My Halloween radar recently went off when I came across this great idea and I just had to share it with you all. Cheryl over at That’s What Che Said had the fantastic idea of buying soap, removing the label, and decorating it yourself. She tells you the how to at the link above. I ended up making some out of soap and some out of sanitizer bottles. Word to the wise, before you buy the soap/sanitizer, test the corner of the label and see how easy it is to get off. The soap and sanitizer at the dollar store was MUCH easier to get the label off of than the name brands. Guess they use cheaper glue.
Anyways, here are the ones we made for my daughter’s teachers. I took our idea a little further by printing out Halloween labels, cutting them out with my 2-inch circle craft punch, and tying it on with raffia. The beauty of this idea is that you can do it for ANY holiday or occasion. All you need are the soap/sanitizer bottles and stickers. What teacher doesn’t need sanitizer in the classroom?! Happy crafting everyone!
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit a fantastic museum. Before I delve into what was there, let me tell you a bit about my background. I love anatomy and physiology. When I was a child, I wanted to be a veterinarian. As a college student, I had a cadaver lab and numerous classes on both subjects. Innards get my blood pumping so to speak.
To make a long story short, we were headed to Oklahoma City, OK, for the weekend (Boomer Sooner!) and stopped off at the Museum of Osteology. The museum bills itself as the only one of its kind in the United States. For those of you with no medical background, osteology is the scientific study of bones and this museum is chock full of them. When you walk in the lobby, you are greeted by whale skulls that reach almost to the ceiling. There is also a diorama of a lion and eland, in skeletal form, fighting it out. In the corner, there is a small terrarium full of beetles that are <ahem> cleaning the skulls. When we were there there was a beaver and coyote skull inside.
Once inside there are over 300 skeletons, which have been lovingly collected and cleaned, on display. The biggest skeleton, the humpback whale hanging from the ceiling, is 40 ft. long and weighs almost 2,500 lbs. The oldest skeleton at the museum is a Javan rhino that was harvested in China in 1880 and rediscovered in a shop in Paris, France. The weirdest skeletons though have to be the two headed calves. Among other things, I learned that birds have a ring of bone around their eyes called a sclerotic ossicle, that some parrots skulls are colored red, and that elephants have no knee caps on their front legs. The collection also includes numerous birds, mammals, and reptiles as well as some human skeletons and skulls, including one with a bullet hole. It is a fascinating lesson in comparative anatomy with the wide variety of creatures on display. If the skeletons themselves weren’t interesting enough, there is an information scavenger hunt for the kids as well as Explorer’s Corner upstairs with mystery animals. One of the best parts of the museum though is that it is very kid friendly: they can touch all of the displays. Our favorite parts of the museum were: armadillo, platypus, owls, giraffe, two headed calf, and the open space for the 16 month old to run in.
The other side of the museum, and the part of the business that provides the funding, is Skulls Unlimited. They are the world’s leading supplier of ethically and legally obtained skeletal specimens that are then sold to museums, educational facilities, or even collectors. This was the original reason we were heading here: my husband was dropping off a pronghorn skull to be cleaned. Skulls Unlimited is in the stinky business of taking bones, cleaning them and preserve them. It is such a stinky and gross job that they were featured on Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe. Let me tell you, if you are dropping off a specimen to be cleaned, be prepared to shower afterwards. Thankfully the museum is in a completely separate building and you don’t smell a thing.
If you find yourself visiting the Sooner State, the museum is located at 10301 S. Sunnylane Rd., Oklahoma City, OK 73160. Admission is only $5 and well worth it.
I love planning my kid’s birthday parties. It gives me an outlet for my creativity and I can be as crazy with paper, glue, and cardboard as I want. My daughter and I pick a theme several months in advance so we have plenty of time to make things together. It is great mother-daughter bonding time and we get to share our love of crafting.
This year, however, Geekette had to share her party with her new brother, who would be having his first birthday at the same time as hers. (They are 6 years and 6 days apart. No idea how that happened.) So the theme this year needed to be gender neutral, i.e. no princess party. Thankfully, Geekette saw the Star Wars movies last summer and had been waiting eleven months to have a Star Wars party. Her one stipulation: it had to be things from the original movies, IV through VI. Once I started doing my research for decorations I came to a sad conclusion: there were very few decorations out there that go with the original trilogy. In fact, I ended up having to make everything. So, if you are planning a Star Wars party and want to stick with the original movies, here are some ideas:
Cupcake liners and picks: These liners set our party’s color scheme. Given that there is a lot of black and white in the movies, these gave us some color ideas. So we went with red/blue/and silver/black. See the review by fellow GeekMom Patricia. I do have to agree with her that $12 is a bit steep for what you get AND when you bake dark colored cupcakes, the designs basically disappear. We did red velvet in the red cupcake liner and Chewbacca was practically invisible. I got my liners for Christmas, though, so I can’t complain too much. If you’re handy with Photoshop or other software, you could probably make your own using pictures and toothpicks.
