Category Archives: Hobbies

Stackable Wizard’s Tower for a Hero Kids RPG Adventure

img_2545I recently started playing Hero Kids with my own little heros. Hero Kids is a role-playing game like  D&D (Dungeons and Dragons), but much less complicated and geared towards kids. They love it!

I bought a bundle of Hero Kids downloadable adventures via DriveThruRPG.com. I like that you can print out pre-designed maps and paper miniatures for all of the adventures, making game prep very easy. Sometimes I’ll color the printouts to give them an extra bit of zing, though it isn’t necessary.

After having a few sessions under our belts, I decided to create something personalized to play on besides the printed maps. The Wizard’s Tower adventure features a tower with three floors, so I decided to make a 3D, modular tower with stackable parts, complete with a rickety roof.

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It started as a simple idea, but as usual, I very quickly got carried away.
I used Amazon boxes and lots of hot glue to make the main structure. The pieces were sized and shaped to the printable playing mats of the tower floors.

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Save those Amazon boxes!

img_0788 For the rickety roof, I used a cereal box, painted and cut up into small squares, and tiled over rafters comprised of heavily glued cardboard strips.

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Painted cereal box for roof tiles.

Painted cereal box for roof tiles.

My favorite part of this project was making the stone walls. I blended a sludge of water and newspaper, drained off most of the water, and baked it into thin sheets, using this really cool method found here. I then cut the sheets into stone blocks and glued them all over the box with Aleene’s Tacky Glue. This was the most time consuming part, but I really like the way the stone walls turned out.

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Finally, I painted the printable playing mats in watercolor and glued them to the tower pieces. I still have some finishing touches to add, such as balcony doors, railings, a crooked chimney, and a grand staircase, but my kids (and I) were really eager to play, so I postponed some of these details so we could finally begin to battle our way up to the top of the tower. I do plan to add them later for use in other adventures. I’m thinking that my little players will be become caretakers of the tower while the wizard is off wizarding somewhere.

Keep in mind you don’t need any special props to run Hero Kids, just some standard six-sided dice and downloadable content at DriveThruRPG. If you or your kids want an easy entry into the world of tabletop RPGs, then stop what you’re doing, download some content, and start an adventure!

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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!

 

 

 

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

Gardens and Dragons

Dragon CarrotMy family has enjoyed tending our small vegetable garden all spring and summer. We use a square-foot gardening design to maximize our small space. While it’s full of the staples like tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and herbs, our favorite thing to do is to plant something unique or unusual each year. This year, we bought a pack of dragon carrot seeds from Amazon. The seeds germinated extremely well and we had to thin back the sprouts.
We’ve been pulling them out a little at a time, and are now enjoying the last of the bunch. They are a beautiful purple color on the outside and orange in the middle. They look great chopped up or as a garnish. To me they taste a little spicier than a normal household carrot, but perhaps I just can’t get the dragon idea out of my mind.
Even Kramer likes Dragon carrots!

Even Kramer likes Dragon carrots!

Quick and Easy DIY Juggling Balls

DIY Juggling BallsMy kids are finally taking an interest in learning how to juggle. They’ve always loved throwing balls around whenever I practice, but they’ve never been interested in practicing the proper techniques until now. The problem is, my favorite juggling balls, the MMX Plus, are too heavy and large for their tiny hands. Instead of buying smaller balls or hacky sacks, I used plans from juggler.org to make several kid-friendly balls. This worked perfectly because I wanted to practice with them while their interest and excitement was high, and together we were able to crank out several balls in about 15 minutes. All you need to make your own juggling balls are balloons, tape, an empty water or soda bottle, and some filler (bird seed, sand, or rice). We used rice and the balls turned out great. Ok, kids, time to practice!Balls1 Balls3

DIY Juggling Balls

 

DIY Juggling Clubs

DIY Juggling ClubsI recently wrote about my experience learning to juggle. I hope it has inspired someone out there to give it a try. Please let me know if you do! I still have a lot I’d like to learn juggling three and four balls, but I’ve also become curious about juggling clubs, which are bigger and flashier. While I’m at it, I also want to learn how to unicycle, but I’m afraid that my family may get fed up with too many circus shenanigans at once.

While juggling clubs are a natural progression, I’ve been reluctant to run out and buy a nice set of them  because I still have a ton to learn with juggling balls. Fortunately, I found some great online instructions to make your own DIY juggling clubs. They are made almost entirely from common household items such as empty soda bottles, duct tape, and tennis balls. I scrounged up the majority of materials at home, and only needed to buy some rivets and wooden dowels.Juggling Materials

They look like they’ll do a great job of giving me a feel for juggling clubs before committing to purchasing a professional set. Now I don’t have an excuse to avoid learning clubs any longer. Time to practice!