Dreaming and December Projects

Contrary to what you’ve seen here, my house has been a hive of creatve activity over the past few weeks. I love holiday craftiness and usually dream up way too many extra little projects in the month of December.

Some projects, I haven’t shared because I intend them to be Christmas presents and don’t want to run the risk of them being glimpsed by the intended recipient. Some projects, like the tulle tutus I’m making for my nieces have been posted on many, many blogs. (Check them out here, on pinterest.) Other projects, I’ve neglected to post because I’ve been just too darn busy. I’m hoping to post a few of them over the next week or so.

In the mean time, to back up my claim that my household has been actively creative in recent weeks, I’ll share the little guy, made by my 11 year old for his youngest brother’s 5th birthday earlier this week. Happy December, my friends!

bowler.hat.guy

DIY reversible play tent

I have always wanted an excuse to buy something from the adorable Ikea Torva series and last week I finally found one.

tent.materials

With a niece turning two, I decided to make her an A-frame play tent, one of the many projects I’ve pinned and been hankering to try. The Torva Blad duvet cover would be the tent material.

finished.tent.detail

Last summer, I made an similar tent for my children, using a twin bed sheet and doing absolutely no sewing. By cutting, tying and scrunching, we made the sheet fit a frame copied from this helpful tutorial. Without sewing the sheet to fit, though, the resulting tent was not particularly present-worthy, photo-worthy, ikea-textile worthy. This time, I wanted to make a playful and pretty tent to thrill and delight my niece and her big sister.

finished.tent4

Of course, it turned out to be a little more than the few quick seams I’d imagined, and at one point, I did have to stop and run out to the store for more ribbon. But it was worth the effort.

The resulting tent is sturdy and sweet and managed to shelter 6 children at once when we celebrated my niece’s birthday. It reverses to green and white gingham, breaks down quickly and can be rolled up and stored in a matching bag (made from the pillow cases that came with the duvets). Yes, this tent is present-worthy.

If you are reading this because you are a friend, family member, or because you are my mother, thank you for reading, you’ve probably seen enough of this project. If you think you might have the time/energy/love of Ikea textiles to want to try this, or are just curious about the nitty grittiy details, read on!

I’m not really much of a tutorial maker, but in this case, I feel the need to present the details in the (unlikely) event that I want to attempt this project again, or someone else does. Plus, I have a hankering to try out the wordpress slide show feature. Enjoy!

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Making monsters

ma.all.together

Cropping up all over pinterest these days, these monster wreaths seemed like a must-do family project, despite their muppet-iness, or perhaps because of it.

So, one cloudy day last week, we decided to take this project on. We followed this tutorial, substituting 10’ wreath forms so they could be used on bedroom doors or as indoor decorations. (And, if you really want to know , this switch meant we used only about 50 yards of tulle per wreath.)

My plan was to allow each child to make a wreath and to make one myself for my sesame-street-loving nieces. This plan was a bit risky, given (1) the large age range of my children (4 through 13) and (2) the miles of tulle to be knotted.

Happily, my oldest son was game to make a monster wreath to give to his younger cousins. We started painting the eyeballs, deviating from the muppet-style black circles for some.

mw.tie.by.myself

Then we got down to cutting the tulle and tying it around the wreath forms. I had assumed my 4 year old wouldn’t contribute much and I would basically be making his wreath myself, but he refused my help for the first hour, determinedly knotting strands of tulle, and exercising those fine motor skills. My 7 year old managed to make his entirely on his own and I resisted mightily the urge to “just touch it up.”

All in all, it was a success as a family project. Since there are five of them, I’ve decided to give them names. Kind of like the spice girls, only different. Can you guess which one I made?

Sidewalk chalk paint and Jackson Pollock

sidewalk.paints

Late last week, we made sidewalk chalk paint, a pinterest inspired project.

We followed a recipe from All things Simple, mixing equal part cornstarch and water and then adding the food coloring. One of my older boys pointed out that this is almost the exact same recipe for Ooobleck, a Dr. Suess inspired concoction pinging around the internet and cropping up in primary school science classes. He also used the phrase “non-Newtonian fluid” – he must have been paying attention when they made it at school.

With much excitement, including some squealing and jumping up and down, we headed outside to paint.

painting2

The results were mixed. Going on, the paint was transparent and it only became opaque and chalky as it dried. Perhaps this says something about my two younger children, but they found this delay a bit unsatisfying. Grumbling ensued.

We were painting on our driveway made of brick-colored pavers and a stone path, and these dark surfaces might have muted the colors initially. The effect might be more immediate, more satisfying on a spanking new white sidewalk.

pollock sidewalk paint

No matter. They found a fun way to play with the paint, splattering it, Jackson Pollock style.

Later, we did a quick internet search on Jackson Pollock and came across jacksonpollock.org this amazing intuitive and fun website which allowed them to “paint” Jackson Pollock style by computer, switching colors with the click of the mouse. Fun indeed.

from jackson pollock org

Making Moustaches

Moustaches seem to be everywhere these days: on keychains, pushpins, bandaids and more. My household is no exception.

uncooked pretzel moustache

So, when we recently made soft pretzels, it didn’t surprise me when one of my children suggested we make pretzel moustaches. Starting with a basic preztel dough (recipe follows), we rolled them out, thicker in the middle and long and thin at the ends.

rolling the dough 1

Then, we twisted in the midde so it would pinch in, where the two “halves’ of the moustache should join. Then we gave some of them a nice twirl, like a good handlebar moustache needs.

rolling pretzel moustaches

Given that our pretzels tend to be somewhat freeform, it was not too much of a stretch to make them. Plus, it was really fun.

pretzel moustaches baked

Here’s what they looked like baked. (The secret to getting the rich, dark color is a quick dip in a boiling baking soda solution before baking… more on that in the recipe.)

pretzel moustache 2

Soft Pretzel Recipe for making moustaches

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 package)
3 ounces unsalted butter, melted (I used margarine because of a dairy allergy in the family)
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
2 quarts water
1/2 cup baking soda
Coarse sea salt

Directions:

Combine the water, sugar, yeast, and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix with the dough hook until combined and then let sit for 5 minutes.