Wookiee Cake: Since it was my son’s first birthday, I wanted him to have his own cake. It was going to be a Wookiee cake so I made a practice one that you can see here . For his official birthday cake, I baked a small 6″ cake, made the Wookiee out of modeling chocolate, being careful to thoroughly dust the counter with cocoa powder which kept it from sticking, and then went a little crazy trying to make his belt. For his ammo belt, I made some marshmallow fondant and colored it black and gray. To get the gray a bit shiny, I brushed some silver pearl dust on it. This was my first time using fondant too, and while it was easy to make, I think I got mine too dry as it kept cracking.
Star Wars Cookies: Since I love to bake, these were a no-brainer and so much fun! I also did some that I glazed in white and then drew characters on.
Birthday banner: Continuing with our color theme, I used a large vinegar bottle and a round lid from another bottle for templates and cut out 26 red and blue circles from card stock in two sizes. We used some acrylic sparkle paint to lightly decorate the dark blue. I got a fantastic Star Wars font, printed out the letters and then cut them out. We used scrapbooking adhesive to hold the circles together, punched holes in the top, and threaded some black ribbon through. I also learned how to install a font. Woot!
Fireplace cover: I like the idea of those scene setters you can buy, but they are so expensive. So I made my own, smallish one to cover our fireplace and give a nice backdrop for pics. This was so easy to do! I got a silver plastic tablecloth, found silhouette pictures of an x-wing, tie fighter, and the millenium falcon, printed them out, cut them out with an x-acto knife and rubber cemented them to the tablecloth. Then I hung it on the mantel. The hardest part of this decoration was the detailing on the x-wing.
Personalized Door Signs: This was one of the tchotchkes that the kids got to take home. I found some Star Wars stickers at Hobby Lobby that were the old school characters. Using the same font as I did for the birthday banner, I printed out each guest’s name in Star Wars letters. I then glued their name to some see-through vellum with silver stars on it and glued that to another piece of card stock. I then put the stickers on the paper and used a paint pen and stencils to put silver stars all over.
Picture Backdrop: Yet another use for those plastic tablecloths. This time, I measured one to fit the size of my wall over the kitchen table. Once I had the size, I found various pictures of the characters online, printed them out and glued them to the tablecloth with rubber cement. I added the stickers I had leftover from the name plaques and the left over ship silhouettes. It looked fantastic with our cupcake display and gave us a great backdrop for pictures.
Cupcake Display: A long time ago, in a city far, far away I went to a Big Lots and got several deeply-discounted Martha Stewart cardboard cupcake displays. They were meant for the fourth of July, but I adapted them to a different revolution. Instead of the patriotic ribbon, I got some silver ribbon and used the included double stick tape to adhere it to the edges of the cupcake board. Voila! Instant theme appropriate cupcake display. My son got some darling Star Wars bath toys so we put the yoda on the top.
Kitchen Breakfast Bar: I ended up layering a red streamer and a blue streamer on the edge with scotch tape and then used the leftover pictures and ship silhouettes from the other decorations to give it a little pop.
Front Door: I printed off several of the vintage Star Wars masks and hung those on the door as well as the kid’s name signs that I talked about earlier. I drew eyes on Princess Leia so she wouldn’t look like a zombie, but most of them you could fill in the eye holes with black.
Vintage Star Wars toys: Apparently the Force was with me because a few weeks before the party my father-in-law came across a box full of old Star Wars toys that belonged to my husband and his brother. I spent several hours cleaning and regluing the decals with rubber cement. I used fishing line to hang some ships from our light fixtures. and added a few of the new action figures too. Then I arranged them on our buffet chronologically starting from Star Wars through the Return of the Jedi. The other parents launched into stories of their toys and what they had too and were just as excited as we were at finding them.
Wanted Posters: These I just printed and hung on the walls around the room.
Death Star Pinata: My daughter has wanted a pinata the last couple of years so I thought this would fit perfectly!
One last thing I made for the kids to take home were very basic Jedi robes. I found some cheap brown cotton fabric and using my daughter as a guide, cut it into a poncho shape. Basically, I draped it over her and cut a V where her head could come through. I know, I am a sewing goddess. Then I used jute string to tie at the waist. Super easy and very cute!
