Category: Crafts

Crafting a One of a Kind Storybook

Years ago, I had dreams of writing children’s books. Storybooks of whimsy intertwined with educational tidbits. Although that dream has not yet been realized, I have held on to my half-drafted ideas and write-ups waiting for a possible revival. While that may or may not still happen, I shifted gears a bit in that same vein to complete a project with my girls. It was a perfect marriage of creative thinking and enjoyment of photographs and editing. Follow along as we crafted our one-of-a-kind storybook. I hope you’ll be inspired to create one of your own!

Storybook Start

 

I don’t know about you, but my inspiration can come from a variety of places. For this particular project, I was jump-started into action while my husband was away in training for 3 months. I wanted a way for my three girls to feel connected to him while he was away. That desire morphed into a mother-daughter(s) project. We worked together to write a story centered around them and their dad that we then crafted into a keepsake storybook. Trying to write a story with an 8, a 6, and 3-year-old could have been quite the task. To prevent utter madness, I provided my own structure by creating a base for the story. From there, I asked them questions about what they wanted for different components, like for their special power, the name of the dragon, the obstacles they would encounter, etc. I’d liken it to more of a mad-libs session than unbridled creativity. I’d learned my lesson after developing a previous story with my oldest that became a bit difficult to tie into pictures with the level of creativity in the storylines. 

 

Planning makes the project

I drafted it in Microsoft Word to fit the pages and then made a list of photo options that could fit with the content on the page. Things like… 

  • girls excited to find dad in dungeon cell
  • hugging dad
  • telling dad about their adventure to save him
  • walking back through woods with dragon
  • handing dragon to fairy in woods
  • returning to winster kingdom holding hands

This stage is all about the proper planning.

Actresses at the Ready

After the story and plans were drafted, it was time to trek into the woods. This was by far the most difficult part of the whole project. My chosen locale was a heavily wooded spot that included some thorny patches leading to my go-to spot; a log spanning some shallow water. As any parent might imagine, there was whining about the walk, about the thorns, sisters being mean, tears, and pouting. It was all I could do to keep my sanity during the hour we were there. By the end of this outing, we had a solid set of photos ready for editing.

The second space was natural without the thorns or walking, so the second photo session was much easier. At the end of the day, it’s all about those lessons learned, isn’t it?!

Photoshop Time

 

After the story writing, planning, and picture taking, this storybook was ready for the photoshop fun. I’ve used a fair variety of photoshop programs from free to paid. My favorite has been Adobe Photoshop and was what I used for this project. I had to scour the internet for photos I pair with my photos for the extra fun factor. These searches included tree roots, a bunny hoping, fairies, dragons, and some backgrounds. 

 

Adding Magic

The girls’ chosen powers were the power of freezing objects, the power of control water, and powerful strength.  

Shutterfly Storybook End

The final step was to put it together with Shutterfly. It’s my most frequently used photo product company. I live for good deals and Shutterfly constantly provides in that arena. It’s also user-friendly and allows manipulation of the templates, which is super important to me. 

 

Pandemic Mental Health Check

The pandemic has had a variety of effects from physical to mental.  I came across an article,

that defined a new feeling people have been experiencing since the start of the pandemic. If you’re feeling joyless and aimless, you may be experiencing languishing.

His research suggests that the people most likely to experience major depression and anxiety disorders in the next decade aren’t the ones with those symptoms today. They’re the people who are languishing right now. And new evidence from pandemic health care workers in Italy shows that those who were languishing in the spring of 2020 were three times more likely than their peers to be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The good news is, “People who became more immersed in their projects managed to avoid languishing and maintained their prepandemic happiness.” So with that thought in mind, starting a project like this storybook today will definitely serve your mental health in the long run. 

Unique Rainbow Ceiling Fan Revamp for your Color Loving Kids

My daughter’s love of rainbows started when she was 2 years old. One of our favorite videos of her entails her proclaiming, “This is the most beautiful cake in the world, mom!!” as she looked at a rainbow cake in a board book. I couldn’t get out of that particular weekend without making her a replica of that rainbow cake. For her 10th birthday, I gave her a rainbow room makeover. After our recent move, we had another opportunity to go on a rainbow room adventure. We started with an easy rainbow ceiling fan.

Her fan is the same one in my parents’ kitchen. It has reversible fan blades, so I didn’t feel so bad about devoting this side to the rainbow update. 

Spray Paint Base

I knew that I was going to try spray painting, so I started with giving the brown a coat of white spray paint. I think any kind of spray paint would do.

After a quick drying session, it was time to use the air brush for a cheap win. If an airbrush isn’t at the ready in your craft space, a paint brush will certainly do. I liked the prospect of a lighter and even color. 

I used watered-down acrylic paints for my airbrush. Given airbrushing is pretty new to me, I haven’t quite perfected my airbrush technique. Things when alright until I got to yellow. I don’t think I made the yellow thin enough because it started to get difficult to spray. What should have been a quick task, ended up being a frustrating one. And such is life. 

