I am so not feeling Christmas yet, but I somehow have managed to get a head start. I love love love Shutterfly for gifts. I made just a few cards to send out this year, and for the first time used their "mail it for you" system. How awesome is that!!?
In honor of Ron Giampaolo, his family is throwing the biggest, coolest bash you could imagine. All proceeds go to the Sarcoma Foundation of America. Here is a poster I donated to the cause for my good friend Julie. If you are in the Chicago area, be sure to grab tickets to Ronny Gras before they are sold out!
My son is an avid Lego builder. He also loves those cute little mini figure guys. I was apprehensive, but not at all surprised last year when he asked if he could BE a Lego mini-fig for Halloween. I am glad he asked early in the Fall so we could collect stuff.
I Googled Lego mini-fig costumes, but a lot of them were really elaborate and required things like chicken wire and paper maché, which was way more trouble than I wanted to get myself into. If I was going to do this, it had to be cheap, easy and rain-resistant.
We started by collecting random supplies as we found them. The kindergarten class had just received a large supply shipment and had cardboard galore for us to sift through. We settled on some single layer corrugated cardboard because it was bendy and easy to work with. After a quick trip to the Dollar Store, the costume just magically came together.
Large strips of single layer corrugated cardboard. (or some kind of cardboard or other material you can bend and cut easily)
A Medium sized plastic bowl
Double sided tape
Black foamy kitchen shelf liner
Yellow rubber gloves
One piece of yellow craft foam paper
One piece of black craft foam paper
One small plastic applesauce or yogurt container
Thin yellow plastic party table cloth
A bag from the Lego store, or more of that table cloth.
I started with the head....
I took a plastic bowl and wrapped the bendy cardboard around it, securing it with hot glue. This made a rounded top to the head, like a Lego man. I made it just long enough so that the bottom of the mask hovered right around his chin. This way he could see out the bottom and have lots of air while wearing the mask. I cut eye holes big enough for him to see through, but not too big (or he would look freaky). I then covered the entire head with parts of a cheap yellow plastic party table cloth (leaving the eye holes uncovered). I secured the table cloth with double sided tape.
I did not want Lego man to have empty holes for eyes, so to make them black, but also let my son see, I covered them with black kitchen shelf liner (the foamy kind because it has lots of holes in it). For the Lego bump on top of his head, I took a small plastic applesauce container and covered with the same table cloth material and glued it on. His cute little smile was cut out of a piece of black craft foam.
Lego man's body was very easy after making that massive head.
I simply took more bendy cardboard and cut it into a large rectangle. I cut a head hole in the middle and it draped over my son's body like a sandwich board. I then covered it with a bag from the actual Lego store, which worked very well since not only did it have the right logo on it, it was waterproof.
Lego man has hooks for hands!
For the hands, I bought small yellow rubber gloves and matching craft foam paper. I cut two rectangular strips of the craft foam about the same width of the gloves. I glued the foam over the fingers of the gloves. This looked pretty cool. He had Lego man hook hands, but could still move his fingers.
He was very happy with his Lego Man costume! It looked great and it held up very well for trick or treating. It was easy to remove and put back on if he needed to get in and out of the car.
The Hang Ups
Not a lot of problems with this creation. Just some glue gun burns on my fingers.
In the dark, as with any mask, it was a bit hard to see and walk. But the mask was easy enough to remove when he needed to. We stayed together and did not walk out into traffic, so this wasn't a huge problem for us. ....and hey, the head was made out of a bowl so we could fill it with candy!
Cardboard Spaceship Before Decorations
For my son's 7th birthday, I decided we needed something really big. Thinking back to how much fun they had that time the plumber let us keep the box from our hot water heater, I decided, perhaps foolishly, that we needed to make a cardboard spaceship.
My first task was to collect all the boxes and bits of cardboard I could find. My first call was to that same plumber, and while he did not have any water tank boxes, he generously left the box from his new patio set in my carport.
