Tot Finder or Darth Vader?

Old Tot Finder StickerWhen I was a child, I had a sticker on my window that was extremely dirty and faded. I often gazed at it from inside my room, trying to make out the pale image. It wasn’t until many years later that I’d learn it was a Tot Finder sticker, featuring a fireman rescuing a child.
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I’d spot them in second story windows from the back seat of our green Plymouth Fury, too far away to see in any real detail.
Eventually, and with the aid of George Lucas, my imagination eventually filled in the gaps and I falsely identified the fireman as Darth Vader. It seemed he was holding someone small. A child? Little baby Luke? While I still had some questions, the mystery was mostly solved.
I’m not sure why I didn’t just ask my parents about it sooner,  but many years later I learned the unfortunate truth: Parents everywhere weren’t spamming their child’s windows with “dark side” propaganda.
Although Tot Finder stickers are no longer recommended, I’ll still occasionally spot one in an old window, smile, and shout, “LOOK KIDS! DARTH VADER!”

DIY Kite Messenger Parachute Drop

A kite messenger is a clever little device that slides up a kite string, releases a light payload, then slides back down to the bottom of the string for more fun. I made one with some cheap materials and finally found some windy days to test it out. Some kite messenger designs use sails to pull up the kite, but I’m starting out with a simpler design that uses toy parachutes to catch the wind. It can be made in just a few minutes using drinking straws, wire, tape, and a toy parachute.

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Here’s how it works: The front loop of the wire hits a simple cardboard bumper attached high up on the line. As the wire stops, the rest of the unit continues forward, opening the middle section where the parachute is held. Once the parachute releases, the messenger slides right back down towards the spool of string, ready to be reloaded for more fun.IMG_1338
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IMG_9652It’s fun to see the kid’s excitement build as they watch the messenger climb up the string, eagerly awaiting the parachute’s release so they can chase it down.

Here is a tutorial on how to build your own kite messenger. I used replacement Tervis straws that I purchased at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, because they’re much sturdier than your average soda straw. To hold it all together I used packing tape as well as a bit of super glue for good measure. The climb to the top of the kite line seemed to take a little long, so my next modification will be to use a much lighter gauge wire to reduce the overall weight.

Mountain Unicycling is Thing

Whenever I’m perusing yard sales, I always keep my eyes peeled for a unicycle. I haven’t found one yet, which means my family is temporarily spared the embarrassment of me practicing in the driveway.

My curiosity recently had me searching YouTube to see if there was such a thing as unicycle races (there is) and I found this great little documentary on mountain unicycling. These guys are hardcore!

 

 

 

Sensitive Plant

My kids want to build a fairy garden this spring, so I took them to browse our local nursery to see what materials they had and to get some ideas. We came across an amazing plant that I’ve never heard of before called the sensitive plant. The plant has a very neat protective trick! If it is touched or shaken, its leaves fold and then slowly unfold a few minutes later. My kids loved gently touching the leaves and watching them fold up. We’ll definitely be coming back in the spring to scoop up some of these plants!

Hershey Chocolate House 2015

One of our family traditions is visiting Hershey’s Chocolate World over the holidays to take the free chocolate tour, gawk at the huge holiday chocolate house, and generally overdose on cocoa. We visited very early this year while the house was still under construction. This bad boy is being decked out with over a ton of chocolate!Chocolate House_3 Chocolate House_4 Chocolate House_5

"Building supplies"

“Building supplies”

Unfortunately, we never made it back again to see the final build. We’ll have to settle for some Instagram pics and a time-lapse video of construction. I like to imagine that they let the Hersheypark’s ZooAmerica animals feast on the chocolate after deconstruction, but I’m sure it goes against their diets.

 See pictures of the 2012 and 2013 chocolate houses.

