Mermaid Party Pt. 1 – Octopus Balloon Animal Dance Party

Balloon Octopi

Balloon Octopi


What’s easier: 1) Blowing up a balloon or 2) making it into an octopus? I’ll give you a hint… one is impossible and one is pictured.

I am sure you’ve all seen a clown or street performer in your life whip out one of those balloon-animal-balloons, give it a little tug, and then inflate it in mere seconds using only the mouth as a tool. Easy, right? No. No it’s not.

If you’ve every tried this, you’re with me right now. If you’ve never tried it you’re probably thinking what my husband thought as he watched me turn red with effort and then fail repeatedly. He didn’t need to verbalize, his face told the story “Umm, what’s wrong with you?”

I just handed him the balloon.

The next day I was back at the store to buy the hand pump which I kinda feel should have a sign or something on it letting rookies like me know it’s not optional. I even asked the girl at the party store if she’s ever tried to blow one of these things up. She just laughed.

Ok, moving on. Once you have the pump and some balloons, it literally takes less than 2 mins to make a really cool looking octopus. Even less to make a sword. And I am sure that’s only the beginning. Google “easy balloon animals” and take your pick. Now that I have the pump, it’s a fun thing to have on hand when kids are around. I took the leftover balloons and the pump to the family Christmas… instant party. Even gramps was making creations.

Birthday Mermaid and her Octopus sidekick.

Birthday Mermaid and her Octopus sidekick.


Octopus Balloon Animal Dance Party
Oh right, so I didn’t just start down this balloon making path randomly. My daughter’s birthday party was a mermaid party. We rented a park rec center and the entire thing was such an overload of crafty DIY projects that I just can’t write about it all at once. But one of the cheapest, easiest and biggest hits of the party was the Octopus Balloon Dance Party.

We blew up (with our actual mouths) a bunch of standard round balloons in shades of blues like the ocean and spread them about the floor. Then I made about eight of these large octopus balloon animals. We played the soundtrack from The Little Mermaid and the kids danced and pummeled each other with the octopus balloons. The balloons stood up remarkably well and the kids had a blast.

SUPPLIES FOR 1 OCTOPUS:
– 1 Balloon hand pump
– 1 12″ balloon for the body. I chose polka dots and tie dye.
– 2 5″ white balloons for the eyes
– 4 long balloons for legs
– Black Sharpie

There are lots of online tutorials if you google “octopus balloon animals.” I used this one: http://youtu.be/EFNqU2DPFkg

Trust me, don’t let this guys expert inflation skills fool you. Spend the 5 bucks for the frickin’ pump.

Octopus Balloon Animal

Octopus Balloon Animal

Eyelashes courtesy of my daughter.

Eyelashes courtesy of my daughter.

Balloon Octopi

Balloon Octopi

Reindeer Food

Right now my house looks like a Michael’s craft store exploded all over it. It’s the bits and pieces that remain after a weekend of DIY mermaid birthday party compulsion and my poor burnt-out self cannot lift a finger to fix it right now. I also can’t write about it yet, it’s too fresh (and too much).

So how does that get us to reindeer food? And what even is reindeer food? Well, it’s pretty much just oats in a bag. With sprinkles…

My son’s school does this thing called The Gingerbread Shop where families bring in little things they’ve made and the school sets up a little “store” and each student gets to bring a couple dollars to shop. They buy the little crafts for 50 cents a piece. It’s sweet, my son came home last year with a little gift for each of us.

AND THIS STUFF IS ALL DUE TOMORROW. So yeah, oats in a bag. With sprinkles.

But as last minute and quick as this little project is, the kids (or at least my kids) like feeding the reindeers on Christmas Eve as much as they like leaving cookies for santa. So I figure the kids at school might like it to.

Reindeer Food

Reindeer Food


REINDEER FOOD
All you do is pour a bunch of oats in a bowl. Both whole oats and the steel cut work great. Have the kids dump in a bunch of Christmas sprinkles and even a little glitter (sure, Santa’s reindeers can eat glitter), and mix it all up. Then put it in a bag, tie it up, and put a label on it.

