Kittens and Butterflies Birthday Party

“I want my birthday party to be kitty-themed this year”, declared my almost-six year old daughter… “But wait – I want it with butterflies too!”. Initially I was a little daunted by this unique double-theme combination, but Ellie’s birthday parties are always my most fun and fulfilling creative project of the year, and I was determined to see how I could pull this off.

My first step was to identify the activities I could do to entertain her friends, and in an initial brainstorm I joked with my husband about bringing in some real kittens for the kids to adopt (which would probably be every kid’s dream party and every parent’s worst nightmare party!)… but it led to the idea of having a Beanie Boo “kitten adoption center”. The kids could choose their own kitty from a forest-themed display, flanked by butterflies, and then go through a number of stations to personalize and adopt their new toy.

When Ellie’s friends arrived at the party, the first thing they could do was go to the welcome station to pick out their own cat ear headband.

DIY wooden welcome sign with 3D butterflies in rainbow colors
3D butterflies glued onto wooden sign in purples and blues
Welcome sign for kitten adoption party with car ear headbands
DIY wooden welcome with with butterflies in rainbow colors

I ordered a good selection of cat beanie boos for the forest-like adoption center. They sat on sections of cut wood (actually taken from a friend’s tree that had to be cut down), with three central pillars covered in faux hedging.

Stuffed animal toy adoption display

I made the sign using cut vinyl from my Cricut and hot glued on some silk flowers.

Beanie baby toy kitten adoption center sign for child’s birthday party
Beanie boo kitten wearing a butterfly headband
Toy kitten adoption center for themed party
Kitten adoption stuffed animal display

After naming their kitty, Ellie’s friends could create their own name tag, using cheap key-tags I found at Staples. I created a selection of ribbon collars, using stick-on Velcro to fasten them, that the kids could “bling out” with stick-on crystal tape.

The next station allowed the kids to decorate a cat food bowl (AKA a paper ice cream cup) with washi tape, which they could fill with Swedish fish to feed their kitty.

The next station was my personal favorite – the “glitter box” filled with glitter confetti, three pink sparkly poops made out of modelling clay, and a shovel to clean up after their pet! This station was a huge hit, with a number of kids asking to take the poop home with them!

Litter box for stuffed animal toy beanie baby adoption center party

Finally, they could pick out some hair bows for their kitties before filling out their pet adoption certificate.

Here is a video tour of the adoption center to help bring it to life:

To pull in the butterfly theme for activities, I planned a mass butterfly release with a combination of painted lady and monarch butterflies. The kids also each got an envelope with a live butterfly inside to open up, and it was pretty magical to see their faces light up as these beautiful creatures emerged from their cool hideouts to bask in the sunshine on the kids’ hands for a while before flying off into the breeze.

Girl holding a monarch butterfly for a kittens and butterflies themed party
Girl holding monarch butterfly after release
Girl holding monarch butterfly for themed birthday party butterfly release

Ellie picked the color theme for the party (pink, purple and white – not so unique for a 5 year old, but that’s ok!) and the decorations for the party relied heavily on artificial silk flowers, which I mostly sourced from the clearance aisle at Michaels. I took a basic metal archway and wrapped it with flower garlands, while adding some wisteria to dangle down from the top.

Purple pink and white flower arch for birthday party decoration

I also created a pink-to-white ombre artificial flower wall to display in the garden as a photo backdrop, which proved particularly popular with the live butterflies!

Pink and white ombré flower wall for party decorations DIY

For the cake and dessert table, I used another flower wall as a backdrop and cut out some paper butterflies using my Cricut Maker machine to add to the scene, along with some tulle curtains to soften the look.

The three-flavored birthday cake was decorated with a fondant cat with a butterfly on its head, and edible sugar butterflies were added to additional cupcakes and desserts. Above the cake I displayed two bell jar decorations which included fake butterflies, flowers, moss and rocks.

Cake dessert table for butterflies and kittens birthday party with flowers
Butterflies and kittens themed birthday cake in pink and white with flower decorations
Butterflies and flowers inside bell jar party decoration
Pink frosted cupcakes with purple butterfly decorations
Pink and white ombré birthday cake with butterflies and kittens decorations
White beanie boo kitten stuffed animal with butterfly bell jar decoration for kittens and butterflies party

Another focal point was a 4-foot tall Ferris wheel which I decorated with flowers and magnetic butterflies. This ferris wheel was an unexpected find at Home Goods and was originally a gray metal color, but I painted it with a white chalkboard paint and added aging wax to give it a more antique feel.

I re-used the moss marquee letters I had made for Ellie’s 5th birthday party to go above the fireplace. My Mum had the brilliant idea of having flowers and butterflies come out of the fireplace, which I thought added a cute, whimsical touch. I also displayed a birdcage that I decorated with flowers and butterflies.

After everyone jumped in the pool for a swim and had some balloons twisted for them (it’s a 6-year old birthday party after all!), guests got to take home their adopted kitty as well as their “meowgical cat ear” headbands that they had selected on arrival. As they were leaving I overheard one child say “Ellie’s parties are so magical, this is the one place where no kid could ever be sad”. Between this comment and the smiles on everyone’s faces, I was definitely a happy camper.

Thank you to Studio Carre for the beautiful photos of this event!


80s Boombox DJ Booth Tutorial

Whenever a friend asks me about decorating for a themed party, the very first thing I do is go on Pinterest to see what ideas I can steal/mesh together/expand on. So when I was asked about 80s party decorations for a friend’s 40th birthday, I pulled up Pinterest, saw THIS, and I was immediately up for the challenge to see how I could make a DJ booth similar to this (which I believe rents for $650!)…but on the cheap.

This is a view of the finished product of my version, which I made for ~$120!