I called the local Sears outlet and they directed me to the alley behind the store where I could take whatever I wanted. I admit, I was a little nervous rummaging around a back alley alone, even in broad daylight. It started out badly right away when I pissed some guy off by using his parking spot, in the unmarked, empty parking lot behind some apartments. I found the back of the Sears outlet, where there was an abundance of bbq and lawnmower boxes just waiting for me. I lugged them to the car and went back for one really big box that I knew would be perfect for the spaceship.
The box was heavy, reinforced with corner pieces and covered in plastic tie down straps. It would not fit in the car whole, so I would have to break it down. I did not think to bring scissors or a knife, (or pepper spray), so I stood staring at the box trying to decide what to do next. I was approached by a man carrying a case of beer. I was a little nervous, being in the alley by myself with a strange man. He asked "Heeey, whatchya doin pretty lady?" I thought, "oooh no oh no oh no" but instead of reaching for a rape whistle, I blurted out that I was making a cardboard spaceship for my son's birthday party and the box I needed most wouldn't fit in my car. He took a look, put down his beer and said "Cool! Can I help!?" I accepted. He got right to it. He used his teeth to tear through the straps, then carefully set about breaking down the box for me. It took a while, that box was tough, but eventually he shoved it into the back of the car and brushed his hands together, a job well done. Then he picked up his six pack and tipped an imaginary hat in my direction. I said thank you and he replied that I could repay him by singing him a song one day. (Luckily he did not expect me to do it right then and there).
Cardboard Spaceship Interior
After a few weeks, I had collected enough boxes. The day before the party, I set to work. I had piles of cardboard, duct tape, a glue gun, poster paper and the lid from a Costco veggie platter. My husband tried to help, but upon discovering that his vision of the spaceship was some kind of cardboard pen we could just corral the kids into, I decided to go it alone. I spent hours in the hot sun, cutting and taping and gluing until I was satisfied that it resembled some kind of spacecraft and that it would not fall in on the kids.
We collected random dollar store "stuff" to use. A dryer pipe, reflectors, aluminum tape, silver windshield heat deflectors and other wacky things. On the inside we had a control panel with a steering wheel (made from a strange rotating wire fruit basket I found). The dryer pipe ran from the outside to the inside and was used as a communication device, and then had golf balls dropped into it. The Costco fruit platter lid made an excellent window. The plan was to have something the kids could decorate and take pride in. Poster paper was a good cover to give them something to paint and put stickers on. They were able to decorate both inside and out, and they put a lot of time and effort into making it just right.
Cardboard Spaceship "After"
It turned out to be a rainy, cool day and there was no room inside the house for the spaceship, but luckily we were able to drag it under our back deck. It lasted there intact for a few weeks after the party, until I decided it was time to recycle the whole sha-bang.
In honour of the new school year, which begins next week, I thought I would show off my classroom art. My children have attended the same elementary school since my daughter was only 3 years old. The school offers an excellent program called Strong Start, a drop in program for parents and children aged birth to five years. In taking them, I became fast friends with the Strong Start teacher, who quickly put me to work. Decorating the Strong Start classroom, along with some other very talented parents, was a great way to spend my mornings while my children played and learned.
I cannot take complete credit for this. The idea of the tree, and the trunk were the brainchild of my friend Adrienne, but since she ran off to work and left me to do everything, I have claimed the tree as my own.
You can do a lot of cool things if somebody gives you the keys to the school paper room. Using coloured paper from large rolls, we measured how tall we wanted the tree trunk to be, cut a long strip of paper and scrunched it up to add creases and folds. We attached the sides of the trunk to the wall corner with sticky tack (and the occasional staple) making sure to let the the paper curve away from the wall. I believe staples are less harmful to the wall because that sticky tack stuff takes big chunks out of the drywall. (I may or may not know this from experience)
I decided the tree needed leaves, so I got green paper from the store room. (Don't worry, this paper is not going to waste, the tree is still standing and this will be its third year in the classroom). I measured how much wall I wanted to cover. I am horrible with measurements, but in this case it did not matter because I could cover any bare wall space with extra bits and pieces of green paper wherever I saw fit. I cut the edges into cloud-like shapes to look like a tree outline and attached them to the wall with more sticky tack (and staples, don't tell). I was sure to leave some straight edges so the leaves could cover the wall right up to the ceiling and fill in the corner.
