Monday, December 14, 2015

How to Make a Town Platform out of wood, for Pretend Play

One of my son Denver's favorite books is the iSpy series where you look inside each picture to find hidden items...or you can simply enjoy making thousands of observations in each picture image. The displays created for each picture in the book series are extremely well done, to say the least. One of the subjects for an image is a town platform with cars, blocks (for buildings), people, animals, and other random objects carefully set up throughout the town. It is his favorite image to enjoy, so I had the idea to build him a platform and paint it like a town so he could play with his cars and trucks, use Legos and blocks for buildings and practice his creativity and general motor skills. It proved to be more challenging than I expected, but worth the work...he loves it!
If you get the idea to make one of these for your son or daughter, hopefully this post will help you with ideas and suggestions. This is by no means the only way to make one, it's just the way mine turned out.
What you will need:
  • Mitre Saw
  • Electric Sander (sandpaper)
  • Hammer
  • Power drill
  • Shower board
  • 8' 2X4's (3)
  • 2" nails
  • 3-4" deck screws
  • Tape measure
  • Ruler
  • Wood glue
  • Paint brushes & paint
  • Polyurethane
Step 1: The Base Frame

I tried to make several of these platforms before this one worked out. The most difficult part was finding a way to maintain a flat surface so that there is absolutely no slope, or the matchbox cars will roll off of it. I assumed that I could just make it from one sheet of flat plywood, but finding a perfectly flat piece of plywood at Lowe's, or Home Depot (one that wasn't warped) was impossible. A piece of flooring grade plywood would work, but it was too expensive for my budget. I planned to build a base from 2X4's and then nail a piece of shower board to the top. The shower board is the white smooth board material with a dark backing. It's somewhere around $12 for a large piece at Lowe's.
Below is a list of steps that I took to make the base frame.
  • Cut the 2X4's into 4 pieces at 3 foot length each. This will become the base. I always used my electric sander to sand the rough edges of every cut and every piece of wood so that everything is smooth and sanded. I don't want any splinters, but I also don't want a pull in my carpet if we use it to play in the living room. Screw the cut pieces together using the deck screws to make a square frame base. I used 2 screws per board.
  • Measure and cut 2 pieces of 2X4 to size to fit within the base to act as reinforcement. Those 2 pieces will be a little less than 3 feet long each. (They run east-west in my picture below). Screw those into place using the deck screws.
  • Measure and cut pieces of 2X4 to fit between the base and the reinforcing boards. (The 8 short pieces pictured). Screw each into place.
  • Cut the showerboard to size to fit the top of the base. I used a piece of sandpaper to smooth out the cut edge.
  • Lay the showerboard onto the base with the dark side facing up (white side down). I assumed that the dark side would be easier to paint.
  • Pre-drill holes that you will use to nail the showerboard to the base. Don't pre-drill holes that are too deep, only through the showerboard is sufficient. Use the 2" nails to nail the shower board to the base. Use nails only around the perimeter and be careful not to create any slopes, you want it as flat as possible. Use sand paper to smooth over any roughness at each nail hole.
  • This completes the base construction.
 Pre-drill holes for the nails and then nail the shower board to the base with the dark side facing up.
Step 2: Painting the environment
I modeled the design used in the iSpy book, which includes a few streets at the edge of a town, a river, 2 bridges, streets running out of town, a pond and some paved surface and grassy areas. You should feel free to create any environmental design you wish.
