Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Star Wars Birthday Party: Episode 1

Gabe's birthday is just a couple weeks away so it's time to start getting ready. This year he requested a Star Wars party. So this post is a "prep" post. I'll fill you in on the cake and food later and do a wrap up explaining the games and how they all went.

First, I needed to make some invitations. Please, George Lucas, don't be mad at me for using your image. I'm not making money off you. I don't really care for store bought invites. I don't know why, they just seem to not have the right length blanks for info and they just aren't that creative (most of the time).
I started with a blank document and divided it into four sections (postcard size). Many programs will do this for you. If not just make a guide dividing halfway lengthwise and width-wise. So, I grab an image of my son's favorite characters, C3PO and R2-D2. I put it into my document and sized and placed it off to the side. Then it was time to add the text boxes. Don't forget stuff like date, time, and location. I almost left off the address! Silly me.

Fonts: Art Stamp Medium (download it free from the internet)
Arial (would be weird if you don't have it on your computer, Helvetica is very similar) I just made the font size bigger for the main details to stand out, and also used color for the same reason.

Since we are doing games that will be like jedi training, I thought it would be fun to make the invites like invitations from the Jedi Counsel. And if you are not hip on the Star Wars lingo, a padawan is a jedi-in-training. Gabe wants to dress up as a jedi, so we figured we would invite others to dress up, but it isn't necessary.

I just printed them on photo paper because I liked the glossy look, but card stock would be great too. Then I cut them apart, and I'm sending them into his class since we are inviting everyone. If you are not inviting the whole class, be respectful (we don't want hurt feelings!) and put them in the mail. You can address and stamp the back like any other postcard.

Treat bags:
Are you like me? I hate the little treat bags kids get at parties. Don't get me wrong, it's a nice gesture. But let's be honest, most of the stuff is less than stellar and is usually lost, broken or forgotten in less than 12 hours. I figure why waste my money on such nonsense?

One thing they will need for the party is a lightsaber, and this would make a great treat to take home. I can't buy the plastic ones for everyone, and more than that, someone is bound to get hurt with those. I decided the best way to go was to buy pool noodles and make my own.

Start with a noodle (I found both skinny and fat, since they have small hands, I picked the skinny ones).
Fold it in half and pinch it down so you find the center.

Yeah, please disregard the mess in the background.
Use a serrated knife and cut the noodle in the center.
Clean up the end a bit if you need to, but it will be covered so no need for perfection.

Use handy-dandy duct tape to make the "handle" of the lightsaber.

First, I capped off the end with tape and then I carefully wound the tape around the noodle. I just eye-balled how far I should go. Then repeat with the other half. Each noodle gives you two lightsabers.

They are quite good. Maybe not super fancy, but I'm sure the kids will love them and if they beam each other in the head, no one is likely to get hurt. :) Once the rsvp's come in, I will use a permanent marker to write each child's name on a lightsaber so we don't have saber confusion during the party.

It's not Chi's party, but he likes lightsabers too. :)

Other than that, I will grab some Star Wars coloring books from the dollar store and some Star Wars fruit snacks and invite the children to take one of each home along with their lightsaber.

{Update: to view food ideas, check out Episode 2, includes a Millenium Falcon cake tutorial. to view game ideas, check out Episode 3.}

Linking to some of these great parties.  

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tuesday's Art Adventure: Textured Paper Collage

Welcome to the first art lesson. Before we begin, I want to tell you my philosophy on teaching art to kids. Too often we want kids to create these little masterpieces, so we pick a project where they have to follow steps exactly in order to create a predetermined perfect project that will then be displayed. And this is probably why most people grow up to believe they cannot create art.

The point of creating art as a child is to express creativity. It is to experience and test out what happens, not to follow a formula someone else created. Demonstrate new techniques to try and expose them to new ideas, but let your child explore where it takes him or her. The finished product really shouldn't matter nearly as much as the joy of creating it in the first place. And even if every painting turns brown from so much mixing, it's fine. Display it anyway. Let them be proud, but for heaven's sake, don't do it for them so it turns out "right"! 

Textured Paper Collage

A Collage is an art form created by attaching various papers and items together.

