Saturday, April 28, 2012

Big Top Preview

This year's big birthday blast (for the girls) is going to be Big Top fun. I'm talking circus, folks. As you can imagine, I've been trolling the dollar stores for circus inspiration and accessories. Here's a little preview of what I've collected:

I admit, this stuff didn't all come from the dollar store, but I did find the balloons
and pump at Dollar Tree. I have discovered that my brother-in-law has a secret
talent--MAKING BALLOON ANIMALS! He has even agreed to don clown
apparel for the occasion. (He has a soft spot for the girls :)

This is some of the stuff I've been collecting for treat bags for the kids. Animal
crackers, tootsie pops, silly straws, animal balloons, and more.

Popcorn bags make the perfect treat bags for a circus party!

In addition to the popcorn bags, I've found a few other things at the dollar
stores to add to the circus atmosphere: cotton candy, circus peanuts,
popcorn balls (with an elephant on the label), and glow bracelets.

There's still a ton of work to do to get ready, and plenty more to show you, but this was just a taste. I have so many ideas (many of which probably won't come together, but a girl can dream), and I'd love to share them all with you. I'm so excited about this party, and so are the girls. They told everyone they met today that they are going to have a birthday party soon. Every time I bring a bag from the Dollar Tree into the house and tell them I got something for their party, they jump up and down and cheer and say, "Yay! I LOVE my birthday party!" If the party brings them half as much fun as the anticipation, I'll count it a success.

Stay tuned, folks, for more circus-y updates!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Dollhouse Bathroom, 1/12 Scale

I love using unconventional items like this teapot in my dollhouses.
This is another room in my new diaper box cardboard dollhouse. I used a piece of packaging for the tile wall, which I thought was appropriate for a bathroom. The other wall is papered with scrapbook paper and I have used contact paper for the linoleum floor. I have purchased a mirror to go above the sink, but hadn't installed it yet when I took this picture.

You probably recognize the green toilet from earlier posts. I think I picked up the cabinet (will working doors) at Michaels on clearance. The bathtub is the bottom of a ceramic jewelry box. I used a baby washcloth for the towels and washcloths and a coffee creamer container for the trash can. And the pièce de résistance? I found the teapot/sink at an antique store for $6. I immediately fell in love with this piece and had to have it. It has been my standard dollhouse bathroom sink ever since.

All I'm lacking is the plumbing for the bathtub, a few bathroom rugs, and maybe some artwork for the walls. I have some Mary Cassatt art stickers I plan to use for the paintings, I just have to figure out the best way to frame them. I'll keep you posted!

$2 Cheer Shirts

My son is in kindergarten this year, and finally old enough to have "activities."

I couldn't be more proud of my son. At 5-years-old, he's never really shown much interest in sports, but after a few weeks in T-ball, he's really starting to enjoy the game. I'd venture to say that he spends less than 50% of his time playing with the grass these days, usually runs in the right direction when he hits the ball, and almost never runs off the field in the middle of the game to ask for a snack. Ahhh, T-ball, you always keep me on the edge of my seat.

While my son is having all this fun, his sisters must be entertained. I picked up a couple little pink gloves with velcro balls for them to play with during practice, but now that we're far enough along in the season to have games, I needed another idea. So I thought maybe they'd enjoy being cheerleaders...

His team colors are blue and yellow... I couldn't find quite the right blue
at the Dollar Tree, but for the time/money I had to spend, this was
close enough. And I suppose they can wear these for the WVU game...

No, this is not the same shirt... Well, maybe technically it is...

I took two shirts and cut them in half, switched them, and ran them through my sewing machine. Then I did it again. I don't have before pics because I put these together in about 10 minutes before we left for the game. (That's one reason they are kinda crooked; also, I didn't have the right needle for knit, and I didn't use pins.)

Not bad for $2 and ten minutes, methinks.
I didn't get any pics of the shirts on the kids (an oversight, I know), but can you tell from the spots all over them that they were worn by my two-year-olds? I don't even know what all they spilled on these shirts... Ah, well, I suppose that's why God invented washing machines.

Next I'll need to make some pom-poms...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Spoiling My Monkeys...

When the first thing my kids say as I walk through the door is "Didja bring
me anything?" and not "Welcome home, dearest mother," it should probably
tell me something... I've been spoiling the kids lately.

