May 28, 2013

A Play Refrigerator for Nathan....made by Mommy.

 In January, I brought home this stereo cabinet from the Goodwill outlet for $5. It had double glass doors on the front and an interior shelf, which I removed. The structure was good, and so I snagged it right away with intentions to make it into the perfect play fridge for Nathan. 

 I got quite inspired after seeing The PLAN TOY REFRIGERATOR last fall, but KNEW it would always be way outside of my budget range. Instead, I used that fridge as my inspiration, and got started on my own plan.

Looking back, I'm not really sure why I thought I could pull off a project like this. I mean, it involves wood. And cutting, and measuring, and power tools (some of which I've only used one time before, and not great at that). I guess I'll attribute that tenacity to a little craziness on my part, and the knowledge that if I get myself in over head at any point, Steven will no doubt be there to happily bail me out. He's a good one for that! So, Ahem...I proceeded on....

In February I primed the stereo cabinet in my dark basement. And there it sat for the next four months untouched, until now. Steven helped me purchase one huge sheet of plywood at Lowe's for $13.56. We had Lowe's cut it into fourths for us, so we could get it into the car  (one piece below is pictured against the fence).
 Then I got out an array of power tools to use.... It's truly amazing HOW MANY different tools you find useful for just one project. I kept running back into the house for "one more thing." I mainly used all you see here: 18volt power drill with drill bits, measuring tape, safety glasses, hammer, pencil, screwdriver, paper, and circular saw (and a kid shoe thrown in).
And here was my very, very rough sketched out plan. I use the correct wisdom and measured twice (at least) and cut once. Ooooh, wow! I never realized quite how much math can be involved here: Yikes! Not my strong suit...but, I did manage even several fractions. 8th grade Algebra seems like oh, so long ago to remember! : )  

The stereo cabinet had the wierdest dimentions EVER, and so there had to be some pretty precise cuts. Next time, I think I'll just build my own frame! : )

With only one attempt under my belt of using the circular saw on THIS project last fall, I started out kind of shaky, but went slower this time on my measurements and cuts. Within minutes, literally, I was at home with the saw, and I think it liked me too. My safety glasses were a must on this one, as saw dust was flying everywhere, even into my hair. We don't own saw horses, so I just cut the wood as you see, off the side of the frame of the stereo cabinet. 

 I first cut one piece to cover the whole back side of the cabinet, nailing it in place. Then I cut two doors for the front. One smaller, for the freezer above, and one larger for the fridge part below.
 I cut and added two shelves on the inside and kept them in place by also cutting mounting strips for along the sides. I didn't want Nathan to be able to remove them at any point, posing a hazard to his safety.
 I bought two sets of brackets in different sizes at Ace to mount the fridge doors on with. Due to the inside lip of the stereo cabinet, I had quite a struggle placing these fridge doors on. The wood cutting was a breeze for me, compared to mounting these hinges. Sigh. Like 7 tries later, I finally got it.
 I really wanted Nathan to have some "crisper" drawers at the bottom, and so I made up my own dimentions to two drawers. They didn't come out flush, or perfect by any means, but some intense sanding later made them just right and usable. Not too shabby for my first project.
 At Steven's recommendation, I used wood glue on each edge of the crisper drawers, and held the pieces in place with nails in my power shot staple gun.
 Here is one assembled drawer and one to be cut and built:
 And a "rough shell" of my fridge building attempt after day one.

 Priming day happened about a week later, and because Nathan begged me to help him once he saw the paint (and kept saying "paint, paint"!), I decided to have him help me. I'm glad I did. It was hilarious! We got covered in water-based primer, ruined a set of play clothes, and smothered the fridge in paint, but it was so much fun!!! Little guy just LOVED it! He painted the whole thing, inside and out, in just 15 minutes. And, to my surprise, did a pretty good job too!

 And N wanted to help prime it again...for the next three days straight! : )
 After the primer was dry, I added a few layers (by myself :) ) of Rustoleum magnetic paint.
 While the fridge was in my kitchen, I painted the fridge frame with this Valspar summer paint series from Lowe's! Thanks, to my friend, Arren, I was able to get it for free! Yea!

I finished off the front and inside of the fridge doors with 2 coats of chalkboard spray paint. Now he can draw with chalk on it and in it (which I know N will do anyways), and play with the lightweight magnets that it will hold. The door handles are both from Lowe's and are different sized drawer handles. The fridge doors stay shut with magnetic closures I already had. 

Here is the finished product, and the little man playing with it:

A Successful FIRST wooden project by Mommy I would say! I love it! And am in love with that industrial/vintage look to it.

What I spent on the fridge
one piece of plywood, cut into fourths....$14.00
2 packs of hinges, different sizes......$6.00
stereo cabinet.......$5.00
2 drawer handles......$9.00
magnetic paint (a splurge).....$21.00
chalkboard spray paint.....$5.00

Total for fridge: $60.
Total (without splurges of magnetic and chalkboard paint purchased): $34.
Total time I probably invested in the whole project: 10 hours

And both are way less than the one I wanted for $198. Win, win. 

