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Step Seven: A Brand New Desk

I had a really difficult time figuring out what to get J for Christmas this year.  Last year with did a kitchen theme:  Hubby made a DIY kitchen and I painted it (you can see it here) and then went crazy buying food, pots, pans, etc.  At the time she wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about it, but she’s gotten a ton of use out of it the last year.  Although I do admit that she would’ve gotten even more use out of it if she’d received it the year before instead.  But that’s okay…she uses it and that’s all that matters!

But this year I was at a complete loss.  She has a bike and a scooter.  She was obsessed with Barbies last year, but hasn’t played with them much the past few months.  I’m really strict on TV so there wasn’t even a question about giving her something like that for her room.  She rarely plays with her LeapPad.  Even dress up clothes have been on a decline since she started school.  For all of November I fretted about what to do.  Although I could just give her a bunch of random small things, that’s not how I like to do Christmas.  I’d rather do one big present and get small presents that tie back to the big present, with maybe a random extra thing or two.

I finally decided on a desk.  Arts and crafts are really the only thing that she’s consistently been doing since starting school.  And although we have our Art Activity Center and she has a craft table and a whole bunch of craft supplies downstairs, C is also starting to really get into it.  And by that I mean eating markers, crayons, chalk, paint…basically anything he can get his hands on.  As a result her stuff is ruined.  So I figured we could get her a desk to go in her room that can be used for arts and crafts now and then homework in the future.  I could get her a whole bunch of new supplies which would be kept in her room, away from wandering hands (and mouth).  I knew it wasn’t something she was going to be really excited about upon receiving, but, like the kitchen, she would love it in the long run.

After discussing it with Hubby, we decided he would make it.  Then J and I could paint it together during Christmas break.  I searched and searched on Pinterest, finally deciding this one was the one I liked the best.  No drawers, which I think only leads to clutter.  Not too big, not too small.  The one thing I didn’t like about it was the storage on each side.  Although great for holding books (so it’ll work well in the future), the art supply problem was going to be a bit harder to solve.  So Hubby designed one himself instead.  The left side is just the two legs holding it up and the right side has a small bookcase attached underneath with three shelves.  Which will be great for holding anything and everything!

We headed to the DC Ikea to get a chair for the desk.  While there I picked up two packs of these storage containers for her art supplies.  I also ended up getting two bigger ones from Dollar Tree.  Over the next month I bought her new markers (regular, skinny and stamping), paints and paint brushes, puffy paints, crayons (regular, metallic and glitter), glue, wasabi tape (which I found a terrific deal here on Amazon!), glitter pens, construction paper, a sketch book, a Melissa and Doug scratch pad (which was her favorite), a giant coloring book and a 12 pack of craft scissors.  I actually ended up getting a bunch of the supplies from IKEA…seriously, I love that place.

I made labels for each of the containers but they didn’t stay on very well for some reason…  diy-desk-14That’s alright, I already know there’s no way she’s going to put everything back where it’s supposed to go anyway.  And then my OCD will kick in and once a week I’ll have to go in and re-sort everything.

In the meantime Hubby got to work on the desk.  She saw it at each stage, but never really seemed to be interested in it.  No surprise there.  He finished it right before Christmas, which was perfect timing.  We stuck a bow on it and left it in the garage for her to find the next day. diy-desk-11Unsurprisingly she didn’t really understand what it was for.  At least this time we expected this reaction (unlike with the kitchen) and were well prepared for it.  I just told her that once we painted it and got it up in her room she’d get it.  She loved all of the new art supplies at least!

The next day we started painting.  First, the primer. diy-desk-12Needless to say this step didn’t really entertain her much.  She did stick with it for quite awhile before abandoning me to finish it and go in the house to play.  I can’t blame the kid…I find painting therapeutic, but even I get sick of it by the end.