But when Mama saw this big, pink, fold-up Barbie house at Goodwill for
only $5, well.... I couldn't resist. (That brings the total number of 1/6 scale
dollhouses to 4, if anyone is counting.)

I also picked up this little guy today too. I think it was once a candle holder,
but it will make a nice tray table for Barbie.

A little scrapbook paper to line it and some glue, and voila, brand new tray
table. Barbie seems to like it.

This little play set was 50 cents and came with Iron Man and Dr. Doom. 

I also picked up this little gem for 50 cents. This is a 1/12 scale baby buggy.
I have a couple of these (in different styles) already for my little dollhouse.
I'm thinking maybe I can jazz this up a bit and maybe have a giveaway...

Monday, April 16, 2012

Good Things Come in Brown Packages

Nothing makes me happier than finding a package in the mailbox...
This morning as I was leaving for work, I had a bill that needed to be mailed. I almost forgot it, but at the last second I ran out to the mailbox to toss it in. Imagine my surprise when I found this little beauty inside. Apparently, we hadn't checked the mail since Friday. I about kicked myself, because as soon as I saw the return address on this package, I knew what it was: something awesome! Something I COULD have been playing with over the weekend. Something I didn't have time to even open until about 7 PM today... Any guesses?

If you guessed a mad scientist kit, you were close...

A dollhouse lighting kit! Not just any kit, a Cir-Kit Concepts deluxe kit. A new one of these babies retails for about $130 (apparently--I stumbled across this fun fact when looking for tutorials on how to install it). This one is a few year old and doesn't have all the same parts as a new kit, but it seems to be complete enough (from the quick look I got before the monkeys descended upon me) ((I'm being attacked by monkeys as we speak)). 

After my recent success with the fireplace, I have been thinking about adding lighting to the rest of the new dollhouse under construction. I just have to make sure that this wiring kit is approved for cardboard... (after all, the last thing we need is a house fire, 1/12 scale!)

Everything you need to light up a dollhouse, except the lights.

This kit has a transformer (not the alien robot kind), a roll of tape-wire, about half a dozen cords, and some tiny metal brads. There are no actual light fixtures, but these are readily available at the craft store or online. From what I can tell, this older lighting kit ought to be 100% compatible with the pieces brand new off the shelf. It's all I can do to keep myself from going on eBay and ordering a few light fixtures right now... Just imagining those little brown packages in my mailbox brings out the little kid in me :)

Thanks so much to Erin for the awesome gift!!!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Shabby-Chic Bedroom (In Progress)

I spent a few more minutes working on my 1/12 scale dollhouse today. (This is the dollhouse with the fireplace made out of diaper boxes.) Today my focus was on the bedroom. 

I used a patterned yellow scrapbook paper for the wallpaper. For the
"chair rail" (or whatever you want to call it), I used bamboo forks-- the kind
one would use for eating meatballs at a party. 

I only bought one package, however... And it wasn't quite enough. I guess
I can't finish up the walls until after my next trip to the Dollar Tree. And I'm
not quite sure what I will use for the flooring yet. I think maybe a sage green?

Here are my bedroom furnishings. I made the bed out of popsicle sticks and
wood scraps (painted white) and sewed pillows and a quilt with fabric scraps.
The dresser and vanity were both purchased at Dollar Tree for $1. I painted
the vanity white and sanded off the edges. The stool is made from cardboard,
wooden dowels and beads, and a scrap of fabric. A doily makes a nice rug,
a broken wooden Easter ornament, small teddy bear, and discarded earring
add a little warmth. 

Cardboard makes the bones of the house, the "wallpaper" and flooring add texture, and the furniture and accessories add warmth. Sometimes I still imagine a tiny person living in my dollhouse (a la The Indian In the Cupboard) or maybe one of Beatrix Potter's little mice... 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Kid After My Own Heart

9-year-old Caine asked his dad for a claw machine, to which he replied, "Why don't you just build one." And so it began. Soon Caine had built an entire arcade out of cardboard and packing tape (two of my FAVORITE materials). He designed a working claw machine and a skeeball game which dispenses real tickets if you win. Caine engineered these games by himself at his dad's auto parts store, and he diligently man's the arcade, sweeping up and waiting for customers, despite the fact that no one seems interested in his games. Then one day that all changes... Enjoy.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

From Bedding to Beautiful: Pillowcase Easter Dresses

First of all, happy Easter, everyone! We've had a good morning, getting into our Easter goodies and talking about all the good things that Easter represents--resurrection of our Lord, Spring rebirth of all the animals and flowers, and, in our case, rebirth of some old pillow cases :)

I picked up a couple pillowcases from Goodwill for about 50 cents each and
matched them with some fabric from my stash. This is the first time I made
pillowcase dresses out of actual pillowcases.

