Thursday, October 30, 2014

Countdown to Halloween Day 30 - The Finished "Haunt" and Family Yard

The "Home and Family" show's set front yard decor is done. You may remember I posted about the plan for it a few weeks back (click here). Although most of the prop projects had been completed throughout the month, the finished display was literally set up and dressed in just a few hours one night last week. Not only with my amazing prop crew, but I also talked some equally amazing Halloween haunter friends to come by and help - Derek of Van Oaks Cemetery, Lydia and Andy Rella of Mourning Rose Manor, and Jasper of Mr. Chicken Props. Thank you all.

And as I've mentioned in past posts, I no longer have my own home to decorate, so the day job has kept the haunt flame alive for me.

Here's the initial design sketch.

For the video of the finished yard reveal on the show click HERE ( I had it embedded once but discovered it would automatically play. Got rid of, thought that might be annoying for all visiting the blog).

Pics of the finished yard.

Match The Animal Book & Puzzle Activity

I love when my toddlers come up with a new activity and I get to share it with you. This is one of those times, and I hope your kids enjoy it as much as mine!

I love this activity because it is a simple, fun way to engage toddlers in object to picture matching skills, which are so important to their development.

For a wonderful explanation of how beneficial these skills are read the Benefits of Object-Picture Matching by Twodaloo.

We started with one of their favorite books: First 100 Words by Roger Priddy. (affiliate link)

This book has been a favorite for a long time, especially the last 2 pages which are all animals. My little guys are obsessed with animals right now!

We keep our books and puzzles in the same area, and one day the boys pulled out their wooden puzzles at the same time as this book.  We found that 2 of their puzzles - Melissa & Doug's Wooden Safari Puzzle (affiliate link) and Wooden Farm Puzzle (affiliate link) had a lot of the same animals as in the book. They started laying the animals on top of their pictures... and a new game was born!

The boys have so much fun with this - we often play when I'm looking for a quieter, wind down activity before dinner or bed. We get the puzzles out, open the book, and I'll ask questions like, "where's the pig?" and they match the puzzle piece to the book. For the pieces that don't have a match, I'll ask something like, "Is there an elephant on this page?" or "Is there a penguin on the puzzle?" We also practice making all the animal sounds too.

You can easily adapt this activity to any book with animal photos and other small animal toys. Or if your kids have other interests, there are wonderful pages in this book on vehicles and common household items too. So many possibilities! 

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, read my disclosure policy.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Countdown to Halloween Day 28 - Zombie Windows DIY

The Zombie Apocalypse has finally happened. What do ya do first? Board up all your exposed windows of course. Then worry if your brains are tasty.

Sorry I've been an irregular Halloween blogger this year, but here's a full blown prop "how-to" post to make up for it. This is a cheap, easy and super fast project. Perfect if your haunt needs last minute details or you want some extra decoration inside for a party this Friday night.

How fast and easy? Well... I created these Zombie windows to cover our set's french door area in little over 4 hours today.

Step 1 - Get yourself lots of black foam core board. Cut boards to cover windows atleast a 1/4" - 1/2" wider. These will be the main support and create the blacked out areas. Once done, set aside to be used later. If it takes more than one board to cover your window it's okay, you can seam them together easily (explained later).

Step 2 - Making wood planks. These are cut strips of foam core. Why cheap foam core planks? To keep light and easily hung temporarily in windows of course (you could also use thicker foam or real wood, but this worked for me on this project). Cut irregular widths and lengths. Forget the ruler, going for that old distressed look. I also cut exaggerated cartoony notches at the end of planks to help sell it.

Step 3 - Painting. Trying to pass off foam core as wood planks requires a really decent faux finish. I used a wood grain paint tool, you can find these at most paint or craft stores. If you don't have one, get one. A handy tool in any prop making arsenal.

First I painted a board with a thinned coat of grey paint (1 part water/ 3 parts paint).

Quickly, while the paint was fresh and wet, I dragged the tool across to create grain. If you've never used one, practice a bit. Varying the angle of the curve while dragging creates unique knots and other natural wood grain textures. Tip - keep a rag handy. The wood grain tool can get gunked up with paint after several passes ruining the effect. So wipe it clean often.