DIY 6 foot boombox 80s DJ booth
80s large boombox decorations DIY

Here is a video tutorial on how I made it:

Here are all the details on the project:

First off, I wanted to show the original prototype for it – the idea being that the front would be a facade that wraps around a table (and not sure why this piece of card got so wet and beat up!). I always try to make some kind of prototype first, A) so I can see if the idea makes any sense in reality and B) to help communicate my ideas to others so when I go to Home Depot looking for stuff, the sales assistants there would know what on earth I was talking about.

Originally, I was planning on having the entire boombox be entirely a facade like the prototype, but then I realized it wouldn’t look realistic if it didn’t have any depth. So I changed the design to have the facade go up to the height of the table, and then have a “box” like top to sit on the table.

I wanted it to fit around a regular 6 foot wide folding table, as well as being able to fit in my car, so it could be easily transportable, so I used these dimensions to figure out how to get the wood cut.

Home Depot was my first destination to get the wood. I found cheapish thin wood (it is 5mm thick underlayment that was about $18 a sheet). I needed two sheets cut, and then I also got them to cut some thicker wood to use as the struts to hold together the box top. (Note – the underlayment wood is pretty flimsy, and it worked ok for the price, but if you wanted to make a sturdier version, I would go with thicker, stiffer wood). The front of the boombox had two sections that were 6 feet long, one 30″ high to go from the floor to just above the table height, and one 12 high to sit on the table. Then I had the sides cut to 12″ deep, with the same 30″ and 12″ heights to match the front.

I collected some junk/cheap items from dollar stores to create the different aspects of the boombox. The hula hoop speakers were from the dollar store, as were the pink plastic plates for the smaller speakers. The white speakers were the tops of drink containers. I laid out the pieces to start planning the super rough design. As you can tell from the final pictures of the boombox, the design evolved quite a bit as I played around with different ideas.

My husband hinged the facade pieces together, and then constructed the box top, with one strut on either side, and two struts across the middle.

I spray painted the wood – first with a white primer (note to self that black or gray primer would have made more sense!!!) and then with a black satin paint. The paint showed up a lot of the grain in the wood, which I didn’t love, so if I were to make it again I would see whether a flat black paint might be better at masking it.

I collected a variety of plastic bottle lids and caps to use as buttons/dials on the boombox and spray painted those as well. I used a primer first as I know spray paint can be very fickle about whether it wants to stay on. It definitely helped, but some of the paint still flaked off at the end. (Note in the picture in the middle below, you can see the “box top” back side a little better with the four struts. So it’s definitely more of an open, two-sided “box” – which was intentional, to reduce material costs/weight and also to give the DJ more space behind the boombox.)

I designed and cut a radio frequency display design using my Cricut Maker. To make the transfer of the vinyl easier, I tried using iron-on HTV instead, and ironed it onto the wood. I’ve used this technique before, but on unpainted wood… so discovered that acrylic paint will melt a bit under high temps. Luckily it didn’t mess up the paint too bad so I didn’t bother redoing it.

I bought rolls of aluminum tape from Amazon for $2 a roll and used this as chrome-like edging all around the outside of the boombox, and to separate the different sections as well.

The hula hoops were a perfect size for the large speakers, but I needed to transform them to actually look like speakers. To give definition and the speaker-look underneath the mesh, I created a design out of pink, blue and black card. I found some vinyl mesh at Joann’s and spray painted it pink. I staple gunned the mesh all around the hula hoop making sure there was sufficient tension on it so it wouldn’t sag.

To finish off the speakers, I found weather sealing foam adhesive at Home Depot and spray painted it light blue. I taped it around the hula hoops to hide the staples and also to give some extra dimension. The adhesive wasn’t very strong and couldn’t defy gravity underneath the hoops, so I hot glued the foam in that area.

For the cassette player, I could have made something that looked decent out of card, but being me, I had to go all out and actually 3D print an oversized cassette tape. I found a design online, printed it up, painted it, and then created a custom sticker to make it have that early 80s design that some of us might remember!

3D printed oversized cassette tape decoration 80s party

I found plastic paper trays at Target for $5 that were the right dimensions for the tape deck and the equalizer display. I added foam to the inside of the paper tray, and cut a small recessed area for the tape to sit comfortably in. I had my husband cut some small pieces of wood on a diagonal to be the cassette deck buttons and spray painted them silver. The paint showed through the wood grain really strongly, so I ended up covering them in silver foil vinyl instead to get a more authentic metallic look. I covered the top of the paper tray with a thin, transparent sheet of acrylic, and added black and silver vinyl to it so the only see-through section was where you could see the cassette.

The equalizer was actually one of the first things I made for this project, using the same paper tray as the cassette deck. I designed a black vinyl cut-out to go on the base of the paper tray, which looks like the equalizer light displays (or kind of like skyscrapers). I found some Christmas LED lights that change color independently in a gradual way that could give the illusion of the equalizer bars moving up and down (even through they are static). I taped on a layer of press ‘n seal plastic food wrap to the paper tray to make it a little more opaque, and added a few layers of bubble wrap to help diffuse the light even more, as well as to provide a cushion for the Christmas lights. I cut out a cardboard backing to tape the lights onto and then just kind of squished and taped it all up in place. The effect worked well and was one of the aspects of the boombox I liked the most, but if I were to go it again I’d probably glue things in place instead of the tape, as it’s a hot mess in there!

My original plan was to glue the equilizer and the cassette deck onto the wood, but realized that they stuck out too much compared to the speakers and it didn’t look as authentic as I wanted. So I had the Hubby cut out two rectangles so I could recess both of the boxes. This step was kind of a big bummer, as I ended up with sawdust all over everything, and the aluminum tape got a bit messed up, but it was SO worth doing as it made the boombox look so much better.

For the finishing touches, I added a “boombox” sign, glued on the knobs and dials with hot glue, and added black sealer around the edges of the cassette and equalizer boxes. I added LED lights around the top speakers, with a small hole drilled just behind the edges of the plastic plates so I could keep the battery packs back there. I added grill marks on either side of the speakers and on the side of the facade. I also cut out little semi-circular dial indicators to stick on around each dial.