Then we discussed what exactly we were going to do with it.  I figured we’d paint the majority of it one color and then do something different to the top.  I had pinned a few ideas I thought she might like:  this one, this one and this one.  She wasn’t too enthusiastic about any of them, however.  She suggested circles, which somehow led to us talking about a huge rainbow.  Then she said she could add clouds and a sun and rain, and I suggested we do a big scene:  she could make a house with the family in front and do whatever she wanted in the sky.  She loved that idea!  And so did I!  Then every year or two we can just swipe a new layer of paint on the top and she can make a whole new mural.  That kid is absolutely brilliant.

We headed to Walmart to pick out a color for the rest of the desk.  Originally she wanted to do one of the metallic colors that Disney makes.  Turned out that they can’t do those at the Walmart we were at (um, so then why do you have a giant display promoting the colors then??) so she had to pick something else.  I was braced for a fit, but she actually didn’t seem to care.  She must not have been completely sold on it then…that’s the only explanation I can come up with!  Instead she choose “Sully’s Fur”, which was a light teal.  I thought it was an excellent choice.

Originally I was only going to buy a sample size of whatever color she decided on since that would be plenty to paint her desk.  But since she’s getting a brand new room (C will take over all of her furniture) when we move to Kansas in 6 months I figured I’d get a pint instead so we can paint her dresser, bed and (fingers crossed on this one…) new dress-up closet to match.  I’m so smart.

After priming I got to work taping everything off.  I decided we’d do all of the desk teal except the top and the 3 sides of the bookshelves.  We left the top with just the white primer and I painted each of the shelves (minus the bottom) white.  diy-desk-9diy-desk-7diy-desk-8She helped some with the first coat of teal.  Then I did the second coat of teal and both coats of white all on my own.

Then we were ready for our mural!  I started off by tearing off a sheet of our roll paper the size of the desk and had her draw exactly what she wanted it to look like.  That way there wouldn’t be any issues later.  She decided she wanted to go with a snow scene.  I drew a wavy line on the bottom and we painted that white and then the sky blue. diy-desk-1I have a ton of glitter acrylic paint so I asked if she wanted to make it sparkly.  The answer was obviously “YES!!!!!!!!!!“.  We used sparkly blue for the sky and sparkly silver on the snow.  I do have to admit it looked really cool, especially on the snow.diy-desk-10 diy-desk-3Then I held up her drawing while she copied it onto the desk with a pencil.    diy-desk-5Then she stood there and told me what color paint she wanted everything while I did the actual painting.  I could tell she was disappointed that she couldn’t paint it herself, but I knew if she did it was going to turn out disastrous.  I tried to explain to her that it’s really hard to paint something like this, but she didn’t really understand.  Until I let her decorate the dresses and make the crowns herself.  She wasn’t happy with the way a lot of them turned out and had me go back and fix them.  After that I think she understood.

Our work in progress!diy-desk-4And the final product!  How could I not love it…snowy, sunny, rainy, rainbow all at once with us in fancy clothing, crowns and wands while Santa drops off presents.  Does that scream 5 year old imagination or what?!
diy-desk-6Hubby sprayed it down with the same acrylic sealer we used on the Stepping Stones.  After we let it dry for a looong time (seriously that stuff is potent!) he carried it up to her room.  “She” (aka I) organized all of the art supplies on there, and that’s it!  diy-desk-13My friend Amanda got her some paint-your-own Elsa and Anna ceramic figurines for Christmas so that was her very first project on the desk. It’s been in her room for about a week now and she’s gotten plenty of use out of it, so I’m very happy with our decision to do a desk.  Might not be the most glamorous gift, but it’s definitely going to be used.

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All 13 Disney Princesses. In Felt.