My husband questioned why I would add additional work with the label. But that’s the key part. That’s what turns oats in a bag magically into “Reindeer Food.”

Breakfast of Champions: Sprinkles, Glitter, Oats

Breakfast of Champions: Sprinkles, Glitter, Oats

Thanksgiving: Paper Mache Turkey

Paper Mache Turkey

Paper Mache Turkey


We wanted to make a turkey centerpiece for our Holiday Cook Off. Now, see, I have issues. A project like this originates simply enough. Like “oh, let’s just cut out some hand-turkeys, color them and call it a day.” But then this weird part of me takes over. It starts with a “Hmm, how can I make it round? Paper mache and a balloon?” then it moves to “Oh, those tie dye leaves my neighbor made are pretty, that could work for the feathers” and then, well… then it’s on. Soon the kitchen is covered in glue and food coloring and there’s just no turning back.

This is what Fumbleweeds is about, winging it all the way through. So I’m going to level with you. The following instructions will likely make no sense. I am not entirely sure what I did to get this thing together.

All in all, it was an ok project that needs some fine-tuning. The kids had fun with the feathers, painting, and about 2 mins of the paper mache. It’s a multi-day endeavor with all the drying of things. And it’s messy. Paper Mache is very messy.

I like this twist though… we decided to write all of the things we’re thankful for on the turkey body over the next few days. Kinda like a Thanksgiving turkey cast.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Supplies

Supplies


Paper Mache Turkey
Supplies:
– Fall colored cardstock
– Unbleached cone coffee filters
– Food Coloring
– Glue
– Shredded newspaper
– a balloon
– Sharpie
– Scissors
– masking tape
– brown paint

Paper Mache Turkey Body

Paper Mache Turkey Body


Turkey Body:
-Mix 3/4th Glue to 1/4 water in a pan
-Blow up a balloon
-dip strips of newspaper into glue mixture, pull each piece through fingers to get rid of extra glue, place onto the balloon
-Repeat this until the balloon is fully covered with at least 3 layers of paper/glue
-Tie string or dental floss around the tied part of the balloon and hang somewhere overnight. Put a towel or bowl under it for the dripping glue.
– Wipe up all the messy glue all over your kitchen before it dries and becomes a big pain in the butt (lesson learned)
– Once dry, paint the turkey body brown

Painting the body

Painting the body

Food Coloring Tie Dye Feathers

Food Coloring Tie Dye Feathers


Feathers:
– Draw a feather on the coffee filter (see pic of supplies)
– Cut out feathers
– Put a little water in a shallow pan
– hold each feather over the pan and drip food coloring on it
– Then dip the feather into the water to “spread” the food coloring around
– Lay out flat to dry overnight

Food Coloring Fun

Food Coloring Fun

Turkey Head

Turkey Head


Turkey Head & Base
– Draw and cut out a turkey head from dark brown card stock
– Cut out a yellow beak and tape or glue dot onto the face
– draw eyes with a sharpie

– Cut out a red waddle and glue it to the neck

Back of the turkey

Back of the turkey


Assembly:
– Don’t cut off the knot of the balloon in the paper mache turkey body until the end. It gives structure so it doesn’t cave in
– Take a piece of card stock (I used yellow, brown would have been better) and cut into a semi-circle and mold around the largest part of the turkey body and tape. I used packing tape but I think masking tape would have been better and easer to cover over with paint at the end. Speaking of, paint over this taped up rear end with brown paint.
– Glue the “feathers” in a fan design onto the front covering all of the cardstock
– Cut off the tip of the balloon and either glue the turkey head over the hole OR, using strips of brown paper, attach it around the body of the turkey (see pic).
– Make a base by taking a long strip of card stock, make it into a circle and tape it together to make a stand

Our Turkey Guy

Our Turkey Guy

Turkey Love

Turkey Love

Halloween Pt. 2: Window Silhouettes

Somehow I’ve overcommitted myself again to none other than, well… myself. Seriously, what is my problem? This is a habit. I worked all day, commuted home and then proceeded to make this list that I started at 6:30PM tonight:

List of unnecessaries

List of Unnecessaries

And now it’s 11:30, I’ve already crossed off “blog” so I guess I should finish it. And most everything else got done in some rushed, half-assed way. Except, as you can see, homework. That didn’t get done at all. Way to fumble on the important stuff!