And voila: here is the finished product in my living room!

80s party decoration large boombox DIY tutorial
80s party boombox decoration
80s party boombox decoration large black pink blue

Here it is with some of the 80s decorations I made for the party:

80s party decorations large boombox care bears rubix cubes

Finally, here is the boombox out in the “wild” as the DJ booth at my friend’s 40th birthday party.

Here’s a peek at some of the other 80s decorations I made for the party:

I was really happy overall with this project and was pretty psyched when I had quite a few folks asking whether they could rent this for their own parties! As of right now, it’s sitting in my dining room, and my 7 year old enjoys having dance parties next to it… but I know sometime soon we’ll have to retire it to the garage to make space for the next crazy project I take on!

Caddyshack / Golf Themed 40th Birthday Party Decorations

My friend Brooke and her husband Joe are both really into Golf and wanted to celebrate their 40th birthdays with a Caddyshack themed birthday party. I actually hadn’t seen the movie before, but after watching it and having a good chuckle, I was inspired to incorporate as many of the humorous elements as possible from Bushwood Country Club into their event.

Bushwood Country Club Sign

A Bushwood Country Club sign seemed like a perfect centerpiece for the backdrop of the dessert table. I found the club sign online and imported into Cricut’s design space and then spent a few too many hours dissecting it and splitting it into smaller sections so I could cut it with my Cricut and piece them together to make a larger sign. I used some leftover foam board that I had bought for another project at the Dollar Store, and then added each vinyl layer piece by piece. To finish I cut around the sign using a craft knife (I started using scissors but I was scared I’d wreck the foam board and buckle it, so I switched to the knife).

DIY Bushwood country club sign made out of foam board and vinyl

Dessert Table Backdrop and Decorations

If you were to ask people the lasting memory they have from the movie, it’s probably the scenes of Bill Murray trying to blow up the pesky gopher. So I wanted to go to town with that concept and make the backdrop reminiscent of the scene, using prop dynamite and explosive boxes. Of course it needed to include a gopher and one of Bill Murray’s famous quotes from the movie:

DIY Caddyshack golf themed dessert table party decorations

The background was to be my “jungle wall” which I had made for another party using foliage and leftover green leaves from silk flower projects. They were attached to flower wall green plastic backing tiles, which have little prongs on them to attach flowers or leaves.

I made the prop dynamite by rolling up red paper into tubes and hot gluing them in place before wrapping them with black electrical tape. I cut an “explosive” stencil using the cricut and stencil vinyl, and crudely painted it on using a sponge and black acrylic paint. I used model magic in red to create plugs for either end and added thick black yarn as the explosive leads through a small hole that I pierced into the model magic.

The “gunga galunga” sign was made with the cricut and a double layer of card that was glued together for some extra stiffness. I glued wire onto the back of the letters which I twisted onto the jungle wall backing to hold it in place. (I used the same technique to attach the dynamite sticks to the wall).

Bushwood country club and Gunga galunga sign backdrop for caddyshack birthday party candy table dessert

The explosive/danger/dynamite/warning boxes were wooden crates I bought from Michael’s that I had aged using a potion of vinegar mixed with steel wool. I cut the signs out of vinyl with the cricut. I used a small box for the detonator, added a caution sign and then used some PVC piping painted red as the detonator plunger (is that what you call it??).

I bought candy in green, blue and white to fit the theme, and added a couple of extra touches with the camo hat that Bill Murray wore, as well as a captain’s hat.

(Funny story on the gopher – I bought it from a golf store 7 years ago when my daughter was a baby as I thought it would be a fun puppet – even though its one of those golf club covers. She was obsessed with it and laughed every time we used it. We called him Boris. Anyway it sat around in a toy box for a few years and it was nice to get to re-use him).

Birthday Cakes

It was important to me that the cakes reflected the theme but we didn’t want to spend a ton of money having a baker custom make cakes with intricate decorations to feed 60 people. So my trick was to find funko pop characters (luckily these were available on amazon) to use as cake toppers and then use my cricut to cut card in the shape of famous quotes from the movie from each of those characters. I had a local grocery store make three inexpensive cakes with a basic golf theme (green grass looking frosting) and then simply added the quotes and the characters to the top. I added crumbled up oreos around the gopher to look like he had just come out of the ground. I cut the card shapes and then hot glued them onto clear plastic cocktail spears.

Caddyshack golf themed birthday cakes using funko pop cake toppers and card signs

There was a rather traumatic near-disaster right before the party started when I realized that the buttercream on the cake had become so runny from the 80 degree temperature in the room that the top-heavy funko pops were becoming unstable… and then the top one made a huge jump down onto the cake below and got covered in green frosting. Luckily I was able to quickly wash him off, smooth out the messed-up buttercream and replace him, and then added cocktail sticks behind each character to try to keep them in place.

Bushwood Country Club Sign #2

I wanted to have a sign outside the door of the event to set the tone for the party. I had a set of 8 square tiles with leaves on them that I had bought from Michael’s clearance sale a few years ago. These were attached together and then stapled onto a square canvas, and I added a few flowers. For the center of the sign I used glitter card that looked like marble, as if it was a stone sign peaking through a hedge outside the country club. I found an image of the country club sign from the movie and replicated the font and layout, and then cut the words using black vinyl with my cricut maker.

