Crafting & Art

Tea With The Queen (Of The Jellyfish)

Remember when Clara was queen of the jellyfish? Good times. The girl definitely has fun with pretend play, and we like to make things for her, especially on occasions like birthdays and Christmas (like this play kitchen, this dollhouse, this latch board, this figurine cubby, this patterned doll cradle, this colorful quilt, this cuckoo clock and this beanbag pouf) so with yesterday being her fourth birthday (HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?!?!) I thought some pretend pastries would be fun.

I know, it sounds like a cruel joke. “Happy birthday! Here are delicious sugary things you can’t eat because – surprise! – they’re made of wood!” But lately she has been loving tea parties (here she is having one with Nonna the night before her brother was born). She loves pretending to add lemon and honey to her tea, stirring everything up, and then repeating that about five times since she doesn’t have many other tea-related things to do beyond that…. hence the idea for some teatime treats.

I liked the thought of making these for her because it meant I could use her favorite colors and include references to specific treats she likes, so they’d be personalized. I’d seen a few pre-made wooden pastry sets you can buy, like this one, this one, and this one – and after staring at a few small scrap pieces of wood on the floor in the garage I thought I might be able to use them to make some of mine.

Here are the materials I started with: a bunch of scrap pieces of wood from the floor of the garage (those are the rectangular shapes) along with some wooden spheres with flat bottoms (those were from JoAnn in the craft wood section for around $5). I grabbed those because they looked like little truffles or bon-bons.

I used craft paint and a small brush to paint them and then brushed on a few thin coats of Safecoat Acrylacq to add a nice glossy finish and more durability (it’s non-toxic in case they touch Clara’s mouth during fake-eating). It only took one Clara-nap to complete all of the painting, and I did it with my man Teddy right next to me. There was one nursing break in there and a little bit of burping and rocking, but he was pretty chill for the most part. Maybe he’ll grow up to be a painter. Or a professional pastry eater.

Here they are all laid out so you can see some of the random patterns and designs I had fun with. They’re definitely not hyper-realistic, but they’re full of bright pink (Clara always calls the pinkest donut or bonbon in the store) and I added in some stripes, swirls, zigzags, crisscrosses, and “sprinkles” (those were just dots I made with the back of my paintbrush).

 I also made the stand using two plates (a big one and one smaller one) along with a small bowl and an ice cream cup holder thing (all plastic, and all from Target).

I turned bowl upside down to make the base, glued that to the larger plate, then glued the ice cream cup on top of the plate in the center, and glued the smaller plate on top of that.

In short: it was a fun little while-the-baby-sleeps project and I’m so glad that big girl of mine loves them. She even got to give them a spin with Nonna thanks to her being in town for her birthday. I cried like a baby when she said “You did such a good job painting them mom… BRAVO!” When are these crazy hormones going to level out?!

Clara’s birthday was also full of a bunch of edible treats – like these four pink and purple pancakes that she requested for breakfast. In case you’re wondering, she said the purple one tasted the best.

Now I’m off to feed this baby of mine (he’s ten pounds already!) and to try to squeeze in some party prep for Clara’s bash here this weekend (I have about thirty pounds of laundry to do along with a pretty chaotic house to clean). Oh who am I kidding, I’ll probably just end up cuddling the baby.

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More Room For Grumpy Snowman

Clara’s at an age where she beams with pride whenever we display her art. Nearly every painting, drawing, and stickered or glued creation that comes out of her school bag is met with the question “Can we hang this on my bell-etin board?!” (that’s how she says it). So we hooked her up with this.

The “bell-etin board” that she used to be referring to was this smaller fabric-covered cork board that hung in our office for the last eight months or so (it was originally made by Sherry for our old closet) – but it had been getting pretty crowded. And the patterned fabric mixed with her colorful creations made for sort of a busy look instead of letting Clara’s art do all the talking.

Sherry had the idea to turn things up a notch and take that cork board from window-to-window so that we’d have more room to display stuff – and so that it would more clearly define that little section of the room as Clara’s (and eventually Teddy’s) work space. So we started by hanging a thin wood base for the cork squares to be adhered. Not only would this make the squares hang more securely than individually tacking them up, it would solve a slight problem of the existing board: some of the pushpins poke all the way through the cork and into the wall, which would mean a plethora of wall holes over time from window to window if we skipped the backing.

