Midnight Fairy Craft & Party Book by Tracy Marsh. Book Review.

This book has more ideas than you will ever possibly use for a party. There are chapters on making dolls, wands, books, wish boxes, and even fairy wings. Marsh gives details on preparing for the party, sending out invitations, food, cake, tablecloths and napkins, and even place cards. There is a whole section on games and activities most quite physically active.

Some of the creations require a great deal of effort and some are fairly simple. Many of them are quite beautiful and worthy of becoming a permanent keepsake.

Of course you can simplify everything and change things to suit your energy level, income, and needs. I used it as inspiration for a fairy night with my five-year-old granddaughter who was sleeping over. Here are some of the decorations we did using materials we already had and a few things from the dollar store.

Any physical activities outside were out of the question since we were experiencing a heat wave and it was excruciating hot at 9 pm. Instead we played table and word games with fairy themes such as “A fairy took from my house.”  We did two rounds of took and two of left.

Our fairy door in the garden was too damp so we put one on the deck.

To see our decorations, games etc. check out this short video.

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Rhymes for a Rainy Day

Follow up ideas:

Make a rain stick.

Make a rainy painting by dropping blobs of shades of blue paint and tilting the paper to make the paint run in streaks.

Make a lightning picture. Use black paper. Dip a string in white paint. Drop it onto the paper. Carefully peel it off.

Draw a giant  rainbow outside with sidewalk chalk. Watch the rain wash it away.

Make bowls of mud (chocolate pudding). Add sprinkles for rocks and a gummy worm.

Umbrella Exercise. Fold a colored paper plate (flimsy one) or paper circle into 8 sections.  Put 1 raindrop on the first section, 2 on the next, until there are eight. Make a second umbrella. In each section write a movement: hop, clap, stamp a foot, touch your toes, kick, tip-toe, giant steps, march. Put the umbrellas on the floor. Toss two quarters, or small bean bags, or rolled up socks, one to each umbrella. Do the action such as hop 3 times.

Make a mobile of raindrops made from blue cellophane. Hang in against a window.

Read a rainy story like https://wp.me/p1OfUU-n0  Outstanding in the Rain, A Whole Story with Holes, by Frank Viva.

Go for a walk in the rain. Snap pictures. Make your own rainy day book.

Lost in London Duplo Adventure

My granddaughter and I made a mini travel adventure with Duplo about Egypt. Of course she wanted a mummy in it. I decided to make it into a mini video and a series was born.

I created a  Lego Dyplo adventure in London, England next. The two biggest problems were having enough Duplo for the large structures and convincing my granddaughter I had to take Buckingham Palace apart in order to build the next set. She wanted it to cover the dining room table forever. I added songs to this one and used PhotoShop to improve the pictures.

Lost in London: Using legos (mostly duplo) Cassie visits several historic sites in London, England but can’t enjoy herself until she finds Polly. What has happened to her best friend? This video is a great jumping off point for kids to write an adventure about Polly, whose appearance might surprise you. Sprinkled with variations of Mother Goose.

Check it out.

Upholstered Crocheted Chair – Part Three of the Dollhouse Series

If you can crochet without a pattern or glue scraps of fabric, you can make beautiful upholstered furniture with your child.

For more pictures and detailed instructions, watch the video here.

Have your child glue craft sticks in a log cabin pattern for the seat. The square should be about 4  X 4 inches wide and deep and 2 inches high.

Have your child make the back support 4 X 4 as well but only half and inch deep.

Now it’s your turn. Crochet a 4 X 4 square. Fit it on the frame and crochet up the sides tightening the corners as you go. Once you reach this point, add the back support and stuffing.

Put glue on  the bottom 2 inches and shove it behind the seat. The crocheting will hold it in place until it dries.

Because I had cut the sticks, the edges were rough against my fingers.  I covered them with masking tape. This will make it stronger as well.

Then I crocheted the seat in smaller squares meeting in the middle. You can choose to  go from one side to the other. Whatever works for you.

Then I crocheted up the back support going around in a circle from front to back and then stitching it shut at the top.

I glued two sets of sticks together for the arms. Then I crocheted over them, sewed them shut, and sewed them to the seat and back support. I glued four squares of wood to the bottom to make it less wobbly.

The second time I tried to make it better by making the bottom separate, putting a solid bottom on, and wrapping it in tape to cover the rough edges.

Then I crocheted over the bottom and up the four sides. I made a back and glued it in place. I crocheted a square flap for the seat and put in stuffing.