Add the flour and salt. Mix on low speed until combined. Increase the speed to medium and continue kneading until the dough is smooth and starts to form a ball. This should not take more than a few minutes. If the dough is sticky, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Remove the dough from the bowl, place on a floured surface and knead into a ball with your hands.

Oil a bowl with olive oil, add the dough and turn to coat with the oil.

Cover with a clean, damp towel and place in a warm spot until the dough doubles in size. This should take about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Bring the water to a boil in a small square pan over high heat and dissolve the baking soda.

Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a flat, floured surface.  Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces, about 3 ounces each. Roll each piece into a long rope and shape into the lengths or shapes that you want. Possibly moustaches?

Cover baking sheet with parchment paper.

Drop each pretzel into the baking soda/water solution for about 30 seconds and then remove with a large slotted spoon (or two) and place on prepared baking sheet. Season liberally with the salt.

Place into the oven and bake for 16 to 18 minutes until dark golden brown.

Keeping busy with Saccachewbaccachew

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My ten year old, mentioned in the preceeding post, has been keeping me busy. In addition to the usual duties of motherhood, I have been helping him make a birthday present for his best friend.

To explain the present, I have to back up and say that the two boys have recently formed a rock band, with my son on drums, his friend on guitar and another friend also on guitar. As 5th graders, their practice sessions can get silly and at some point they invented an imaginary band mascot, a supposed relative of Star Wars’ Chewbacca the wookie called Saccachewbaccchew, whose appearance in the original movie was left on the cutting room floor. Mention this white wookie to the bunch and hilarity ensues.

So, as a surprise for his friend, my son asked me to help him make a stuffed animal version of Saccachewbaccachew. He drew a picture and traced the face with a sharpie onto a scrap of old sheet. We cut the body shape of out white faux fur, sewed the face on, sewed the body together, stuffed it, and sewed it closed. Of couse, I helped with a lot of the sewing. My son wrote out a tag for him. We both felt a bit mischevious and fully satisfied.

On Saturday, my son gave his friend the present, and yesterday, Saccachewbaccachew made his first appearance at band practice, sitting stiffly in a chair. This morning, I received a text from his friend’s mother, saying, “taking good care of the band mascot!” and including this photo. That little guy looks happy wherever he is. Good choice for a mascot.

saccachewbaccachew.after

Meet Moustatio

moustatio

For anyone who likes making things, sharing creativity with a child is a special pleasure.  Helping a child find and execute a manageable project, however, can be challenging. Some of my children have been know to come up with plans like “Mom, can we sew a police officer’s uniform for Max the dog? I think it needs to have stripes down the sides of the pants and a metal badge too and he needs a miniature baton and handcuffs. I was thinking we could make the handcuffs out of tinfoil? Do we have any blue fabric?”

So, when my 10 year old recently asked, “mom, what should I make?” I felt lucky to be able to come up with a manageable project. I said, “Sharpie art. Lets decorate the shirt you’re wearing with one of the cartoon characters you’re recently invented.”  O.K., so maybe I didn’t actually say “recently invented” but you get the gist.

We scanned and enlarged his pencil drawing and then printed it out. He traced the drawing with black sharpie so it would show through a T-shirt laid on it. Then he changed shirts, placed his faded tie-die over the drawing (and a few extra layers of paper to prevent the sharpie from bleeding through to the back of the shirt) and traced with a black sharpie. Voila! Meet Moustatio. On a shirt.

making.moustatio.composite

The whole project took about 40 minutes and best of all, he did most of it himself.

Making the case

final brief cases

When turning seven, my third son wanted a spy party. After we picked a date, compiled the guest list, and sent invitations, we turned our attention to party favors. An older child suggested rear view spy glasses and, ever enthusiastic, my soon-to-be 7 year old continued, “…and a black suit and black loafers and a brief case so we can all look like James Bond!” We nixed the suits and loafers, but decided brief cases, we could make. So here’s what we did.

I bought these self-locking mailing boxes and spray painted them black. That was not my favorite task, so if I had it to do over, I might try to find black boxes. The next day, I glued them together with a hot glue gun.

Then I made some handles with black duct tape, cutting strips and folding them in thirds.

tape handles

Using a sharp knife, I punched a slit for the handle, careful to make it wider than the tab that “locks” the top of the box down. I managed to thread a few handles through on their own but most required the help of a dull knife to push it through. Then I used the glue gun again to glue the handles down. Brief cases done.

making the handle for briefcase

While these types of crafty projects are typically a collaborative effort in my house, this time, I ended up doing most of it. One son was sick and the others went outside to play the late March snow. Leaving me in our kitchen with the hot glue gun, wondering, why, exactly, am I doing this? Am I nutty? This is a kid’s birthday party – they could care less if they get an adorable party favor – all they want is some candy and a few trinkets. But then, again, I just can’t resist a good project.

A few days later, at the birthday boy’s request, we spray-glued a James Bond graphic to the inside. Then we filled them with the spy sunglasses, magnifying glasses, a small notepad and pencil, “top secret” stickers we made from mailing lables and a stamp.

spy brief case party favor

In the end my children declared that a goodie bag could not be complete without candy, so we threw in some twizzlers. Why twizzlers? I have no idea.

Yesterday, we had the spy party and the brief cases were a hit, but I can’t tell you more, because its “top secret” though it might have something to do with those twizzlers.

top secret