Backdrop for Photo Booth

For the photo booth backdrop, I wanted to embrace the 80s golf fashion and go with a plaid print. I found blue green and white plaid flannel fabric at Joann’s which perfectly matched the color scheme. Unfortunately it was only 45” wide, so I had to go through the painstaking task of lining up two lengths and stitching them together while perfectly matching the plaid patterns (which I was 85% successful doing). I then simply pinned the fabric onto a metal frame, and added a row of bunting on the diagonal to keep it a little more fun. Here is me and my husband testing it out at the party:

Table Centerpieces and Decorations

For the centerpieces, I stole an idea that I saw done quite a lot on Pinterest and created golf flags with the number “40” on them. I bought duck canvas in dark green and dark blue to use for the flags since it had the type of stiffness I was looking for so it wouldn’t sag and hide the numbers. After cutting the triangles I realized they were still not stiff enough so I sprayed them with Terial Magic to stiffen them up even more, and they also became too straight like they were card, but it was much better than being droopy. I cut out the 40s using the cricut and used adhesive backed vinyl rather than an iron-on so I could easily reuse the flags for another party in the future. I used wooden dowels that I cut a little shorter and painted them white, then glued the canvas flag onto the top using hot glue and simply wrapping them around until the wood was covered. I then mounted the flags in a metal container filled with small rocks so it could hold the flag in place. The rocks were covered with some green canvas circles and then with a layer of green moss to look a little like grass. The finishing touch was to place a golf ball on top of the moss. I loved these flags but over the few weeks before the event they started curling up so I kept having to straighten them out… and then on the day of the event (one of the hottest and most humid days of the summer), the flags became droopier and droopier until you couldn’t actually see the number 40 anymore. This was one of the big fails I had with the decor. Lesson learned.

As a little “extra” to go on top of the napkins as table decoration, I cut “Let’s Par-Tee” signs out of card with the Cricut maker. I thought it added a really nice fun touch to the tables.

Rules Sign

One of the famous signs from the movie is the sign outlining the rules. This was a last minute request and I made it the morning of. I bought a canvas board and imported an image of the sign into cricut design space so it would be the exact font. I edited it a little to fit the proportions of the canvas better and then cut the words out of black and red vinyl. We displayed it next to the photo booth area.

Caddyshack rules sign made out of canvas and vinyl for golf themed party decoration


It’s almost impossible for me to make it through party planning without making bunting to fit the color scheme… and it actually seemed to fit well with the golf theme. I cut up triangles in dark green, dark blue and white and sewed them into 5/8” gross grain ribbon in an alternating pattern. I think I ended up making 60 yards of it which was no joke to sew – I tackled the project over a few days and fit in 20 minute sewing sessions sporadically to progressively make a few more yards. I hung it on my stairway prior to the event so the flags wouldn’t get creased up. I ended up using the bunting indoors along the walls and across the dance floor and outside in the patio area and along the fence.

All in all I spent about 50 hours making decorations for this party, and I was really pleased by how everything turned out. The party itself was a blast and my husband even won first place in the putting contest they held!

Here’s me in my 80’s golf outfit:

DIY party decorations for caddyshack gold themed birthday party

Ombré flower hearts

There’s something about ombré flower decorations that I can’t resist – it’s like you’re taking something from nature and then painting with it to make a form of art. Only I cheat, and use fake flowers. 🙂

I managed to find some ranunculus bunches on sale at Michaels that were perfect for this project since a) the flowers are compact and quite even but b) there was some color variation within the bunch so that the arrangement would look more natural and allow for a more gradual ombré color fade.

The first job is to de-head the flowers.

Then you can roughly arrange them on top of the metal heart in ascending (or is it descending???) color order with the lightest at the top and the darkest at the bottom. Then you can assess whether or not you need to make a second Michaels trip in the same day to go get another two bunches like I did… 🙂

The actual process of gluing the heads onto the chicken wire base is pretty easy, although a little intensive on the hot glue gunning since it’s hard to line up the glue on the flower with the thin metal wire, so you kind of have to slather it on all over the back of the flower head hoping that 10% of it might actually land on some wire and stick there. As you start filling in the shape with flowers, it actually helps to have the flower petals stick to the neighboring flower to help keep them in place.

I tried to arrange the flowers in such a way that alternated the size of the flowers as evenly as possible, as well as graduating the color in a, er, graduated way rather than having stripes of different colors. Once the whole shape was filled in, I noticed a few gaps where I could nestle in an additional small flower head and did this until the whole heart was looking really full and lush.

The final step was to flip the heart over to give some additional hot glue gun from below, where I would put a big dollop of glue between each flower stalk and the nearest bit of metal wire for additional security.

Here is the final product:

I actually ended up making two of these to use as centerpieces for my daughters’s birthday cake table (which was “How To Train Your Dragon” themed – more to come on that!).

Make a carousel horse from a radio flyer jumpy toy horse

Tutorial on how to make white carousel horse decoration from kids jumpy toy

Carousel horses can be beautiful decorations for children’s rooms and parties, but buying one will set you back a cool grand or two. However, if you are a little crafty and up for a challenge, you can totally make one yourself – all you need is one of these plastic jumpy/rocking toys:

We were lucky as we were gifted one of these from a neighbor whose daughter had outgrown it. Ellie played on it a bit, but it was one of those things that seemed like a nicer idea than it actually was, as it took up such a huge space in her playroom, and after the initial excitement wore off, it just started gathering dust. So when a friend of mine started planning a carousel themed 1st birthday party for her adorable little girl, I was so excited to take this guy off his huge stand and refurbish him into a stunning carousel horse.

The first step was to take him apart and de-hair him. I dismantled his legs from his body, then managed to rip off his mane. Finally I cut off his tail so there was just a little nub left. Here he is prior to the hair removal process:

I recruited the assistance of my engineer husband to figure out how to mount him on a pole. I wish I could report first-hand on how that process went, but essentially I left him alone in the garage for an hour or so and when I came back it was successfully mounted. I wish you the same magical success with this step! He told me that under the horse there is a compartment for a round speaker (which played horse sounds) that he removed and then used a circle cutter (aka a large drill blade) to cut a hole in that area on the bottom and the top of the horse. He slid the pole through the hole in the horse, and then added a thick metal pin through the pole to hold the weight of the horse in that spot. And then he added copious amounts of glue at the top and the bottom openings to hold the horse tightly in place on the pole. Here is a close-up of the mounting area underneath – not pretty, but it gets the job done:

I used an umbrella base to mount the pole to get it ready for painting.