Not much good came out of tonight so I’m blogging about last night. But before that, I do have a tip for parents who need a super quick idea for a preschool Halloween party potluck:

Halloween Cheese Plate
– Pre-sliced Cheese
– Halloween Cookie Cutters
– Crackers

Cut Halloween shapes out of the slices of cheese with the cookie cutters. Layer on a Halloween tray with some crackers. done. Oh, save the scraps for homemade mac ‘n cheese.

Yeah, so by “cheese plate” on my list I sadly didn’t mean a nice display of a goat, cow, and sheep’s milk medley with figs and pear compote. No, I meant Cheddar pumpkins and Monterey Jack Ghosts. Classy. Anyhow, this isn’t about tonight’s subpar performance, this is about last night…

Halloween Window Silhouettes

Our Halloween House

Our Halloween House

Every year I get really into making silhouette cutouts for the windows. On our dinky little craftsman we have two front windows that beg for something Halloween-y. And so I buy some black poster board paper, bust out my clear packing tape and scissors, and get to work.

A simple Google search for Halloween Silhouettes generates a ton of ideas and usually gets me inspired. I then decide what I want to do, draw it out with pencil on the poster board, and start cutting. Scissors work well for most of the cutting, in fact you can do it all this way, but an X-Acto knife for the cutouts and fine details does give a cleaner look. Once complete, I tape them up with the clearest packing tape I can find. This way the tape on the window doesn’t show as much.

I don’t think the photography does these justice, they look much better lit up in person. I love this project because it’s totally free-form, it’s paper art which I love, and it can be as simple as a few bats and gravestones, or as complicated as entire spooky scenes.

Halloween 2013:

Halloween 2013

Halloween 2013

Halloween 2011

Halloween 2011

Halloween 2011

Halloween 2008
My favorite…

Halloween 2008

Halloween 2008

Supplies:

Simple supplies

Simple supplies

Halloween: Pt 1

Trick or Treat

Trick or Treat


Remember Halloween when you were a kid? How good was Halloween. Throwing together some funky diy costume, grabbing a pillowcase for your candy haul, running around with the neighborhood crew until well after dark… adult-free. Then coming home, dumping out your candy piles, trading with your brother while your mom checked for rumored razors. Good times. I loved it. LOVED it.

I was feeling nostalgic about it today while at our school’s Fall Halloween Carnival. I mean, while we live mere miles from a major metropolis, Halloween is still much the same all these years later. Old-school style carnivals, pumpkin patches, trick or treating, candy… it’s still going strong.

Halloween is also obviously a really perfect holiday for making stuff. This week I’ll try to post some of our favorites, starting with stuff we’ve made in the past.

Mummy Cake
Ok, this isn’t from the past, this is from today. My daughter and I made it for the carnival cake walk. We totally cut corners because she’s four and I work full time. So I got a box of Red Velvet (mwahaha, blood) Cake mix, a jar of vanilla frosting, and was all set to bust out some mummy wraps with a piping bag when I stumbled upon a mummy cupcake kit at Target. White sour gummy strips! Like striking gold.

MMM, delicious mummies.

MMM, delicious mummies.

All we did was cut a top of a cardboard box and wrap it in foil for the tray. We then baked the cake in a 7″ Corningware dish so that it would be tall. Then frosted it with the white frosting, leaving the eye area bare. My daughter plopped some sugar eyes on, and we wrapped it like a mummy with those gummy strips. So easy.

Candy Eyes

Candy Eyes


frosted, ready to wrap.

frosted, ready to wrap.

