I’ve been saving champagne corks for a while meaning to twist together some tiny cafe chairs, but I had forgotten about the project until . . . I tripped onto This Is My Dollhouse, a recent picture book by Giselle Potter (published by Schwartz & Wade Books). As a maker and admirer of all things itty bitty as well as a fan of Potter’s doll-like, oval-faced illustrations, I couldn’t resist getting my hands on the book.
The story is about a girl who creates a dollhouse out of a cardboard box, furnishing it from snippets and household bits.
Inside the dust jacket is a hidden treat: hints and ideas for making and outfitting your own cardboard box dollhouse.
Clothespins and a matchbox become a bed. Bottle caps make perfect plates. Pieces of yellow string equal noodles. Fried eggs? Pencil a yellow circle on a white scrap! The story honors a child’s ability to transform the ordinary into a miniature world.
So, I found my champagne corks where I had squirreled them away. If you have a supply ready, here’s how to make them:
You need: a wire cutter and a champagne (or craft beer!) cork
Step 1: Cut the wire that connects the bottom of the cork cage. Try to straighten out the twists as best you can.
Step 2: Twist the wire into the shape you’d like and hook and secure the loose ends to the back legs of your chair.
The tricky part (other than all that twisting that ended up lopsided in my attempts) is to secure the back and keep the seat on the chair. If the legs splay out too much, the seat falls off. You need to straighten the legs a bit to keep the seat attached.
Smashing old crayon bits and melting them into multi-colored jumbo crayons is a great way to spend one of those rainy April afternoons with (or without) the kids. That’s how 2 ten-year-old boys and I recently wiled away a gray day.
- Gather old crayons. I had a big bag of sad, old crayons from school. We began by sorting out springtime colors–light greens, pinks, yellows, periwinkles.
- Peel off the paper from the crayons. This is the most onerous part, but it’s better to consider it meditative. Think Zen.
- Smash. We broke the crayons as much as possible with our hands. Then we put the pieces in a brown paper bag, brought it outside, and bashed it with a hammer. Needless to say, the boys really dug this part.
- Prepare the muffin pan. I heated the oven to 275 F and sprayed a mini-muffin pan with canola oil. We sprinkled the crayon bits into the muffin pan. At first we were strategic about which colors went into which mold, but then we threw caution to the wind and just dumped in the rest.
- Bake for about 10-15 minutes. Your house will smell like a delightfully waxy Crayola factory. Let the pan cool fully. (Because the boys were eager to see the results, I placed the muffin pan in the fridge to speed up the cooling process.)
- Ta da! Once the muffin pan is completely cool, the crayons will slide out easily.
I spent the rainy weekend making miniatures. I have made a tiny chest of drawers before (although never with leftover torrone boxes), but the wee gum ball machine was a moment of pure Lilliputian inspiration.
I’m planning to bring my creations to school and install them in the shoebox house that the students have been building in our library makerspace. Fingers crossed that they will flip out.
If you are so inclined to make your own mini gum ball machine, you need one of those plastic bubbles (which, yes, come from gum ball machines); colorful teeny beads, and some sort of spool. I think you can intuit the rest but make sure to arm yourself with a hot glue gun.
Happy 2016, folks~
I recently opened a “maker space” in the school library where I work. In some libraries, maker space refers to a spot for a 3-D printer; in mine, it means something more basic: recyclables, masking tape, glue sticks and scissors.
The kids (grades 3-5) decided to make a shoebox house for a library elf–a mythical creature they hope to lure to our library with some luxe real estate. The project is collaborative, with each group of kids adding to what the others started. I’ve been amazed, watching as the structure grew and grew–the pad even has a pool and barbecue. Although I’ve only had a light hand in the project, I do occasionally get out my glue gun to solidify the foundation.
Our maker space rules are simple: share the space; build, don’t break; and when class is over, clean up the blizzard of little bits of paper scattered all over the carpet.
This one’s a crowd pleaser. There’s something about funneling layers of rainbow sand into an old glass bottle that brings out the mad scientist in everyone. There’s not much to it:
Colored sand (you can also use natural sand or salt and color it with food dye)
1″ to 1 1/2″ corks (recycled wine bottle corks also work)
funnel (we only had a single metal one so we also rolled paper into funnels)
That’s it. You just pour and layer!
See what I mean about mad scientists?