To touch up a little of the splatter spots, I used a paper towel dipped in the watered-down acrylic paint. With a bit of blotting, it was ready to go back on the ceiling. I do the watered-down paint as a cost-saving method but I think I may opt to see the difference in purchased airbrush paints. 

Rainbow Ceiling Fan

The fantastic thing about the rainbow fan blades is that when it’s spinning, the circular rainbow really comes together. My rainbow lover was thrilled with the end result! Having physical spaces that you love definitely helps your mental space. When your stressed by your physical space, it’s going to be difficult to keep your mental space right.

Mental Health Awareness

It’s not just adults who suffer from mental health issues, children can struggle with it in much the same ways. It’s important to check in and keep a pulse on how they are doing and handling all the “new” ways of life.  On Our Sleeves is a Movement for Children’s Mental Health. It provides evidence-based resources to help kids cope during this challenging time, provided by the experts at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH. 

A rainbow is often a sign of hope, the beauty after the storm, a pot of gold and good fortune at the rainbow’s end. For many, a rainbow carries a personal symbolic meaning–representing inclusivity and diversity, an all-embracing image of love and friendship.

For others, a rainbow might not mean good fortune and beauty, but something far off. The pot of gold isn’t there, or the love and friendship is there for others but not for them. Somewhere over the rainbow is far, far away. What does the rainbow mean to you? Share using #OnOurSleeves.

On Our Sleeves

For other creative activities to expand your mind and relationships, check out Crafting a Calming Corner to Assuage Parent and Child, How to Throw a Magical Harry Potter Party, Budget-Friendly DIY Monster Book of Monsters from Harry Potter or The Ultimate Cardboard Gingerbread House for Christmas Crazed Kids.

*This page contains affiliate links. This means if you use one of my links to make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting Cathartic Crafting!

Outstanding Popcorn Garland and Gobstoppers for Candyland Christmas

After creating my giant lollipops and tootsie roll string lights in the first Candyland Christmas rendition, I knew I wanted to get moving on some Candyland Christmas additions. My priorities continued to be keeping supply costs low (most items were on hand), fun in creating, and trying to be set apart from the rest of the neighborhood. 

Candyland Christmas Popcorn Garland

Supplies: 

While going through bins of old toys to sell, I was inspired by the ball pit balls we hadn’t used in forever. Those balls gave me the rather brilliant idea to make little wrapped “candies”. I’m thinking of the ones you get from some Asian restaurants in the metallic wrapping. It was a great pairing to the “popcorn” I was already planning to do. For some reason, I didn’t take pictures, but the task is super easy. Cut the tissue paper to a good size to fit around your ball, leaving a good 3 inches on each end. I taped the seam over the ball to keep the paper sealed. Then, it’s just a matter of pinching the tissue paper on either side of the ball and twisting the tie around it. It’s perfect for kids of all ages!

Honestly, this craft couldn’t be any simpler, so here we go with the popcorn instructions. Spray the Great Foam onto something you don’t care about having some stuck on foam remnants. Spray the foam into a lopsided shape, you know, like popcorn. I wouldn’t say mine are a great popcorn shape, so if you can do better, then I applaud you. This stuff grows quite a bit so definitely make it undersized to what you think you want it to be after it expands. It’s always a good idea to try one first to see how big it gets.

And here they are after hardening. A scraper will help you get them off cleanly from the surface. I didn’t think about it until after I’d already strung my popcorn up, but it’d be a great idea to turn the popcorn over and spray a bit more Great Foam on the flat rough side for a better shape. I’m pretty tempted to spray mine even while they are currently hung up because I dislike that flat side so much.

DIY Giant Needle

Time to sew! I had to run through ideas in my head on how I could get a string through the popcorn. With our pending move, I had already packed up some of the things I would have considered. After taking a look in my knife and skewer drawer, I was elated to find a lone wooden skewer. I drilled a tiny hole at the end, making it a perfect giant needle. It felt like a huge win! I used some heavy sewing thread to feel confident the string wouldn’t break. 

 

From there, it was just a matter of man powering the skewer through the foam. Just kidding, it’s really quite easy! My pattern was two popcorns, then one candy. I tied the string around one side of the candy. After the assortment was all threaded onto the string, I basically wrapped it around the string of lights. And with that, this craft for Candyland Christmas is finished. 

 

Gobstoppers

 

I was beyond tickled when the Gobstopper idea hit me. It was such a SIMPLE idea. I already had clear cellophane on hand. I cut a strip of it to fit the circumference of the balls. Then with the balls in the middle of the cellophane strip, I taped the seam together. I held one end together to use the clear packing tape to ‘seal’ it similarly to what an actual gobstopper strip looks like. Then I did the same to the other side before cutting it off. Now, if you want to go the extra mile, you could use a Cricut to create the label to stick on. I, unfortunately, don’t currently have the means, otherwise, I probably would. 

