Planning a Lego Birthday Party Extravaganza on a Budget

Ok, so extravaganza is probably a bit dramatic. This was really somewhere between a Pinterest win and and epic fail. Like Pinterest for Real People. Someone should start a website. Anyway when your guests are 4-6 years old, their expectations are cake/cupcakes and friends to play with. Anything else is above and beyond, so I say I outdid myself, and it didn’t take a lot of time or money. Here’s what I did, and OMGoodness did the kids have fun!

  1. Life-Sized Legos:  Easy Peasy. I gathered up all the boxes I could find and wrapped them in solid-colored wrapping paper, then drew quick circles on top. That’s it. Total success with the kids. As an added awesome, I bought green bubble wrap and duct taped it to the carpet (I know, classy!) to make it look like they were standing on a giant building plate. Plus they got to walk on bubble wrap. What more could a kid ask for?  The wrapping paper only covered 2-3 boxes per roll, so the uncovered boxes became instant brown Legos. The more boxes the merrier, I say. 20160521_140531 20160520_090538 (1)Sometimes you run out of wrapping paper and Thor and Spiderman get to make an appearance at the party.
  2. Lego-head plates and cups: I bought inexpensive yellow square plates and cups and drew on faces. If you’re not so into art, just two dots and a little curved mouth does the trick. I used some leftover bubble wrap to cover the table. I got the idea from this pin and this one. FYI, the permanent marker does not budge under fruit juice, but hot dog grease will smudge it. 20160520_184506 (1)
  3. Design Your Own Lego Mini-figure station: I printed out some blank Lego guys and put my container of old crayons out. Practically free and super easy.20160521_120317 (1)
  4. Lego cupcakes: I made a couple boxes worth of cupcakes, and of course bought the Funfetti icing with sprinkles. It’s a birthday party, after all. For the toppers I made lego gummies with my lego molds and used this amazingly simple tutorial.  20160521_133443 (2)
  5. Basement Build-Fest: This one was also totally free. I set out all our wooded train tracks, Lincoln Logs, and Duplos downstairs for the kids to build to their hearts’ content. I thought about including an actual Lego building station (setting out my son’s Lego table and Legos), but I foresaw great and uncontrollable chaos sure to ensue. And I’ve stepped on enough Legos for one lifetime. No more.
  6. Pin the face on the Lego head:  Ok actually this one got cut. I’m not a Pinterest Party Planner and I ran out of time, but I would have cut a large yellow head out of yellow poster board, and then cut eyes and mouths out of black poster board. You know the rest. Cost: $1.50. I think it would make for a few giggles, but they had so much fun even without it.
  7. Lego soaps party favors:  Michael’s has easy melt-and-pour glycerin soap base. I have coloring and bath/body-grade scents and essential oils for the yummy smell, so this was easy and cheap as well. One pack of soap made three small Lego soaps for each of the 18 cute party favor bags. Ok, off-brand zip-lock sandwich bags. We’re not that fancy, and as stated in the title, we had a budget.   The soaps actually looked and smelled a lot like the Lego gummies, so after a short internal debate about the pros and cons of letting the kids think they were edible, I made a clarifying announcement. It didn’t entirely work, as later I found a couple discarded Lego soap men with bitten off heads. Yum.

Add chips, air-popped popcorn, lemonade, and a sunny back yard, and you have yourself a party the kids will love!


As you can tell, I’m not a full-time party planner. To see the minifigure-scaled work I normally do, check out SkipperBay!




Refurbishing a Beat-Up Coffee Table

First of all, I took a decent amount of before pictures of this coffee table, and then several pictures afterwards and several (hundred) before that. And then, the other day, for no apparent reason, my pictures were gone. I mean, my whole entire camera folder. Every picture I hadn’t edited or uploaded somewhere had disappeared from my phone completely. It was a tragic and shocking realization akin to that moment I noticed that my phone wasn’t in my back pocket anymore…because it was in the toilet.  I’m sure the two incidents are totally unrelated.

The point here is that I lost my “before” and process pictures, but the coffee table looked a little something like this:


It was part of the same set; it had good bones but lots of wear and tear.

We call our living room “The Museum” because we have pictures and a few artifacts from our travels around the world. And it sounds so fancy. And like a museum, the kids aren’t allowed to touch anything or mess it up. In theory. See the tall wall where I couldn’t help but paint trees here in the mural section. This is when I realized that for a tall person I sure am afraid of heights!

