DIY "the Mitten" Play Set

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

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I am a sucker for books with props. Adding that extra level of tactile interaction always elevates storytime. "The Mitten" by Jan Brett is an excellent example of a book that lends itself well to props. In case you aren't familiar with the story the Mitten, the concept is pretty simple. A boy drops a mitten, and a group of animals decide that it looks warm and move in. The animals range in size from hedgehog to bear so, unfortunately, their cozy cuddle pile doesn't last. At least no one gets eaten.

The process of making these does take a little time and a little creativity,  but they aren't too hard to reproduce. Not focusing on hyper realism helps. You might notice that my bunny's mouth is crooked, for example, but it adds to the homemade charm that fits this story well.

Disclaimer: I did not seal these with anything, so I only allow my monster to play with them while someone is watching, to hopefully prevent him from putting them in his mouth. 

Mitten (from Amazon)
8 Peg Dolls
Acrylic Paint

The design for these animals was both simple and difficult at the same time. The ears for the animals are lying back on the top of their head, and they were what tripped me up the most. I tried to simplify the creatures by picking iconic features to focus on. The stripes of the badger, or the nose of the mole, for example.

To paint my animals I used watered down acrylics. This allowed the wood grain to show through, giving the dolls a more natural look. I tried to keep everything toned down, using the more muted colors found in nature. I feel like this really helps tie in with Jan Brett's illustration style.
The process for each doll went a little like this: first layer of watered down acrylic was the base layer color. White for the rabbit, yellow for the owl, orange for the fox, light brown for the mouse and the hedgehog, and dark brown for the mole, bear, and badger.
Let that coat dry, then start the face details. I drew them on with pencil first then traced my drawing with a very fine brush. While I kept using watered down paint for the large sections of color, I switched to straight acrylic for any fine detail work.

I love the way these little guys turned out. Giving the kids a chance to stuff all of the animals into a mitten, even if they are not quite to scale, gives the children a extra level of silly. These peg dolls are the perfect size for this activity because they stretch the mitten just enough that you do actually wonder if they all will fit inside.

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Sketchy Outfit 37: Monster and Me

Monday, December 30, 2019

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I'm not going to lie... almost every day I try to match my child in some way. Usually it's my socks, and it's just this little extra thing that makes me smile whenever I think about it. But the other day the stars aligned and the laundry was clean and I was able to go all out... and man was it worth it. This kid's adorableness is going to slay me, I swear.

(Honestly, I cut this romper up to make it into a tank top
during the summer and I've never once regretted it.
We've gotten so much more use out of it this way.)

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Mood Board: Winter Wonderland Porch

Thursday, December 19, 2019

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My Christmas decor tends to be on the VERY colorful side. Think classic tree with colorful retro mid-century vibes, and a tad bit of Tim Burton thrown in.  This year, though, all of the images that were appealing to me were simplistic, white, and very... homey. Instead of throwing out all of the decorations I've been collecting for the last five years, I decided to decorate the one room of my house that is a bit of a blank slate: my front porch.

Image Credits: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

I had been collecting images on Pinterest for a while. So, after letting these images swirl around in my brain a little bit, and maaaybe after drawing a sketch that had all the vibes, I built a mood board.

I knew, right off the bat, that there was at least one thing I could simply DIY. I dove headfirst into making those garlands, but instead of using felt I used white paper. I layered a few sheets at a time and freehand cut what were basically vines with leaves sticking out on either side, then taped the strands together. It took about all of Muppet Christmas Carol to cut and tape them all.

Because this is a drafty old porch in the Midwest I decided to make it more comfy with an abundance of blankets, faux furs, and a hot chocolate bar. Having so many layered textures and natural tones make me warm just looking at it. Man, now I want some more blanket cuddles and hot chocolate. Maybe we can do that tomorrow morning. Hot chocolate for breakfast is acceptable as long as Mom says it's okay, right?

I go through this space every single day, more than once. Usually, it's full of coolers and tables and trikes and trucks (oh so many trucks). It gets ignored a lot. But dang, a little attention goes a long way. Honestly (and a bit amazingly) this was pulled together with just stuff I have around my house.

The only things I bought were that buffalo plaid blanket (which I had been eyeing and was a steal on Amazon) and that tiny little tree. Isn't he so cute? The whole transformation took about an hour total, and I can't believe how completely worth it it was. Now, whenever I walk through this space I feel like I'm walking in my own Winter Wonderland.

And here's the little sketch I made before any of this started. It all began with a doodle of the monster waiting for his Grandma on the porch. I couldn't stop thinking about his little feet sticking out of that blanket! Anyways, tell me if you think I did the concept justice!

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Gorgeous Ornaments You Can Make Yourself

Sunday, December 15, 2019

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 Just because your tree decor is handmade doesn't mean it can't be totally on trend. Here are 10 DIY ornaments that will make your tree look like you spent a thousand at Anthropologie.

Don't each of those look like a million bucks?  I want to make all of them, but those leather ones are really stealing my heart. I think I have some leather tucked away somewhere, so I'll have to give them a try. 

If you looked through this list and still want more, check out my simple village ornaments!

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DIY Minimal House Ornaments

Friday, December 13, 2019

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These ornaments have a cute little minimalist vibe while also being charming and heartwarming. I've always thought of minimalism as cold and removed, but recently I've been diving headfirst into Pinterest inspo of holiday decor that is curated and simple but still so ... warm looking.

Model Magic
Something to roll with (I used a marker)
Something to cut with (butter knife)
Something to poke with (end of a paintbrush)

Note: No, my hands are not weirdly small. Some steps were done by my toddler. Yay family craft time!