I got my horsey ready for spray painting by covering up his eyes with masking tape, as I wanted to keep the eyes the same (and I was worried if I had to paint the eyes myself, I might make them look super creepy). I gave him one layer of primer followed by two coatings of white paint. I used a satin paint and primer in one.

After the white coat had dried, I started with the accent colors. The color scheme for the party was light teal, pink and gold, so I used these colors to start painting the seat, the saddle and the reigns. I did two or three coatings of each color paint using regular acrylic craft paint.

I wanted to hide some of the ugly gap line between the body and the legs, as well as the holes where the jumpy foot stands and handle bars used to be, so I chose to hot glue silk flowers in those areas. I started with a few flowers and then just kept going to town until it felt sufficiently adorned to mask some of the lines and distract the eye from what remained.

I made the mane and the tail using white faux fur fabric which I rolled into a tube shape and tacked together. I simply glued the mane in place along the seam line with hot glue, and then I wrapped the tail around the small nub area of the former tail and glued it on. I added trim around the collar and gold rope for the reigns, and then added pearls and crystals in places for a little something extra. (Ignore the Christmas trees in some of the photos – that’s what you get for working on craft projects in December!).

White carousel horse made from children’s jumpy toy radio flyer with Christmas tree

The last step was to wind white ribbon around the pole and a pom pom at the top, and voila – the horsey was done and ready for prime time!

White carousel horse made from kids radio flyer jumpy toy white
DIY decoration white carousel horse from jumpy toy

Ellie got first dibs at trying it out in our back yard:

To make the horse “safe” to hold a child’s weight, we added heavy rocks to the umbrella base (which I had covered with silk flowers to look pretty) and clamped the pole really tightly into the base. If I was planning on using this for a bunch of kids to jump up on I would have to come up with a more stable long-term solution, but this worked just fine for a few smaller kids with adult supervision. I transported the horse over to my friend’s house for the birthday party (it just about fit in the trunk of the car with the pole sticking up all the way to the windscreen!) and they used it in the entryway for the party.

We moved it to the garden later for some adorable photos with the cutest birthday girl!

DIY carousel horse made out of plastic jumpy toy horse

I was really pleased with how this project worked out and my horsey friend is actually on display in my office now (and hopefully he gets to be reused at some point in the future). In total I probably spent around $50 bucks on this transformation, and I think it was worth every penny!

Little Monster Party Decorations

My adorable nephew Sebastian was turning 1, and I couldn’t resist offering to make some decorations for his first birthday party, which was “Little Monster” themed. I managed to whip these decorations up in 2-3 days, and really enjoyed my “alone time” with my trusty cricut machine, my hot glue gun and my sewing machine. I focused my efforts solely on styling the dessert table as that’s where I could make the biggest impact rather than spreading the decorations out throughout the location.

Here’s a preview of the final product:

Here are some of the details:

Little Monster card cut outs

These cute little guys were super easy to design as I just used existing monster Cricut images rather than designing something myself. I picked my four favorite monsters and made them in a variety of sizes, varying the colors between blue, green, yellow and orange. Half way through I realized that they would look even cooler with googly eyes, so I started adding them in, but ran out of energy to replace every single one. The smallest cut outs worked really well as cupcake toppers, and I also attached some of them in a line along kitchen rolls to look like a little monster tower.

Continue reading “Little Monster Party Decorations”

Game of Thrones Premier Party

The premier of Season 8 of Game of Thrones felt a little like my birthday – after months of anticipation, the day finally arrived, we had an awesome group of friends over to celebrate, there were decorations, a lot of wine and a huge cake… and a few too many candles. My previous blog post outlined all the decorations I hand made for the party, but I just wanted to share some of the details of the actual dinner party.

The Cake

The most important part of any celebration, right? This was a custom order at Lazy Acres, a local grocery store where they have an awesome bakery. Only the baker I was working with had never seen Game of Thrones and therefore was utterly confused when I was trying to explain what I wanted the cake to look like (“you really want it blood colored?”). I was really thrilled with how it turned out – it’s a chocolate cake underneath the white icing and it tasted delicious.

The food

I stole a lot of ideas from Pinterest for Game of Thrones inspired food (e.g. Sansalsa) but came up with a couple myself (Brie of Tarth being my favorite). I printed out name cards for the food using a GOT font. I was really pleased with myself for being so witty and then realized the next day that I had a typo on one of them, so the Army of the Unsullied for the Amy of the Unsullied, which makes no sense as the Unsullied don’t really to get to have an Amy, given their lack of relevant body parts. Also the “Theon Greyjoy Special” was funnier and less gross in my head than when actually seeing it on the plate. Anyway, here is some of what I came up with (I also had some Dorne Drumsticks to go with the Medieval feast idea, plus Reagarlic bread, Podrick potatoes etc.):

The Table Setting

I attached my house sigil banners to the window by the dining table. The centerpiece was made out of a sword and an axe. (Everyone has those kind of things lying around their house, right? The axe was my mother-in-law’s that we inherited, and the sword we 3D printed). I added touches of red with the napkins and the roses and used medieval-style wine globlets.

Little Extras

I cut out this sign for my bathroom using my Cricut and removable black vinyl. I definitely got a chuckle out of my guests. I haven’t taken it down yet as I still get a kick out of it, and it actually serves a purpose!

The final table set-up

I was so pleased with how the final table looked, particularly later at night when it was lit just by candlelight. I was so sad to dismantle it all… but I’m thinking it might be worth redoing in a couple weeks for the finale!