Now we’ll only have a few screws to remove if we ever want to take this down, and a few small holes to fill – as opposed to a swiss-cheese-like wall full of divots.

The wood backing was made of three 2 x 4′ sheets of 5mm underlayment from Home Depot. All of them needed a little trim to fit the 43″ wide gap between the windows. I clamped them together tightly and cut them all with one slice of my circular saw.

Starting from the windowsill, I attached each board with a few 2″ wood screws each, using my stud finder to be sure they were going securely into studs.

We wanted the third board to stop just slightly below the window for a stepped-down inset effect, so Sherry stepped back and eyed things so I could mark where it needed to be cut with a pencil. I also sliced two thin strips of wood to act as a basic molding for the top and the bottom, just to give it a more polished look so the cork didn’t just end.

With the boards all cut and attached to the wall, we could start attaching the cork squares. We used this Loctite Spray Adhesive, since the back specifically said it worked for bonding cork to wood. It suggested spraying both surfaces, but since I didn’t want to spray indoors – I just spayed the back of the cork outside and Sherry carried each square in and stuck it up. Seems to have worked just fine so far.

Tiling the wall was pretty straightforward (read: it went really fast), especially since we could use full squares for most of it and we were tag teaming things. We did all of those first before doing any partial pieces.

Sherry marked the partial squares with a pen and a ruler and then we just used regular old scissors to cut them. We discovered that making small cuts (rather than using the entire length of the scissor blade) helped keep the cork from cracking, which made for a cleaner edge.

Here’s the finished cork board. Ideally the seams would be less visible (we even considered covering it in fabric or painting it a pattern, or just the plain wall color) but ultimately decided that once art went up the lines would be a lot less noticeable. So since we both liked the natural color and texture it added to the room, we opted to leave it as is for now.

Sherry literally sprinted to arrange Clara’s current body of work on the board the second we finished hanging it (picture her rubbing her hands together and whispering “faaaavorite part starts… now!” Clara helped with choosing what to put where, and after a few minutes of shuffling things around, we ended up here. The artist herself was also quick to assume the role of producing more stuff to hang, although we’ve explained that even with a bigger board, we’ll still need to switch things out to make room for new stuff. So far she’s cool with it. She even seems to like the challenge of choosing what to remove to make room for her newest creation.

As for the rest of her art, we have a box full of other paintings/drawings/crafts that we save, and Sherry has a new app on her phone called Artkive, which she uses to take/store photos of it, with the intention of making a photo book full of her creations someday. We think it’ll be really fun to look back on (both for us, and for Clara).

We’re really happy with how our new cork board is adding some personality and color to the office, and Clara couldn’t be more proud. We’ve realized it will get in the way of any curtains we might have hung, but we’ve been thinking about doing some inside-mount roman shades for the room anyway.

Oh and those felt name banners are a little homemade surprise that a sweet reader sent us (thanks so much Jes!) as a welcome/big sister gift for Teddy and Clara. I like that it sets the stage for Clara that she’ll eventually be sharing her gallery space. Although I’m sure we’ll have a tough time bumping some of her stuff up there. We’re especially enamored with Grumpy Snowman.

A clear family favorite is this drawing that came home from school one day last winter, where Clara had drawn a portrait of her soon-to-be-bigger family. She did it shortly after we told her that Sherry was having a boy, so it was a huge relief to see her embracing the idea of having a brother so quickly. Especially since she almost immediately started calling him “my baby.”

We’re also pretty big fans of this bear-on-a-stick that she made at school. It shows the evolution of her people drawing skills, since they went from just having heads to suddenly having bodies. Although some people still don’t get a torso, so this bear was pretty lucky.

You may have also noticed that our repurposed Campbell’s soup cans (the limited edition Warhol ones from this old project from two years ago) are still going strong.

The rest of the office still hasn’t made much progress, but with Teddy keeping one of us occupied pretty much at all times, there isn’t really a rush on getting the double-desk thing going just yet. For now, Clara will just have to be our most productive office-mate.

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