  1. Section out your Model Magic. I could get three houses that were about 1 1/2 inches out of one small pack of clay. After you divide the clay, work with it a bit to get it all warmed up. You should be able to pull it apart and have it be stringy in the middle.
  2. Roll out! Squish your clay into a kind of squarish lump then roll it out. You want it to be a fourth of an inch or thicker.
  3. Shape the bottom of your house. Model Magic if forgiving when it comes to shaping, so don't stress out about this too much. I would try to shape the clay to look as much like a rectangle as possible, then give them corners. If that just isn't working for you you can also just cut the clay so you have the bottom of the rectangle. To clean up your sides, place a straight edge (I used my paintbrush) against each side and gently press to make the edges sharp.
  4. Cut the roof. For any cutting step, you may want to lay down paper to protect the surface you are working on. Decide where you want your roof to start, then draw a faint straight line to the other side. Make an angled cut to where you want your roof to peak. Do the same for the other side.
  5. Cut out your windows. Decide where you want your windows to be, then lightly draw them on to double-check placement. When you are satisfied, cut slowly and gently with the tip of your sharp edge. Try to cut all the way through the clay. Your knife should hit the surface below.
  6. Poke out the windows. Often they will not come out cleanly, but rather tear off. Clean up the back of your ornament as needed, smoothing the torn edges into the clay.
  7. Poke a hole for your ribbon. Place your hole far enough from the top that the ornament won't rip when it's hung. Make sure to poke from the back and the front to make everything look polished.
  8. Clean it up and let dry. You have a few hours where the clay is still moldable. Look over the front and back, making sure to smooth away any dents or scratches. Let dry at least 24 hours.
  9. Add a ribbon!

More notes: 
Keep a clean surface. These things like to keep fuzzies forever.
Because this is handmade, keep in mind that imperfections add to the charm.

I think these adorable little guys will be pulling double duty this holiday season, first as tree decorations and then as gift tags. Well, that is, if I can bear to part with them.  I just love my little village of tiny houses.

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Potty Training? (printable sequence cards)

Friday, October 11, 2019

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Okay, I'm going to start this post with the total truth....

I have no idea what I'm doing.

This past couple of weeks, Monster started taking his diaper off when he woke up in the morning. Then last Thursday I walked into the nursery and stepped into a puddle of pee. Honestly, I was impressed. How did he get it so far from the crib? But that puddle pointed out a truth that I had been avoiding... it might be time to start potty training.

I had been kinda researching because I knew it would be time soon, so I had a vague plan in mind that involved chocolate. Because all good plans should involve chocolate. And I needed an excuse to use this sweet gumball machine I found at Goodwill.

I also really love a good themed basket, so naturally, I put together a potty basket. Gonna have to invest in more potty books. (Shown here: What's a Potty For? by Katie Daynes)

We are trying (and failing) to get him excited about underwear so I got some diapers and undies for Jack-Jack. At this point he just wants Jack-Jack to wear the diaper, and the underwear can stay on the doll's head for all he cares. It's so cute to watch him slowly put it all together, though. He likes to figure stuff out on his own, so I just plan to leave everything accessible and let him mess with it on his own time. (Buy here: doll diapers, doll underwear)

So right now the plan is simple. We try to sit him on the potty right after he wakes up. Getting him used to what this potty business is all about. Celebrate his successes with ridiculous amounts of cheer and chocolate. Beyond that... I don't know. I'm really taking this a step at a time. But I've got my basket, I've got my quarters, and I've got a plastic potty with pee in it. Livin the dream.

I'd love to hear any advice you have in the comments. What worked - or terribly, messily didn't work - for you?

And if you would like to have some of those quirky little sequence cards for yourself, you can download a printable version here.
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Dragons Love Tacos Party

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

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I love dragons, and I love tacos, so when I decided I wanted to do something special with my family for my birthday, it really just made sense that we would have a "Dragons Love Tacos" party. (Obviously. ) So that's what we did! (Except, because we are not dragons, we did have spicy salsa. Sh, don't tell.)

In case you haven't heard of it, Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin is a bestselling children's book all about dragons who love tacos. The problem is, while they will eat boatloads of tacos, even one hint of spice will make them spew fire everywhere. This adorable book is written in a casual voice that makes it tons of fun to real aloud.

Of course, if you know me at all, you have probably figured out that what really draws me into books is the illustrations.  This book is no exception. The playful lines and speckled backgrounds make for an iconic style specific to this series.

So speckles were the base I used for my table. Specifically a diy splatter painted tablecloth. Using watered down tempera paint and an old brush, I set out my plastic white tablecloth and started to make a mess. It took some time, but was well worth it. This subtle detail really hinted at the book in a subconscious way.

The place settings were simple but on theme. Everyone got a dragon with their own salsa jar.

To make both the invites and the salsa jars I just used plain white copy paper and colored pencils. The beauty of this artistic style is that you can use your normal sloppy handwriting to create everything! If you are nervous about spacing, I would suggest you lightly plan everything out in pencil first.

The favor/activity for this party is sure to be a hit... Salsa Slime. Using clear glue, slime additive, food coloring and pony beads I was able to create a very satisfying salsa slime.*
*Now with spicy jalapenos. :)

Another activity idea is put out the dragon fires. Use tissue paper to create a small fake fires, then have them throw small blue balloons at it.

I think the really great thing about this party theme is that the food is really a no brainer. Tacos! We always set out our ingredients and let everyone make their own. You can even have dessert nachos! Break some chocolate waffle cones to use as a base. Add plops of ice cream, chocolate sauce, and sprinkles and serve in a bowl. Yuuum!

Pack up their dragons and salsa into a Taco Cave take out bag (created with black marker and craft paper bags), and your party is complete!

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