DIY Game of Thrones Decorations

I’m so excited about the upcoming finale season of Game of Thrones and plan on throwing a few parties (definitely for the premiere and final episodes but maybe it’s a good excuse for six consecutive Sunday gatherings!). This past week I made a number of decorations and over the weekend I did a dry run of my table for the party (because that’s entirely normal to dry run a party table set-up, right????). Anyway, here are the details on some of the decorations I hand made:

Iron Throne

This item I actually made last year and annoyingly didn’t take any photos of the process. In short, I took one of those cheap wooden Adirondack chairs that you can buy at craft stores to use as my base, then I added air-drying clay around the chair to make a solid base. I found a small round foam base to put the chair on. Then I picked up a packet of plastic cocktail spears to use as the swords to cover the throne with. I used a hot glue gun to glue the spears on around the throne (some have to be cut shorter to fit on the desired area, and others have to be poked into the foam base). Finally I painted the entire thing with gunmetal colored craft paint, and added some small touches of light silver in places to make it catch the light and have more dimension and aged look. For the party I plan to use it as a cake topper. For the dry run I put it on top of a small red velvet cake but for the real party I will have a local baker make me a large cake with red drip icing to look like blood dripping down from the throne. Dark.

Dragon eggs

See this earlier post for details on how I made them using foam and metal thumb tacks.

Joffrey Baratheon’s Crown

While this is technically hand made, I 3-D printed it, so a lot of the credit needs to go to the designer (you can find the pattern at It printed in 4 quarters, which I glued together with a clever clamping method (credit to my husband for that). Once it was sanded, I gave it a spray paint with a couple coatings of gold metallic paint, following by a light dusting of champagne gold paint to give it some dimension. I finished it off by sticking on 4 “jewels”.

House Sigil Banners (of the small card/vinyl variety)

I made these using my handy dandy cricut cutting machine. I researched the different house signs and picked ones that either worked with the current plot (Starks vs. Lannisters vs. Targaryans) or ones frankly that fit the color scheme despite not being quite so central to the story right now (Greyjoy, Baratheon and Tyrell). You can purchase SVG cutting files of all the house sigils on sites like Etsy for a few dollars but I was feeling cheap and also wanted the satisfaction of entirely self-serving, so I just googled around to find free clipart to import into Cricut Design Space. I cut out the banners with medium card stock in the house colors (more of less!) and then cut out the sigil shapes with vinyl so I could simply stick them onto the card without having to mess around with glue. To finish up, I decided on the best order to spread out the bright and dark colored banners, and thread them all onto ribbon. I hung the banners on the top of my backdrop and also on the front of the table (pinning them to the tablecloth).

House Sigil Banners (of the large fabric variety)

These banners were made using the same SVG cutting files for the Targayren, Stark and Lannister sigil shapes. I cut them out using the Cricut onto metallic iron-on heat transfer vinyl. I bought half a yard of fabric for each of the banners, which I made 15 inches wide and 30 something inches long, with a 45 degree V shape at the bottom. I cut it in double and sewed them together inside out so when turned the right way around they would form a nice sewn folded edge. I kept a 2″ ish opening at the top to be able to insert a small wooden rod through the top to hang them from. I ironed on the designs, and then finished up by adding gold and/or black/and or red tassel trim to the bottom and top.

Weirwood Tree

This tree was a bit of a hack rather than starting from scratch. I had an existing tree trunk with branches that was a Halloween decoration. I noticed how similar it looked to the Weirwood trees that have the faces in them, so I figured I could reuse it (my original plan was to cut down some actual tree branches to use, so this saved a big chunk of time!). Weirwood trees have red leaves with 5 points on them, so I found clipart of a sycamore leaf that I imported into cricut. I cut out a bunch of leaves in 3 varying sizes to give it a more realistic look, and then simply hot glued them on using different angles. I finished by adding some moss to the bottom trunk/root area and sticking it on a wood base. I think this guy looks really cute.

Night King of the White Walkers

Again, this one was a 3D print so credit goes to the designer and the file is here.Once it was printed, I simply and sanded it and painted using craft paint. The eyes were tricky and I don’t think I really nailed them, but it was the best I could do. The armor I was quite happy with – I used a gunmetal base and then added some light silver metallic paint randomly across it to look more like the real thing. I stuck it on a wooden base and hey presto.

House Sigil Signs (of the wooden variety)

More 3D printing, this time of the house sigils for Stark, Lannister and Targaryen. They were pretty quick and easy paint jobs – for the Stark sign I reused my metallic gunmetal and silver combo trick to give it that aged, worn look. I wanted to add them to wood, so I picked up some cheap wooden plaques at Michael’s and Joann’s, but didn’t want it to look too new. So I researched how to “age” or “weather” wood and came across this amazing and unbelievably simple trick. You simply take some steel wool (the finer the better) and add some vinegar to it in a small pot. Keep it stewing for an hour or two and the liquid starts looking a little murky. Brush this onto your wood thickly and in the beginning it looks like not much is happening. Give it 10 minutes and it’s like some miraculous transformation – it darkens and has this cool old looking variation of color.

Hand of the King Pins

I found the pattern online and printed up a handful of hand of the king pins to give away as prizes at my premier party. I painted them gold, added brown antiquing wax to age it, and then simply hot glue gunned a safety pin on the back. I also added one to a wooden plaque to use as a decoration for the table.

Dragonstone statue

This is a bit random, but I found a cool 3D print pattern for the stone statues at the gates of Dragonstone. After printing it, I used a chalk gray paint to look like stone, and then sponged on a lighter gray chalk paint to give it more realistic dimension and that aged stone look.

