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.

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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!

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:

nutcracker

(Credit to https://pin.it/nmchkypdede4tp…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:

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

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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:

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Here are some closer-up shots of his face:

IMG_8888
IMG_8892

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

IMG_0033

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!

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:

nutcracker

(Credit to https://pin.it/nmchkypdede4tp…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:

IMG_9609

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

IMG_9610

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:

IMG_0161

Here are some closer-up shots of his face:

IMG_8888
IMG_8892

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

IMG_0033

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!