A Country Fair Party

Saturday, August 19, 2017

When Little Tomato started Kindergarten, we told her she could choose her own party theme for her birthday. This was the first year that she had classmates and transitioned from having a family party (with a couple of friends) to a 'friend party.'

I was really intrigued to hear what she would pick. I was fully expecting a trademarked (read: Disney) theme, but she REALLY surprised me when she told us that she wanted a Country Fair party.  Now... we live on a farm near Husband's family. Little Tomato has grown up taking combine rides with Papa in the fields, visiting the neighbor's baby calves, and riding Uncle Bob's horses. But she goes to school by Husband's office, which is 25 miles away in the city. So while she is a country girl at heart, all of her classmates have very little experience with a farm, which made it even more fun for the kids.

Country Fair Invitations:

 The invitation was wrapped with tickets to give it a little pizzaz.

A Beauty & The Beast "Be Our Guest" Tea Party

Monday, August 14, 2017

Beauty and the Beast was my favorite Disney movie when I was little. The book nerd in me connected with Belle, and I loved the music.

When we finally took Little Tomato to Disney, she was enamored with Belle. She asked for a Beauty and the Beast birthday party and so I put together a fun Belle themed tea party for the girls. 

The invitation was printed onto parchment paper and made into a scroll. This was hand delivered to each of the girls. It was rolled up and the ribbon was tied into a bow. I kept a copy to display at the party.

It reads, "Ma chere Mademoiselle, it is with deepest pride and greatest pleasure that we welcome you to Be Our Guest for Little Tomato's Birthday Tea Party."

The Very Harry Details: Miscellaneous Projects

Thursday, August 3, 2017

This is the final post for our Very Harry Birthday party. To see the complete party:

"Part 5: Honeydukes" can be found HERE.
"Part 4: Class Lessons & the Troll in the Dungeon" can be found HERE.
"Part 3: Great Hall Sorting Ceremony" can be found HERE
"Part 2: Diagon Alley" can be found HERE.
"Part 1: Invitations & the Entry to Platform 9-3/4" can be found HERE.

In addition to the Platform 9-3/4 brick wallBertie Botts display, signage, scarves, and wands, we did several other little miscellaneous craft projects throughout the year for our party. I have round them all up into this single post. 

Potion Bottles

Throughout the year, we solicited friends for any empty unique bottles and received several old liquor, perfume & bath bottles. I found a lot of great free printable labels online and printed out several on regular printer paper. 

We used matte Mod Podge to affix the labels to the bottles, and coated the whole bottle with the Mod Podge to give it a more cloudy, old & dirty look. This was a particular favorite project for Husband and Little Tomato.

Each bottle was filled with miscellaneous items, based on the label's ingredient. The box below holds the ingredients we used for our Growth Potion for our Potions Class. 

We made decorative potion bottles with labels and then included little jars & vials with the actual active ingredients the kids would use. 

As an example of bottle filler, we used the following:
Leech Juice: orange food coloring in water
Troll Bogeys: green slime  (white glue + liquid starch + green food coloring)
Bone Powder: confectioner's sugar
Warewolf Hair: We have dogs. So... I literally just grabbed a clump of hair from our vacuum cleaner canister. Yes, it is totally disgusting, but as the bottle is sealed and a dark brown glass, it looks quite authentic and no one is the wiser (you know, except that I just confessed what is in it...)
Dragon Blood: red food coloring in water

Course Books & Potion Class Experiment

For the Course Book I purchased the Standard Book of Spells PDF download from Geeks & Dragons on Etsy for the spell portion. I created my own Magical Drafts & Potions book, and made a cover to combine the two books into a single course book for the girls to take home. I printed the pages onto parchment paper, two pages to a sheet and printed front & back. I then assembled the books with electrical tape & clear duct tape to bind the edge. I wasn't about to hand-bind 13 books and I don't like how pages turn when using staples... I have some mild OCD tendencies... πŸ˜‹

The front cover had an area to write in their names, which they were very eager to fill in and claim it as their own.

For the potion experiment that we performed during the party, I created a separate page, which we handed out to the girls as they walked into class. I assumed that the tables would get sticky and gross,  and didn't want their books to get ruined. It was a good call. 