We were about to embark on a ridiculously long car ride.  C was days away from turning one and since we’re currently only 5 1/2 hours from home (and this will probably be the closest we’d be for awhile) I figured I would do his 1st birthday party at home so the family could all attend (read about his awesome dog themed birthday party here!).  And then after searching for months we finally found a rescue that was willing to give us a new dog after our Saint, Jack, passed away.  The downside?  He was located in upstate New York and they wouldn’t transport him.  So we decided to combine the two trips.  5 1/2 hours to my hometown on Thursday, 5 hours to Troy, NY Sunday morning and 8 hours on Monday back down to our home.  That’s a lot of car time for a 1 and 4 year old.  Especially when I’m ridiculously anal about screen time and won’t allow my daughter to watch more than one DVD or play 30 min on her Leappad per 2+ hour car ride.

I had just finished my Cinderella felt people and I wanted to get one more set done before we left so she would have that to help keep her occupied in the car (which worked like a charm, FYI.  Totally worth the days and days and days and days and days and days and days and days and days…where was I?  Oh…days and days and days of nap time).  I gave her a choice:  either all of the just the princesses or the cast of Snow White.  She went for just princesses.

You can see my “Another Monster Project” blog entry for specific details on how I made them.  Basically I made a template for each princess, used the Print and Cut feature on my Silhouette to cut out the outfit pattern pieces, hand cut the pieces from felt and hot glued the teeny tiny clothing onto felt bodies.  No biggie 😉

For most of my princesses I used Continually Creative‘s templates that she has posted on her blog for a princess duvet she made for her daughter.  They were extremely helpful.

Cinderella was already made.  Only 12 left!felt-disney-princesses-cinderellaAurorafelt-disney-princesses-auroraSnow Whitefelt-disney-princesses-snow-whiteBellefelt-disney-princesses-belleRapunzelfelt-disney-princesses-rapunzelMeridafelt-disney-princesses-meridaTianafelt-disney-princesses-tianaJasminefelt-disney-princesses-jasmineMulan (although I didn’t actually end up using her Mulan pattern since that dress was a lot different from the one I wanted.  I just made Mulan up on the fly by looking at pictures of her).felt-disney-princesses-mulanand Ariel.felt-disney-princesses-arielContinually Creative didn’t have a pattern for Pocahontas.  Her dress is super simple though, so I was able to just throw it together on my own by eyeballing a picture of her.  Her hair used to be longer but somehow one of the sides ripped/fell off so I had to give her a trim.  Oh well.felt-disney-princesses-pocahontasContinually Creative also didn’t have a pattern for Anna or Elsa (she made her duvet in 2013 before FROZEN–I always feel the title needs to be shouted).  Fortunately I found a Portuguese blogger who makes Anna and Elsa dolls.  I used her templates for their hair and clothing.felt-disney-princesses-elsafelt-disney-princesses-annaHere are some screenshots of the templates I made on my Silhouette Studio program in case those are helpful.silhouette-studio-screenshot-felt-princesses-2 silhouette-studio-screenshot-felt-princesses-1

Last but not least, I figured a castle would be helpful.  After all, they need somewhere to live!  I found a simple template on Google Images, saved it to my computer, opened it up in the Studio program, sized it, used the print and cut feature to cut out the pattern for me, hand cut it out of felt and hot glued it all together!  Hands down the easiest part of this entire process.felt-princess-castle

And that’s it!  Once I made the templates (which is definitely the most time-consuming part; that in and of itself was about a weeks worth of nap times), the gals only took 3 or 4 nap times to make, with a few last-minute mornings added in to ensure I was finished before we left.  The castle was just 2 nap times!

And all of that hard work definitely paid off–not only did she play with it during all 3 car rides, she also played with it at my father’s house and at the hotel.  And she’s had it for over a month now and plays with it nearly every day during quiet time!  In fact, that’s what she’s in there doing right now 😀

Now I need to get cracking on the other 12 stories…

 

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Another Monster Project. Because I Just Don’t Have Anything Better To Do With My Free Time.

Well I’ve finally started one of my mega-projects.  Remember how I said that I want to turn the blank side of J’s Art Activity Center into a felt board?  Well, I decided it was time to actually DO it!

