The Art of Improvisation - Faux Cacti

Posted on March 16, 2016 at 4:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Spring is always a busy time with March Break and St. Pat’s Day upon us, and Easter just around the corner, I've been looking for a project that could embrace all 3 events in one easy DIY. And here it is! Faux cacti!

No - I didn't come up with this on my own. Every year I can't help but notice that there’s a particular idea or trend that takes off and within days everyone is doing it, posting it, and selling it! One year it was those silly mustaches on a stick. Remember them? You had to be living in Antarctica not to spot them – and maybe even there. Then it was bow ties – everywhere and in every form – gift toppers, hair bands, scrunchies, bracelets, and yes – even as bowties. And I confess, I made more than my share.

This year, the trend is towards succulents – cacti to you and me! I began noticing this when a few interior decorating blogs were showing off their cacti. Even Ikea is featuring succulents and cacti in its Livet Hemma posts and flogging them in their shops. By the way, their live plants are an excellent buy - I have a corn plant I bought 12 years ago from Ikea and it's still growing strong!

Some clever bloggers like Brittany Watson Jepsen over at The House that Lars Built created their own cacti from cardboard. She even provides templates you can use to make your own cardboard versions - a great way to use up old cardboard boxes!

Other bloggers crochet, papier mache and even bake them. Still others like Ernestina Gallina at Sassia Parte improvise using rocks painted to resemble those little desert blooms. The site is in Italian but the photos are easy enough to follow if you are so inclined. 

With all this going on, I, too, decided to improvise. Not having any cardboard boxes or rocks close at hand and not much of a baker, I looked around the studio for material and supplies I could use instead and spotted an egg carton filled with a dozen empty eggshells I had made and saved for some project. Every morning I empty out an eggshell carefully when making my breakfast. These can be used for so many projects - so why not as faux cacti?

But how to assemble those little suckers? I don’t have a glue gun, so, to make a tiered cactus, I had to use craft glue and hold the eggshells in place until the glue dried. No problem as I could watch the news at the same time. For paint, I used some left over from other projects, mixing several colours together to get the right shade of green. I could also have used food colouring, I guess. Would have been easier and faster! 

Once painted and detailed (sort of – hey, I’m no Picasso!) I looked for containers and unearthed my vintage jelly mold collection. I used brown rice to anchor my cacti in these containers. And, oh joy, I found just enough small stones in my gardening bin to top off and hide the rice. Then, for a bit of colour, I added few blooms to some of my cacti by cutting up a deflated red balloon and some yellow tissue paper and sticking on these faux blossoms.

And all my events are covered - easy kiddy March Break craft (especially if you own a glue gun), green enough for St. Paddy's Day, and eggy enough for Easter.

Cost? Zero - not bad, eh!

March Break - Coming Events

Posted on March 8, 2016 at 9:25 AM Comments comments (0)

With St. Patrick's Day just around the corner, I think it would be a great idea to get the kids to create a few crafts to celebrate the day. Note: You don't have to be Irish to enjoy St. Patrick's Day. Here are my own recyling ideas for this very green day.  

Tissue Box Shamrocks

Shamrock Bunting Banner

DIY Leprechaun Hat

Besides these St. Pat's Day projects here are links to my previous March Break posts.

Fun Projects for Aspiring Architects, Gardeners, Musicians, Engineers, Sailors, and Scientists

Rockets and Castles

March Break - Recycling Chopsticks

Posted on March 3, 2016 at 9:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Today's March Break project is (you may be surprised) all about learning to knit (even though I'm not what you'd call an expert knitter by any means). To that end, I used a pair of chopsticks for the needles as these are actually a good length for a child's little hands. 

The little guy seemed keen to try his hand at knitting and after a few false starts (and help from me) was able to complete a small square (but then he drifted off back to his regular toys ... )

The chopsticks we had on hand were perfect as is but if you have a pair that are a bit blunt, you can use a pencil sharpener to make the knitting ends more pointy. Note, most chopsticks are made from bamboo so be sure to gently sand over any rough edges. Bamboo slivers are painful and very difficult to remove.