Then I crocheted up and over the back and stitched it together. I glued two popscicle sticks together and crocheted over them. Then I sewed them on. Unfortunately, these are rather fragile. I glued on  feet again. This one wobbles less because of the solid bottom.

For more photographs and detail, go to https://youtu.be/I7G5IXc_2h8

Next week, making a couch and other furniture.

Lighting (without electrical skills) – Part Two of the Dollhouse Series

The deeper the dollhouse and the fewer windows, the darker the interior. Here are some ideas for lighting up the rooms that your child can do with you.

Purchase strings of LED mini lights. As they become more common, the price is dropping. Tape them to the ceilings.

Only under total adult supervision should flood lights be added. They get really HOT! But, if your child wants to make a video, they’re great. Positioning in front is the best for lighting but too close to the child for safety. I mounted them beside the dollhouse and pointed them through the windows. I blocked the access. The second floor window should be bigger for this.

Another idea is to add battery operated tea lights. They can sit on the furniture.

Little tea light holders are fun and easy to make. Buy craft sticks like this at the dollar store. You also need the little wooden cubes.

Cut the circle away from the handle. Glue the circle in the middle supported by the cube. Have your child paint it gold or white or whatever she chooses.

Tape them to the wall. (Note,  tape doesn’t stick well to fabric but works on peel and stick paper.)

Try out other ways of using the tea lights in table lamps, floor lamps, chandeliers. The sky’s the limit.

Building (without carpentry skills) – Part One of the Dollhouse Series

There’s no need for hammer or nails or saw, just a trip to the dollar store. Your child can help with some or all of the construction depending on her age.

Assign a large work area where the dollhouse can be left in progress for several days. Trying to do it in one day is too much.

Purchase 12 or more styrofoam craft sheets from the dollar store for $1.50 each as well as several bottles of Lepages glue. You’ll benefit from a glue gun as well. This will allow you to work faster. Your child can spread the white glue and you can use the glue gun. If you’re making a two-storey, dowels or something similar can be handy.

Use three full sheets and two half sheets to create a box. At this point you are only using the glue gun.

Glue on a second layer for strength but make the pieces overlap the way you would lay bricks. Do this by scoring and bending the styrofoam but not splitting it. Have your child spread white glue all over the piece. You hot glue gun the edges. This will hold it in place while the white glue dries and you can keep working. If you are going to do a second floor, make a third layer for strength. You can clamp the edges together while it dries. I also glued two pieces together and made a half wall for extra support. I just hot glued that in place.

For more strength, I added pillars to the back corners. I was making a three storey so the bottom box would need to hold a lot of weight. I scored a piece of styrofoam to make it like a fan or accordion bellows. Then I soaked it with glue and wrapped it with masking tape.

I glued these into the back two corners. Be sure you cut the first piece the right height to fit snugly.

This is a good spot to stop for the day. That will give the glue time to set well.

I was concerned about the front of the storey sagging in the middle. If you’re only doing one floor or a one-and-a-half- storey, you can skip this.

I thought I could try to make a header for extra support. Using the cheap dollar store imitation legos at $5.00 a box (probably using almost three boxes) we made a 4 X 6 peg pillar. You and your child can work on this at the same time and then join your pillars to make one.

We used some scrap pieces to extend the top and then taped some craft dowels  to spread the support out.

We covered the post with the same sticky paper as we used to wallpaper the walls.

On the second floor, we just made three pillars for the two front corners and the middle. I taped them in place with heavy duty clear tape.

Pick a day to gather wall covering. Cheap sticky paper is available at the dollar store but it can be frustrating to  use. It’s a two or three person job. They also have small rolls of  fabric you can glue on the walls or floor. Be careful not to make the second floor too heavy with thick flooring. Let your child do as  much as possible. It won’t be perfect, but it will be hers.

You can use anything you like for wallpaper, flooring, or paint. I discovered it was super dark inside, so I added a window. This would have been easier to do as I went along. Too many windows will weaken the structure so use caution on the bottom floor.

I let my granddaughter pick the colors, etc. It’s her doll house so it doesn’t need to be showcase perfect. I printed out picture frames and she drew the art inside to tape to the walls.  You could use real picture frames but be careful how much weight you add to the second floor.

On another day, we built a half-storey and roof-top garden out of Duplo.

For more information, watch the video.

Next week: How to light the interior of the dollhouse when you aren’t an electrician. Ideas for you and your child.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

 

Recycled Sundays – Who Has Been Eating the Bird Seed?

