Fabulous Family Portrait

fabulous carrot family portraitThis handsomely framed three-dimensional portrait is a must for any home. And if you want to portray your sweet little family as carrots, well why not?

We read All Kinds of Families! written by Mary Ann Hoberman, and illustrated by Marc Boutavant (Little, Brown, 2009). This beautifully illustrated picture book describes, through charming rhymes, the various kinds of families in the world. Not just mothers, fathers, brother and sisters either – forks, spoons, numbers, animals, plants, clouds…all kinds of families!

You’ll need:

  • 1 cardboard box
  • Paper towel tubes and/or toilet paper tubes
  • Brown poster board
  • A selection of construction paper
  • 1 pipe cleaner
  • Scissors, glue, and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue (optional)

There are 2 parts to this project – the family, and the frame. The family is basically toilet paper tubes and/or paper towel tubes decorated with construction paper and markers.  The important thing is to measure the tubes inside the frame box before you start decorating them. Otherwise, your family might not fit inside the final frame!

carrot familyThe frame is a box cut down to 2″ deep. We decorated the back of our frame with patterned paper (but you can also have kids draw the background on with markers). Next, we offered different brown poster board shapes to glue around the edges of the box:

finished portrait frameTo hang the frame, twist a pipe cleaner into a loop, then attach it to the top of the box with tape. Want to make it extra secure? Cut a slit in the top of the box, thread the pipe cleaner ends through the slit, then tape them to the interior top of the frame. Here’s a shot of our frame from the back, hanging loop in place:

back of finished portrait frameHang your frame in your favorite room of the house, place your little family inside it, and  feel the love!

Ghostly Guppy

ghostly guppieAfter spotting the fabulous upside down goldfish ghost Marissa designed for her literary exhibit, I vowed I would find a way to replicate it as a story time project. And behold! A floating paper plate goldfish ghost marionette!

We read Goldfish Ghost, written by Lemony Snicket, and illustrated by Lisa Brown (Roaring Brook Press, 2017). Goldfish Ghost, who comes into being floating on top of his fishbowl, floats out the window to seek company. But the world is vast, loud, and bustling. Goldfish Ghost is disheartened to find no company. Until he meets the ghost of the lighthouse keeper. Now the two are the best of friends, settled in quietly together, by the lighthouse light.

You’ll need:

  • 2 paper plates
  • White construction paper
  • String or clear elastic beading cord
  • 1 drinking straw
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Black markers for decorating

goldfish ghost marionetteTo make the marionette, trim the outside perimeters off 2 paper plates. Use marker to draw eyes, a mouth, and scales on the plates.Next, tape a white construction paper tail and fins to the inside of 1 plate.

In the book, Goldfish Ghost floats upside down, so tape a length of string or elastic beading cord to the belly of the fish. Then tape the 2 plates together. Knot the string around a drinking straw, and your fabulous marionette is complete!

THE MYSTERY CLOSET

This April Fool’s day, I decided to transform a tiny, unremarkable closet in my house into what my kids and I have dubbed THE MYSTERY CLOSET. The challenge was to create it for under $20. My friends, the grand total was $19.30. Details below!

The ultimate goal for THE MYSTERY CLOSET was that it be a place for writing. While we each have a desk in our bedroom, and while there is an art project table in the kitchen, I felt there also needed to be a dedicated space for our household typewriter. It had been sitting on a buffet table in the dining room, but the height and location of the buffet meant you had to stand to type. The results were just a few sentences here and there. I theorized that if I lowered the height of the typewriter, and allowed space for a chair to be pulled up, it would result in longer stories. I was way right.

There were 2 major limitations to this project: size and budget. The closet is very tiny. A mere 12″ deep and 43″ across. Luckily, I had an old table in the attic that fit. There’s just enough space on the table for the typewriter and a metal basket with blank paper underneath. Scoot a chair over from the dining table, and you have yourself a desk!

Budget was the other concern. I solved it by using items already in the house – xmas ornaments, halloween decorations, hats from the costume bin, a red tassel I found in my nightstand, a rediscovered world map, a…uh…green glow-in-the-dark pig that oinks when you squeeze it, etc.

I papered the upper shelf with the world map, but the London Underground map you see on the back wall is actually wrapping paper from a local bookstore! I also bought a dozen postcards. The final purchase was a Magic 8 Ball mug, deeply discounted, from Target.

And for you eagle eyes who spotted Bill Cipher, the question mark Post-it note, and the 8 Ball…yes, we are huge Gravity Falls fans. Fun fact: the first sentence I left the kids on THE MYSTERY CLOSET typewriter was “Stan is not what he seems.” #teamwaddles

And speaking of ciphers, the new installation did include a coded message. I dropped 2 copies of the pigpen cipher in the metal basket, and left a Post-it message to the kids nearby:

The grand finale? This closet is wired with overhead LIGHTS! There’s no electrical outlet, so I used battery-operated LED string light stars from IKEA (a leftover xmas stocking stuffer). The battery box is taped to the interior door frame, within easy reach.

The London Underground wrapping paper cost $4.50, The Magic 8 Ball mug was $2.80, and the postcards cost $12. Project total: $19.30. Reaction from my kids? Priceless.

That morning, I didn’t say anything about the closet. I just waited until my daughter asked “Hey, where’s the typewriter?” A cryptic reply, a house-wide search, and the closet was soon discovered! They were soooo excited. Especially my 10 year-old son. I’m happy to report THE MYSTERY CLOSET has been in steady use by both kids ever since. The typewriter goes at all hours, which is truly music to this mom’s ears. Success!