 

Mints

Here’s another “what do I have sitting around” idea. Foil pie pans had been sitting in wait in my cabinet for quite some time. I decided to use those to make a mint. I cut the perimeter about 6 times to the crease. This was to allow the border to fold into more of a 90-degree angle. Surprise surprise, craft glue doesn’t work so well on foil, so I taped the overlapping seam together.

 

Then, it was just a matter of folding the selected tissue paper into the empty center. Cutting the clear cellophane to the right size and tying off the ends with the twist ties. Literally, a two minute effort you can hand off to your kiddos to get them involved. Cheap and easy is the continued name of the game with this Candyland Christmas theme.

 

Presenting: Candyland Christmas!!!

Here is it all together!

 

 

If I weren’t in the process of selling a house, I would definitely continue to up the ante. It looks much to bear for my tastes. I unfortunately just don’t have the time to be able to continue on my Candyland Christmas journey, but there’s always next year…

 

*This page contains affiliate links. This means if you use one of my links to make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting Cathartic Crafting!

The Ultimate Cardboard Gingerbread House for Christmas Crazed Kids

As some of my other posts show, I have a strong love for cardboard. It’s easy to find, it’s free, it’s got a nice balance of flexibility and strength, fairly easy to manipulate, and it’s recyclable. I mean, with all those great characteristics, who wouldn’t love it?! I started just as many other parents, by providing the big box to the child, allowing their imagination to run wild. Since I love allowing my imagination to go wild, that only lasted so long for me. When we moved into our current house, I finally had the open space to run a little wild.
I made my first cardboard gingerbread house about 5 years ago. It stayed up well over a year before we took it down. My youngest spent many hours playing in that little house and why I recommend you make one of your very own if you’ve got the space. I hope my ideas help to inspire your own!

Now onto the Build

Materials:

  • Big and small cardboard boxes
  • Paper towel rolls or wrapping paper rolls
  • Contact paper
  • Toilet paper roll
  • Egg
  • Sticks
  • Scissors and/or razor
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks (check out this link for a cordless hot glue gun, I know what I’m putting on my Christmas wish list!!!)
  • Paint and paintbrushes
  • Fake snow or whatever Christmas element you’d like to add

To start, it’s really up to the boxes you have on hand to determine your eventual house shape. Hot glue is a wonderfully quick and sturdy option to glue your pieces together. Thankfully, I had huge boxes from a refrigerator, a washer, dryer, and couches. I’ve found it’s quite easy to cut at the corners by running a razor down through it. 

I painted the wrapping paper rolls with the candy cane strips before cutting them open in one straight line. This was to open them up for gluing on the corners of the house/box. I truly loved the effect. We made some peppermints out of other bits of cardboard and hot glued them onto the front. From there, it was just a matter of painting the house front as we desired. 

The Front Door: the magical entrance to an imagination space

For the door, I cut out an open panel to let the girls have a spot to look through while in the house. To give it a personalized touch, I used contact paper so my girls could create a little winter scene. I sealed it with a backside of contact paper and glued it to the back of the door. 

For the handle, I knew I wanted to make it able to turn and “lock” into position. Below is what I came up with based on what I had on hand. My motto is generally to use what I have rather than look to buy something. I used a toilet paper roll and two wooden dowels I had for cake stability or some other craft project. It was easy enough to cut the hole for the toilet paper roll and holes for the sticks that would keep the door in place. The problem was that the toilet paper roll wasn’t strong enough on the edge now to be crushed.

A bit of ingenuity

I came up with using an egg out of my fridge. I blew out the innards and then coated it in Mod Podge to seal it and give it some added strength. After that, I stuck the egg into the end of the toilet paper roll. Looking back, I admit it does seem rather odd, but it worked perfectly and lasted a really really long time. It wasn’t until we had some little boys over to play that one egg ended up crushed, cause, you know, BOYS. 

For the chimney, I used a white square cardboard box. It was easy to cut the bottom at the angle of the roof. Then, my oldest daughter helped me to paint the stone look of it. I used some super hard corner cardboard pieces (the kind that comes with appliances or furniture) as the roof seam. 

“He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Clement Clarke Moore, The Night Before Christmas

Stepping inside this Cardboard Gingerbread House

Obviously, a cozy Cardboard Gingerbread house isn’t much without a roaring stone fireplace. Using another super-stiff box, I cut it in half and then cut the front down the middle to be able to bend back for the fireplace shape. My oldest was then 7 and really enjoyed helping paint the stones. You can really see the concentration on her face here. Did you know crafting with kids can build their confidence? As they start to see the results of their work, it proves how much they can do just by trying. 

With the fireplace in place, it was only a matter of rolling up some brown cardstock into sticks and cutting and gluing some tissue paper together to create the roaring fire. There were cut off corner pieces needing to be repurposed, so I glued them to the corners as shelves. In the below photo, you can hopefully see I used some bent cardboard as roof supports to keep it solidly in place. It was easy enough to then tuck the light strings into the open spots. 

Just a few hours of crafting and engineering precision, created years of enjoyment for my three girls!

