Mickey Mouse Birthday party; or a fool-proof toddler party.

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Lately, I have occasionally felt like my soul is in danger of shriveling up.  The job (the one that pays money, not my mom job which pays in sweet smiles and horrific messes around the toilet but not in it) is kind of kicking my ass and sucking the sparkle out of me.  I mean look at me.  Two days I still can’t think up a clever pun incorporating ‘mouse’  ‘disney’, or ‘fool’ for the title.  Are my crafty powers in danger?  I’m starting to get worried.  That can only mean one thing.  I need to craft, and craft hard. And then blog about it.

But I have no time to craft on that scale at the moment.  I can blog, but I can’t craft right now.  Fortunately, I have a birthday party in my back pocket.  I am so worn out inside I would need to plan a craftastic state dinner to cheer myself up.  So to remind myself of happier crafty times, I’m taking myself back to the happiest place on earth, and the Great Rat himself who presides over it, Mickey Mouse.  At one time Lil’ Bro was all about Mickey Mouse, and so his birthday skewed towards that theme.  We had already tried to go to Disneyland when he was 14 months old.  It was an unmitigated disaster — I swear he set out to ruin that trip.  Screaming, vomiting, crying and keeping everyone awake.  It was horrific.  So this time we decided to save our money, keep it local, and then craft the hell out of it.

Invite:  After my usual over-research of Google, my brain was prepped.  I am not going to show the invite because quite frankly I over designed it.  But I came up with my color palette: black, red, yellow and white.  Oh OK, just you can see it is possible to be over-crafty . . .  It was that stupid MM ribbon that I had left over.  I was determined to use it.  Sometimes frugal just overpowers crafty, so strong is it.  Yeah, that’s it, it was the ribbon’s fault.  Anyway, I’m just prolonging the moment:


Decorations:  In addition to the obligatory and already on-hand black red and yellow streamers leftover from a Cars party, I added a few details:

  • Mickey Mouse paper chain:  It all started with the Mickey Mouse paper chain, which was basically a paper chain with little MM ears attached to it. The ears were cut on a piece of construction paper with the top on a fold, and little tabs on the bottom to fold over the width of the paper chain.  So it formed kind of a triangle, much like the Yoda ears and shark fins from previous pirate and Star Wars parties.  This was only for the black rings.  Yeah I got tired of cutting ears and made what I call an artistic decision but it was actually a worn out Mommy decision “Aw hell it’s 11:00 and I’m sick of cutting little tiny circles.  Umm, how about just the black ones?  yeah, that’s the ticket!”


  • Mickey Mouse globes:  I used the same premise with the ears, plus the old “sphere made of out strips of paper” to make some Mickey Mouse paper globes.  These I was quite proud  of because I did not see them anywhere on the internet.  They are probably there, but I like to tell myself it was original.   I cut four strips of paper about 1 inch wide, and made two crosses with tape.  I made an asterisk out of them and taped the bottoms of the two crosses together, and did the same with the top.  I then attached ears.  Finally, when I was ready to hang them I used fishing wire, and hung them from the chandelier, entryway lamp, and patio table umbrella.  I made black, red, and yellow globes.  You can see another “executive decision” mouse with red globe and black ears — must have been another long night for Mommy.

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Goody bags:  

I was also quite proud of the goody bags I made.  They were inspired, if I do say so myself.  I made a template of a Mickey Mouse hat.  Using an ordinary brown paper bag, I rounded the top to match the template.  I cut a whole hat and ears out of black card stock and glued it to the bag.  With all this (wonderful) crap at the top of the bag, I tried to figure how the little Mouseketeers were going to carry it, because they couldn’t roll it.  So I decided to cut out a handle in the top.  On the front of the bag, I cut out a red rectangle to represent Mickey’s pants, and of course added white buttons.    I also printed out each child’s name in yellow to mimic the embroidery you get on a hat.  Boom — a goody bag.  I still love the hell out of these.

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Goodies:  Mickey Mouse Rice Krispy treats; DIY Coloring book

  • Mickey Treats:  Using a Mickey Mouse cookie cutter, I cut out Mickey Mouse Rice Krispy treats and bagged them in ziploc bags.  I covered the zip part with a folded card stock strip of paper, with some accidental extra prints of the kid’s names left over from the goody bags.  I also included MM bubbles and stickers.