So my end goal is to make all of the characters/props from all of the princess stories out of felt so she can reenact it.  Ya know, no big deal.

I decided to start with Cinderella.

First I made a list:  Cinderella in her rags, Cinderella in her pink dress, Cinderella in her blue dress, glass slippers, Lady Tremaine, Anastasia, Drizella, Lucifer, Bruno, 2 birds, Gus, Jaq, the Fairy Godmother, a pumpkin, the coach, the Grand Duke and the Prince.  Pssshhh, simple!!!!

I knew my Silhouette was going to play a giant part in this project.  I opened up the program and got to work.  I’m not going to lie…making all of the templates took FOREVER.   And of course I can’t figure out how to upload a Silhouette Studio document on here on the off chance you already own one and are planning on doing something like this.  Figures.  If you do want my Studio document leave a comment with your email address and I’ll send it to you that way!

I used Continually Creative’s princess template to start. I opened up Cinderella, saved her to my computer and opened the downloaded file in the Silhouette program.  I’ve made felt people before for J’s Quiet Books so I already had a felt person (you can find the template for the person I used on Serving Pink Lemonade’s blog here).  I resized the body template to what seemed like a good size for a felt board.  I moved the Cinderella template on top of it and sized it so it fit well.  Then I used the trace feature and ungrouped the tracing so I had the separate pieces of her dress and hair.

I went to Google Images to search for all of the other characters, and then repeated those steps for everyone else.

I spent days and days and days and days and days of nap times (seriously, I’m not exaggerating) recreating everyone in my Silhouette program.  Then the easy part:  cutting and gluing.  If you don’t own a Silhouette (which you really should.  Seriously, go buy one immediately!) this part will take you a lot longer since you’ll have to cut it all out by hand.

In Silhouette Studio I took each separate piece of each individual outfit and grouped them next to one another.  I colored each shape so I would know what felt color each piece needed, which saved time during the cutting phase.  Here’s a screenshot of my computer to give you an idea as to what I’m talking about…silhouette-screen-shot-cinderella-castAfter I colored and arranged all of the pieces I used the print and cut feature.  If you’re unfamiliar with this feature it’s simple:  you load the paper into your printer where it prints out your creation, then you lay it on your cutting mat, load it into the Silhouette and the machine cuts out everything for you!  It cut out all of those teeny tiny pieces for me!  Amazing!!

Next I filled an entire 8×11 inch page on the Silhouette program with blank people.  silhouette-screen-shot-felt-peopleI picked up some skin tone felt from Michaels (since that’s apparently the one color I don’t have!).  In order to cut felt with the Silhouette a bit of prep work is required.  You need to purchase some Heat n Bond.  I bought 5 yards prepackaged from Walmart since I’m constantly cutting felt and it was the most cost-effective way I found at the time.  When I first started out I just purchased the 1.5 yard package from Michaels and used a 40% off coupon to lower the price.

Cut your Heat n Bond to the correct size and iron it to the “wrong” side of the felt (obviously there isn’t a right or wrong side of felt.  Basically just pick a side).heat-n-bond-ironed-onto-feltThere are instructions included, but really that’s all there is to it.  Then stick the felt onto the cutting mat with the Heat n Bond against the sticky side.  Load it into the machine.  Set your blade to 10, your speed to 3 and thickness to 33.  I usually check the ‘double cut’ box as well.felt-peopleJust like you should have special scissors that are only used for cutting fabric, the same goes for a special Silhouette blade.  They do sell fabric blades, but they’re the exact same thing as a normal blade, just in a blue casing so it’s easy to tell it apart from your others.  I simply took an extra blade I hadn’t opened yet, wrapped masking tape around it and drew a big ‘F’ on it.

There is a downside to using the Silhouette to cut felt.  Because you have to use the Heat n Bond in order to send it through the machine, the side that had the Heat n Bond leaves a shiny “thing” on it.  I don’t know how to describe it.  Oh–it’d be like if you put clear Scotch tape on the felt.  It’s not sticky and it doesn’t peel off or do anything–but felt won’t stick to felt anymore.