Upping the ante with Cardboard Gingerbread House #2

For my daughter’s 6th birthday, I made a Haunted Cardboard house for the birthday party. Since I’d put so much work into it, we weren’t about to take it down right afterward. Together, we spruced it up to turn it into another cardboard gingerbread house. Because I’m a bit of a hoarder, not really, just an avid “repurposer”, we were able to use the chimney and fireplace we’d created the first time around.

Join me on the Inside

Obviously, the square footage of this house was a great deal more than the previous one. The girls were able to go full-on Christmas on the inside. It was such a fun Christmas activity to get us in the spirit!

“Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there…”

Clement Clarke Moore, The Night Before Christmas

 

*This page contains affiliate links. This means if you use one of my links to make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting Cathartic Crafting!

Charming Candyland Christmas Projects for the Novice Crafter

As I started to think about Christmas and the same old outdoor decorations I’ve been using for years, I had the strong desire to mix things up. I had a plastic playhouse that my daughters had outgrown and needed to be repurposed or handing to someone else. That fact pushed me to think about turning it into a gingerbread house. Thinking of a gingerbread house made me think of candy and candy made me think of a Candyland Christmas theme. (Do you know the “If you Give a Moose a Muffin” books? I feel like that is how my brain works all the time and I think it drives my husband crazy.) From there, my girls and I were super excited to start with some mommy-daughter Christmas crafting!

Lollipops for Candyland Christmas

Materials:

  • Pool Noodle
  • Hot Glue Gun and Glue sticks
  • Flour
  • Water
  • Newspaper
  • Spray Paint
  • Paint
  • Paint Brush
  • Clear
  • Ribbon and/or Twist Ties
  • Dowel
  • Drill

We are currently preparing to move 45 minutes south in a month, so it was perfect timing to use these old pool noodles for a new project. It’s so much better than throwing them out! 

To start, grab your warmed up glue gun and start gluing the side of the end of the noodle and bending a small portion. As you continue to add glue to the outside edge, start to wrap the extra noodle length around the middle bend. I decided to use two noodles for each lollipop, but it could be fine with one. With the pandemic pushing people to get pools, the clearance pool noodle supply was nonexistent.

Creating the Lollipop Covering

If your pool noodles look good, you could bypass this step, given mine were different colors, I wanted to be able to spray paint them. I mixed enough flour and water together to get a cream-based soup consistency. Next, I dipped my newspaper into the mixture. Then I wiped off the excess before smoothing it onto the pool noodles. This dries much quicker in warm temperatures, so I used a small heater to dry them quickly. 

Then I set about with spray painting the dried paper Mache coating with a Rustoleum white I had on hand. 

I hand-painted red and white stripes with cheap acrylic paint. From there, I use a 1/2″ drill bit to drill a hole for the stick. I happened to have some wood posts from tree plantings in the backyard needing to be repurposed. Instead of painting white, I left them as is to save the spray paint. All there was left to do was to tie on the Cello wrapping paper I got from the Dollar Tree. It was a little too narrow for the diameter of my lollipop, so I used clear packing tape to tape the side flaps down.

I used Christmas ribbon I had leftover from the year before. Such an easy and cheap project! I mean seriously, how cute are these?!

GumDrops for Candyland Christmas

Materials:

  • Plastic Bowls
  • Acrylic Paint
  • Glitter glue or glitter paint
  • String lights

Easy Steps:

  1. Paint the inside of each bowl. I got six bowls so did the six different colors of gumdrops; red, green, orange, white, yellow, and purple.

2. Coat the outside in the glitter of choice.  I used some Rust-oleum Glitter Paint I had on hand thanks to Walmart clearance and a previous bookcase refinish. 

3. Place over the string lights.

4. Light it up!

 

Fruit Chews

Materials

  • Plastic bottles
  • Tissue Paper
  • Cello wrap
  • Twist Ties
  • Light string
  • Razor
  • Tape

Steps

1. Cut the top and bottom off with the razor.

2. Thread the string lights through the bottle.

3. Cut rectangles of the cello wrap and tissue paper. 

4. Wrap the tissue and cello around the bottle. Then tape it together. 

5. Twist both ends and tie with the twist tie.

6. Repeat steps 1-5 until you cover the whole string.

Mental Health Benefits

With all this trash repurposing, it’s fitting to point out that being green conscience can also improve mental health. According to Dr. Brian Wind, a clinical psychologist,  

leading a sustainable lifestyle can improve mindfulness and aid in easing depression or anxiety.

Earth 911

So while you are repurposing that trash and getting into your crafting zone, you’re really amping up the mental health benefit while meeting your Christmas décor needs. Enjoy!

Crafting a Calming Corner to Assuage Parent and Child

Anyone out there have perfect emotionally balanced children? I’m definitely not raising my hand to that one. In fact, we have nicknamed my daughter’s alter ego as “the hulk” because, while she’s normally such a docile sweet child, you better watch out when something gets to her. When she gets angry, you can hear the stomping and huffing from the other side of the house. Given my human service field, I’ve always talked to my girls about their emotions. Even so, my little hulk really struggled with controlling herself when she became escalated. There came a day when she actually asked if we could create a calming corner for her to fight off her anger. I was all for it because it would be a great way to help her learn the important skill of self-regulation.