  • Mickey Mouse Coloring Books:  The treats, bubbles, and stickers seemed a little skimpy, so I printed out some MM coloring sheets and made little coloring books with construction paper covers.  They looked really plain on the front so using the MM cookie cutter I traced some MMs on black and red polka dot scrapbook paper and pasted them on the front.  I also covered the stapled spine with masking tape, which I kind of liked the look of, almost like a bound book.

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  • Cardboard Blocks:  since Lil’ Bro was 2 at the time, there was no sense in making a big deal about the games — free play was the name of the game.  I knew he liked to play with blocks, so I covered some boxes with brown craft paper and added MM Clubhouse clipart I printed and cut out.    These were just huge boxes the kids could stack and of course knock over.  Why do they do this?  If it keeps them occupied who cares, but it’s so bewildering to painstakingly build something only to destroy it.  Word of caution — when the blocks are knocked over, make sure there’s no one on the other side.  We have a great action shot of Big Bro shoving boxes in his best friend’s face, and she looks most displeased, surprised, and . . . cringe-y.  Anyway, I also laid out some craft paper for them to draw on, and they played at the new water and sand table we got for Lil’ Bro.

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  • Mickey Toss:  The title sounds like we tossed Mickey, but I think that would have traumatized the kids.  “Who’s ready for slingshot Mickey, kids?  Two points if he clears the cedar tree!”  I used the box from the Candy Corn Toss.  I simply added a sheet of brown craft paper to the front with holes cut out in the right places, and drew MM ears to the outside of the holes.  I glued glove, pants, and shoe clip art randomly on the front.  Done.  Lil’ Bro loves this game, even though he stands about 6 inches away from the boxes and places the bean bag in the hole instead of throwing it.

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To be honest, I don’t recall what I served to eat.  It was probably hot dogs to go with the “Hot Dog Song” on the MM Clubhouse show.  However, Lil’ Bro is allergic to many things and has never taken to hot dogs.  Or to be truthful, there are a number of things in the gallery of world cuisine that he could eat but won’t.  Yeah he takes “picky toddler” to a new level.  So I could serve anything I wanted, which is probably why I forgot.

However, with the cupcakes I made simple white and chocolate cupcakes and frosted them with white frosting.  Using black candy melts, I put the melted candy in a squeeze bottle, which to be honest didn’t work all that well after the first 30 squirts (there may have been a black candy melt explosion out of the lid of the bottle).  I made MM silhouettes out of black candy melts on waxed paper, then put the paper in the freezer.  I kept the ears in the freezer until the day of the party and then placed them on the cupcakes.  Mickey Mouse cupcakes, done.  If you can draw circles, you can do this.


For a two-year old’s birthday party, this was just about right-size.  Not too much fuss, and just enough details to satisfy a crafting fool like myself.  And just look how cozy this little guy is afterwards with one of his presents:

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Simple Thanksgiving crafts; or, Tom(foolery) Turkey Day crafts


We were hosting our first small Thanksgiving dinner at our house.  Every year up to this point, Thanksgiving is usually a pretty predictable affair.  With the exception of the not one but two years we contracted the stomach flu.  All since I met Dave.  Coincidence?  I don’t know.  But we almost turned into a couple of Chandler Bings who could not stomach Thanksgiving food after associating it with ..  well you know.  I won’t ruin your Thanksgiving.  Anyway, I wanted to do a little something different with a minimum of clean up and expense.  Seeing as how my butler Jeeves had absconded with our vast amounts of family wealth and crown jewels, a minimum of expense and clean up seemed like a good idea.

Brown Craft Paper Stamped Tablecloth

For some reason I got it in my head I did not want to deal with washing a tablecloth, or that was my excuse for trying to make something crafty.  “Here lemme whip out that weaving loom I’ve been waiting to use . . .”.  I turned to what appears to be my favorite medium, brown craft paper.  Or maybe just because I have a lot of it hanging around.  After measuring the table, I cut off two lengths of paper.  I had intended to do a runner, but the paper was too wide for a runner and I did not feel like trying to cut a straight edge.  So table cloth it was.  I cut a potato in half, and then carved the outline of a leaf into it about a 1/4 to a 1/2 inch deep.  I then cut around the edge of it to result in a raised stamp.  I then carved the details of the leaf into the face of the stamp.  Then I started dippin’ and stampin’ red leaves all over the “cloth”.  Perhaps if I had more time, I could have done smaller and medium sized leaves in orange or yellow, but I was fine with the way just one color came out.  After this tablecloth it was apparent I needed to keep going with a rustic sort of theme.

