Lovely Loons

Is there anything more beautiful then the sound of a loon calling? How about the fact that they carry their chicks on their backs when the little ones need a rest? Katie captured the loon love in this simple story time project AND provided the extra bonus at the end of the post!

We recommend reading Little Loon and Papa, written by Toni Buzzeo, and illustrated by Margaret Spengler (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2004 – read aloud here by Hannibal Ferret Story Books). Papa Loon is trying to teach reluctant Little Loon how to dive under the water. When Papa disappears below the water’s surface, Little Loon swim away and gets lost. After bumping into several different animals, Little Loon hears Papa’s call and summons the courage to dive and reunite with his dad!

You’ll need:

  • 1 small tissue box
  • 2 toilet paper tubes
  • Black, white, and brown paper
  • Scissors, glue or tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

Common loons are easily recognizable by the unique markings on their feathers and their striking red eyes. They also have extremely identifiable calls, which you can often hear as background outdoor sound bites in TV shows and movies. And as you see here, adult loons will carry their young chicks on their backs to give the babies a break from swimming or to protect them from predators. Just AWWWWW!

Image courtesy of Wikicommons

To make the adult loon, cut a small tissue box down to approximately 1.5″ tall. Cover the box and a toilet paper tube with black paper. Snip 1/4″ slits into the sides of of the toilet paper tube, then slide it onto the box. For the feathers, you can use patterned and silver markers like Katie did, or just go with white paper. The beak is construction paper, as are the eyes (which you should definitely color in red!). The black pompom for the top of the head is optional.

mama loon_3

To make the loon chicks, cut a toilet paper tube in half, then wrap each section with brown paper. Add paper wings, beaks, and eyes – or simply use markers to add these features. Feather crests are an option as well! Place the finished chicks onto the back of the adult loon, and marvel in the cuteness!

baby loons_3

The inspiration for this project was an actual pair of loons, lovingly nicknamed Benny and Joon, who reside together on a lake in northern Wisconsin. Katie and her extended family vacationed on the lake this summer, and were treated to daily visits and concerts by Benny and Joon. Listening to the haunting call of the loons was one of the highlights of their trip, along with tubing, waterskiing and catching plenty of fish!

Ready for 30 seconds of total relaxation with Benny, Joon, and gentle, lapping water?

The 12 Month, 46 Hour Library

When Katie saw this DIY miniature library online, she  was entranced. It’s perfectly adorable with its tiny little books and knick knacks on the bookshelves and darling framed pictures and actual working chandelier with four lights. But she did NOT love the lengthy process of constructing it. It took 46 hours. 46 HOURS. Katie, share with us your epic journey…


I built the Rolifé DIY Miniature House: Sam’s Study (DG102), which can be purchased on the Rolifé website for $47.99. There is another company, Hands Craft, that makes a similar, if not identical kit. You can purchase their version of Sam’s Study on Amazon for $35.85. There is an age suggestion of 14+.

The kit arrives with a multitude of wood, fabric, and paper parts and pieces to construct the library, as well as small bottles of white latex and liquid glue, tweezers, white paint and a small paint brush. You will need to have a few additional tools to help with the construction: a ruler with millimeters, scissors, needle nose pliers, screwdriver, pencil and a binder clip.

I also highly suggest having a glue stick, another option of super glue (I used Krazy glue with an applicator brush), and a pair of small sharp scissors (I bought a pair of 4.5 inch nano detail scissors). Even though the kit claims batteries are included, you may need to purchase a pair of CR2032 Lithium 3V batteries for the chandelier.

There is an instruction manual packed with photographs and detailed steps to create the miniature library. I followed the manual very closely, making sure I had the correct pieces for each of the cabinets by using the included part number illustration paper.

So many pieces! So much glue! Oftentimes I had to be creative with figuring out ways to assist the various parts to hold together as the glue dried. Elastic hair bands for the win!
When I reached the section to build the sofa – it’s actually a wingback armchair – I was riding a wave of confidence. I had put together six dressers, cabinets, and bookshelves and a ladder without much difficulty.

The petite handles for the doors and drawers were a challenge, but I was able to create them. Surely I could make an armchair.