  • Begin by first pencil sketching the roads, water and any features. Be sure to label them so you don't forget what color they will be. For the roads, use a ruler to make sure the road is always 4 inches in width. That is a good width for 2 matchbox cars to pass each other on the road.
  • There is no need to use Kilz on the surface, however I do recommend multiple coats of paint for each color. I used Valspar for the black and green, and acrylic paints for the gray sidewalk and blue water surfaces.
  • I painted the roads first, the paved surfaces and sidewalks next, then the water and grassy areas last. Plan for any bridges that you may want because you will need to measure and draw where the sidewalks will end.
  • If your little one is home while you work, I suggest letting him play nearby with sidewalk chalk. That way he/she isn't in the way and you can keep an eye on them.
  • It's up to you if you want to paint yellow lines in the road. I found it unnecessary. I painted lines on one road going out of town to see if I would like it.
  • I also suggest that you do take your time and do a good job painting, but don't be so upset if lines aren't absolutely perfect, after all, it's charming being hand painted and looks good in the end anyway. You're kid won't be critical of your lines!
Step 3: Finishing touches and set up
  • For the bridges, I used Lincoln Log pieces with flat bottoms. I used epoxy to affix them to the surface, which turned out to be the right choice because my 9 month old likes to play with us and she like to try to pry those up. The epoxy holds, not sure if Elmer's would. 
  • I considered affixing other permanent things to the surface, like trees and such, but refrained because I liked the option of setting up different environments every time.
The pictures below show some of the "towns," and set-up's that we have played with. We like to use Legos to build the buildings, Lego characters for people, Dora and other characters like Super Mario, Batman and Chase from Paw Patrol usually "stop in." We use trees and look-out towers from an army-man set and animals and other objects for props to have fun with.
To finish this post, I'd like to share some of my observations, experiences and ways that we use this "toy" so that you can too enjoy with your son, or daughter.
  • My 9 month old little girl loves to sit/crawl around and on the platform while Denver and I play with it. It's a great way to have them playing together with the same toy and gets them sharing toys and space together. Just be careful and aware of the sharp edges so that your little one doesn't fall onto them.
  • When Adeline (my 9 month old) is playing, we call her Godzilla, since she tends to destroy parts of the set up. So Denver and I have fun flying a helicopter around town announcing an emergency, people should take cover. We drive the fire trucks and police cars around town saving people and animals after her destruction. Construction vehicles usually are called in to rebuild.
  • The platform is great for general motor skills and dexterity. I've observed denver improve on his lateral movement and skill in moving around the base. It also gets me moving around as well! I do not allow him onto the platform, I don't want to create a "bow" in the surface but I also think it's good for him to practice his spacial and kinesthetic mobility.
  • It's also a great toy for imagination play.
  • We have built a variety of buildings and utilize them to tell stories. Have your child create and then tell a story using a "set-up." Denver once built a bank and created a story where a bank robber broke into the bank, stole the gold and tried to flee the town. But a hero was watching from a nearby building and thwarted the plan by setting up a roadblock on a bridge out of town. The robber was stopped when he tried to turn around and renter town....the police were there! Pretty good for a 3-year old I'd say.
Ok well there you go. I realize that one of these platforms could be built much easier, this is just the story of how mine came out. Thought I'd share for you moms and dads out there who love to do DIY projects.

