Make Your Own Valentine’s Day Decor with Felt Hearts

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Having a mantle has been a lot of fun. Prior to the remodel, we didn’t have a mantle on our cumbersome rock wall fireplace, but I mostly only thought about it at Christmas when I had to improvise a place to hang our stockings. Now the mantle is a focal point, mostly because of the TV, but it allows an opportunity to add some color and fun.

A new mantle means a need for new decorations. For Valentine’s, I knew what I wanted and was disappointed when I found Target didn’t sell it. With that, I remembered some simple felt hearts on sticks that I’d seen on Pinterest about two years ago, and I made my own.

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For the mantle, I wanted a garland of felt hearts, then I wanted a few hearts on sticks to use in vases around the house. We had the supplies (felt, fluff, ribbon, embroidery floss, and craft sticks) on hand, except a plastic ribbon needle that cost about a dollar at the craft store. I found the colors I wanted and cut out a paper heart template in two sizes, then cut from various felt colors. I used the bigger hearts for the garland, and the rest for the sticks. While watching football, I did a blanket stitch around each heart, then stuffed them with fluff before finishing the final stitches. For the stick hearts, I put the sticks in place prior to the final stitches, and sewed around the stitch to give it some structure.

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photo (3)Stringing the garland was when I needed the plastic needle. Once the hearts were complete, I threaded the ribbon through the needle and gently mushed the heart to push the needle through, in between stitches.

The entire project was easy and I’m so happy with how it looks. The best part was that Rocket wanted to participate. He wanted me to teach him “stitching” to allow him to make his own hearts. This was my “very, very early” Valentine’s Day gift from him and I love it.

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Use Hot Glue to Hold Together a Gingerbread House

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It’s hard to get a gingerbread house to stay together and not topple over like it’s made of cards. Or worse is when it looks great until a day or two later when the structure starts to crumble. These would be condemned, if real houses.

My mom Alice, of the Thanksgiving turkey pop fame, has the key to making the house hold up to both kid decorating and the elements by using hot glue. It goes without saying that we don’t eat our houses. Sure, the kids may pick off the candies, but no one eats the actual house. Instead of fiddling with frosting, pressure, and a prayer to get the house built, Alice pulled out her glue gun and built some homes.

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Carefully glue one joint end and press it into another. Visible glue can be covered with frosting, which means the glue lines don’t need to be hidden or precise. Once cool and set, get decorating. It’s fast and pretty flawless.

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No Stress Summer Birthday Party at Home

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Rocket’s birthday is June 21, and before he was born, I never fully understood how awful it can be to organize a summer birthday party. Everyone splits town after the last day of school, taking the festivity out of any birthday party. To beat that this year, my plan was to have his party before school ended, amidst all the chaos of the end of the school year.

We ended up sending out personalized PercyVites Johnny Test invitations to each of the boys in his class inviting them over for a breakfast for dinner party that ended up being a huge hit. We served waffles, bacon, hash browns, and orange juice, then we served donuts instead of cupcakes. The boys loved the donut cake. It was such a hit, that’s what I served his class the next Monday, in lieu of cupcakes again.

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Any donuts will work, but I used Krispy Kreme because their size is uniform…and they are yummy. I bought both minis and regular sized donuts, but all the kids stuck with the regular sized ones. The sprinkles were popular enough that when I took donuts to his class, I went with all sprinkles. Lesson learned: kids prefer sprinkles.

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The boys had a water balloon fight and made marshmallow guns, which turned out to be the best party entertainment ever. One way to handle the marshmallow gun construction is to buy a bunch of joints, straight pieces, and end pieces and let the kids design their own guns, but to make this as easy as possible, Kevin made a bag for each kid with all the parts needed to make a specific gun design.

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He bought the individual joint and end pieces, then two really long PVC pipes that he cut into the individual straight pieces. At the party, each kid was handed a Ziplock bag with their personal marshmallow gun kit.

How to Make a Marshmallow Gun

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Everything just plugs together, no glue or much help was needed to get them built. The marshmallow guns are designed for the tiny marshmallows. Once the guns were assembled, we made sure each kid put his initials on their gun, then we put out a giant bag of marshmallows and let them loose. Here was the surprising thing: it entertained them for a long, long time. I bought a bunch of duct tape for them to decorate their guns, but they skipped that step to get shooting at each other. Easiest birthday party entertainment ever, and much cheaper than hiring a clown. (Okay, we’re never hired a clown, but we have hired a balloon guy, a magician, and a mad scientist in the past.)