Surely not.

I created one side of the armchair and my fingers were so completely covered in glue, I was forced to give up. I couldn’t pick up the red fabric or the bottle of glue without it being nearly impossible to put back down. Defeated, I set aside the armchair.

My next challenge was cutting, folding and pasting the roughly 130 paper books, boxes and paintings that fill the shelves and walls of the bookstore. I started snipping with my 9 inch pair of scissors, and it didn’t take me long to realize I needed a much smaller pair in order to save time and my sanity. I was able to cut through the paper much faster with the 4.5 inch scissors, but it took a while to fold the little books and boxes and glue them all together. I used the glue stick and a q-tip to apply glue to the narrow paper edges, which greatly helped speed up the process.

The pièce de résistance was constructing the walls and floor of the bookstore, as well as creating the realistic chandelier that provided the gentle glowing light. The bookstore was relatively easy. The chandelier was complicated. And frustrating. And it nearly didn’t happen because I almost ran out of wire necessary to provide electricity to the bulbs.

Despite trying to be very careful while cutting and stringing the fragile wires, I cut some and broke others. It took many long hours (and the utterance of many bad words) to bring the light to life. I can fully understand why some who left online reviews of the kit simply gave up on the chandelier. Trust me, I almost did.

finished walls and light 2I was just about ready to furbish the bookstore, but I still had to finish the wing back armchair. The various bits and pieces of the chair were ready to go, but I was not looking forward to the actual construction. Begrudgingly, I used every last bit of my dogged patience to put the chair together. It’s not pretty, in fact it’s far from perfect. One side of the chair is slightly taller than the other and there are many areas of the wood frame showing through the red cloth, but I finished it.

Now came the fun part – decorating! The instruction manual had generic photos showing where the furniture needed to go, but you can decide where the books and decorations go. There were many times I needed to use the provided tweezers to glue a tiny framed picture on the wall next to a bookshelf, place a minuscule pamphlet in a specific area, or put the bitty silver coffee mug on top of a book. After all of the irritation I had while building the kit, decorating the bookstore was quite cathartic.

The miniature library is amazing. There are so many charming little touches and details that you could stare at it for hours. Even the red wing back armchair, in all its misshapen glory, looks fantastic nestled in the corner with a pile of books resting on the seat.

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Dr. Dana and I had a bet as to how long it was going to take me to finish the library. She said 25 hours, I guessed it would take much longer. I was right – it took nearly 46 hours.
Now that I am done putting the kit together, I think it is safe to say that I completely overestimated my technical crafting abilities when manipulating small parts and pieces. It is also safe for me to say that I will try to avoid doing another one of these types of projects in the future. I would recommend it for adults who have tremendous patience and dedication to lengthy projects.

May the teeny-tiny crafting kit odds be ever in your favor.

Say Cheese!

next-stop-cannes

Since childhood, there have been a few craft projects that have proved elusive to fabrication…umbrellas that stay open, a conveyer belt that moves, and life-sized fake cotton candy that still looks yummy. The cotton candy is ESPECIALLY difficult. Tulle fabric looks weird, and cotton balls just clump! They. Just. Clump.

Cameras used to be one of those elusive craft projects, but I’m happy to report that we’ve managed to create several fun versions complete with lenses, shutter clicks, and Polaroids! So today, in honor of National Camera Day, we will be sharing our favorite camera projects. Starting with the one pictured above. A handheld camera with color changing lenses!

Shutter clicks go hand in hand with camera, be they physical or digital. I never was able to quite nail the sound until I stumbled upon these bug clickers. They really add dimension to this snazzy tea tin camera, modeled here by a penguin…

say freeze

Polaroid cameras were a thing of my youth, and attempts to recreate them were met with various degrees of success. I felt I reached my zenith, however, with this OCuSOFT box turned Polaroid camera. We also turned the photos into a nifty little story time matching game!

canyon photos

Finally, go BIG with an entire film crew, complete with handheld mic, camera, and a boom mic! We’veve used this set up a number of times (from science interviews to cooking shows), and it’s always fab-u-lous!

a star is born