Second tip - Once your planks are painted, they may curl a bit, this is because the drying shrinks the paper surface of the foamcore on that side. If happens, lightly wet the back with sponge or brush and the curl will flatten out some when that dries.

Step 4 - The fun part. Once planks dry, start arranging them on the window black out boards the way you like. Once set, just hot glue in place. If you have boards that need seaming, hot glue a plank across the seam to bridge them together.

Step 5 - Details. On the black areas between planks glue on store bought skeleton arms and hands as if breaking through. If needed, cut the base of them flat to glue more securely on board. I painted all mine green for a classic cartoon zombie look and so would "pop" against the darker boards. I also lightly dusted the bottom of each arm/hand with flat black spray paint so would blend in with the black void better and help suggest emerging from shadow.

I also added Zombie eyes. These were Ping Pong balls cut in half. I painted them yellow and used a Sharpie to create pupils and a neon green paint pen for color. Quick and easy.

And for extra detail, I used a silver paint pen to dot on nail heads where planks connected.

Step 6 - Hanging it up.  On the back of the board hot glue a length of picture hanging wire. On the window attach a suction cup hook. Hang Zombie board on hook. Done!

They're ya go. My project was constrained by time and budget, but I hope all reading this will take this basic build and get inspired to make your own and improve on.

Easy Halloween Breakfast: Jack O Lantern Toast with Pumpkin Cream Cheese

Feeding toddlers is never easy, so I love to have fun with their food. Earlier this Fall we made Owl Toast and it was a big hit, so I thought I'd do something similar for Halloween.

This is really simple - you can mix up the cream cheese the night before, so even when you're in a hurry in the morning you can still make a special holiday breakfast. It's also delicious for an afternoon snack!

The first step is mixing up the Pumpkin Cream Cheese. I love that my kids are actually getting some veggies here - pumpkin is a great source of Vitamin A and fiber.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese

1/2 cup cream cheese
1/4 cup pure pumpkin puree
2 tsp honey
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl until fully incorporated. Refrigerate until serving.

Once your cream cheese is done, all you need to do is toast your favorite bread. Then cut a pumpkin shape out of your toast using a pumpkin shaped cookie cutter(affiliate link)

Spread your pumpkin cream cheese on your toast and decorate with chocolate chips. If your toddler is like mine, these will be the first to go.

That's it! A quick, easy, and healthy breakfast for Halloween morning (or a great pre-trick or treating snack). Enjoy!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Felt Turkey Puzzle: Busy Bag Activity

We made a Felt Owl Busy Bag Activity in September and my boys are still playing with it. They call it the "owl puzzle" and love to get it out and put the pieces back together. This inspired me to make them a "turkey puzzle" to start gearing up for Thanksgiving.

This is easy to make and turns out really cute! You need:
  • Felt - brown, orange, yellow, red, blue, green and a background of your choosing (I did a cream color).
  • Googly eyes
  • Velcro
  • Scissors
  • Mod Podge or other fabric glue

Start by tracing a circle out of your brown felt. This will be the body. I used a saucer and it was the perfect size. Cut out your circle.

Then cut out 5 teardrop shapes for feathers - red, blue, orange, yellow, & green. I did the first one freehand and then traced each subsequent one so they were fairly uniform.

Cut out a small diamond out of yellow felt for the nose, a small teardrop shape out of red felt for the wattle, and a two feet shapes out of orange felt.

Add a small square of velcro to the back of your googly eyes. You want to put the stiffer hook side of the velcro on the back of the eyes so that it will stick to the felt.

I actually experimented with two different sized eyes - I liked the bigger ones but my 2 year old thought it looked like an owl, so he chose a smaller size. Go figure!

Next, cover the back of your brown felt circle in Mod Podge or fabric glue.  Adhere this to the center of your background piece of felt.

This is what your pieces will look like before assembly:

And after!

I gave the puzzle to one of my toddlers already assembled so he knew what it would look like. He immediately took all the pieces off and began trying to make his own turkey.

It was a little abstract but that's half the fun!

My toddlers love taking the turkey apart and putting it back together again. This is a great activity to put in a busy bag for restaurants, waiting rooms, or of course, the Thanksgiving table! No mess and they can play over and over again. Too cute and so fun!