Calming Corner Benefits

Self-Awareness and Self-Management: Calm down corners help children to practice identifying feelings and emotions to better manage stress, self-regulate and control their impulses. Having a space designed to support them emotionally and physically helps them feel safe and comfortable, allowing them to let down their guard to process different feelings.

Relationship Skills: Learning how to communicate one’s feelings and emotions can be difficult, but calming spaces such as this help children practice mindfulness and develop skills they need to identify their emotions and communicate them when necessary. Stronger communication skills help them form stronger relationships with others and develop skills in empathy.

Action for Healthy Kids

Calming Corner Seating Choice

First things first, seating. You could obviously choose a regular chair if that’s what you have on hand. I think a calming corner needs something soft and cushioning. I opted to knock out three birds with this one stone. We had stuffed animals galore and were running out of space, so it was a perfect time to use a Pinterest pin I’d saved long ago. I used Googie Momma’s via Thread Riding Hood pattern for a stuffed animal chair. I’m a true lover of budget-friendly projects, so I chose to use material from some curtains I’d made for our previous house. (This is exactly why I find it so hard to get rid of anything, you never know when you might come up with a way to repurpose it.)

I was able to dive into my creative mental space (check out Crafting my Mental Health Regimen), make a stuffed animal storage space saver, and a chair for the calming corner all in one go! I couldn’t believe how many stuffed animals this chair housed. Such a win!

Other DIY Options

Here are some other easy DIY Bean bag chairs to try: 

DIY: Sew a Kids Bean Bag Chair in 30 Minutes

DIY Bean Bag Chair

Child Size Bean Bag Chair -DIY Video Tutorial

Curtain to Limit Stimulation

I happened to have a bed curtain, so I used it as the curtain for this space. I considered making one (of course), but my daughter said she liked this see-through one.

There are other ways to make a private space. Here’s one from She Builds Her Home using a curved shower curtain rod.

Stocking Your Calming Corner

A calming corner isn’t much of a space with out something to distract them from the emotional overload. Thankfully, with all the recent trends, we had a good stock of fidgets, squishies, spinners, etc. to stock her little shelf of distractions. She also put a whiteboard and marker for drawing. Check out Mindful Amazing for some great printables to stock in the calming corner. A weighted blanket or weighted stuffed animal would be a great add as well. How about some simple craft kits?! 

We didn’t go much beyond that but depending on the child, you might consider all the other senses. Noise-canceling headphones or a soothing sound machine for the child who tends to overload on auditory stimulation. A visual distraction, like a light machine or glitter bottle, would be another great option. For olfactory, an oil diffuser or scented lotions would work. There are really so many possibilities. To garner buy-in from a resistant child, let them decide what to put there.

Creating the calming corner together doesn’t mean they are automatically going to choose to go there when it becomes necessary, so be prepared to reinforce using it when needed. My hulk was super resistant when using the corner was necessary. Take one tantrum at a time to stay sane. 

For more resources on self-regulation, check out Child Mind Institute’s “How Can We Help Kids with Self-Regulation?

Budget-Friendly DIY Monster Book of Monsters from Harry Potter

My oldest daughter and I were super excited to do a Harry Potter themed birthday party for her 11th birthday. As I started on the plans, I knew I wanted a Monster Book of Monsters to be apart of it. From there, it was only a matter of finding the supplies and finding time.

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” Albus

Materials:

  • Wooden Box
  • Fur
  • Eye Balls
  • Clay
  • Paint and Brushes
  • Craft Glue
  • Hot glue and glue gun
  • Scissors
  • Paper and Printer
  • Mod Podge

Ready, Set, Go

I found a perfect wooden flip lid box at Michaels. I’m not sure if they still have this one, so here’s a different wooden book box that is currently available there.

monster book

I used light brown, red, and white clay for the fangs, teeth, tongue, and gums. First, the teeth were constructed into points. After flattening the red into a strip, I positioned the teeth to lie on the red strip. I layered the back with another red strip before pushing the red down around the teeth to show the ‘root’. The only thing you need to be careful of is not touching the white after touching the red. The picture shows that I did a bit of that. The fangs were super easy. Roll them to be smaller on one end and then curve them and presto!

Monster Book teeth

After baking the clay parts, it’s time to kick them up a notch with some paint to add dimension. I painted a bit of dark red and black onto the gums and tongue. Yellowish-brown served to give the teeth a gnarled look. Next, I painted the box with tan and dark brown to give it the look of pages as well as I could. Given that much of it is covered, I didn’t feel like I needed to give it much attention.

monster book pages

Monster Book Fur Cover

For the cover, I used two fur pieces I happened to find on clearance at Michaels. Crafting doesn’t get much easier than this step. Here it comes; glue the fur to the wood. Then….wait for it to dry. After that, I trimmed the length of the fur, because it was definitely too much. I also cut the perimeter into points and extra shagginess. 