Monday, January 12, 2015

A "Wheelie" Cool Party

I am so thrilled that I finally have a house big enough to hold more than 4 people for a real birthday party!  Perfect timing since Little D turned 3 this year and was excited to actually celebrate his big day.  My inner Martha Stewart was super-psyched to host a real party so I ran to Pinterest, gathered all of my ideas, and got to work.  Since I got most all of my ideas from Pinterest, and I don't want to take credit for any un-original ideas, I'll show you what I created and where the idea came from.  I should also tell you that I wanted to keep this party to a pretty slim budget so I kept it simple and tried to use things that I already had around the house.

Our invitations let people know the theme of the party right away!  ...idea borrowed from Bliss Bloom Blog.  Poor picture but you get the idea.

I am in love with my giant front porch, but I am not a huge fan of the gray outdoor carpet...or the light fixtures...both will be replaced one day.  It sure did make a great road, though!  I just ran some yellow duct tape down the middle and then added some blow up road signs that my mom found at Oriental Trading.  If the weather was nicer, my plan was to put Denver's PowerWheels ATV on the porch/road and let the kids drive to the party...but it was about 20 degrees outside so I had to nix that idea.

Loved this idea for a door sign from Catch My Party.  I was psyched when I discovered checkered duct tape from way-back-when, when Little D was just a baby and I made him a sensory nibble bag.  The tape that was once used for its bold, geometric, baby-friendly design, was perfect for his big-boy car party because it looked like race flags!

I started to plan activities for the kids, but then I realized that 2-3 year olds just want to eat snacks and play, so we set up a space for just that. I have to admit that we have a pretty awesome was definitely a selling point for the house.  We're lucky to have a lot of space and a lot of really neat toys, so the kids had a great time.  I'll show the basement in another post.

I was adamant about making a snack table for the kids.  The ideas were borrowed from many different Pinners, so it would impossible to credit them all.  Instead, here is my Kids' Parties Pinterest Board where you can see a compilation of all of the ideas that came together in this kid-friendly snack buffet.  The pictures are not great...actually, they're awful since we have terrible lighting in the basement, but you get the idea.  This little snack table was set up on a low TV stand, so it was a perfect height for toddlers. 

I have to admit, I'm pretty happy with how the dining room looked.  Simple, but fun!

The collage was a nice way to see how our little guy has grown.

I love all of the little details on the table.  I bought a black table cloth and ran some yellow duct tape (same from outside) down the middle to look like a road.  For the goodie bags, I just glued some yellow strips of paper to plain black gift bags, also made to look like a road.  A little overkill? Perhaps.  I used the same checkered duct tape from the door sign to add a little fun to the water bottles.  Balloons were held down by monster trucks and toy tires from one of Denver's games. Most of these ideas can also be found on my Pinterest board.

Finally, something I'm most proud of...the cake.  I am not a baker.  In fact, I hate to bake.  It requires too much precision and way too many dirty bowls, pans, and tools to clean.  But, cake decorating is something I can definitely get into.  I was determined to make my little guy's birthday cake...trouble was, I had zero experience.  Luckily, my sister is an amazing cake decorator already had all of the right saver!  I found a cupcake cake on Pinterest that I wanted to recreate, but it was just a Flickr image with no link for instructions, so I had to go it alone.  I found mini cars at the dollar store and awesome novelty candles at the party store.  The little road signs came from a free printable at  I just printed two copies of each one and glued them back to back on a toothpick.  Then, after some practice with the cake piping bag and some cool decorating tips and dyes (and Wilton instructional videos), I created Denver's car cake!  I love the way it came out!

I think the party was a big success!  A great time was had by all.  I can't wait for our little lady's 1st birthday in October so I can get my craft on again and take a stab at another cake.  Not so sure the family is as excited for the crazy that comes with my party planning, but I only get to do this twice a year...might as well live it up.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Adeline's Nursery

I still can't believe we are having a little baby girl!  In only three short weeks...or whenever she's ready...we are going to bring little Adeline home.

The minute we found out we were having a girl, I got started on her nursery.  I fell in love with coral and mint bedding that I saw on Etsy, but $350+ for bedding was not exactly in our budget.  I knew it was time to call in reinforcements.  So, I ran to Jo-Ann to pick out some fabric--where I had a mini panic attack because I am awful with decisions.  My aunt, a woman of many talents, came up from North Carolina to help me sew.  Together, we sewed bedding that I think is just as nice as anything on Etsy!  It sort of got away from the original coral and mint...but pink and teal became a very fortunate accident.

Next, I used my left over fabric to make a mobile.  If you look at tutorials for fabric puff balls, they talk about cutting out 4 yards worth of 4-6 inch circles, or some kind of nonsense like that.  I don't have that kind of time patience, so I got to ripping squares.  Instead of a fancy, flowery puff, I went for more of a shabby, scrappy look...and I love it!  The bunting over the crib also used scraps of fabric. 