I let the girls choose which pillowcase they wanted for
their own dress. (Luckily, they didn't both choose the
same one--that could have been a disaster!)

I measured it against each girl for length and cut the "top" off the pillowcase.
The open end made a nice pre-hemmed bottom. I cut some shallow indentations
for the arm holes, sewing a nice edge on them and finishing them like the
pillowcase dresses I made last spring. (Click on this link for more detailed
tutorial--there are links at the bottom of the post.)
Not as frilly as most Easter dresses, but I think they look
pretty sweet. The girls like them pretty well too, and that's
the most important thing.

I like the way Claire's dress has a dark band around the
bottom. I was tempted to sew some trim around the
bottom of Kate's, but the girls were pretty worked up
because Mama was out of sight for about half an
hour while I made these last night, and I decided to just
skip it.

They seem pretty happy with the end result, even if they weren't too thrilled
that Mama took a few minutes away from them to make their dresses.

And not to neglect my son, but he did not get a pillowcase
dress this year. Instead, he's rocking his white tuxedo
that we found on eBay for $5 last year. (He's too cool to

This kid loves to dress up as much as (and possibly more than) his
little sisters. I pinned his lapels down because they get a little wrinkly
when you toss a tuxedo in the washing machine... I possibly could have
ironed them down, but, well... this was easier.

Happy Easter, everyone!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

More Dollar Store Dollhouse Finds

After some of the things I've gotten for the Joes lately, they are probably
looking for something manly like this pool table... (Dollar General--$1)

Are you getting bored with this line of posts yet? If so, I sincerely apologize. Hopefully, instead of bored, you are inspired to grab your purse, hop into your car, and head to your nearest dollar store to see what awesome things you can finf to adapt to dollhouse use. If not, well... maybe I have at least given you some ideas for later.

Wash cloths or dish cloths, like handkerchiefs, make great blankets. They
are pre-cut to size and have hemmed edges. Great for when you're too lazy
to sew, or if your machine is on the fritz.

Looking for a pillow for your doll's bed? A dish sponge is a great size for
this. I would recommend covering with a pillow case if possible.

Although the drawers are not to scale, this could be a dresser for the Joes
or Barbies. This little guy is about 10" tall. You might repaint the floral
drawers with a solid or tasteful pattern, if you're feeling ambitious.

I didn't buy any of the other items pictured, but I did pick up this little mirror
and book. The book is a key chain, but the chain was easily removed. I gave
this to my son--his wizard G.I. Joe can use it as a spell book. (What, there can
be wizards in the Joes squad if my kid wants...). The little mirror will be used
in my little dollhouse, in the bathroom above the sink. There is a hole in the
wall covering that needs camouflaged. I figure I'll have to do something about
that pink, however...
I'll show you what I do with the mirror later :) 

If you are working on any similar projects, feel free to share in the comments or post pictures to my Facebook page!

Look What I Did!

So, remember when I told you I was working on something extra-special and awesome for the new dollhouse and I would give you a clue? Have you guessed what it is yet?

I forgot to take a picture of the item I was using BEFORE I
started modifying it, but I figured this clue was close enough :)

Instead of TELLING you what I made, I will just SHOW you:

I have been saving this birthday card for a year and a half
with this particular project in mind. You can't really see the
whole picture (some crazy person has been playing with
markers again), but as you can see, this is the same scene
as in the clue above. For this project, though, all I needed
was the fire, hence the black Sharpie.

This Sharpie was useful throughout the project. You can buy
brick wall veneers or even little dollhouse bricks, but I didn't
need to be that perfect. (It's about imagination, remember?)

You can use a ruler to measure and make straight lines if you
require a bit more precision, but I'm okay with my dollhouse
looking like it is handmade. I also like brush strokes in my
paintings and a little wear on my furniture. It shows evidence
of the human hand.

Next, I checked the size of the bricks against the firebox on
my card and marked it. Have you guessed what we are
building yet?

I decided to add a little glitter to some of my bricks so that
they would look a little variegated, like real bricks. (I'm not
kidding myself, I know these don't look REAL real, but you
know... I like these little details :)

I used my trusty old clear tape to put these together. 