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Corn Husk Napkin Rings

I had a bunch of corn husks from a short-lived attempt to make tamales.  Since I had a lot of them left over, I decided to “make something” since they tied in with the rustic theme.  After exploring a lot of ideas, I decided to make napkin rings out of corn husks.  I could have just done a simple ring but somehow I got this 3-D sculptural idea in my head.  I am still not totally convinced this was successful, but I still liked it.  I tore the husks lengthwise to the right width.  According to the internet, you can use a curling iron on low heat to smooth out a corn husk (Now how the hell do you put “smooth corn husk” and “curling iron” together?  I ask you).  And for once the internet is true, you can.  I started curling the husk and trying to see if a shape worked.  I did produce a curl, but it had to be held together with a red wooden clothespin.  Yeah it was a little weird but a clothespin is rustic, right?  I was going to glam up the husk with gold paint, but I ended up not liking the effect, so I kept the husk au natural.  I decided to write “thanks” in different languages on the husks with a Sharpie.  It so happens we are rather a multi-cultural family, so we had Gracias for Dad since my step mom is from Mexico, Merci for my brother since he studied French, Köszönöm in Hungarian for my sister in law because she is Hungarian (and I of course screwed up the spelling of this on the husk, dammit), Danke for Dave because of his German heritage, Grazie for me because I was running out of languages,  and Thanks for the kids.

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As far as the centerpiece, I kept it very simple.  I had some glass jars I covered with scrapbook paper and a piece of twine tied in a bow (Twine.  Another of my go to’s.  Because I have a lot of it.  I often wonder if I had a lot of bling lying around would that be my aesthetic instead?) around the middle as vases for flowers.  On my way home from work the day before Thanksgiving I picked up some fall flowers from the farmer’s market.  I had a Christmas table runner that when flipped over only had a plain red fabric, so that became the runner.  I decided to go with no place mats for the adult settings, but for the kids I thought placemats would be nice.  So I took a piece of construction paper and glued a piece of scrapbook paper (I could NOT find any fall scrapbook paper!!  So I bought popcorn paper which strangely seemed to work.) in the middle.  I then printed each child’s name and glued that in the center, then I laminated the mat with clear contact paper.  That was it.  I mean you have to save room on the table for the food, right?

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For the kids, I set up a craft table with coloring books, stickers, paper puppets and crayons.  The kids later put on a puppet show for us at the urging of my niece.


It was really a no frills affair, but for a family gathering I thought it was nice.  That’s the best thing about family, right?  Sure, I could have tried to have that flock of wild turkeys that often come in our backyard do some sort of dance like the penguins do in Mary Poppins, but with no Jeeves there to coordinate that . . . well anyway enough tomfoolery.

Updated — Closet Reading Nook; or , “who is the more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows [her]?”

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There are two keys to creating a reading nook for your child: 1) freak out that your child is behind in his literacy skills and will never love reading the way that you do thus prompting you to make him a cozy reading space; 2) have access to someone who will drill holes and a pole in the wall for you.  It did all start with the unpleasant realization that Big Bro was behind his peers on the reading skills.  I went into what Dave calls Cornered Rat Mode, where I become a bit ruthless, focused and driven to achieve a certain goal – in this case, to help Big Bro with his reading skills in a way that was fun and wouldn’t make reading so much a chore as the greatest hobby on earth (says the bookworm).

I of course Googled the web and was quickly overloaded/inspired.  At first I was just going to sling a bean bag in the corner of our living room.  That didn’t last long once that freaking creativity gene reared its ugly crafty head (wearing a fantastic book-hat it no doubt created from some felt scraps and spare pages from an old edition of Arthur Rackham illustrations found in the bargain bin at the used book store.  It’s a very specific and whimsical gene when it is inspired.  Now I may have to make that imaginary hat).  As usual, I digress.