2 parts: a) make own textured paper; b) make collage with paper you made and paint


  • plain paper napkins (cheap ones are great)
  • school glue
  • a spray bottle
  • Any items with texture, plastic mesh bags from oranges, bubble wrap, plastic canvas mesh (like for yarn embroidery), corrugated cardboard, etc.
  • large household paint brush (like you use for a wall)
  • heavy painting paper or card stock
  • watercolor paints (the kid's kind, like Crayola. You can use the fancier kinds if you have them, but you don't need to)
  • scissors (see note at end)
  • brushes

To make textured paper,
Before you begin, fill spray bottle with water and add about one teaspoon of school glue. Put the lid on and shake to mix.
Place your textured item flat on the table
I used the mesh, but when I laid it on the table for the picture you couldn't really see it. So that's why you get this picture.

take one napkin and open one fold (so the paper is still doubled), and lay it on top of the textured item

spray the napkin with the water-glue mix. Make this completely wet, but a fine mist spray works best.

Tap the dry paintbrush up and down on the wet napkin in a pouncing motion which will force the napkin into the texture of your item.

Pounce over the whole napkin.

Now take another napkin and place it on top of the first one and repeat the whole process. Do it again with a third napkin.

Once you have three layers, carefully peel your new textured paper from the item you are using and set out to dry completely. It will take about 3-4 hours to dry, so plan accordingly. Try out as many different textures as you like.

{For another project idea, you can use chipboard letters or numbers and lay them backwards, use the same napkin process and create a paper with your child's name or something that looks like a license plate that could be fun to decorate.}

Making the textured paper was difficult for my three year old and easy for my six year old. Both boys liked doing it, but Chi's paper kept ripping because he kept stroking with the brush instead of pouncing. 

Because we needed paper for the collage, his brother and I just made some extra so he would have more choices to use for his collage. If your child is too young for this step, you can just collect anything with texture for them to use to make a collage. Or if you really want to try the texture paper, both of you should make some. If your child's paper all rips like my son's did, you can just share your paper with him or her.

Collage time!
Once your papers are dry, get out your heavy paper, your textured papers, glue, scissors and watercolors. And let your child go to town. 

Encourage him or her to cut paper and glue wherever they want. And then add paint. Maybe the texture looks like rocks and they want to make a whole scene. Maybe they just want to make a pattern. Maybe they just love the thrill of cutting and randomly sticking the paper down. That's okay too. 

Feel free to encourage them to imagine what textures look like (snake skin? grass?), but don't dictate what their finished product should be. 

The great thing about using the textured paper you created is that it paints very nicely, so they can turn the papers any color they want.

A note about cutting: by two your child can begin using scissors. Most safety scissors, though, cause frustration because they tend to bend the paper instead of cut. I recommend Fiskars kids' scissors. They do not have the plastic guards on them and they cut through paper as easily as regular scissors, but they will not cut skin. Truly! I used to scissor my fingers when teaching art classes to prove it to the parents. Fiskars doesn't know me from Adam, I just really like this product.

Please use and share, but give credit where it's due.
(This is copyright protected material.)



The Lettered Cottage

Friday, April 22, 2011

What I've been up to...

Well, you may have noticed lots of little things and no big reveals lately. That would be because my big project is taking 

We've been doing a little demolition on the stairs to our basement. I've hated them from day one. But it's funny, I wanted a house so I could do whatever I wanted to it (as opposed to renting). Then this huge major change was so difficult to start. I think we were hesitant, like, can we really do that?
It will be awhile before it's done. Here's the progress:
This is before:

This is what we found when we took the paneling down:
This was next:

Now here we are:

We still have a long way to go. Those stair treads are being really stubborn! But I will win! So, that's why I haven't had a big reveal in awhile. This one's taking time.

I have three other smaller projects to show you, but I need the weather to cooperate. As soon as the weather remembers it is spring, I'll get right on those. :)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Exciting news!

I know many of you like to do arts and crafts projects with your wee little ones. I figure since I have loads of ideas for those, it would be a great addition to this blog. So, starting next week look forward to Tuesdays' Art Adventures!

Every Tuesday I will have step by step lessons on art projects you can use with your kids. (Most projects will be appropriate for preschool-elementary aged kids.) You can use the lessons outside your home, but if you do so I ask that you let me know and you make sure that you credit the project lessons to Jennifer Vannette, Domesticated Nomad.