The branches are strips of scrunched brown paper. I stapled them to the top of the tree trunk, and arranged them to climb up the wall and come out toward the ceiling. The wall branches are attached with, you guessed it, sticky tack and staples. The ceiling branches are actually just tucked up under the ceiling tiles.
This tree is such a fun addition to the Strong Start classroom. The kids love it and gather around it for circle and storytime. It changes with the seasons. Sometimes it has glittered paper snowflakes hanging from its branches, or coffee filter butterflies or salt painted leaves. I am very proud of my tree.
Puff the Magic Dragon, and Honalee
With the success of the tree, I was asked to cover more walls. Puff the Magic Dragon is a popular book in the Strong Start class. The Puff I made was inspired by the magnificent paintings of Eric Puybaret featured in the book. Puff is made of paper from the giant roll. I drew him freehand, but an overhead projector could easily be used to trace him at a large scale. His face is drawn on with Sharpie pen, with white paper for his eyes. The colour details on his ears and scales are scrap paper. The wing is covered with purple tissue paper and purple feathers I found while raiding the teacher's craft closet. Puff was placed above the chalkboard at the head of the classroom to watch over the children and the land of Honalee.
I admit, Honalee was a bit self indulgent on my part, but I got to bring my acrylic paints out of hiding. This is an original work, but like Puff, was inspired by the Honalee in the book.
I sketched it freehand while looking at the book for ideas. I then hung it on the wall and began to paint. After it was dry I carefully cut out around some of the towers to make it look as though Puff is watching over the land, and not just sniffing a giant poster of it.
There aren't many, other than having to use the occasional staple in the drywall and the extensive ladder use. (something I am not a big fan of).
Puff is beginning to curl a bit with age, but that is fixable. The paper might fade over time, but so far it is holding up well.
The tree will last longer if there is something in front of it, blocking the children from pushing the trunk in.
When my son asked to have an Indiana Jones themed birthday party, Indiana Jones hadn't quite made his comeback. There was Lego Indiana Jones, but no paper plates or dollar store decorations. A year later, when the Crystal Skull movie was released, Indiana Jones merchandise was everywhere, but this was not so during the summer of my son's sixth birthday. He was born in July, so we were able to have an outdoor party. It was a success. We had poster paper snakes spiralling from the trees, white balloons with skull faces (drawn on with Sharpies), treasure chests containing the scavenger hunt prizes, and crepe paper vines. Halloween decorations and giant dollar store bugs were a perfect touch. We even served a french bread ham and cheese sandwich fashioned to look like a snake with olive eyes and a red pepper tongue. (I wish I had a picture!). Of all the special touches I put into this party, I am most proud of my cake. The Incredible, Edible, Temple of Doom.
The Cake and Frosting
The cake is two boxes of cake mix. No use going scratch when you have great friends like Betty Crocker. The icing is a Cool Whip and pudding frosting, because I like it, but you could use homemade buttercream or storebought frosting. It would actually work better.
I baked the cakes in two 9x13 pans and cut them into shapes that I could stack into a tower. There is no science to this. I just wing these things. I actually can't remember if I made two cakes or one, but it is always good to have extra. I made a tunnel for the boulder and stacked the rest of the cake into tiers until I ran out of cake ...and patience.
Cool Whip & Pudding Frosting (in case you like it too)
1 Tub Cool Whip
1 3.5 oz Package of Vanilla or Butterscotch Pudding
1 Cup Skim Milk
The pudding usually calls for 2 cups of milk, but you want it to be thicker, so use one. Mix pudding and milk until smooth, then fold in the Cool Whip until combined.
The Fun Details
As you can see from the photos, Indiana Jones and the guards are not edible. Lego Indiana Jones was the perfect size for this cake. The boulder is a Viva Puff cookie. The sides of the temple are reinforced with vanilla wafers and caramel square bricks. I cut them in half lengthwise so they would be lighter and thinner on the side of the cake.
The skulls are my favourite part. I melted some chocolate
chips and painted their cute little skull faces on with a fine paintbrush. I actually enjoyed these so much that I made larger marshmallow skulls and served them as a fun snack.
