Thursday, August 28, 2014

Frozen Theme Pizza Box Paperdoll Playset

My niece is turning 4 this week, and guess what her favorite movie is?  Yes, Frozen.  I was looking up some Frozen printables to add to her birthday package, and stumbled upon the most gorgeous set of Frozen paper dolls made by Corey Jensen.  So, I decided to make her a Frozen theme Pizza Box play set!

I'm still awestruck by the beauty of the paper dolls he makes.  He's the Bob Mackie of paper dolls.
Checkout his Facebook page for the printables.  They're amazing!

After I found those, I decided to make her a pizza box playscape to hold them all.  I'm kind of addicted to decorating pizza boxes to house toys.  They're portable, and they encourage kids to put their toys away when they're done playing with them.

They also look pretty fancy, but are made with some basic dollar store craft materials, and all-told cost about $3.00 for the supplies.


  • This Printout- it's six 8-1/2 x 11" pieces of paper
  • A 12.25 inch pizza box (our local pizza place's small box)
  • Spray Adhesive- I like Elmer's Brand.  It's pretty widely available, and about $4.00 a can
  • Clear cellophane gift basket wrap (the dollar store has it).  You can skip this step, but it makes it more durable and scuff proof.
  • Pretty tape- I used some sparkle duct tape
  • Self-adhesive Velcro
  • Wrapping paper to decorate the outside of the box
  • Box cutter
  • Scissors
For the "crystal" paper doll stands:
  • aluminium foil
  • hot glue
  • paper clips
  • crystals- I had a box from the floral department of the craft store.  I think they use them to fill vases.

To make the pizza box

Print out this handy .pdf file
Trim off the excess paper- there is some overlap in the file, so you don't have to cut it exactly.  Scissors work just fine.  Just make sure all of the white boarders are removed.

Dry fit it in the inside of your pizza box, then glue it down with the spray adhesive.

Then coat the entire inside with another coat of spray glue, and cover it with the cellophane.

Flip it over, and apply the wrapping paper with more spray glue.  Add any other decorations or personalization then cover it with the gift basket cellophane adhered with more spray glue.

Then use the box cutter to trim the excess from around all of the sides, and slit the paper around any vent holes.

Line the inside of the box with your pretty duct tape, and seal the edges well with some more duct tape (I cut strips in half for this part).

Then apply the Velcro so that the lid stands up, and you're done!

To make the doll holders:
Put a small plop of hot glue on a piece of aluminium foil, and stick a paper clip upright in the middle of it.  Hold it in place until the glue cools

Trim the foil leaving a margin so there's enough to wrap around the glue ball you just made:

Then use the crystals to decorate it:

I'll be filling this with the paper dolls, and some other Frozen theme things- like sparkly playdough, and maybe a lip balm.

This is my first kind of tutorial- let me know if you have any questions!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Upcycled Pizza Box Race Track

Ali is a little gearhead.  Cars, trains, motorcycles, and especially trucks- he loves to run them all over the coffee table, and to line them up on pretty much any flat surface.

Grandma bought him 5 gallon zip-lock bags FULL of cars at a yardsale, and I've been trying to figure out a good way to keep them all in one place so we don't trip on them.

It dawned on me- a pizza box would be *perfect* for a little race track for him.  I looked online for race track printables and didn't see anything that really tripped my trigger, so I made one in Photoshop using Watkins Glen International as the basis.

It's actually pretty easy to put together...I'm guessing it would take about 30 minutes from start to finish if you don't have any "help" :)


  • Cleanish pizza box
  • print out of race track
  • Spray adhesive (works best for cardboard crafts because it doesn't have any water, so the cardboard doesn't warp)- you could use white glue, or even wheat paste but it may warp the cardboard.  I like Elmer's brand from Dollar General 
  • Wrapping paper, or contact paper for the outside
  • Duct tape
  • Self-adhesive velcro
  • Optional Clear cellophane basket wrap from the dollar store.
  • A box cutter for trimming the excess wrapping paper
  • Scissors for trimming the printouts

Print out this handy .pdf I made (I'm not a great graphic designer, but this is fine for a toddler).  It's sized to fit a 16" x 34" pizza box, and prints out on nine 8-1/2 x 11" pieces of paper.