Next...curtains.  I'm incredibly frugal cheap, so to buy new curtains was not an option.  Instead, I recycled Denver's old curtains.  I immediately ran into an obstacle because if you remember our old house, the ceilings were terribly low, and therefore all of our window dressings were hemmed very short.  But then, I remember something I saw on Pinterest where someone sewed a contrasting color fabric to the top of the curtain panels.  So, after another looong trip at Jo-Ann, I picked out fabric to match the bedding and called my mom who used a French hem to lengthen my recycled curtains.  I love the way they came out!

So what to do with the leftover fabric?  Looms, of course.

Next, I bought these two great laser-cut frames from Michael' a whopping$7.99 each!  It took me a while to decide what to do with them, but after a while, I came up with framed fabric flowers made from the train of my wedding gown, and a butterfly collection, where some butterflies magically came to life and started to fly away.  I love the way these came out.

The rest just came together as I tried to use up fabric and scrap book paper.  Anything I see that is pink and teal finds a place in Adeline's nursery.


Fabric and thread for string art...

Bird cage display with Grammy's baby rattle...

Some finds from the antique shop and Mod-Podged boxes... (the dress up doll's name is Adeline!)

Even Denver wanted to create something beautiful for his baby sister.

He's so excited!  We made a paper chain to count the days until Addy's arrival.  Every night we remove a chain and talk about what life is going to be like once Adeline comes.  Denver can't wait to be a big brother! 

It was so much fun to put this room together.  I can already see myself sitting in the rocker, listening to lullaby's, rocking little Adeline to sleep.   I can't wait.

I will try to post tutorials for some of the nursery projects in my "free time."  Stay tuned!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Taking a Risk

Ian and I finally did it...well at least we're on our way.  We are officially going to try to sell our Growth Chart Rulers and some other little handmade treats that I have enjoyed making.  I think my hesitation came from not wanting to put a lot of time and money into making products and designing a website--obviously.  But, with our little lady on the way and money getting pretty tight, it was something we had to try. 

So here it goes...the big reveal.  Please check out our website and Etsy shop.  Unfortunately, you cannot purchase rulers through our website at this time, but it is a nice way to browse our latest items. 

I'm hoping this new online venture helps me to be more diligent with this blog.  Is it weird that I keep thinking that when our little one arrives in October, that I will have more time for this?  Hold back your laughter...I know.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Big Changes

Too many of my posts begin with an apology to explain why I have not blogged in so long...this post is no different. But I have a really great excuse this time.

That's right! We sold Quaint Oaks, bought Not-So-Quaint-Oaks, and found out that we're having...

So how about a short house tour? I implore you to look back out our house tour of Quaint Oaks...really puts things in perspective. I saw a quote on Pinterest recently...

Love grows best in little houses with fewer walls to separate where you eat and sleep so close together, you can't help but communicate. And if we had more room between us, think of all we'd miss. Love grows best in houses just like this.

This rang true for us, but with our growing collections and a little one on the way, it was time to find our home...the place where we would raise our family. So here it is...Not-So-Quaint-Oaks.
You already got a glimpse of the front, but because bigger is always bigger...

...and the back...with a huge deck! And room for a pool.

The outside is perfect...beautifully landscaped, private...just perfect. But the inside is even better. I won't bore you with pictures of bedrooms and bathrooms...they're pretty normal (except for our bedroom that opens up to a huge balcony!). I also don't need to post pictures of the 4-room finished basement...but I will tell you that it is big enough to house Big D's new trampoline. And a perfect craft room just for me! And I didn't even mention that Ian gets a library in this deal. So here is what sold us...

Big, open, living space...

It's worth showing a picture of what our old living room looked like on the day we moved..not a huge difference.

 Check out our new kitchen... 

And custom cabinets! My dream come true...

There will be lots of pictures to come, especially as we start making this home our own. It is clear that whoever lived here before us, cared about this place a whole lot. They took excellent care of it and truly made it a home for a family. We knew we made the right choice because it felt like a home the first time we saw it...our home.

Goodbye Quaint Oaks.

Stay tuned, as changes to the blog are on the way.  In this year of growth and improvement, nothing is safe!