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Make a Jedi Tunic from an Old Curtain

When I was scavenging cheap fabric at yard sales for homemade renaissance costumes, I picked up a tan curtain for fifty cents that never got used.
I’ve been on a roll and looking for any excuse to use my sewing machine, so I decided to turn the tacky thrifted curtain into a Jedi tunic for my son. If nothing else, it would give me some more sewing practice and would be a nice test run for an even better tunic down the road.

I took my little guy’s measurements and found detailed instructions at Jedi Assembly to draw up a tunic pattern. There really wasn’t much at stake here, which helped me shrug off my usual perfectionist traits and just throw the thing together without too much fuss. Jedi tunic

I can definitely see what I need to do better. The collar should be thicker and the fit was too tight in the sleeves and armpit. Also, our dog chewed up the drawstrings before I could sew them on, so there’s that.

"It wasn't me."

It wasn’t me.

For watching Star Wars and playing light saber at home, however, I think it will get the job done. Using some scrap fabric to do mock-ups before using expensive fabric is a really great idea for novice sewers like me.

The only downside to the whole project is that my little guy may someday find himself in the window treatment department of JCPenney’s, experiencing a strange nostalgic attachment towards a particular set of tan curtains (cue Star Wars main theme music).Photo Nov 21, 4 08 20 PM

Turn a Pillow Sham and Tablecloth into Renaissance Faire Costumes

Like most of my projects, I got in over my head. It started with a large, fancy tablecloth, probably discarded from a hotel or restaurant, and an ornate pillow sham, both of which I found for 50% off at a thrift store. As soon as I set eyes upon them, I began to imagine the potential. Our renaissance faire trip was quickly approaching, and that fancy tablecloth could make a great cape for my daughter, and the pillow sham could surely be transferred into something “knightly” for my son.

Fancy Tablecloth

Fancy Tablecloth

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Fancy pillow sham

I sat down with my mother-in-law for some brief sewing machine tutorials before lugging her machine home and jumping into my new sewing project. I found a girl’s cape pattern and went to town. Sewing a cape is pretty straightforward and turned out to be a great first project to gain some initial sewing experience. Red Cape While I made a few mistakes on the cape, it was really exciting to have sewn something from scratch, and I was ready to take on the pillow sham next. First I stared at it. Then I stared at it some more. After finally coming up with a strategy, I removed all of the trim and separated the front, back, and extra linings with a seam ripper. Then I sewed the front and back together, leaving room for the arms and neck. I reattached some of the extra trim to make a collar. I was really happy with the result. Who knew a fancy pillow case or sham could be transformed into a knight’s tunic?IMG_0331

I discovered that costuming is like eating chips–once you start you just can’t stop. Of course, now my son needed a cape, too. We scoured some more thrift shops and yard sales, and hit the fabric jackpot! I also scored a few old McCall’s renaissance patterns, which I would use to make a gown for my wife.

The boy’s cape pattern was actually the easiest of all pieces to assemble. For the finishing touches, I used a decorative chain and buttons from a craft store.Version 2

Then came the gown. I came very close to giving up on it. For starters, I had to draft the pattern because I didn’t have the right size. Then I cut some pieces out backwards and didn’t have enough material to cut new pattern pieces. Fortunately, I chalked it up as a learning experience and tried fixing it instead of giving up. I made several creative patches that would make Frankenstein proud, and in the end, it all turned out ok. I learned a lot while making the gown, like using interfacing for support, and attaching zippers and sleeves. At first these were overwhelming obstacles that stretched my sewing abilities and knowledge, but once accomplished, it was all extremely rewarding and worth the invested time.Gown

Like I said, once you start, it’s hard to stop, so I took some old corduroy pants and made the kids some belt pouches to be stuffed with snacks and trinkets for a long day at the faire. Belt Pouch

Renaissance faire costumes can be costly, but with some creativity, some salvaged materials, and a sewing machine, you can create some cool garb for next to nothing and learn a lot throughout the process. Maybe those old curtains or pillow cases will someday adorn a King or Queen! Ren faireRen Faire