Trim off the white edges, and dry fit it inside the pizza box.  There is some overlap so the printing/cutting isn't quite as critical.  Then spray the box with glue, and attach the prints.

I did put a layer of clear cellophane basket wrap on top of the printout- adhered with more spray adhesive.

Then decorate the outside.  I used some shiny red wrapping paper I had laying around, and covered it with more cellophane for a little extra durability.

When you've covered and trimmed both sides seal the edges well with some tape- duct tape, packing tape, washi tape.  I found that if they aren't sealed well the paper does start to come loose from the box after a while.

The handle, and closures are just folded over duct tape with a little bit of Velcro to secure it.

The car storage bag is just a slider zipper sandwich bag covered in more duct tape for stability, and because well...duct tape.

I think he needs a train track next!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

And Now You Know What You're Getting for Christmas

I love giving presents...but I don't love wrapping them.  I never seem to have the right paper for the right occasion, and overall it just seems wasteful.  So I'm always on the lookout for easy/fun/versatile ways to wrap a gift.

While researching stuff for Father's Day I found this amazing blog post:

Score!!!  I needed a new can opener anyway :)

The basic gist is you open a pop top can opener with a safety can opener give it a quick rinse, and then fill it up with presents, and put the "lid" back on.  With the safety can opener it just pops back on.  You don't even have to glue it.

Then you decorate it- this is some recycled clip art I printed out.  Or you could leave the original label on, and let the recipient think you got them a can of peaches when you really got them a diamond ring, the keys to a new car- or some Legos.

This is what I came up with
I filled it with his favorite licorice, and he loved it!

Quick tips:
A regular can label is 4-1/4 inches tall, and about 10 inches around.  The usable "front" space is about 3-1/2 inches wide.
A 20-oz pineapple can is about the biggest you can go if you're using 8-1/2 x 11" paper.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Ali's Epic Playhouse

Most days I'm slogging it out in the Mommy trenches- just praying that everyone will make it through to bed time.  Occasionally I do something cool, and this is one of those occasions.

I wanted to get Ali a playhouse for his second birthday.  Our childhood playhouse was incredible, and I remember when my Father and Grandfather built it out of reclaimed barn wood, and other stuff that was kicking around.  We loved that playhouse, and I'll admit to shedding a tear when my brother tore it down a few years back.  It felt like the end of an era.

Buying one felt like cheating, and the cool ones were out of our budget anyway.
I wanted to do something epic like my Dad did for us.   I'm not a great woodworker, and we don't have a ton of tools, so we had to change the spec a bit.

We started out pretty simply with a 4x4 PVC frame.  Version 1.0 was covered with some fabric, and he just wasn't too into it.  It wasn't sturdy enough, and Ali tried to crash through the walls like the Kool-Aid man.

Somehow the idea evolved into this:
We'd print it, but what kind of theme would it have?  Then it hit me...why stop at one theme?  Why not make a castle, pirate ship, train station/schoolhouse, and a rocket ship!

So that's what we did.  I'll disclaimer this by saying I'm a two bit hack when it comes to graphic design- I can kinda tool around in a few different pieces of software, but don't art school critique me.  The budget for clip art was $0, so I think I did pretty well with a handful of free vectors.

I laid it out in Illustrator, and then we had it printed at the ever wonderful Dataflow where my husband works.  It's just printed on regular 20-lb bond on their giant laser printer.  I had tried printing it out on 8-1/2 x 11" and then gluing it down, but at the rate I was going we'd have it done by the time he went to college.  It's 128 square feet of printing, and it wasn't super costly because we went with plain paper.