I have difficulty saying no to charity canvassers. If I’d known about the great mice hoard, have forced myself.

A gentleman was selling bird seed for a children’s charity. We have a feeder. It was mostly frequented by sparrows who seldom eat sunflower seeds. The gentleman left the bag in my front hallway. Sit stay there until my husband came home. I couldn’t carry it to the shed myself. I couldn’t even drag it across the kitchen floor. The bag weighed more than my oldest child and was almost as tall. She’s twelve.

My husband dropped the bag in a corner of the shed. He added a quarter cup of sunflower seeds to the wild bird mixture in the feeder. At that rate, our children would inherit the remaining seeds. We seldom added to sunflower seeds to the feeder since the birds seldom ate them. One cold March morning, we discovered some other wild creature enjoying the contents of the bag. It looked like it was still full but it was actually full of empty shells.

Mice had been feasting and cleverly disguising the evidence. My husband bought six traps. We thought we’d catch three or four. After the twentieth, I realized there was a Mice Metropolis under our shed. The mouse mayor must have sent out flyers: Come for the best seeds in town.

As time passed, the trapped mice became smaller and younger. I tried not to think of Baby Mice trapped while out searching for their mothers who had already been killed. My children displayed a mixture of sadistic fascination and sympathy for the small defenseless creatures. “Do we have to kill the little ones?” (In six weeks, those little ones are having little ones.) The hardest to accept was that we refused to dig up half the yard for a rodent cemetery.

Some mice, it turns out, are more callus then we are. I think they send the stupid out to die. An unsuspecting fool springs the trap and while he’s gasping his last goodbyes, the others munch safely on the peanut butter bait

Peridocally, my husband caught sight of a huge critter fleeing as he reset the traps. It looked like the same large mouse was often enjoying the benefits of another mouse’s death. This giant may well have started the whole society. More traps were set but he was evasive.

When the count passed forty, I wondered if there any more left in the entire city of Thunder Bay. My husband kept setting up the traps. He hadn’t yet caught old Wiley.

One spring day my husband swept out the shed. Mice don’t clean up after themselves. A few boxes were damaged fortunately the mice had not chewed through the tent. Traps were reset with double doses of peanut butter.

“Wiley’s probably moved out with the good weather,” I said. “Who’d want to stay in a place where everybody gets their heads crushed?”

But the temperature dropped and old Wiley returned for another stab at the peanut butterr. He was the last one caught. He almost deserved a little grave beside the sparrow the cat got and the Bohemian waxwing that hit our neighbor’s window.

There was almost a third grade out there last fall. I discovered my husband was storing bird seed in the shed.

“Are you nuts?” I screeched.

“No problem.It’s in a sealed plastic bucket. They can’t get in.”

That wouldn’t have stopped old Wiley. Come to think of it, rodent teeth can chew through wood so why would plastic be any different? I gave the bird feeder to charity.

 

First published in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News

Sunday, February 2, 1992

Recycled Sundays – Animal Karma

I am relieved to see that our Canadian animals are not following in the violent footsteps of their Old World Counterparts. I do hear stories of bear and cougar attacks every summer and nod. These animals know we are the enemy. They’ve seen us destroy their homes, clearcutting and pollution being the favored methods. They have watched us trap, poison, and shoot their kin. It’s open warfare.

What scares me is when the attacks come from an unexpected source — hoofed farm animals, for example.

I must admit, though, they were provoked. I had previously thought that inbreeding eliminated that wild eye for an eye, fang for a fang trait. Unfortunately, domestic animals have begun to show their true colors.

For example, in Manganeses de la Polvorosa, Spain, the villagers drop a goat from the church belfry to start a religious festival. My first reaction upon hearing this was, what religion thinks this is a good idea? Is this the Church of the Holy Splattered Ruminants? These people have bats in their belfry. Each year, (I’m not making this up), the townspeople toss a goat from the 14 meter high belfry, catch it in a tarp, and release it, suffering only from vertigo and a new mistrust of crowds. This feat begins the Festival of Saint Vincent, the town’s patron saint. He was famous for his works of charity, especially to the sick, old, and orphaned. He must have had a taste for kid pancakes.

Fortunately, local police force lept to the defense of the goat. Unfortunately, villagers refused to take this butting in. They attacked the police at the last festival, and the journalists for good measure. It seems the only one who walked away unharmed was the goat.