Crafts of Halloween Past
A few other Halloween things from years past…

Mummy Dogs
These are so easy and kinda rad so I make them every year. Use full hotdogs, or cut them in half, or get lil smokies, they all work. I’ve wrapped them in strips of Trader Joe’s pizza dough and I’ve tried breadstick or other pre-made doughs. I like the look of the pizza dough best but I recommend brushing them with some melted butter before baking. So pick your dough, cut it in strips, wrap the dogs, bake at 375-ish until the dough looks done. Dot mustard or ketchup for eyes.

MMM, more mummies

MMM, more mummies

Alien Cupcakes
These were from the Hello Cupcakes book. They were hard. Don’t start them at 10PM.
http://blog.hellocupcakebook.com/2009/10/21/more-halloween-cupcakes.aspx

MMM, delicious aliens.

MMM, delicious aliens.

Dalmation (Cow?) Costume
White onsie, black fabric paint… all planned around a cute hat she already had. She was a cute little Cowmation.

Puppy? Cow?

Puppy? Cow?

Just Don’t Call It A Party: DIY Pokemon Non-Party

When Jack’s birthday rolled around this year I asked him what he’d like to do:
“No party.” was his response.
“No party?” (can’t quite compute)
“No.” (adamant)
“Well, we don’t have to have that party” I said.

See I knew what was wrong, no need for him to elaborate. It was the confirmation that yes, I had indeed scarred him over past years with what has been deemed “Birthdaypalooza.”

Birthdaypalooza started out innocently enough back in preschool when a group of us parents with October birthday kids pulled together and threw one big bash. Brilliant! Four b-day kids, ONE party! Done.

We pulled this off in various forms for four years in a row. It got so big after the first year that we had to move subsequent years to a park. It swelled to a point where last year there were 40+ kids, 40+ adults, a jumpy house, a Pirate who did magic, twisted balloons and painted faces, a pinata so big you could shove a small child in it (we went with 10lbs of candy), lots of BBQ. We had to hire a backup face painter.

I loved this party. Loved prepping with the moms. Loved making the favors. Loved watching the kids have so much fun. Loved catching up with all the parents we don’t get to see too often. But after the last one, I knew it wasn’t really Jack’s thing. Don’t get me wrong, he had a blast every year, but I knew it wasn’t the birthday party he would choose for himself.

And this year he chose the opposite. NOTHING. It’s official: I scarred him for life.

So let’s rewind a bit:
“No party.” was his response.
“No party?” (can’t quite compute)
“No.” (adamant)
“Well, we don’t have to have that party” I said.

And at this point I threw out some options:
“Invite a couple of buddies over and play pokemon?”
No.
“Take a small group of friends mini-golfing, to the movies, or to the pinball museum?”
No.
“Is there anything you’d like to do for your birthday?”

The answer was 1) Go with one friend to The Winchester Mystery House & 2) Have our regular neighborhood crew over for movie night + birthday cheesecake. But don’t call it a party.

Pokemon Pizza Night
We’re lucky to live on a block with a group of kids that have grown up to this point together. They are a tight group that hang together often. So we invited them over for a pretty typical movie-pizza night. As it grew closer, Jack started getting into a few “party-ish” elements. He put together gift boxes for them, filled with Pokemon things. He sought out cards he knew his friends needed and put those in their pokeball boxes. He didn’t protest when I brought home some Pokemon decor. And I think he genuinely got excited when the following two things rounded out the emerging theme:

Easy Pokeball Pizza

Easy Pokeball Pizza


Pokemon Pokeball Pizza:
This was a super easy way to integrate some Pokemon power. I cheated a bit and bought a couple of large pepperoni take-n-bake pizzas from Costco. I figured the kids probably weren’t craving the grilled pizzas. I simply took off half the pepperoni, put a slice of onion in the middle of the pizza, then used olives to make the black lines. voila!
cooking Pokeballs

cooking Pokeballs

A little overcooked, cheese got too brown.