I love maps and globes and travel, and decided I wanted to paint a world map on my coffee table to go in The Museum. Here’s how I did it:

  1. Wipe down the table, ’cause it’s got grubby kid prints and dust on it. We’ll pretend that’s all.
  2. Paint the table whichever color you’d like it. At least the top of it where the map will go, and use paint+primer or chalk paint, because who wants to do more steps than are absolutely necessary? Not me.
  3. Draw a map of the world. Easy enough? Maybe for a cartographer, which I am not. So I traced. I found a great outline of the world, and then downloaded a program called Posterazor to slice the image into several standard-sized sheets so that I could print them out on my regular printer and tape them together to form a coffee-table-sized poster. Pretend you see here an image of a poorly taped up poster of the world. =) So then how do you get the image of the world onto your tabletop? Graphite Paper!  I use whatever is on sale at Michael’s/HobbyLobby, because I’ve used many brands of graphite paper and they’re all the same to me.graphite paper
    How to use graphite paper:

    • Place the graphite paper dark-side-down on the surface where you’d like your image to appear.
    • Place the image you would like to transfer face up on top of the graphite paper. tape this in place so it doesn’t move while you’re tracing.20160516_180748
    • Trace the image with medium pressure. You may want to carefully lift the image and the graphite paper to make sure your image is transferring correctly. If you don’t see anything, make sure you’re using enough pressure (you’ll have to push harder if you are using card stock or thick paper) and that your graphite paper is facing the right direction. The pressure will transfer a line of graphite from the paper to your surface wherever you trace. I like to use a red or colored pen so that I can see where I’ve traced. Don’t throw it away when you’re done, you can use graphite paper many times before it’s all used up.20160516_180820 20160516_180841_20160519162234500 20160509_125217
  4. Fill in your countries. You can technically color in all of the countries with only 4 colors, and have none of the countries share a border with another country of the same color. But that requires way too much planning, so I used 6 colors that I found leftover from other projects. 20160519_152214If you do want to make a four-color map, google “four-color map of the world” and assign a color of your choice to each of the colors in the map you found.20160418_141715
  5. Spray on a clear protective coat. Use the clear acrylic of your choice, and follow the directions on the can. I used a Glossy finish spray, because I added gold accents with a gold leafing pen and I wanted them to be so shiny and fancy.. But you can also use Matte clear acrylic spray for a chalk-painted look, even if you used glossy paint (or just use chalk paint and the appropriate wax).20160519_152913 20160418_141819-1I’m not normally a lover of gold but I thought it looked amazing with these colors and I couldn’t resist. I used two gold pens- one ‘gold leafing pen’ and one gold paint pen. They worked about the same, the gold leafing pen was more expensive but I can’t tell a difference in the finished product. Any imperfections are due to the help of my 3-year-old and my own person. That’s really all. You can try, once it’s totally dry, and before you add the clear coat, to erase some of the graphite lines, but I find it easier to simply paint over them while I’m filling in countries. If you haven’t painted the rest of the table, do that before the clear coat as well.

I just love the way this table turned out, and I ended up buying another small table at a garage sale for $5 (which was also  a little more beat-up than it looks in the picture) and painting it to match. I know they’re pretty much opposite styles, but the paint job will tie them together. What do you think? Oh, and that is not a giant stain on my couch, it’s a spot on my phone’s camera. Grr.

20160419_11454720160514_161707  20160514_182126

20160513_100847   20160514_182224

And for much, much smaller paintings, see me miniature wearable paintings and portraits here:


Pens for Paws Auction


I’ve donated a 4×6 pet portrait in watercolor to the Pens for Paws auction, “an online auction with writers and others from the publis1hinpetportg community to raise funds for Fat Kitty City, a no-kill, cage-free cat (and dog!) sanctuary in El Dorado Hills, California.”

Check out the cause here, and happy bidding!

Missed it? Order a protrait here: petport2

10% of Pet Portrait Proceeds are donated to the Denver Dumb Friends League!

Turning Halloween decorations into Autumn décor

20141031_184355We grew three whole pumpkins on our own this year, and one of them got pretty ginormous!  But I still couldn’t resist buying those cute little mini-pumpkins at the store.  I had some kind of half-formed plan to make a creative/funny scene using the large and small pumpkins (I was going to let Pinterest finish forming said plan), but I never got to it.  I made costumes instead.  So I set them out, kind of like in the picture (well, exactly like that, it’s a picture after all).

Here we are in November, and those little pumpkins look just as adorable.  They’ll last for some time yet, so I wanted to use them to Autumn up the house a little bit.  The kids were running around outside in gleeful circles as the Fall winds were blowing beautiful leaves all over the back yard.  I had them pick out a few beauties, stuck them with the pumpkins in the now-empty candy bowl, and voilà! An Autumn centrepiece!