It's gonna be fun!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

It's complimentary, my dear

My living room has the following: creamy yellow walls, hardwood floors with golden tones, a burlap wall, neutral brown and green couches, dark brown furniture, a neutral green and cream rug, bold orange curtains, and throw pillows and art with orange and greens.

So, what the heck was I thinking when I decided to paint my end tables sky blue? Well, a couple simple things and I'll break it down for you.

Enter, the Color Wheel:

I'm sure you know the basics, primary colors, secondary, tertiary (which are made by combining primary and secondary, like red-orange). One major reason I knew blue would work is that blue is the compliment of orange. That means it is directly across the color wheel from another color. Compliments provide both impact and stability. There is such a strong correlation between complimentary colors and that is why the colors provide stability. It's like having legs on a ladder. They balance and provide the structure for the rungs. But compliments also allow a color to pop. When I put the colors together, it creates bigger impact. Compliments are: 
red and green;

blue and orange;

and purple and yellow.

There are other color schemes that can give you confidence in your color choices, such as analogous. This just means that you use three colors that are touching each other on the color wheel. For example, you start with green and add yellow-green and blue-green.

I just went one step to either side of green on the wheel. (I could go all the way to blue and yellow, but those are big leaps for the eye and it's not as comfortable. More on that in a bit.) 

A split complimentary really is what it sounds like. Let's start with green again. The compliment is red, but in a split complimentary I would then pick the colors on either side of red so red-violet and red-orange (or go all the way to purple and orange). 

Mapped on the wheel, this scheme makes a "Y". 

Let's think about my room again. My main colors are yellow and orange. 

(I do have some brown and green but both are reading as neutral in this space, so for the purpose of color schemes we'll ignore the neutrals.) Yellow and orange are both what we call warm colors. Red is also a warm color. If you think about how those colors feel, warm should just make sense. Blue, green, and purple are considered cool colors. Red is the warmest and blue is the coolest.

When we are in a warm room with no cools the warm can feel kind of intense and sometimes even agitating. And conversely a room with only cool colors can feel cold or even stark. So, a room can be mostly warm or cool, but should have a balance with a color from the other family. You may notice that the color schemes from above naturally do that. My bold orange curtains are definitely warm, the complimentary color, blue, is cool. So a little bit of blue is like blowing on a hot coffee. I don't want to make my coffee too cold, I just want to be able to take it. Make sense?

Okay, but why light blue? Why didn't I just choose a blue that was as dark as my orange, like this?

Those colors do go together. You will find them in sports uniforms in particular. It might be fun in a room like a kid's room where you are trying for more intensity. But most of us don't want to live with color that intense all the time. Our eye can get confused about what to look at and then it won't rest. (This happens without you noticing. You'll just notice the fatigue eventually and you many never know why. So, if you give a kid a room with all intense colors, it's fine for play, but don't expect them to do their homework in there.)

So, the solution is to vary the intensity of colors. Having one lighter than another or one brighter and one more muted. Your eye can then take it all in, skip from one thing to the next and settle. (By the way, having a room with only one color can cause eye confusion as well. You can solve it by having variations on a color.)

So, when I decided the next layer of my room needed to help cool off all the warm, I decided to compliment the boldest color in the room, orange. But I did not want to be as intense as the orange or they would be competing for attention, so I went with sky blue. The color combo allows each piece to shine without overpowering the other.

Keep in mind that for every color "rule" some one has successfully broken it. So this is not hard and fast, but if you feel like something is not working in your room, you can go back to these basics and find the fix to make your room a place you want to be. So here are my three colors one more time:

Oh, and just because we are talking colors, I see a lot of people going with all white schemes. If you are going for comfy and cozy, make sure that your white choices are warm, usually by having a white with yellow added, though it could be orange or red. If you want airy and breezy, then pick whites with cool colors added, usually blue but also green and purple. But somewhere have a balance. Maybe by having warm wood tones in a cool white room. Or by adding a blue art piece in a warm white room. All white rooms are harder to pull off than they look. Successful ones are not "just white." 

Linking to:
Tatertots and Jello