 Those Eyes are Looking at You

Now onto the eyes. I also got the eyeballs at Michaels, but you’re not likely to find them in a store if it’s not around Halloween. I honestly wasn’t sure what to do with creating the eye mount. I thought about using oven-bake clay but was afraid it would melt the eyes. I went with a mountain of hot glue instead. After I piled it up, I painted it brown. I didn’t have enough red eyes, so I also painted the irises red. 

Monster book eyes

The book label was created in Microsoft Word and printed on computer paper. I trimmed the fur shorter in the spots where I was going to put the label before gluing the labels down. I put Mod Podge on the label to stiffen the paper. 

From there, it was just a matter of gluing on the fangs, teeth and tongue. I used hot glue initially, which worked just fine. Over time, the fangs have gotten knocked off a few times, so I’ve recently used super glue to get them to hold. As my girls would say, this DIY Monster Book of Monsters is easy peezy lemon squeezy. 

Spot light monster book of Monsters
Monster Book and wands
Finished Monster Book

If you’re looking for other Harry Potter crafts, try some apothecary bottles for Potions class or get some Harry Potter Party Ideas from my party post.

Spooky Tree Test Tube Holder for a Unique Apothecary

Troll boogers! Snail Slime! Dragon’s Blood! These are three of the Halloween test tubes I’ve for years as part of my Halloween Apothecary. They have been without a stand for years. This month I decided I was going to finally make a science-esk one out of wood. I was still hesitant because it felt too mundane. In the age of Pinterest, it feels pretty darn difficult to come up with something different. Sometimes, I feel stunted by thinking I can’t come up with anything unique. After some contemplation during a drive, I decided to make a spooky tree with curved limbs. Here’s the quick and easy rundown on this spooky tree test tube holder for any are looking to stray from the normal.

Materials: 

  • Wire
  • Wire Cutters
  • Clay
  • Paint
  • Airbrush (if you’ve got it)

For a reason I can’t remember, I’ve had two spools of this wire for years. I’ve used it for several random occasions on other craft ideas. It’s really what inspired me to craft this tree and provide stability. 

All my three daughters all being in fall sports. Sometimes, crafting boils down to finding a way to build in time around events on our schedule. My eldest had a fastpitch doubleheader an hour away from home. I took along my materials to get started on this quick Halloween decor. While the team warmed up for an hour, I worked on my tree in the parking lot.


Building the Base

 

First, I cut 6 wires of similar lengths. Then, I twisted two wires together to start forming the trunk. I added one each additional wire by twisting it around the base and leaving the ‘root’ for the stand and free limbs at the top. I finished it off by twisting two additional wires around the trunk to form curved limbs the would serve to hold the test tubes. Literally, a 10-minute step.

 

Clay for the Tree Test Tube Holder

I had already been making air-dry clay for another project, so I could easily use it for this project. I found this easy DIY air dry recipe from Kitchen Table Classroom to make porcelain clay. It was simple to make from ingredients in the kitchen but admittedly was not as good for what I needed the clay to do. I only used it for the base. I tried another porcelain clay recipe from Natural Earth Paint using only three cheap ingredients; cornstarch, baking soda, and water. This clay was a bit better but still quite loose/limp. 

 

I pressed the clay around all the metal limbs as best I could, adding free-standing clay limbs as I went. Molding the clay for this was unfortunately an example of one of those times when crafting can cause me more stress than alleviating it. I’ll just leave it at being highly perturbed by the difficulties of trying to get the limp clay to stay put. If I were to do it again, I would buy polymer clay from Michaels.  After letting it dry for a day, I started airbrushing.

Airbrushing Zen

 

 

While I completed the many layers of airbrushing in shades of brown, I was mentally focused on the stress I had been feeling around politics and the impending elections. I felt consumed by the emotions generated by the garbage being shared by people I was connected with on Facebook, some of them being relatives. As I slowly watched the paint spray out of the airbrush, I was contemplating how I could make positive steps to shifting others’ views in a positive way. We’ve been doing a fair bit of personal bias assessment as work, so it’s been fully present in my mind to assess if I’m being objective in my views. In fully trying to understand my own thoughts and feelings and contemplate the perspective of others, I couldn’t come to grips with the lies and delusions others allow themselves to believe.

 

Public service announcement on Political Stress

 

To sum it all up, I was feeling oppressive levels of stress around these unending thoughts. After doing a quick Google, I found quite a lot of references to political/election stress syndrome. Even thinking about it now makes my chest tighten. I quite liked this description I found.

Under stress, the Toddler brain (emotional, all-or-nothing, “Mine! No!”) hijacks the Adult brain, impairing its ability to take other perspectives, weigh evidence, see nuance, plan for the future, and create value and meaning. The Toddler brain is highly susceptible to emotional contagion; toddlers take on whatever negative emotions are around them, as any parent who has been tense or irritable near one can attest…

Part of my election stress disorder may be due to the fact that I’m vastly overworked. … Political campaigns set the web of emotion ablaze with negativity.