Stepping up the Laundry Game

In our house there’s a game that presents itself far too often called ‘Mud, Poo, or Chocolate?’   There is no winner, and it’s better not to play.  But all of those things are vanquished by one cleaner of which I have become a devoted fan, and my laundry mountain is now a laundry molehill (minus the moles, I hope).

Every once in a while, I decide to tackle a project that is… shall we say, ‘less fun’ than my usual list full of things I want to do.  As the ‘wants’ get accomplished, the ‘needs’ list starts to get a little overwhelming.  And continually at or near the top of that list is laundry.

I wanted to find a few cleaning products that really worked, so first, I asked Facebook.  I got a few helpful suggestions, mostly revolving around OxiClean (which I misspelled, as did everyone else.  The ‘y’ just makes so much more sense).

facebook laundry

So then I geared up, and entered the ever-expanding Stinky Clothes Mountain Range- the impassible terrain formerly known to some as the Laundry Room.

And to make the task overly complicated and unnecessarily daunting, I also took out several boxes of old too-small kid clothes from the garage, many with washed and dried-in stains from a year or more ago (I am a little too sentimental and saved waaaay too many baby clothes).

The clothes-mountaineering gear I decided to test out was as follows:

1 Box Biz

1 Box OxiClean

1 jug (bottle? plastic liquid laundry container thing?) Tide Stain Release.

1 bar Fels-Naptha soap

1 spray bottle “Dirty Jobs” pre-treater

1 spray bottle “Sports Cleaner” pre-treater

I took on this laundry summit quest before I started the website project, so I didn’t take any before/after pictures.  Sorry.  But I will summerize for you my highly scientific findings. And then maybe next time I do this, I’ll post some pictures.

First I tried Biz.  Loved it.  It cleaned all the new stains, and some of the old stains out after an overnight soak.  I appreciated that the water was very dirty and gross-looking after the clothes had soaked, it gave me the sense that the dirt was actually leaving the clothes.  The bad part was that the scoop is huge, and the amount needed according to the directions is precisely a bazillion lots.  I used the whole box in a few loads.

Next up was OxiClean.  To be fair, I couldn’t chuck up the sweet change to buy brand-name, so I tried the Kroger brand.  Loved it almost as much.  It also worked wonders on fresh stains, and faded or erased a few of the older stains.  The water stayed clear(ish) after an overnight soak, so it felt more like the stains were still there, under an OxiCloak of Invisibility.  But if the germs are dead, I guess that’s fine with me.  The scoop (an amount needed per instructions) for the Kroger brand is also much smaller than the Biz or even the ‘real’ OxiClean’s scoop, so it lasted a lot longer.  Also, when I soaked several colored articles in the same bin, some of the colors (red mostly, but also one blue) occasional bled and set into the surrounding clothes.  Not fun.

I tried rubbing stains with the Tide Stain Release, but honestly I didn’t notice a real advantage over other stain removers, and it was messy to use the lid scrubber thing to rub it into the stain.  I did wash everything in it though as the main detergent

The Fels-Naptha Soap was amazing.  After soaking the clothes in Biz or Oxiclean, I rubbed the bar of soap directly onto the remaining stains.  In a surprizing number of cases, the old, set-in stains disappeared.  Best part of this option- it’s so cheap!  only $1-$3/bar, depending on where you buy it.

The Dirty Jobs spot cleaner/pretreater was fine, but the absolute best of all of these was…

Espro Sports Cleaner!!   It’s this, in case you haven’t seen it:

I saw it on the top shelf at Walmart and thought, well if it can make sports uniforms white again, maybe it’ll work on my kids’ clothes.

It totally did!!  After soaking in Biz or Oxiclean, I sprayed it on what was left, scratched it in with my fingernails for the worst or oldest stains, and in almost all cases, the stain was faded or completely gone.  Some old stains took several cycles of ‘soak, spray, wash, spray, wash, spray, wash’ before I got to the ‘oh, it’s clean!! Dry.’

Now I’m skipping everything else and just using the Sports Cleaner, spraying before I throw the clothes in, and it’s amazing.  If there’s anything left after it’s washed, I’ll rub the Fels-Naptha soap on the stain (it’s easy to rub on already-wet clothes), rub it into itself, and wash again; that usually takes care of it.

For reference, the stains I was working on were kid stains- everything from grass and dirt to milk and food.

Leave your laundry magic secrets below!  We can all use some good hints in the laundry department.