The skulls on stakes are just the same marshmallows shoved onto pretzel sticks. The dirt is crushed Oreo cookies. The vines are storebought vanilla frosting with green food colouring pipe onto the cake with a Wilton leaf tip. I added some Ring Pops because I figured Lego Indy needed some serious bling for his collection after so narrowly escaping that Viva Puff.
After using just one for the cake, if you intended to hoard those extra Viva Puffs away for yourself, you are sorely mistaken. Be sure to have the box with the rest of the cookies on hand when you serve the cake because every kid will want a boulder on his/her plate.
If you go with the Cool Whip icing (which remember, is not the best option but tastes like Bavarian cream). Do not attempt to make the cake the day before. The wafers will sog a bit and the caramel will run. If you use regular frosting, I expect the cake will be just fine if made in advance.
My name is Summer. I am a 32 year old stay at home mom to an 8 year old boy and a 6 year old girl. That's right, they are both in elementary school full time now. Last year my daughter entered full time kindergarten, which was new to our school system. This meant that for the first time in seven years, I had my mornings, and most of my afternoons free. So naturally, I panicked and filled that void by babysitting for the entire school year. I mean really, what did I have to offer the world outside Mom-hood? It isn't really just about money, but what kind of job outside of the home would pay me what I am worth (since my time is clearly extremely valuable) without requiring a degree, and will allow me to only work from 9am-2:30pm Monday to Friday with every weekend off, plus two weeks off for Spring Break and Christmas so I can still always be there for my kids? (not to mention two months in the summer so I can spend time with my very busy hubby). In order to avoid figuring this out, I offered to babysit and figured my life was sorted out for at least the next 3-4 years, as long as this little girl's parents needed me. Turns out they only needed me for a year since they are expecting again very soon and will be home with the new baby. Once again faced with my personal battle, I think I am finally ready to figure out what I have to offer the world during those quiet weekday hours when nobody needs me.
I have always been creative. It started when I was a child, continued through highschool and morphed into a job as a screen printer/designer, then into another job as art director for a hotel. Eventually we moved as my husband found a teaching job closer to Vancouver where he could gradually inch his way into a bigger music scene. After only a year we were expecting our first baby. Through my hotel contacts I was offered a job as art director for Bell's Alaska Travel Guides. This was something I could do from home with a baby. I still work for Bell's today and I am grateful to them for giving me my creative outlet and giving me the opportunity to earn enough money to help with some bills and pay for Christmas.
Now, I want to expand. I want to add more contacts, more work, more ads, posters, logos, brochures. I am craving it, but I have even more than that to offer. See, during all those years of mothering and babysitting, I never stopped creating. I didn't realize this until I one night, while Googling "ways for Stay at Home Moms to make money" I came across a blog about blogging. I have always wanted a blog of my own, but never thought I had anything to write about that was worth reading by anybody other than my mom and some parenting board friends. (no offense Mom....and Shari...etc.) A day later, while skimming through folders of old photos of my kids, it dawned on me that I have a lot to offer. My children are very imaginative. They exercised my creative brain to the limit with their crazy ideas. Every birthday party where they requested some wacky theme that does not exist on any dollar store paper plate, every Halloween/Storybook Character day/Alphabet Day costume that you can't find at Walmart (or don't want to pay for), every decoration I made to help enrich their classroom was a well documented example of what have accomplished. I created so much out of nothing just to make my children happy.
This is the topic of my blog. This is my new baby and I am extremely excited about it. Creativity is a sleeping hermit which I have nudged out of hiding. I have folder upon folder of photos of ideas and creations I have made over the years and still more to come. I look forward to sharing them with you, along with somewhat detailed instructions on how to do some of them yourself. So next time your son asks to be a Lego mini-fig for Halloween, you too will be prepared.
About the Author
Summer is a stay at home mom, happily married to a teacher/musician in British Columbia, Canada. Also an art director for Bell's Alaska Travel Guides and freelance graphic designer, Summer always manages to find ways to share her love and knack for art and design with her children.