Next, for the mantel. This is probably the least successful
part of this project, but I can always go back and change it.
I used a brown marker to bring out the wood grain a little
in some popsicle sticks.

A little white school glue to make it stick, and set it aside to
dry. While that was trying, I worked on the flooring and
wallpaper in the living room. (More on that in another post.)

Now, after the build up, are you ready for the awesomeness? (Drum roll, please......)

Now you can see why I've been saving that card for so long :) I'm so excited to have a "working" fireplace in my new dollhouse!!! (Can you tell?) 

I did not cut any windows in this dollhouse, I plan to add other lighting features like this one as I can. That's one reason I did not finish the roof or paint the outside--I may have to conceal some wiring, once I have all this figured out. We'll see. But, for the moment, I am quite satisfied with the progress :)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Goodwill Goodies

As you know, I've been trying to find some cheap items to accessorize the girls' new cardboard dollhouse and not having much luck. I've found a few items that inspired my imagination, but none quite suitable for this project. Today, however, I had a bit of luck. I'll let the pictures do the talking:

Awww, how sweet. They all started out smiling, and the video ends with my son crying. The fussing didn't last long, though... As soon as I suggested we start playing together, he perked up right away.

See? What did I tell you. All smiles!

Miss Claire was having fun too :)

And Miss Katie too. (Yes, this is a different child, I promise. But they do
look quite a bit alike in these pictures!)

I was particularly excited about the little heart-shaped "ottoman" and the shelf. The little basket was kind of cute too! And did you see that price tag at the end? $3.92. Can't beat that. If these had been pink plastic items, I'm sure I would have spent $20 or more on this stuff. Sorry, Mattel, not worth it. I'll stick to my dollar store and thrift shop ways :)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Construction Begins!

After putting together a dollhouse for the girls the other day, I was really in the mood to start working on the one I've been building in my head for the last few years. I have been stockpiling supplies for as long as I can remember for the day I would have time to build it. Well... I didn't really have TIME, per se, but I did it anyway. (Today's tally: 0 loads of laundry washed, 1 sink full of dirty dishes, 2 living rooms full of toys and mess, and 3 meals uncooked.)

It occurred to me, I've never really shared the process of putting together one of these. Or have I? I can't remember... Anyhow, here's a tutorial anyway. (Note: I had some sort of mess on my camera lens and didn't realize it until after this set of pictures was taken. Please excuse the blur.)

These are the cardboard boxes I collected: 6 size 5, Parent's Choice diaper
boxes. This should have given me uniformity throughout, however, one of
the boxes was a slightly different size than the others. Go figure. These
boxes are great for 1/12 scale dolls, a little tiny for the Joes/Barbies, but
they'll do in a pinch.

Step 1: cut off all the flaps. I like to use a serrated steak knife as a saw. It
only took a couple minutes to cut the flaps off all 6 boxes (that's 24 flaps...
but who's counting?).

Ta-da! (Shhh! Don't tell my husband I'm using the good knives on cardboard!)

I usually set these aside in case I need them later. Sometimes I use them
to create a pitched roof or furniture. You never know when you'll need
a little cardboard ;)

Step 2: Arrange your boxes in the position you want your rooms to be in.
Try a few different arrangements (vertical, horizontal). If your boxes are
different sizes, this step is critical to finding the best arrangement and can
make a big difference in how well your dollhouse holds together.

Step 3: Put your boxes together. I usually use hot glue for this step, but if
I am planning to cover the outside with something (rather than just paint it),
packing tap works just fine. I used a combination of both on the girls'
dollhouse: packing tape for most of it, hot glue on an area that didn't want
to hold together. 

Step 4: Admire your design :) Actually, Step 4 is usually putting on the
roof or cutting doors or windows, but I decided to skip those steps this time.
I will probably add a roof later, but I think instead of windows I will try
to do some kind of lighting. If you don't plan do add lights, however,
windows are essential for letting some light into the house. You can mark
placement with a pencil and cut your openings with your steak knife.

Here's a preview of what's coming up:

This is my collection of dollhouse furniture, materials, dolls, etc. I have been
digging into this box and getting creative :)

And here's a clue about the most awesome thing I've done with this dollhouse so far: (You'll never guess what I've done... unless you remember a post from about a year ago when I was talking about some unconventional materials I was planning to use. Like I said, this dollhouse has been dancing in my head for a while :)