See the difference between Drizzela’s front versus her back?  Her face and arms are shiny from the Heat n Bond on the front, and on the back you can see it on her hair.
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In order to get around this situation I made sure to glue the clothing pieces on the wrong side of the felt–the side the Heat n Bond was ironed onto.  That way the body will stick to the felt board without any issues at all.

I peeled the clothing pieces off of the cutting mat, focusing on one character/object at a time.  They were tiny pieces and I didn’t want to lose any of them.  And then since nothing had to be precise, I simply held the template onto the felt with one hand and cut it out with the other.  I arranged the pieces onto the body and hot glued everything on.

I used this template for the Prince and Grand Duke, changing what was needed to customize their outfits.  felt-cinderella-characters-prince-grand-dukeI used my Cinderella template for Lady Tremaine, Drizella, Anastasia and pink Cinderella.felt-cinderella-characters-pink-blue-anastasia-tremaine-drizellaFor rags Cinderella I used the templates I had saved for Anna and Elsa (which were next on my list), which can be found here.  felt-cinderella-characters-ragsFor the Fairy Godmother, Jaq, Gus and Lucifer I used the stock images from Disney and recreated them as best as I could.  It’s been about a month since I’ve made the characters and somehow Jaq has been lost.felt-cinderella-characters-gus-lucifer-fairy-godmotherThe birds, dog and pumpkin images were all preloaded onto my Silhouette.  For the coach I just cut out two pumpkins (one orange and one white) and then added a window, wheels and a twirly thing to turn it into a coach.  Apparently the coach and Bruno are hanging out with Jaq in no man’s land as well.  If you want to see Jaq and Bruno just check out the photo of the entire cast below.  Fortunately I was smart enough to take a picture immediately after I finished making them–before they could get lost or ruined.  felt-cinderella-characters-pumpkin-birds

Ta-da!  4 naptimes later I had the complete cast of Cinderella!
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The Art Activity Center. Which is about 75% finished.

Okay so this is one of my projects that J gets the most use out of!  It’s also one that isn’t quite finished yet, haha.  We just refer to it as our “Art Activity Center” for lack of a better term.

I saw this on Pinterest a long time ago and fell in love.

Pottery Barn Kids Schoolhouse Utility System

I mean, how cool is that??  My plan was to hang it on the wall in whatever room all of my craft stuff is, then J and I can work on “projects” at the same time!  Brilliant!

As you can imagine, they’re crazy expensive since they’re sold by Pottery Barn.  After searching around I found some good DIY posts on making your own (see here and here).  However, once I showed my finds to Hubby he told me absolutely not.  Something about in order to hang something that heavy it’d need to be anchored to the wall and that creates holes and we move a lot and always rent and yada yada yada.  At that point I tuned him out.  He suggested one of the easels you normally see–a whiteboard or paper on one side and chalkboard on the other; like this.  But I wanted three things so that wasn’t going to work.  I just like to be difficult.

So, we brainstormed together and came up with an idea that wouldn’t have to be anchored to the wall.  There are definitely some advantages to this system.  As I mentioned, we move.  A lot.  So having something that doesn’t need to be hung on the wall means:

a. No holes (that loud cheering you hear is Hubby celebrating one less hole to fill in)

b. It takes up a lot less space.  So regardless of what house we’re in or the setup of the rooms we can always find a home for it.  Having an art station hung on the wall means not only losing wall space, but also a big empty spot right in front of it so the kids can actually use them.  Plus you also need a home for all of the supplies that go with it.  Like now that I’m looking at the Pottery Barn picture, where is the kid standing to use this stuff?  On top of the shelving?  That doesn’t exactly seem safe.  Not to mention all the climbing up and down the kid is going to have to do–with paint covered hands!!  I mean, how is he getting to the bathroom to clean himself off without touching anything??

c. It’s portable.  In our last house we had it in my craft room originally and she never used it.  When we visited my in-laws house for Christmas that year they had an easel and she used it constantly during the 3 days we were there.  So after we got back to our house we moved it down to the living room and low and behold she was on it all the time.  So if we had hung it on the wall up there like I wanted to it would’ve been a lot more difficult to move to a new space, both because of the holes (gasp!) and finding enough space.  So Hubby was right.  Man I hate saying that!