Medieval Looking Goblets and Tankards

This was a really quick, easy and cheap way to add suitable decor to the table. I took a visit to the local Dollar store to pick up half a dozen or so dollar glasses (select the Middle Age-styles ones – large goblets and tankards are great). Then get some spray paint. I used two different techniques. The easiest one is to spray paint the outside of the glass using champagne gold and then add a little silver in a fine mist over the champagne to make it look like that slightly aged metal. The other technique is a little more involved but I think it looks cooler/more realistic and has less of that slight giveaway spray painted look. Buy some “looking glass” silver metallic spray paint. Spray it on the INSIDE of the glass, wait a minute or so, and you’ll start getting a mirrored metallic effect and then lightly spray a little vinegar on top of the paint, which etches it so it creates a realistic hole in the metallic reflection. If you want, when the looking glass paint is dry, you can add a layer of champagne gold spray paint over the top of it on the inside of the glass so that it is a matte gold that shows through in the areas where the silver was etched away. This technique looks very realistically like mercury glass. With either technique you can add then finish up the drinkware by adding “jewels” in various patterns. I actually used double sided tape to add them as I wanted to be able to easily remove them if I wanted to reuse the glasses for other events without the jeweled effect.

Finishing Touches

To add a little extra to my table, I included the following:

  • Coins – these were a mixture of pretend plastic money, along with real silver dollars and other old coins that my husband had in his collection. I mixed them up pretty well so there’s going to be a very tedious separating process to go through someday! I added some “jewels” to the coins too.
  • Flowers – I used silk flowers in my color combo of red, burgundy, grey and yellow.
  • Candles – I used some great old-looking candlesticks, as well as some small candles that I had used the mercury glass spray paint technique on.
  • Dishes – I used a combo of gold and champagne gold plates, many of which were actually plastic from Michaels. I also used some cake stands to add variation in height.
  • Food – while this will be more of the focus for my actual party, for this dry run I did a quick brainstorm on what food would look like a medieval banquet and came up with bread, cheese, meat and fruit. After I took photos we had a friend over and we had a nice feast 🙂
  • Bottles – I found some colored glass bottles at the dollar store that had that old look so I picked up a few. I also added in some other old looking clear glass bottles that I had kicking around the house waiting to be useful.
  • Plastic skull – a Halloween decoration that I already had.
  • Backdrop – I found a cheap vinyl backdrop on Amazon that looks like old stone that you’d find in a Medieval castle. It wasn’t wide enough (only 5 foot) so I added red curtains to either side to look regal. I hung them from a photographer’s backdrop frame.

Hope this serves as some inspiration for your own Game of Thrones parties!

DIY Game of Thrones Dragon Eggs

I used to be one of those smug people who could claim “Oh, I’ve never actually seen a single episode of Game of Thrones” as if somehow there was some superiority that came along with not being sucked into such a popular show. I honestly couldn’t care less about whether Jon Snow was alive or dead or back to life again. Then one of my husband’s friends convinced us to at least give one episode a try… and the rest of our summer of 2017 was history as we binge watched 67 episodes over a few weeks (yes, that’s 67 hours we had to fit in between our jobs, parenting a 4 year old and occasionally sleeping!). We went on vacation in the middle of our binge and to our delight our daughter decided she wanted to spend hours on end at the kids club – so instead of grabbing a cocktail and chilling by the pool like normal parents who suddenly are granted some freedom, we would just go back to our room and stare at our laptop for hours on end.

Anyway, needless to say I am now a huge Game of Thrones fan, bordering on nerd who reads too many fan theory articles about what may happen in the final season.

The cool thing about Game of Thrones is that there is a lot of inspiration for craft projects. Last year we hosted a small season finale party and I made an Iron Throne as well as one dragon egg. This year I plan on throwing more parties to enjoy the final season with other GOT-nerd friends, so I decided to go whole hog on some more decorations, including making two more eggs to get the full set.

Making dragon eggs is actually ridiculously easy, if not tedious. The worst part about it is driving back to the craft store for a second, then third, then fourth time, when you realize yet again you still don’t have enough push pins/thumb tacks (AKA drawing pins for my fellow Brits).

Supplies are pretty simple:

  • Craft foam egg
  • Metal push pins – I estimate you will need about 600 (!!!) for each egg if your foam egg is the same size as mine
  • Craft paint
  • Natural sea sponge

I found it easiest to start at the bottom of the egg, and you simply push the pins into the foam, overlapping each slightly as you move from the left to the right. I basically went around the egg in circles, overlapping each layer slightly as well so you never see a whole pin exposed. (Like me, you may have grand plans of following a lovely clean spiral all the way up the egg but that likely won’t work out. It will be a bit of a hodge podge, but that’s ok – a little randomness in the lines of pins and the degree of overlap actually makes it look a little more natural.)

Once all the pins are in, I recommend coating in a thick layer of mod podge. This helps keep the pins in place – which will be particularly helpful when you paint them, as the last thing you want is for the pins to spin around in place after your finished and start exposing areas that were not painted.

After that’s dry, it’s time to paint. An ombre effect looks the most realistic like the eggs from the show (and also pretty cool) so I found it easiest to find three-to-four different colors ranging from dark to light and paint them on thickly in rough bands on the top, middle and bottom of the egg. Then you can grab a little bit of the sea sponge and use the lighter/darker shades to create a stipple effect on the other areas. This helps blend the colors together as well as giving it a more natural egg effect. I used a metallic or pearl finish paint for at least one of the colors on each of the eggs to help catch the light and give it some more dimension.

I used a coffee mug to hold the egg upright (and then once it was dry I’d flip it over to the do the other side). I’d keep the paint from drying out by covering the paper plate I was using to mix colors with some cling wrap.

Using a mug to hold the egg in place

And that’s about it. This is about as easy as craft projects get – the only tricky thing is mastering the ombre effect and not obsessing over it and doing 7 different coats like I did. Entirely unnecessary. To display the eggs and keep them stable I rested them on upside-down juice bottle lids, and then ultimately for the party I plan to nestle them among straw.