And....I'm sure you're not surprised by the fact that I already have a second wooden project in mind for our little guy.... A toddler-sized picnic table for our backyard! Oh, yes! I think I will! 
Ana White's blog is my new favorite!!!!! She has incredibly awesome plans for DIY building tons of things!!!! And her projects are available for FREE! I'm so excited! This stay at home mom builds like I sew, and I just love it!!!! She has so many things I'd like to try, but I'm thinking it will start with this table for Nathan!!!! 

Want to build your own fridge or kitchenette for your kids? There are plenty of DIY ones on Pinterest that I'm in love with, or Ana White also shares free and easy plans for building a set on her site as well:

May 24, 2013

Sofia the First Dress Reveal

There was a precious, soon to be 4 year old, who had a birthday nearing. The beloved dress that she just KNEW her daughter would love was sold out. What to do. She knew of a friend. And that friend knew her sister may want to make that dress. Military connections. Facebook connections. Long off distances in the Netherlands. 

I had never heard of who Sofia the First was. I had to look it up. I loved the dress. I could see any princess having (and needing) that exact same dress. I got right two work. I had 2 1/2 months to design, create, and ship. That was a very generous time allotment from the requestor. I was thankful. I wanted it to be just right. It ended up taking me about 1 1/2 months to do all that. And... the precious little girl had a VERY exciting day turning 4, and performing lots of twirls and smiles in her new, made-just-for-her Sofia dress. 

Here is the rest of the story in pictures:

 And a little extra gift I included for the birthday girl. I saw a similar shaped purse at Hobby Lobby, and so I copied that design and used some leftover sparkle material and lining from the dress. 

You can see the birthday girl in her very own dress by clicking HERE, and scrolling to the bottom of the blog page. Thank you, to my sister for referring me to her friend. Thank you to my sister's friend, for asking me and trusting me to make you the dress you wanted. Thank you to all who listened to me talk about the dress for weeks, and who believed in me to make it.

January 8, 2014: Go HERE to see my latest Sofia Updates!!!
And get your pattern copy on my Etsy for just $5-7!
Debutant pattern available in sizes 4/5 and 6/7.....$7.00 Etsy
Simplified Costume Version of Sofia Dress in 2/3T (plus add-on pattern pieces included to turn your purchased debutant pattern in the larger sizes into a simple costume dress)......$5.00 Etsy

**My Sofia the First Pattern is available for personal use only. Rights to sales will be permitted BY REQUEST ONLY. 2013, reserves all copyright privileges

May 16, 2013

How To Create A Natural Play Place For Your Kids

Last week, while I was browsing Pinterest, and came across many ideas on "natural play places" for children. I was quite enthralled. I was by no means a tomboy child, but I absolutely l-o-v-e-d being outside, playing in creek beds and building forts in the woods with my friends. I wanted to bring a touch of that childhood fun to our backyard for Nathan.

With these fabulous ideas in mind, we got started by taking a walk to our nearby wooded park to grab some long branches (about 4-5 feet long each in length). If you have a taller child, you will need to choose taller branches. On our way home, this is what our stroller looked like:
Don't worry....I only got a few weird looks on my way home : )! Next time I will bring my car by the park for easier loading and carrying : )! 

All you need for this project is some sticks/branches, twine, scissors, and vine (or blanket). 

 I started by leaning my branches together just like a tee pee:
 Then, I took the twine roll and wrapped it in and around all the sticks. No knots made really, just that in and around motion. I only secured it in a knot at the end. Don't have any twine? Why not use scraps of old yarn, fabric scraps tied together, clothesline, or rope! 
 For a little lasting security, I used my plant spade to dig into the ground at the base of every large stick, about 1" deep, kind of "planting" the stick in the ground. This would assure that Nathan could go into his fort and not knock it over. Also, the fort will be able to stand up against the weather and elements for a much longer time period. 

 I happened to have a TON of climbing vine (clematis) in my side yard that seems to run rampant every year, despite trying to kill it over and over. For this project, I was thankful to still have some around. If you don't have any vine available, you could also use other things instead, like an old blanket from your closet, a sheet, grapevine, swinging vine from your walk in the woods, or even extra twine.

 I grabbed a section of vine, started at the top, and started weaving it in and out of each branch. To keep it secured well, you'll need to do a lot of tucking of each vine around each other, and weave in and out of each branch as much as possible. It took me about an hour to wind the whole fort in vines, taking quite a lot of vines. While I love the green aesthetic of the vining leaves, I know that they will not keep their true color long, separated from the vine. (**What a true spiritual principle here I might add: We are not much use when separated from the True Vine..John 15:1-8)  The dried vines will still continue to reinforce the fort structurally, in this case.

 I then brought over some cut logs from a neighbor's yard (discarded), and added them as benches for Nathan to sit on. A few days later, he got to check it out for the first time:

I think he likes it. And we created it all for free (well, except the twine for $3). I am excited to keep adding to this little area of our yard, and I think N will appreciate it more and more each year that he grows. Perhaps next, I'll add a "mud pie" kitchen, some rocks & sand, a water feature, and some leafy garden stepping stones, where we can create more outdoor art together

I hope I've inspired you to create you own natural play area for your children. They will love it for years, and they will get to explore skills of critical thinking, building, engineering through assembly & structural integrity, and design...just to name a few. If your children are older, I am sure that they will enjoy building these types of structures over and over again! What will you be building together today? 

Please be sure to let me know if you build a fort, or natural play area, of your own! I would LOVE to see it! Have a blessed day!