The party was a huge hit with the kids and they had a ball beating fighting each other (outside) with the lightsabers than expected. I probably could have just not planned any other activities. Here are the links to the games and other things I made for the party. Enjoy!
Star Wars bowling pins: These were fun to make and the kids really enjoyed them. I used a Clone Wars ball I got at Target for the bowling ball and beans in them to help make them more stable.
We have been busy at our house preparing for the galactic event that is our kid’s birthdays. Geekette will be turning 7 and little bro will be hitting the big one, all within 6 days of each other. How we did that I will never know, but my mom and her dad were born on the same day and my husband and his dad were born a day apart. Must be genetic. At any rate, as our theme is the original Star Wars movies, I have had to make pretty much every decoration we have. This year, big sis decided she wanted a pinata. I found several good pictures of death star pinatas on the web so I set to work.
Things you need to make a planet destroying space station:
I purchased a soccer ball pinata at a local craft store. It was covered in this weird tissue paper that was fluffed out so I proceeded to tear that all off. The death star is definitely NOT fluffy. Once it was pretty much denuded of tissue paper, I filled it with candy left over from Halloween. This step is very important. In my zeal to get the thing painted I nearly forgot to put the goodies in it. That would have been an epic fail.
Once the candy was inside, I pulled the area closed as best I could, put masking tape over the hole and spray painted it with a flat gray spray paint. Another important step, be sure you are standing up wind while spray painting. I let that dry for a couple of hours and then, using my illustration as a guide, I attacked it with a black sharpie. I had thought about using a paintbrush, but my hand is just not that steady and I was worried I would screw up the details. Which I would have. Remember, it doesn’t have to look perfect because it will ultimately be destroyed thus saving the galaxy. Unfortunately it is too late for Alderaan.
On one of our trips to the library last summer my daughter was pulling books off the shelf willy nilly and asking to take each and every one home. She loves to read and in her mind there was no reason that she couldn’t read all those books. I limited her to 10 books because that was how many I could keep up with and not lose. There is a notorious story in our family from when I was a child about a library book being lost for seven years. Yes, you read that right. At least we did find it and return it. Eventually.
While she was carefully choosing her books from the pile, the title of one caught my eye. The Princess Knight by Cornelia Funke. We aren’t princess freaks, but she does like to dress up and pretend play, so I thought a princess book with that title would probably have some redeeming qualities other than needing to be rescued by someone else. I thumbed through it quickly and added it to her stash. Thus she got to check out 11 books because one was for mommy.
The author introduces us to Violetta, who is the youngest child and only girl. Her mother dies in childbirth, which unfortunately happens a lot in these stories, and her father is left to raise her alone. Or at least with the help of a nursemaid. Since the King doesn’t know what to do with a girl, he decides to teach her the same lessons he taught his three older boys: jousting, fighting, and how to give orders. While she is encouraged to try typical female pursuits of the time such as needlepoint, she is also allowed to be trained in combat like her brothers. Her brothers tease her mercilessly, and Violetta is so small in stature it is difficult for her to keep up with them. Her nursemaid tells her that while she may not be as strong, she is much smarter than the boys. Through Violetta’s persistence and sneakiness, she trains in secret at night until she is able to keep up with the boys easily. When she turns sixteen, a tournament is held for those seeking her hand in marriage. Not to ruin the ending but Violetta is less than pleased with this turn of events and ends up taking matters into her own hands.
The illustrator for this book, Kerstin Meyer, took inspiration from the Bayeux Tapestry when illustrating this story, which makes for a nice historical teaching moment. While some of the views in this book are more to the time period of the story, such as when her nursemaid tells her to stop learning “silly fighting” and learn something useful such as embroidery or weaving, this is a small part of the story and was also an interesting teaching moment for my daughter. She didn’t get how those things were useful — and certainly didn’t understand why Violetta wouldn’t want to do what the boys were doing. The story does a good job balancing the typical woman’s plight during the medieval era with a modern day sense of women taking care of themselves. Violetta is a fabulous self rescuing princess that extols the virtues of courage, independence, and persistence. My daughter loved this book and so did I.
In typical GeekMom fashion when someone in the family gets sick, I hit my favorite medical sites to diagnose their illness. Sometimes this helps us avoid an expensive trip to the doctor and other times it causes us to make an appointment. Since I am a bit of a hypochondriac and have just enough medical knowledge to be dangerous, I usually jump to the worst possible disease that even remotely matches the given symptoms.
