On my recent family vacation to Walt Disney World, the park was beginning to get ready for the holiday season and decorations were everywhere you looked. I spotted some amazing wreaths, so once I got home I wanted to try to make one of my own. My wreath cost me under £5/$8 to create and looks beautiful hanging on my front door.
You will need:
Three flat-backed Styrofoam rings, one larger than the others. Mine measured 8″ across for the large and 4.5″ for each of the smaller ones.
Dark green paint (optional)
Green felt (I used about four 8″x11″ sheets)
Handful of red buttons
You will also need a hot glue gun or other strong adhesive.
Position the three rings into a classic Mickey Mouse shape. I used a cutting board with guidelines to help place both small rings at the same height. Then use a hot glue gun to stick them in place. Make sure you do not allow the glue to dry with the wreath lying flat or it will end up glued to the surface (I know this from experience). The glue dries quickly, so I found it easiest to simply hold the wreath for a couple of minutes until it was no longer tacky.
Once the glue has fully dried, you can paint the whole thing green. It will eventually be entirely covered in the felt but I chose to paint mine just in case any small gaps showed through.
Cut out the felt leaves. Each of mine measured approximately 1″x1.5″ and you will need several hundred. I used around four letter paper sized sheets of felt and the cutting out probably took about two hours in short sessions. I sat and caught up on Serial while I cut mine out. Don’t worry about making them all identical—have you ever seen a real holly bush with perfectly uniform leaves? However many you cut out though, you’ll probably need more. A lot more.
Start gluing the leaves onto the wreath shape. I used a hot glue gun but any kind of strong adhesive should work just fine. Try to make sure to overlap the leaves so you don’t leave any gaps. To make the wreath look thicker, layer leaves on top of one another. I tried to avoid being TOO regular with placement but also kept some order so it didn’t look completely haphazard.
Position the red buttons randomly around the wreath. I used a mixture of single heart shaped buttons, and circular buttons grouped in threes to create more Mickey Mouse shapes. Glue these in place on top of the felt leaves.
Attach a hook or string for hanging; where to put this will depend on where and how you want to hang your wreath. I used hot glue to attach a Mickey-shaped paper clip to the back, then strung Christmas-colored twine through it for hanging before adding an extra bit of glue for good measure. The finished wreath is very lightweight so nothing too heavy duty is required.
You’re done! It’s probably worth noting that these wreaths are not at all weatherproof and thus need to be kept indoors. You could also use foam rings that are rounded rather than flat backed and continue the design all the way around to the back – this would work well if it was to be hung on a glass door; just increase the quantity of felt and buttons to suit.
Once the grass finally turns green in Maine, my son’s thoughts inevitably turn to his birthday party—the one we’ll have in September. He spends a lot of time planning and once he lands on an idea, he tends to go all out. Or at least, he likes for me to go all out. He has this in common with Sue Smith, my favorite comic book jewelry designer. Every year, she makes her son’s party dreams come true in wonderful GeekMom fashion.
Last year, he turned six Hazzard-Country-style with a Dukes of Hazzard birthday. Now, this isn’t your run-of-the-mill party request, so Sue had to get inventive.
To set the tone, music from the show was playing in the background. But what do you do to entertain the kids while the banjos are playing in the background? In keeping with one of the overriding images of the show (the General Lee), the activity of the day was reminiscent of the Pinewood Derby. Sue collected a bunch of mini wooden cars and washable markers, so the kids could design their own racers. After the construction and design phase was complete, a homemade track meant that Duke-style races could commence.
There were cowboy hats for the kids to wear and the country theme extended across picnic tables with checkered tablecloths and Mason jars. (Thank you Pinterest for the 1,001 uses of a Mason Jar!) Also present to keep little hands busy, Dukes of Hazzard coloring pages. Who knew that such a thing existed? It seems there is a coloring page for everything now and for that, my inner birthday party planner is truly thankful.
Of course, Sue did have an advantage that would be hard to recreate: She knows a guy! And so, making an appearance at the party: The Jersey General. This particular General Lee doppelgänger has been signed by surviving cast members and many of the stunt team. It is also signed by members of the body shop crew who did all of the paint and bodywork in the first five episodes that were filmed in Georgia. This car is correct down to the pair, pushbar, and interiors. The Jersey General has been used by John Schneider, Bo Duke himself, at the Philadelphia Comic-Con, as well as Ben Jones (a.k.a Cooter) at Fredneck night in Frederick, Maryland.