Here's the materials list:
From Home Depot:
1 tube of clear caulk
6-7 10-foot pieces of 3/4 inch PVC pipe
something to cut the PVC with- we bought a ratcheting PVC cutter for $12, and it was great.
8 "side outlet elbow" connectors, and 8 male adaptors- these form the corners

4 T-connectors

A roof- we recycled some bamboo fencing we had (this stuff is not all that sturdy, but it's easy to work with):

From the craft store:
2 cans of low odor spray adhesive.  I experimented with other types of glue- including home made wheat paste, but anything with water content warped the cardboard when it dried.  The spray glue was great, and dried quick.  It's about $8 a can
A really pointy pair of sharp scissors.

From the Dollar Store:
Zip ties (get 2 packs they don't have to be heavy duty)
Clear plastic cellophane gift basket wrap
Drinking Straws
Box Cutters

From the office supply store:
8 pieces of 24x48 cardboard...Staples had the best price, and they do free ship to store
A big roll of clear packing tape- get the good stuff.  You'll need 2 smaller rolls if you're getting the kind with the cutter included.

From Amazon:
Tent pegs to secure it to the ground.  Version 1.0 wasn't tethered and blew around the yard, so we pegged version 2.0 to the ground.  So far it's holding.

Total cost was about $130 including the pipe cutter, but not including the printing.
It took us about 5 hours to assemble it- and I worked on the design for a few evenings.

Build the frame.  My husband did this part.  He cut the pipe into 48-inch pieces, and assembled it.  Two of the sides are plain, and two of the sides have uprights in the middle so we could secure the doors.  It has 2 doors, and a little escape hatch in the rocket ship part (the dogs love it).  We did not cement it together so that we can break it down and store it in our shed for the winter.

Using the spray glue attach the prints to the cardboard, and trim the excess paper.  It goes a lot faster if you have 2 people and 2 box cutters.

To waterproof it use the spray glue to attach the basket wrap

Then cut out any windows or port holes- a finely serrated steak knife works really well to cut the curves
Then seal ALL of the edges with packing tape.  Make sure you seal it well.

To secure it to the frame poke 3 holes in the top and bottom of each panel with the scissors.  Reinforce each hole with a piece of drinking straw, and secure it with caulk to hold it in place.

Then use the zip ties to secure it to the frame.

For the doors- we need to refine the design a little...I'm thinking we need to drill the pipe so we can use zip ties to make the hinges.  Right now the hinges are packing tape, and it's holding but not ideal.

Then we added the roof and secured it with more zip ties.

Here's the final product!

He absolutely loves it!!!

Dinosaur Gummies!!

For Easter I made him dinosaur and robot gummies.  I LOVE all things gelatin, and so does Ali.  I buy it a pound at a time at the bulk food store, but you can also get it on Amazon.

Gelatin makes me feel like a kitchen magician- a few minutes, a little bit of time in the microwave, and you get all sorts of jiggly jewels.

Dino Gummies recipe:
1 tablespoon lemon juice
15 tablespoons Bolthouse Farms Green Smoothie
2 tablespoons sweetener (I used sugar because it digests slower, and doesn't give them a sugar rush as quickly)  You could use honey, maple syrup, concentrated fruit juice, or stevia if you prefer
3 tablespoons unflavored gelatin (3 packets of Knox would work too)

Put the lemon juice into a Pyrex measuring cup, add the smoothie until it measures a cup.  You can eyeball this as long as you end up with about a cup of liquid.  Sweeten to taste.

Whisk in the gelatin stirring well to avoid any clumps and set aside for about 5 minutes.

Heat it gently on the stove, or the microwave for about a minute until the mixture turns clear.  Don't let it boil or the gelatin won't set as firmly.

Pour it into molds, and refrigerate until firm (about an hour).  They pop right out of the silicone molds.

If you have extra mixture you can either pour it in a shallow pan, and use cookie cutters to make it into shapes, or you can remelt it, and pour it into molds after the first batch has firmed up.

You can make these with anything...just follow the basic ratio of 1 cup liquid to 3 tablespoons (or 3 packets) of gelatin.  I did a batch with apple juice, and some frozen raspberries that were pretty incredible too.

These have to be kept cold, and it dulls the flavor a bit- so make sure the liquid is flavorful enough.

These were a huge hit, and I hope they are for you too!