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On their way out the door, the kids were handed a bag of ammo – more little marshmallows – to take home with their gun as a favor.

Disclosure – The Johnny Test PercyVites were complimentary from the company. Rocket loves Johnny Test, making it a natural choice. 

Minecraft Birthday Party with Live Action Play

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My kids participated in a live action Minecraft play at the Maker Faire that could easily be recreated for a birthday party. This is an off-the-hook kid party idea. Kudos to the Maker Guild of Los Angeles for putting together one of the most creative features of a super creative Maker Faire.

To recreate this party, get a bunch of boxes and paint. Much like with real Minecraft, it’s always about the blocks.

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Kids were divided into two groups, roughly bad guys and good guys. Can you tell I don’t play? My Minecraft fans would roll their eyes if they read this. The good people were Villagers with the one lucky kid who got to wear the Stevie head. On the other side were Creepers and an Enderman, and if they touched you, you were out.

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The play area included a small box tree with boxes below. Those boxes needed to be collected by Stevie and the Villagers and brought to a location to exchange them for tools. Boxes could only be brought for exchange one at a time, and kids needed to deliver more than one box to get a tool. However, to get to the tree, one had to go near the cave area with Creepers. Naturally this is where the battle ensued.

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An adult manned the block/tool exchange, another over-watched the battle to make sure everyone was okay, and an older child eventually released the Ender Dragon. The Ender Dragon was on a home made zipline of sorts, allowing him to fly above. His head was a single box, designed to pop off when hit enough (less hits than a pinata), allowing him to be defeated and the game to end.

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Decor included a box cow, sheep, pig, and chickens. They were all adorable. Old sheets were painted to reflect the landscape.

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Look! The box flaps are wings. It’s the cutest Minecraft chicken ever.

Once the Ender Dragon was defeated, everything was put back into place, character heads were traded, and the game began again. It was great fun.

How to Make a Baseball Seams Stencil Wall

Tippytoes-baseballfinished2Rocket’s room required negotiation. He wanted it painted San Francisco Giants orange, which is…bright. We settled on a toned-down orange and only on two walls to dilute it further or else it would have felt like drowning in orange juice. To get him to negotiate, I offered to paint baseball seams on two walls.

The idea was from Simply Mom, who has better pictures, and more information in her comments on how she did it. Not only am I thankful for that, but for her note in the comments (to paraphrase) that it looks best from a few steps back. If not for her honesty, I would have given up because up close, it looks wobbly, but from a few steps back, it looks awesome. It looks amazing to the eyes of a six year old, which is what matters most to me.

First, the walls were painted Benjamin Moore’s Mountain Peak White. I took a Major League Baseball Rocket got at a Mariners game with me to the paint store to color match. But that’s only because I’m detail oriented. Any white, especially a soft white, would be fine.

Second, we tried to imagine where I’d like the seams at their closest point on the wall. This ended up being about 51 inches from the top right corner of the first wall. The problem was, due to a door and a window, 51 inches didn’t work well on all of the four corners, so we fudged it a little on those sides. We cut a string to the length that would reach our desired farthest point, Kevin held one end of the string in the wall’s corner, while I tied the other around a pencil, pulled the string taut, and lightly drew in the curve. That was the easy part.

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Third, I used a foam brush and leftover paint from our family room (Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter) to paint along the pencil line. Anytime I stopped or slowed, the line wobbled. The thickness of the line varies, and up close, it looked wonky. The variation is somewhat obscured by the red stitches, in the end.

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Pressing on to step four, once the gray line dried, I started at the edge of each curve, then marked off four inch increments. Those would be for the red stitches.

Fifth, once ready to paint red, I cut the end of the foam brush (and wished I’d bought a tiny square brush…) for a blunt end. I painted red from the marked points to create stitches. The stitches are each four inches long, and I’d generally mark a spot four inches on either side of my centered seam spot, so this was almost like a dot-to-dot drawing. Some stitches are good, some are awful, but again, from a few steps back, it’s all good. For the red paint, I bought a 2oz sample of a Benjamin Moore red. (I went into the store to buy Heritage Red, but they were out of the small sample size, so I picked something that looked similar.)

The sixth step should be step back and enjoy, but for me, it meant more work. When I returned after letting things dry, I found this:

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Someone decided to check to see if the paint was still wet…in several spots. When it was found to be wet, what better place to wipe off the paint than the white wall? Or your own sweatpants?

My step six was to touch up the white paint. It took about four coats to cover the red. Then it was finally complete.

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Now he wants me to freehand a giant, black SF on one orange wall. No.