Warning – The only problem you may encounter is that if you have a child in the age range that still believes in Santa, that they will also likely believe there is a real baby dragon inside each of the eggs. Ellie was so excited when she saw my first egg from 18 months ago and has talked about “her dragon” ever since on a surprisingly regular basis. She made a cozy for it to keep it warm, checks on it frequently and shows it off to her friends when we have play dates. Apparently when it hatches she is going to have it fly her to school every day. So when I made the two new eggs, I worked on them when she wasn’t at home so I wouldn’t spoil her fantasy… and when she saw the two new additions she was super excited that now there will be a dragon for each of us so we can go out riding together as a family. Ahhh, to be a kid again and to get so excited about silly dragon fantasy stories… 😉

DIY 7 Foot Tall Christmas Nutcracker

Haven’t you always wanted a 7 foot tall nutcracker to grace your entryway at Christmas? No? Well, I can’t say I had either. But sometimes you just get sucked into the rabbit hole that is Pinterest and you see something that another crazy crafter has made and you either think – “wow, that’s cool, I wish I could make that, but that’s clearly a Pinterest-fail waiting to happen”, or – “hmm, I could totally do that and probably do a better job” (yeah, I’m often a little overconfident). In this case it was the latter reaction that inspired me to go over to Home Depot, spend more money than I should on a bunch of air conditioning ducts and other random crap and then spray paint and duct tape my way to something that I could show off.

So this was my inspiration Pin:


(Credit to…although there are no instructions there beyond the image on the left, so I would be figuring out on my own as I went.)

Home Depot is always a pain in the arse but particularly when you are trying to find piping the length of limbs and ducting that might look like a neck and then arranging hypothetical body parts together in the middle of the plumbing aisle. After I gathered my bits and bobs, I headed to the dollar store to get a cheap trash can for the helmet and some plastic containers for the feet. Then on to Michaels for the polystyrene balls for the hands and two half polystyrene spheres for the head (as I didn’t like the rubber ball idea per the inspiration photo). Then I topped it off with a trip to the fabric store to get the fluff and trim etc.

At which point I realized I had spent a whole morning gathering a bunch of crap that had now cost me almost $100 and that I hadn’t even started making the damn thing yet.

Anyway, here was my collection of stuff pre-spray painting:


I primed everything as I didn’t want the paint to easily chip off.


After the primer dried, I spray painted all the different body parts the appropriate colors (I picked a theme of red and black) until my fingers were aching and stuck in spraying position. And at this point I was fed up with the whole flipping project and stopped taking photos.

(Ahhh yes, that low point in a project when you realize it was a terrible idea and you now have a bunch of crap lying around your yard that your husband is going to bitch about. And then bitch about it some more when he realizes you spent $100 on it.)

After the spray paint dried and I had assembled everything back together in the house, my spirits were lifted. Until, that is, I realized I had no idea how to actually connect the arms to the body – all the other stuff was just stacked and held in place by gravity, but I had to figure out how to connect PVC piping to either size of a bucket. (Executional logistics are always my downfall.)  What’s great is that the hubby is a mechanical engineer. Yay! But what’s not great is that he usually has very little interest or motivation to help get me out of these silly situations I find myself in and there is usually lots of eye rolling and huffing involved. Grrrr.

After the hubby conceded (happy wife, happy life, right???), he started working his magic, quickly assembling the needed tools and bolting on the right arm and then the left. Only we were not sure what went wrong with the left, as we quickly realized he had somehow tightened his wrench into the nutcracker’s armpit. There wasn’t any wriggle room to release the wrench, and taking it apart and starting over wasn’t a possibility without a whole bunch of rework. So our dear nutcracker to this day has an armpit accoutrement, like he grew some strange shiny armpit hair. But at least his arms look cool – they are bolted on tightly enough to have them tilted forward rather than just dangling lifelessly.

Once that part was over, I started figuring out the decorating plan, which is always the most fun bit.

I wish I had taken photos of the whole process (but alas, at that point I didn’t have an inkling that one day I would want to try to share this project with the world), but I went to town with metallic and black tape, silver trim, and crystals that were hot glue gunned on. I attached a polystyrene nose that I had scalped into shape, and painted features on the face, and lastly stuck on fluffy white fabric for the hair/beard.

And hey presto, this guy was born:


Here are some closer-up shots of his face:


And here is a near-finished version with my (then 4 year old) daughter for scale.


I was rather pleased with myself and FaceTimed my parents in England to show him off. My Mum of course suggested that we had to name him, and my Dad came up with the name Nikolai. So Nikolai it is.

He has lived in our entryway for three Christmas’s now, and he is always a great conversation starter. And I will admit I get a bit of a kick out of seeing similarly sized nutcrackers selling at stores for $800 or more. These ones don’t even have special metallic armpit hair.

As much as I love Nikolai, he has three inherent problems:

  1. He is a bit unsteady. I couldn’t be arsed to glue all his pieces together, so they are literally just balancing on top of one another. Which means when you host a Christmas party with any number of children who are all cracked out on candy canes, they will inevitably knock into him and there will be limbs and his head rolling all over the floor.
  2. He’s a bit unkempt by this point. For some reason the primer didn’t do much on two of the pieces (the helmet and shoes). By the second Christmas, they were both all beat up and flaking and showing through their former colors, and by the third Christmas, the crystals and chains have mostly fallen off. (Weirdly those were the two things I got from the dollar store – wonder if their cheap plastic has magical primer-resistant properties?)
  3. He’s big. Which means for the 11/12ths of the year when you couldn’t give two hoots about him, he has to be taking up space living somewhere. Which for us means his body parts are distributed on top of a garage cabinet, with his disembodied face staring out at us every time we go to the car.

Anyway, I’m hoping to get a few more years of use out of something I certainly never thought I would want, but that I have a certain affection for. Long live Nikolai!