flap I put each kid's name. And yes, they are all captains. And I'm
sure that like too many cooks, too many captains can be a bad thing too... but
when Admiral Mama is on the job, I'm expecting calm seas and smooth sailing.
At least, it would be nice.

Do you have any ideas for incorporating a pirate theme into this party that I could steal borrow? I haven't decided what to do with his cake yet. Suggestions? Also, I am thinking of doing like a treasure hunt for my kid's presents. We'll hide them as the guests arrive, and make a map and or clues that will lead the kids to the next clue and so on until the presents are found. I need to get on that. Food ideas, anyone? I am thinking Goldfish crackers, as hardtack and rum would probably not be the best idea for a 5-year-old and his friends. Let me know what you come up with! I know there is tons of creativity swirling in your brains!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Quick Craft: Pirate Pennant

I was asked to make a flag out of this fabric to adorn my husband's uncle's
scooter so that the world can know he's a rebel. Or something. Whatever,
it's cool fabric, and best of all, I get to keep all the extra!

The flag was supposed to be a fat triangle, so I folded the fabric both directions
so that it was four layers thick and cut a skinny triangle out. This is what it
looked like when I unfolded it.

I serged the bottom edge because I will have an opening down there for the
flag-pole pocket. Then I folded the fabric (once), right sides together, and
sewed along the edges, leaving about an inch open at the bottom edge.

Now comes the tedious part. I turned the flag right-side out by pulling it through
the small opening at the bottom. It took a few minutes, but I got the job done.

I pinned the edges flat so that I could top-stitch them. This helps the flag
to retain its shape. I stitched two rows along the edges, and then a vertical
row to form the channel into which the flag pole will be inserted.

This was the finished product (and my toes). It fits the parameters I was given,
so hopefully he'll like it! Now... what to do with the rest of the fabric? There's
the challenge :)

A Little Lace Never Hurt Anyone

Nothing like a little lace trim to ameliorate all your woes.
It's been said more than once, and I've come to accept this as fact: I'm short. I have short arms, short legs, short hands, short everything. On top of that, I am short-waisted. So, needless to day, buying off the rack often entails trying to make garments designed and fitted for someone a foot taller than me. This presents a fashion challenge. Until recently, I had accepted this with a sort of inevitable resignation. I wore pants that drug the ground, heels perpetually ratty where I walked on them. I donned shirts with too-low necklines (because the middle of my chest is several inches higher than that of a "normal" woman) and hems that were long enough to be unflattering on my petite form. Nothing ever fit right, but I wore it anyway, because, what choice did I have?

Then I discovered sewing. The first thing to change was the length of my pants, which I did with gusto. I can now hem a pair of pants in five minutes, I've done it so often. I could probably do it blindfolded, but let's not push it. After all, I do have to WEAR these clothes when I'm done.

This week I tried something new: shortening a shirt that was just a smidge too long. I have to admit, I was nervous. I started with the scissors, cutting off about an inch (the shirt was about 2 inches too long). I turned the bottom up once and hemmed it. It looked unfinished, so I turned it up again. That edge looked better, but this shirt was made from a blend of cotton and a stretchy synthetic fiber. It rippled and puckered. Not good. I began to wonder if I had made a mistake... the shirt had had a perfectly nice hem before, albeit a few inches lower than I would have liked. I began to search through my stash to see if an idea would come, something to remedy the mess I had made. And what did I happen upon, but a piece of lace trim the exact same blue-grey color as the shirt. Serendipity! This could hide the mess I had made of the hem.

So, with a bit of lace I have camouflaged my sewing faux pas and feminized the shirt as well. I have some trim left, and I'm thinking of running it vertically down the front from the collar down about halfway. Possibly even two rows. I just have to take a deep breath and build up my sewing courage again... Stores were recently depleted by this project, but I'm curious to see if I can make this work, and curiosity is a stronger force than fear. I'll post a picture when it's done, because you know I can't resist once the idea has entered my head.