As I don't have a pile of knitting yarn on hand (okay, none!) and didn't fancy having to unravel an old sweater or hat, I used twine as our knitting medium. Because twine is a bit rough for little hands, I had the little guy sprinkle baby powder on his hands as he worked. I learned this trick from my nana who was a prolific and creative knitter. It softens the yarn as you knit. And to keep the yarn from tangling up as he knitted, I put the ball of twine into an empty (clean and washed) plastic latte drinks container. Worked like a charm.

Here's a good how-to knit video.

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March Break - Kid Friendly Recycling Projects

Posted on March 2, 2016 at 1:15 PM Comments comments (0)

The weather here in Ottawa has been interesting so say the least - snowstorms, freezing rain, more snowstorms, freezing rain ... As a result my workshops have been put on hold until late March and April. So while I'm getting the details ready, I thought that a few March Break ideas wouldn't go amiss (in Ottawa March 14 to 1). One day I will learn how to give online workshops but meanwhile ...


Most folks send their kids during March Break to various programmes held by the city or schools but what happens when you're snowbound and the buses aren't running? How are you going to keep your kids busy and away from their beloved electronic toys? Most of my projects won’t break the bank since most of the material can come out of your cupboards or recycling bin. So start rummaging through your cupboards and recycling bin for material. Here's the first project.


Super Sleuth

What kid doesn't like to dress up and what's better than becoming a Super Sleuth for a day! All you need to do is help your little one put together a kit that should keep her or him busy looking for clues.

Assembling a Super Sleuth Kit

You can include anything you like (and have on hand) to create a Super Sleuth kit. The little guy and I put together one that included the following: a notebook with attached pen, magnifying glass, small flashlight, compass, tweezers, specimen jars and a matchbook box (again for specimens), a stamp pad (for fingerprints) and, of course a disguise. Later I added a pair of vintage binoculars. Note: I didn't buy a single thing - we found everything we needed at home.  

To make the eye glasses, I made a template from my own and cut those shown above out of cardboard painted black. The moustaches were cut freehand from some fun fur fabric (but you can use felt, too).

Everything (except the binoculars) for the master sleuth was hidden in a book safe that we made from an old Hardy Boys adventure book - don't worry, it was mucked up and missing a lot of pages. 

How to make a Book Safe

To make the book safe, Mom or dad will need to remove all the pages from an old book (don't toss the pages - we'll be using them for a project down the road). Next, rummage through the recycling bin to find a cardboard box (if there's a lid, set it aside for later use) that will fit into the book. Cut the sides of the box down if it's too deep. Glue the bottom of the box inside the back cover. To prevent the book from opening up and spilling out the contents, make tie fasteners by pasting a piece of ribbon inside the front cover and one inside the back cover.

Secret Messages

Every Super Sleuth needs a way to send messages in secret so we created one using white scrap paper, a white crayon, and some water colour paints. Write your message on the scrap of paper using the white crayon (you can also use a white wax candle or a white felt pen). When ready to read the message, use a small brush to paint over your entire message with some diluted water colour paint. The message will magically appear!

John Lewis Christmas Advert

Posted on November 6, 2015 at 3:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Every year the larger stores in the UK compete for best Christmas video advertisement. John Lewis (a department store chain in the UK) always comes up a winner. This year's is absolutely charming. The song is Half the World Away by Oasis. It is covered by Aurora, a 19-year-old Norwegian singer. Enjoy!

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Counting the Days - Advent Calendar

Posted on November 3, 2015 at 12:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Yes, 24 little cars with a rooftop gift for the little guy. Every year I create a special calendar just for him and this year he inadvertently inspired my take on an advent calendar. How? Well, on my last return home, he had stuffed a bunch of his toy cars inside my suitcase without telling me and I only discovered these when I got home. It's his way of ensuring that I make a return visit, bringing back his toys. Clever lad. 

I thought the cars would make a cute countdown to Christmas. Each gift is wrapped in leftover origami paper and tied on with baker's twine (I also added double-sided tape to the bottom of each gift). I didn't add numbers as by the time I had managed to tie each gift to each car, I didn't have the energy to look for small number labels! I may add the numbers when I get back to Edinburgh.

The 'gift' on each car rooftop is a square of salted caramel candy (yummy) made by Robin of Morsel Desserts, right here in Ottawa. I purchased the sweets at Boogie + Birdie on Elgin Street - had to buy an extra bag just for me - it's that good.

Now I have to just find a suitable box and place it in my suitcase for the trip back to Edinburgh.