After my own experience with a licensed product at my son’s second birthday party, I love seeing how other people take ordinary loves and turn them into party themes. The Dukes of Hazzard isn’t something you’ll find at your local party store, but with a little ingenuity and invention, you can make anything a great party idea. Of course, it helps if you know a guy too!
Besides people, my son loves two things in life: Lego and Christmas.
The day after Thanksgiving, our holiday tradition is that we start playing our extensive list of holiday songs on iTunes and the decorations make their way upstairs. That includes the Lego-based decorations courtesy of my son.
My son was never a kid that wanted to grow up. He was truly depressed when his voice started changing, getting taller meant he couldn’t hide in the best spots, and, of course, growing up meant more responsibility for a kid who’d rather lie on the floor of his room snapping bricks together.
But at fifteen, he has adapted to reality and can still enjoy things he loves. He can sing “White Christmas” in its original baritone key, he is strong enough to hold both his little cousins and swing them around, and being in control of his own schedule means he gets his work done early enough to always make time for Lego, especially at Christmas.
This year, my son was given more space to work with in his Lego decorating and you can see his set up in the above gallery.
My favorite aspect of his set-up is how he includes other figures to make a unique, happy, perfect Lego Christmas.
I’ve got all sorts of reasons to own a projector–Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pine, Hugh Jackman… or on a more weekly basis, Stephen Amell. Both movies and TV are just more fun when they’re bigger. We and the kids love using it to take the movies to the back yard during the summer, but we hadn’t thought much until now about using it outdoors during the colder months.
Particularly where we live in North Carolina, it’s still often reasonably warm come Halloween, perfect for a neighborhood horror-movie-and-hot-chocolate viewing by twilight. But even if you’re in a colder area, AtmosFearFX has a line of DVDs that add some moving spookiness to your Halloween decorations. (And isn’t amusing/scaring neighborhood kids half the fun of October?) They’re DVDs designed to loop when you use a projector to show them on a wall or in a window. The window version is more appealingly accomplished if you have a screen with a rear-projection capable projector. I’m trying it out this season with the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 2000.
We’ve experimented with several projectors for our backyard (and indoor!) theaters over the last few years, and this one comes out well ahead on the first detail we notice–how bright the picture is. At 1800 lumens, it’s not the brightest on the market, or even in Epson’s lineup, but even in daylight in a room that’s not fully blackened, it performs quite well. This bodes well for getting a movie started outside before it’s quite all the way dark (an appealing option if your little ones are still pretty little). There’s also an extent to which I think of this like speakers and headphones–enthusiasts will debate the details of a bit more this or that and what you really should have, but for the casual user (you out there who just want to watch a movie without having to do a lot of math about the perfect values), it’s more than sufficient. It projects at 1080p up to 300″. That’s a lot of Stephen Amell. Ahem.
If you’re new to projectors outside of slide presentations at the office, there are as many options for screens as there are projectors…perhaps more! The most inexpensive, particularly for indoor use, is to go to the local home improvement store and get a white roll-up window shade, preferably the type intended to be used for blocking out all light. It helps to add some weight to the bottom to keep out wrinkles and ripples, but it’s by far the cheapest way to install a retractable screen in your house when there’s not a massive chunk of wall available in the right place. For outdoors, you can either build your own, again from assorted home improvement supplies (we’ve even done it with a painter’s tarp), or there are quite a few pop-up screen available in a wide price range.
The PowerLite 2000 is the first projector we’ve had with a 3D option. The 3D glasses are an additional $99, and we haven’t tried them out, but it’s an interesting option to have. I can’t see myself purchasing a 3D television, but at movie projection size, I feel more inclined to look harder at the increasing number of movies offered in 3D.
Input options include HDMI (2), RCA, VGA, and USB, making it well-suited to just about any device you want to hook up, from your DVD player to your Playstation, and MHL devices like the Roku Streaming Stick or Bravia Smart Stick. It’s compact, with a footprint barely larger than a sheet of paper and 4.25″ high, and a weight of 6.4 pounds, making it easier to carry down the street to the neighborhood gathering. As aforementioned, it has both front and rear projection capabilities from a distance of up to 19.7′.
I’m looking forward to extending our projector fun into the Halloween decor this week, and then coming up with new ideas for how to use it with the outdoor Christmas decorations. And if you’re in the neighborhood, we’ll be using it to watch Halloween movies in the cul-de-sac on Thursday, so come on down! Though given the likelihood that that’s terribly inconvenient for most of our readers, I recommend that those of you who live somewhere it’s still reasonably warm stage your own neighborhood projector parties before the cold weather moves in. If you need suggestions, try this list of 100 great Halloween movies. Bonus points if you scare the kids so much, they drop the candy bags, leaving it all for you!