So this is what we came up with.  And by “we”, I mean I told Hubby that I wanted something with paper, something with a chalkboard and something for felt.  Go.  He’s such a good sport.  He built a box that has a side for each of my requests.  Then I painted each one a different shade of blue with the paint we had leftover from my daughter’s bedroom suit.

This is the paper side (obviously).

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We bought the paper roll from IKEA and it fits perfectly.  Although I read somewhere that newspapers often have leftover rolls of paper that they’ll give you for free.  Of course I still haven’t gotten around to calling our local paper to see if that’s true.  Oh well, it’s not like the IKEA paper is all that expensive and there’s a ton on a roll.

The white tube that holds the roll is removable so it’s simple to slide the paper off and on.The paper then slides under the top piece, over the wood backing and under the bottom piece.  The Hubby made it so the bottom piece of wood detaches on just one side to make it easier to slide the paper down.

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And then when she’s finished with one masterpiece I simply have to slide the paper down and tear it off of the bottom edge, which is nice because it’s a clean, easy rip.  And voila!  Masterpiece complete!  She mostly uses markers but will occasionally pull out the paint.

Next is the chalkboard.

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This one is my favorite because it’s both a chalkboard and magnet board.  Not that she’s ever actually put magnets on it (I don’t think I ever even told her it works that way as well, haha) but the option is there!  For this side Hubby mounted a galvanized metal sheet from Lowes (like this) and then built the sides around it.  Then I logged onto my favorite website, Amazon, and purchased some Chalkboard Paint by Rust-Oleum.  I painted several coats right onto the sheet.  I followed the advice from some of the reviewers and had absolutely no problem with the paint.  I also bought the Melissa & Doug Eraser and Chalk Bundle and she was ready to draw!  We’ve owned this for about 2 years now and as you can see it works great!

This side is the one that isn’t finished yet.

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Eventually I’m going to tack up a large piece of felt and then make a bunch of felt pieces so she’ll have a felt board.  Wow I said “felt” a lot of times in that sentence.  Anyway, that idea moved to the back burner when I discovered Quiet Books and became addicted to making pages for them.  But I really want to do this one soon!!  She loves all of the princess stories and we spend a good chunk of our day reenacting them, so I think it’d be neat to make a castle and have a different set for each princess story.  Now I just need to set aside the hours upon hours it’ll take me to do that…

And here’s the final side.

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As you can see, it’s open.  Originally I wanted to have a shelf or two built inside because it’d be an easy place to store all of the materials needed for the different sides.  I was worried that it was going to turn into a disaster area on top, and I was correct.  Look at that mess!!!  Drives me batty.

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But I got vetoed on that idea (“That will make it too heavy. Blah blah blah.”).  So this is the side that is up against the wall and you can’t see it anyway.  I told him to leave it open like this that way I can do absolutely anything with it if an idea ever strikes.  Which it may have now that I’m just sitting here staring at it…  Maybe I could screw some hooks inside and hang up all of the little buckets there?  And maybe on one side Hubby could build a shelf that’s just wide enough to hold the paint containers?  Hmm, I’m going to talk to him about that tonight.  Stay tuned for a possible future post!

Aesthetically I still like the Pottery Barn ones ten times better.  They’re just so cute!  But the one Hubby built definitely has its advantages.  She loves it, and at the end of the day that’s all that really matters.  That and we don’t have any excess holes in the wall 😉