Psychology Today

If this resonates with you, there are a variety of things to try to combat the feelings. I’ve chosen to focus on the things I can control, to find my Zen in crafting, and to stay away from the offending sources. Although, over the last week I’ve also been immersed in a sea of stressful work deadlines, the political stress remains at bay. 

Back to this Test Tube Holder

I finished it off with a dark brown touch up around bends in the limbs and the roots. I put it with the rest of my Halloween apothecary set up and called it a day. If you are looking for another easy craft to take your mind to another level, try out these apothecary bottles! Happy haunting to you and yours!

How to Make the Best Halloween Apothecary Jars

A few years ago, I couldn’t wait to start a collection of Halloween apothecary jars to add to my holiday decor. I started off with collecting regular food jars and random Goodwill finds to change into new and creepy decor. It doesn’t take much more than some simple materials to really get started.

Halloween Apothecary Jar Ideas

Materials:

  • Coffee Filters
  • Printer and Printer Paper
  • Clay
  • String
  • Paint
  • Mod Podge
  • Glue gun and Glue sticks
  • Food items: egg shells, Cantaloupe rind
  • Store bought creepy crawlers
  • Corks
  • Sandpaper
  • Saw

For this Ear of Troll I used the rind of some eaten cantaloupe. I gave it a week to dry out in the garage before closing it into the jar. I used a blank label in Word to type in the name. Mod podge was my go-to glue for all of these labels to get them to stick and to give it a coating for longevity. For this jar, in particular, used coffee filters served as the lid covering with string and craft glue decorating the jar curve.

Free label sites I used:

Spooky Apothecary Labels from Brooklyn Limestone

Free Halloween Bottle Labels from Holidappy 

Apothecary jar Labels from Halloween Forum

Rattle Snake Eggs

Similar techniques were used for these Rattle Snake Eggs Halloween Apothecary jar. The eggs were from a friend with chickens laying eggs in a variety of shades. Using a needle, I poked holes in both ends with one end being slightly larger to allow for the egg innards to be expelled. It’s also a lot easier to break up the yolk using the needle poked repeatedly through the holes. Once all that was done successfully without breaking the egg, I blew into the smaller hole to force the contents out the larger hole. Then I was ready to eat some scrambled eggs! I also gave the eggs a day to dry out a little more before coating them in Mod Podge.

 

Jellyfish Stingers

The same techniques are applied here for the outside. For the jellyfish stingers, I used hot glue on a baking pan. When it was cool, I was able to peel it off and stick it in the jar. 

Store bought creepy crawlers are center stage in this jars: Worms, mice and cockroaches anyone?

 

Clay Creations

 

Next up, for these three Halloween Apothecary jars, I used baking clay for the unicorn horn and bat wins and model magic for the fingers. I quite enjoy crafting clay creations. For the horn, I first rolled two equal ropes of clay. Then I twisted them together and rolled them on the counter to get a narrower pointed end. Presto! A lovely unicorn horn. I didn’t finish it off with glitter but it could definitely be a nice add.

 

 

Model magic is really easy to shape but doesn’t hold fine details like a real clay does. I used press on nails to give the real nail effect here. These lady fingers were complete with some painted on blood. You could really go grotesque with this if you want!

Pill Bottle Makeovers

 

These 5 bottles were all crafted from empty pill bottles. I used a saw to cut the tops off before sanding the smooth surface. The next step was to draw the label and image with hot glue. I used matte/satin paint in grays, browns, and black to paint all the bottles. Then, I glued on labels and string. 

 

Two Minute Snake Skin

For this lovely Halloween Apothecary jar of Snake Skin, I painted the jar with a few different colors of cheap acrylic paint that matched with the coloring of the label. (The color of the label being the result of a malfunctioning printer. The Lord knows the amount of angst that printer caused me at the end of its life.)   Generally for painting all the lids, I sanded them first to ensure the paint would adhere.

The actual innards of the jar were a combination of plastic wrap and hot glue. I cut a rectangle of the plastic wrap and laid it over the foil to protect the counters. From there, I glued a snake skin-esk pattern onto the plastic wrap. I noticed that as the glue got hotter, the plastic wrap shrunk more, which I was not so much a fan of seeing happen. If I were to do this again, I would do a portion, then unplug the glue gun for a 15 second cooling. Then repeat until finished. 

I got the free label for this jar from: 

Halloween Apothecary with 9 FREE potion bottle labels

 

 

I hope you gathered some of your favorite ideas for crafting some of your very own Halloween Apothecary Jars. If you’re looking more spooky Halloween decor, check out my Spooky Halloween Book Covers.

Haunted Cardboard House for your Kids who Love a Little Scare

Those who know me, know my love of cardboard. It’s such a versatile and cheap product to craft with, which leads me to have stockpiles of it at times. My youngest daughter’s birthday is October 29th, so while brainstorming ideas for her birthday party, we thought about how we could make it a true Halloween birthday party. I’d previously done an indoor cardboard gingerbread house that my girls loved. It seemed perfectly logical to do a Haunted cardboard house for her spooky birthday party. She had grand ideas for how she would make it haunted and couldn’t wait to have her friends over.