I grew up in a French-speaking town so Dr. Seuss was just not part of my childhood like it is for many kids in the US.
When I moved to California, I took a job as a mother’s helper while I attended college. One evening, their 5-year-old son asked if I could read to him a Dr. Seuss book. It was my first ever exposure to Dr. Seuss so I didn’t know what to expect. At the time, my English was not so great and my tongue stumbled on every other word throughout the book. All the repeating sounds, unusual sentence structure, silly made-up words, and tricky tongue-twisters were a foreigner’s nightmare. The little boy kept asking me to “read it faster! faster!” Meanwhile I could hear the parents in the next room dying of laughter at my train wreck of a reading session.
I have to admit it was pretty funny, but I still labeled Dr. Seuss as evil in my head and dismissed his books into the category of Things I Most Definitively Do Not Like, where it stayed for a very long time.
Then many years later I had a baby. Through gifts, Dr. Seuss sneakily made its way into my home. I read a few of the books with a fresh perspective and could not believe how fantastic and non-evil they really were after all!
My husband and I strive to expose our daughter to shows and books that demonstrate facts and the scientific method, without necessarily being educational per se. We love Curious George and the Cat in the Hat very much for that. We watch a little bit of Curious George on PBS almost every day, and own most of the Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library books. Both provide a huge focus on problem solving (most often through hypothesis testing, analogy, trial and error, and divide and conquer) and critical thinking skills (like evidence through observation, data collection and interpretation, reasoning within and beyond given assumptions, and clear communication without explicit language skills).
Plus, they’re just really fun!
When we bought our first home a few months ago, it was the perfect opportunity to upgrade our toddler from her nursery room to a big girl room. We browsed around the internet to decide on a theme for her new room, and were happy to find two of our favorite characters at Pottery Barn Kids: Cat in the Hat and Curious George.
If I was a normal person, I might have chosen one or the other. But because I have strange commitment issues with seeing the same bedding every single day, I bought both so we could switch back and forth. I also bought the Pottery Barn Kendall bed while it was on sale.
Then I waited for my items to be delivered and figuratively cried a little about how much money I had just spent. It was my first Pottery Barn purchase, mostly because I never before had the guts to spend that much money on home goods. However, I had made a couple of cheap bedding set purchases at discount stores that were definitively not even worth their discounted price, so I decided it was time to bite the bullet. I took a leap of faith into the Pottery Barn kingdom-o-mania. I wanted to buy a high quality item once and be done with home good purchases for a long time.
My one lucky break: I also received a Cat in the Hat quilt from Pottery Barn Kids to review for GeekMom. Now, I could review only the quilt — which was lovely in every possible way — as I was intended to do. However, I can’t stress enough how impressed I am with all of the items I also purchased, the bed especially. Everything is gorgeous, the bedding sets are holding up wonderfully, and the white wood bed feels like soft silk. And of course, my daughter is delighted to see her favorite characters on her bed.
Color me a fan. I know not everyone can afford the luxury of purchasing high priced home goods for the sake of saving themselves a little time and sanity, and I would still recommend waiting for a sale to the extend that it might help take the plunge. Nevertheless, I am thrilled with my purchases, all things considered.
And if that’s not geeky for you, Pottery Barn Kids also offers bedding with: Batman, Star Wars, and Spider-Man. You want to know the best part? They even come in sizes up to a queen bed. My daughter doesn’t have a queen bed, but I do! Clearly, Pottery Barn is saying it’s ok for adults to own these sheets too. Clearly.
You know your favorite geeky character has hit the big time when they are immortalized in Pez dispenser form. The problem with Pez dispensers is, once the grainy candy has been consumed via the complicated dispersal system, you are left with a little plastic shell, most likely with beady little eyes staring at you and pleading, “Please, don’t throw me in a drawer!”
My daughter has a nice collection of Pez dispensers. A couple of years ago, my husband and I had had enough of pinched fingers and begging requests for Hello Kitty to be refilled. Our solution was to hang them on the walls. If you use finish nails, they fit nicely through the slit in the back of the dispenser.
No candy needs to be eaten. Cool characters aren’t forgotten. Display your geeky collection proudly.
As long as you don’t mind the addition of the Pez dispensers climbing the walls with your children…
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.