Our now five month old son was something of a puzzle initially. He was terribly fussy, wanting to nurse all the time, and wouldn’t sleep. So I hit the internet to see what I could find. I came across a diagnosis called silent reflux. Our son had every symptom they listed. So, with information in hand and a small sense of dread, we made an appointment with his pediatrician. There have been other times when, armed with my internet diagnosis, the pediatrician has dismissed my claims. We have since changed doctors and I was pleasantly surprised after I presented my case that our new pediatrician agreed with me. Our little man was given an antacid prescription and has been a much happier baby ever since.
Given that anyone can post anything and call it fact on the internet, I typically stick with these sites when attempting a diagnosis or researching an illness:
KidsHealth: this site has tons of info, but what I like best is that there are articles geared towards the different audiences of kids, teens, and parents. You could even let your geekling help diagnose a sibling… not that I would do that, but I’m just saying.
Kellymom: this site has a wealth of information on breastfeeding, parenting, and various illnesses. This is the place where I first heard the term silent reflux.
So when someone in your house comes down with a mysterious ailment, do your research and present it to the doctor. The worst that can happen is getting a note in your chart that reads something like “Warning: this patient is a cyberchondriac and slightly off their rocker”. The best that can happen is that they agree with you and you have helped your family member get diagnosed and treated more quickly. I would take the note in my chart any day.
I am a Halloween Geek. It is my favorite holiday, hands down. When my daughter turned three, I decided I would throw an annual Halloween party for me… er, I mean her. Each year we pick a theme and go crazy with it. This summer, our eldest watched the three original Star Wars movies. Being the daughter of a GeekMom and a GeekDad, she was instantly in love with all things Star Wars. When asked what she wanted her theme to be for Halloween, she threw it down. A Star Wars Halloween Party.
Not one to shy from a challenge, I told her I would shop around and see what I could come up with. I warned her though, that the characters she loved would be hard to find as most party supplies available are Clone Wars related. Here is what I came up with:
The key to successful Star Wars snacks giving them creative names. For example, a bone-in ham becomes roast leg of Bantha. Womp rat casserole is really a potato casserole with chunks of chicken. Here are a few other examples of re-named cuisine with a Star Wars twist:
Sarlac Belly Beans: baked beans
Tauntaun entrails with blood sauce: spaghetti and meatballs
Leia’s garlic buns: use the garlic bread sticks you can get at the store and roll them into a spiral.
You get the idea. There are literally tons of pictures and ideas on the web.
Decorating for your festivities requires a little more time. Here are some ideas to get you going:
Monster Mash Ups. I just got mine at Target. These are the coolest and would look amazing on your food table.
Carve pumpkins with Star Wars images. You can find patterns on the web.
This one will only work if it is still daylight out side or if you have a light outside the window. Get a black table cloth, poke holes in it, and cover a window: voila, space! Print out images of the Death Star, Millennium Falcon, X Wings, and Tie Fighters and affix them. Or if you have some laying around the house, hang them with fishing line.
Make your own Death Star pinata. If you can find Star Wars plates, more power to you. If not, use black plates with red and/or green plastic ware. Or you can do a Jedi table and a Sith table with corresponding color choices
Light saber battles: To make your own cheap light sabers, take the tube inside of wrapping paper. Tape off the bottom quarter to make the handle and spray paint the rest red or green depending on your allegiance. Paint the bottom black. The Jedi whose light saber survives the battle the most intact is the winner. Depending on the age of the party goers, you could have them decorate their own light saber. If you want to make one that is a little more involved, say for a costume, check this out.
Pass the Death Star: Make a Death Star out of a large Styrofoam ball, silver spray paint, and a black sharpie. Play Star Wars music and have the kids pass the Death Star around. When the music stops, whoever is holding the Death Star gets “blown” out of the circle. The game continues until one person remains.
Meteor Shower: Get some brown balloons. Put a small toy/prize inside. Blow them up, tie them off, and add fishing line. Hang them at different heights around the room. The person who can make it through the meteors without bumping one wins the game. At the end, have the kids destroy the meteors and get the prizes inside.
Star Wars Bocce Ball or Destroy the Death Star: Paint a pumpkin to look like the Death Star. Be as accurate as you want. Get several of the small pumpkins (enough that each guest can take one home) and paint or tape an X Wing shape on it. Each child gets a turn to fly (roll) their X Wing and blow up the Death Star. The child who gets the closest to the Death Star wins. Make sure the kids are far enough back that it is not too easy.
A more intricate way to play Destroy the Death Star: Use a piece of plywood and draw a Death Star on it. Before painting it, put a small hole big enough for a bean bag. Decorate the Death Star. Have the kids take turns trying to “shoot” a bean bag through the “thermal exhaust port”.
Hopefully these ideas have helped get those creative geek juices flowing! Check out the Star Wars Halloween Round Up for more ideas to celebrate this most wonderful time of the year.