Starting a Haunted Cardboard House

The request from my daughter for this haunted cardboard house was that it be bigger than the gingerbread house. We have quite a bit of free space in our basement, so I was okay with accomodating that request. 

For these larger-scale houses, larger boxes make things a lot easier than piecing together smaller ones. The size and shape of the house can really depend on what you have to work. I didn’t have a plan going into making this and allowed the box shape and size dictate how it would work best.

My neighbor had large furniture boxes out for recycling, which I happily took off their hands to get moving on the wall frames. I typically use hot glue to glue the pieces together because it dries quickly and works well with the paper surface. Sometimes, it doesn’t hold together well enough if I’m not quick to get it together. For those times when it wasn’t holding together, I used some wood glue and weights while it dried.

 

In order to set the frame, I decided to utilize some small clamps to hold it while I moved things around to find the right shape and size. I was able to do a fair bit of gluing in the garage to remove the fear of getting hot glue on our basement carpet. Folks, hot glue can only really be cut out of carpet (from previous experience). While in this planning phase, I was also able to cut the door out with a razor and a square on the cement floor.

Time to Move to the Final Destination

With the plan in place, it was time to move all those cardboard pieces to the basement to get this Haunted Cardboard House structure together. With the pieces standing, it was a bit like a maze down there. The girls loved it.

 

I had to put a call out for more cardboard to the neighborhood and thankfully the call was answered. I was then able to construct the roof. That was the hardest part of the whole thing. The cardboard was heavy and shifted while I tried to glue it together by myself. I had to get my helpers on board to hold it while I glued it. For this part, the glue didn’t work as well. I ended up using a drill to make holes and piecing the heavy pieces together with screws, bolts, and washers. They made for a very sturdy structure. 

 

Safety Warning!!

Hot glue is, shall we say, Freakin’ HOT! It was about during this part of the build that I got myself with the glue while trying to get the heavy roof together. As I quickly tried to “stop the burn” (as we say in American Red Cross) by rubbing the glue off, it took a layer of skin with it. I’ve burned myself quite a number of times while working with hot glue, but this was by far the worst. We go through quite a lot of types of bandaids in this house. I’ve got to hand it to these NexCare waterproof bandaids. They maintained through a lot of movement. Investing in heat protection gloves is probably a good prevention idea though. 

  

The structure was thankfully set. My daughter said she had envisioned it being bigger than this, but I was unfortunately out of any larger pieces of cardboard. It would have to do.

Faux Scalloped Siding, Ghostly Windows and Shingles

Now was the fun part of adding the details for a haunted house. Using printer paper, a razor, and my circle cutter, I went about cutting a ton of circles to create a scalloped look on the front panel. I wanted to hide the seam that was there from joining separate pieces of cardboard. I used Loctite Spray Adhesive to make this quick work. That spray didn’t work so well with the cardboard to cardboard gluing but worked here. I spray painted them gray after that. 

 

For the windows and shingles, I cut cardboard to size and drew details or spray painted. If you haven’t tried spray painting cardboard, be warned. It takes a lot of spray paint to cover it. It felt like it would have been a better plan to paint the whole cardboard piece before cutting shingles. For the windows, I painted the cardboard with cheap acrylic paint before gluing on the frames and shutters.

After a quick google search, I found the images I wanted for the ghosts in the windows. I enlarged them and altered their colors in Microsoft Word. If you don’t have a picture editing program, Microsoft Word can be surprisingly handy for this kind of need.

With the addition of some Halloween decorations, spooky lights and sound, the outside of this Haunted Cardboard House was ready!

Stepping Inside

I put the big bubble wrap (the kind that comes in packaging) under the Frozen rug, so it would pop when the kids walked on it. I think this would have worked better if it had been a hardwood floor as opposed to carpet. It took a fair bit of jumping to get them to pop. I had a dollar store spider that drops every so often hanging from the ceiling to give a good scare. 

 

There were some body parts and skulls along with an electrolyzed skull and Frankenstein’s head. My main attraction was the spooky touch and feel center. I had a pumpkin bucket full of eyeballs (peeled grapes), a pumpkin bucket full of brains (cooked spaghetti), a box of witches fingers (carrot sticks), a witch’s tongue (sliced banana), and a box of teeth (popcorn kernels). 

When I brought the group of kindergartners down into the dark basement, they were already on edge. I took one little one into the house to have her do the feeling activity. As soon as the spider dropped, she ran out of the house scared to death. I ended up having to turn on the lights on and encourage my daughter to lead them through the houses. After that, they had a ton of fun! 

Party Fare

Of all the things I do, I think I find using candy melts and molds, one of the most difficult to get right. I’m not sure if it’s something I’m doing wrong or if it’s just tough in general. I made these little oozy cake pop brains as a party treat to be placed along side the Cauldron Cake. The design of the cake was all the birthday girl’s ideas. She was quite happy with the end result and the taste of the Oreo cookie cakey insides.

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