Another hoofed fellow didn’t fare as well. A Romanian farmer in December 1991 wanted to clean the skin from his slaughtered pig. He usually used a vacuum cleaner to inflate the pig and burn straw over the skin to remove the hair. Do you suppose that’s where they got the idea of the giant Miss Piggy as a parade balloon?

The farmer’s vacuum broke so he used bottled gas. The pig went whole hog on revenge, exploding and injuring the farmer who spent three days in the hospital. I wonder whether a man who ignites a gas-filled creature should be allowed to work with sharp garden tools.

This is the kind of behavior I might expect from animals who have been treated as nothing better than a vegetable for consumption. But I didn’t expect vengeance from man’s best friend.

Last winter in Moscow, Gennady Danilov, at the young age of 33, was shot by his dog. His dog got his hind legs caught in a trap while they were out hunting. When Danilov tried to free him, the animal struggled and made the rifle discharge.

So far, these acts of vengeance have not spread to North America. Perhaps they are still to come by the poor unfortunate animals we use and abuse. However, I live with three cats. I would never allow my children to toss them. I lock the felines in the basement whenever I am working with any flammable substances. No firearms are allowed on the premises. But deep down I know this is futile. When they study me with six gleaming yellow eyes, I try not to imagine what kind of revenge they are planning in return for the last trip to the vet.

Originally published in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News

Sunday, June 14, 1992

Recycled Sundays – Defensive Ballroom Dancing

My husband and I are learning how to ballroom dance. I’ve always liked dancing but never learned the difference between a box step and an I-stepped-on-his-foot step.
Square dancing is experiencing a revival. It looks like fun too, although I am kept from participating by the music. Country and western gives me a nervous twitch. The lyrics make me want to slap the person next to me. The nasal twang makes me want to kick them while they’re down. But the intricate steps and choreography are impressive.
So, too, with ballroom dancing. It’ll be a long time before I can ever cha cha with Charro or Viennese Waltz without counting under my breath but I like a challenge.
The most reassuring thing about dance classes is that everyone struggles together. We all learn at our own rate and since I’m in the couples class, we bring our own encouragement. The confidence is most noticeable in men. Remember in school when we learned square and folk dances? The boys all turned into Jerry Lewis. As adults, they have weathered worse and survived. The travelling step isn’t as daunting when you have lived through parenting or job loss or divorce.
We practice our steps separately at first and the males are a joy to watch. Every man has his own style. One keeps his mouth tightly closed in determined concentration. A dust molecule couldn’t penetrate those compressed lips. One blushes brightly when he stumbles, seemingly unaware that four or five other guys have made exactly the same mistake. The older gentleman is as smooth and debonair as Fred Astaire while the younger fellow performs with the rigid precision of a military drill. One dances to the beat of a different drummer. Then there’s the totally in control gum chewer who not only remembers the steps and keeps the beat but doesn’t even seem to bite his tongue.
The women watch from the sidelines as their partners learn a new step. They parade past us like graceful peacocks each subtly flaring their invisible feathers. They boogie, rock, sizzle and strut. Of course, it’s easier for them to look good since they get to go forwards. They are most challenged practicing the spins. I imagine it’s because they didn’t have the opportunity to spin in a flared dress as a child like many of the women have.
When we women practice, we have to dance backwards without anyone to lead us away from each other. Since most of us are wearing heels, we move rather tentatively, not wanting to impale the woman behind us onto the gym floor.
Finally we get to dance together. The instructor calls out the men’s steps. The women must reverse the footing and do it while dancing backwards. So, we struggle with gender imposed restrictions, one step forward and two steps back, madly translating the dominant patterns until it makes sense from our point of view – just like real life, eh? Later on we get to change partners and try to accommodate a different man’s body shape and size with its unique rhythms.
At this point I am anything but graceful. I sweat like a high school gymnast without a bucket of chalk dust. I vary between counting the beat and reciting, “long, long, short, short” like a tribal chant. Not exactly the romantic exchange I had in mind when we started.
My husband has trouble leading. It’s the first time in eighteen years I’ve let himcontrol me without an argument. When my husband asks the female instructor for help, she offers to go through the steps with him. He hesitates, hands raise and asks, “Are you being a lady?” She laughs good naturedly and says, “That’s questionable.”
Our favorites are the polka and the tango. I give my husband a little extra room so he doesn’t bang my sore knees when we twist in the polka. He gives me a lot of extra room when we do the lunge in the tango. He’s learned that falling to the floor and clutching oneself is not an option in ballroom dancing. We’re getting pretty good since we learned to dance defensively.