A little overcooked


                                              

Pokemon Pokeball Cheesecake:

Pokeball Cheesecake

Pokeball Cheesecake

Here’s a funny thing about Jack: He doesn’t really like cheese, he doesn’t like cake… but he loves cheesecake. I was thinking about making him one and turning it into a pokeball but I wasn’t confident in getting the top super white and free of cracks, so I bought one from Costco. I then covered one half with strawberry spread, made the center button with upside down Hersey kisses, then used black cake decorating gel to finish it off.

Pokemon & friends, what more does a kid need?

Pokemon & friends, what more does a kid need?

Jack had the perfect birthday. He loved it. He loved prepping his gift bags. He loved being surrounded by his neighborhood crew. He loved the little bits of a Pokemon theme. But still… don’t call it a party.

Pokeball non-party party favors.

Pokeball non-party party favors.

Bunk Bed Forts!

Bunk Forts!

Bunk Forts!


After all of this adventuring lately, I was itching to do something hands-on creative today so I dug out a project that’s been sitting in the back of my head for awhile. Ever since getting the kids a bunk bed I’ve wanted to make it into a bed-fort and today I finally pulled it off.

My kids share a room and at the rate we’re going with house hunting they will continue to do so until they graduate high school. Lucky for me, at 6 & 4, they don’t mind sharing and actually I don’t think they would have it any other way. But when four people live in 1000 sq ft, it never hurts to find creative ways to carve out a little more personal space and privacy. Plus the fact that bunk bed forts are obviously awesome.

I headed to Ikea to pull together the few items I would need to perma-fort the bunk bed…

BEFORE

BEFORE

AFTER

AFTER

A Few Simple Things

A Few Simple Things

                                                    
MATERIALS
– 2 curtain wire packs
– screws
– wire cutters
– Phillips screwdriver
Curtains
Kura bed tent for top bunk

TOP BUNK
This should have been the no-brainer in the project. Go to Ikea, get the tent thingy that goes on an Ikea bunk bed, put it on the bunk bed. DONE! Nope. Oh Ikea, why do you almost make it easy but then make that last 5% such a pain in the butt? Of course this tent thing doesn’t fit ALL Ikea wooden bunk beds, just the one we don’t have. So it’s up there for now, but the hooks don’t fit so it keeps getting knocked off. I need to rig it to be more sturdy maybe get some velcro strips and wrap then around the tent poles and then around the bed.

Wire curtain hangers in progress.

Wire curtain hangers.


BOTTOM BUNK
For this I got two of the curtain wire packs from Ikea. Dang it Ikea, really? Everything BUT the screws included? Ok, so I fumbled around the tool area in the basement and dug up a couple but I don’t think they were long enough to really anchor in the wood. I went ahead with them and screwed one set in along the inside ledge of the bunk bed along the length, then one along the width (see pic). While the curtain wire did hang, it doesn’t seem sturdy enough and I had one already pull out of the wood. The screws I had were not right. I’ll probably change them out with a screw or bolt long enough to go entirely through the wood and then fasten a nut on the other side. Or maybe just a longer screw and a little wood glue. I am going to research but for now, it’s in place and looks good.

For the fabric, I found these owl curtains in the kids section of Ikea. They were way too long so I cut them to the size I needed and (GASP!) fake sewed them with the iron no-sew adhesive stuff. Let’s see if it holds up. I made the third curtain with the leftovers from the original panels and might make some pillow cases with the remaining scrap.

So there are some things I need to work on to make this concept more solid so that 2 hyper kids can’t take it all down in an instant, but those adjustments should be simple. The entire project, including Ikea-time, took only a couple of hours. The kids seem to love their new forts and, coincidentally, have their first sleep over friends here enjoying them too.

Gotta have lanterns inside, especially happy ones.

Gotta have lanterns inside, especially happy ones.

Elise's new bottom bunk fort.

Elise’s new bottom bunk fort.

Sleep Over!

Sleep Over!

Bunk Bed Forts!

Bunk Bed Forts!