Make: DIY Bitty Bistro Chairs

Mini Cafe Chairs by

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.

Mini Cafe Chair by




Places: Treasures & Trash

My friend Mary is a veteran treasure hunter and estate sale scout. She looks for places that are lived-in, worn-at-the-edges, abundant–in other words, houses with a lot of stuff in the basement. Mary loves discoveries of ephemera best: bits of ribbon, rolls of old wallpaper, kitschy greeting cards, and she’s willing to whisk through the contents of desk drawers and dig through musty closets for a great find.

Last weekend, Mary invited me to a sale held at a former convent of Armenian nuns, which before that was the many-roomed replica manor home of a wealthy family. The place is now marked for demolition. It was one of those places layered in stories: the third floor narrow hall with rooms in the eaves for servants, a grand sun room darkened by the nuns into a makeshift chapel, a wing painted in ice cream pastels for orphaned children. I didn’t pick up much–a plate, a stitched scene (of Armenia?)–but I marveled at the crackled linoleum, the porcelain door knobs, the notebook filled with needlepoint patterns, Xs in squares, the pencil still tucked in the page.

Make: School Pencil Flags

This one’s for people who share my unnatural possessiveness toward pencils. In my school library, pencils walk away with alarming frequency. A yellow #2 looks a lot like every other one, after all.

My solution: pencil flags! The kids love getting picky-choosy about their favorite flags, but they also tend to return them more often. I glued little sayings and stickers on colored rectangles of paper and used strong packing tape to attach to the pencils. Now my library pencil jar is full!



Creative Kid: Spring Crayon Craft

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.

  1. 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.
  2. Peel off the paper from the crayons. This is the most onerous part, but it’s better to consider it meditative. Think Zen.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.)
  6. Ta da! Once the muffin pan is completely cool, the crayons will slide out easily.





Make: Tissue Paper Collage Creature Feature



When Danielle Davis of This Picture Book Life blog asked if I’d make a craft inspired by the delightful picture book Normal Norman by Tara Lazar, illustrated by S. Britt, I thought, no problem! After all, Norman is my kind of guy. A dune-buggy-driving, jet-pack-flying, tiara-toting, out-of-the-box orangutan dude.

Norman’s multi-hued self is decidedly not orangutan normal, but it is fun-loving, just like the big guy. And tissue paper collage seemed the best way to capture Norman’s coat of many colors. Tissue paper collage is also great because it’s very forgiving in less experienced kid hands–you can smudge, rip, and layer exuberantly, and still the results are delicious.

What you need:

Tissue paper in fun colors

Mod Podge

paint brush

white card stock

stick-on googly eyes

paper fasteners

popsicle sticks

Trim the tissue paper into 1″ squares. (We sorted our tissue squares for easy use: purples, blues, and greens in one bowl, yellows and oranges in another.)

Next trace Norman’s orangutan bulk, his adorable eggplant-shape head, and his 2 longish arms onto card stock. (If that step seems onerous, we traced some basic gorilla shapes for you here.)

Brush a layer of Mod Podge onto a small area of your shape and cover with tissue squares. Make sure to overlap squares to create new hues. Seal the squares by brushing another layer of Mod Podge over the top of them. Continue in small areas until you’ve covered the shape.


Give your collage time to dry. Once dried, cut along the outlines of each shape. Adhere the face with glue or Mod Podge and attach the arms with paper fasteners (to give them a little gorilla swing).

Now for the best part: accessorize!

Add goggly eyes, brown specs, a teeny tiara and tutu, or even a dual-rocket jet pack (Norman’s preferred not-normal way to get around). Attach a popsicle stick to the back of your creation to make a puppet. Do not forget to make some friends for Norman: a magenta clarinet-playing hippo, a rollerskating giraffe, a top-hatted snake!