Many sites suggested using unusual spaces for a reading area.  The boys have no room in their bedroom, and the living room is already in danger of being consumed by toys that are strangely never played with but always strewn on the ground, so when I saw the suggestion of the closet as a space, I knew we had something.  I used several sites as an inspiration, but knew that I wanted seating of some sort and a tent/canopy of some sort.  Why a canopy?  I had a piece of polka dot canvas I have been waiting 6 years to use.  Just sitting there in my fabric stash.  Waiting.  And waiting.  And waiting.  Getting its hopes up . . . and then waiting.  By hook or by crook, this nook would have the canopy look (aaaand apparently recently there’s been a little too much Dr. Seuss in said reading nook lately).

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With those ideas in mind I approached Dave, who was strangely receptive to my idea, especially when I started asking ever so casual random questions about PVC pipe.  Once he gave me the “why are you asking about PVC” look, I had to come clean.   The problem was I needed to install a pole of some sort perpendicular to the existing clothes pole, due to the layout of the closet, in order to have a pole for the tent.  I was going to attach PVC somehow to the clothes pole, but Dave came up with the idea of attaching a piece of galvanized pipe to the wall using a wall socket that the pipe screws into.  I tried to act like, “sure I can drill that into the wall” – but he knew based on the last time I was faced with the drill I burst into tears because I was not confident enough to start using it (but hey, I WAS 7 months pregnant at the time, everything made me cry) that I might need some guidance, so he agreed to set up the pole for me and install a better (looking and functioning) light in the closet.

We also purchased bean bags.  I knew, when we bought them, that the print did not really go with the polka dots, and they might possibly be too big for the closet.  However, Corned Rats who want to avoid procrastinating do not let little things like size, fit, or matching print deter them.  Also when even Dave said the print reminded him of the Death Star, I knew I had to get them.  We are of two minds on Star Wars and Star Trek, as one is MUCH better than the other.  Both are good, but one is far superior.  After I pulled my eyes back in my head when he said that without a trace of distaste in his voice, we were set.

Off we went to Home Depot, where we got the necessary supplies (a 24 inch pipe threaded on both ends, a corresponding socket or bracket or whatever the hell you call it, and a cap for the end of the pole).  We also let Big Bro chose the color of the pendant light (blue of course).  Once home, Dave set up the pole and bracket into a stud in the wall, and then I mocked up the canvas to see how long a piece I needed.  I draped it over the pole and used thumbtacks to achieve the desired openness, as I realized indeed the bean bags were too big. If the boys weren’t sitting so high up because of the damn bean bags I wouldn’t have to tack the sides of the tent to the wall.  That’s exactly what I ended up having to do, and I still need to invest in flat thumbtacks so they boys don’t keep knocking them off, or better yet, embark on the potentially messy project of releasing some beans from the bags to make them smaller.

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In any case, we set up the light, which made us both say “Kmart shoppers, we have a blue light special” because the lamp shade turned the whole closet blue.  I was reminded of that Seinfeld episode with the red Kenny Rogers Roasters light burning into Kramer’s apartment (“Kenny? Kenny?”).  But hey the point is there is plenty of reading light now.

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With the remaining piece of canvas I made a little area rug, threw some pillows on top of the bags, and suspended some spin art stars and swirls the boys had made.  (Of course, one has already been ripped off).  Reading nook complete.


However, “reading nook” doesn’t really grab a 6 year old, so once I called it a “Secret Reading Hideout”, both boys were in there faster than you can flip a page.  Every night now we go into the SRH and read a book and/or do sight words.  



An update to the SRH.  Over time, the thumbtacks just were not cutting it.  After using some of those supposedly “won’t mess up the wall” sticky hooks which still didn’t work, I reverted back to one of my original ideas.  I took a tension curtain rod and stretched it across the closet.  I cut the polka dot cfabric in half and sewed a pocket sleeve on each end.  I slid them onto the tension rod tied them back with fishing wire, attaching them to the useless hooks.


In the past Geoffrey had a habit of taking out every superhero cape, mask, puppet etc., out of his dress up box under the bed and was then unable to shove it all back in there.  After a while I thought “Hmm.  Maybe its not just him.  Maybe that box just isn’t big enough?”  Any excuse to buy organizational things.   I bought a relatively inexpensive storage bench from Ross for his dress up clothes which also fit in the closet as a reading bench.  Don’t you love it when something does triple duty?  No clutter on the floor, a place for dress-up, and a reading bench that fits perfectly?  SRH 2.0, y’all!

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