The potions in the course book are completely fictional, with no actual ingredient 'key'. The Growth Potion we did in the class was an actual science experiment, and so each ingredient was either an active (ex. vinegar = leech juice) or inactive & fun (ex. clippings from faux fur fabric = wolf hair) ingredient.

Monster Book of Monsters

For this project, I purchased a 'scrap' of faux fur fabric from the craft store end-of-bolt bin. It was actually quite a good size for a scrap. I found a 'fake book box' in a clearance bin - the kind that is made of a decorative rigid cardboard-y material made to look like a book, but actually a box. They are typically used as decorations or maybe photo storage...? From there, I bought a bag of doll/craft eyes and set to work. 

Honestly, this was one of the faster projects I completed, which was finished in the length of a movie. I hot glued the fur fabric to the box, leaving a nice long excess fabric overhang. Then I stuffed some fiberfill into the top to give the 'face' some dimension, and hot glued around this lump to keep it's shape, so it wouldn't settle and flatten. I hot glued the eyes to the face, and trimmed up the overhang into the 'finger-y' face features. I used some oven-bake clay that we got for Christmas to mold the gums & teeth and then glued them to the face.


This was also oven bake clay. I used some floral wire to give the tiny frame some structure. Due to the long & thin structure of the bowtruckle, it was a nightmare to get the clay to not break or expose the wire. And getting it to hold a strong enough shape to lay down to bake in the oven was also a challenge. It turned out well enough. Once it was baked, I hot-glued some leaves to the head, and then lightly ran the hot glue gun down the body to give it some bark-like texture. 

Gringotts Gold Bags

I purchased some inexpensive burlap mini drawstring bags and used iron-on transfer paper to apply the Gringotts logo and filled them with plastic 'gold' coins. These bags were stuffed into the troll piΓ±ata, so each of the kids received a bag of gold when the troll was defeated. The bags of coins were returned to me at the end of the party when they 'purchased' their Honeydukes candy.

Diagon Alley Books 

For the books that were featured in Diagon Alley, I found the free downloads of the book covers on the RPF and Mod Podged them onto old books that a friend had donated to the cause.  The Gilderoy Lockhart photo was found online and printed onto cardstock and I threw it into a frame for the party. 

The feather quills that are shown below next to the course books were made with a white feather that is duct taped to a cheap ballpoint pen (with white duct tape). 

It is amazing how many projects we completed over the course of 10 months! Little Tomato is already excited to 'move on to book 2' and work on additional crafts. We already have baby mandrakes underway.... 

With all of these decorations on hand, I see many future parties in store. The great thing about the Harry Potter theme is that it will also make for great Halloween fun. 😊

Harry Signage Roundup

Friday, July 28, 2017

To see the complete party:

"Part 5: Honeydukes" can be found HERE.
"Part 4: Class Lessons & the Troll in the Dungeon" can be found HERE.
"Part 3: Great Hall Sorting Ceremony" can be found HERE
"Part 2: Diagon Alley" can be found HERE.
"Part 1: Invitations & the Entry to Platform 9-3/4" can be found HERE.

Most of the party signage was made on insulation foam. The only signage made in wood was the exterior signpost signage. Insulation foam is easier to cut, more cost effective, and more lightweight for the size. Different methods were used on each, so I'm including some process photos and details for several of the signs below...

How to Make A Bertie Botts Display

Friday, July 28, 2017

We have made it a point in recent years to make our family Christmas gifts more 'experiences' than things. So for Christmas last year we bought tickets to spend a weekend at Universal Studios in January.

At this point in the calendar, we had several of the Harry Potter crafts for the Very Harry Birthday underway. We had made wands, signs, potion bottles, and were midway into scarves.

I knew that I wanted to do something more visually fun for our "Honeydukes" than glass jars sitting on a table, so I made the large Honeydukes sign... but I still felt that it wasn't quite "there" yet.

When we walked into Honeydukes at the Wizarding World in January and I saw the Bertie Botts display shelf, I knew THAT was what I wanted to do.

The Cupboard Under the Stairs Tour

Thursday, July 20, 2017

We live in the Midwest, which is 'tornado alley' in the United States. Thus, most houses have basements. We finished part of our basement this past year, and took the opportunity to install carpet into the storage area under our stairs to make a reading nook for Little Tomato.

Now... if your child is a Harry Potter fan and you're making a reading nook under the stairs, it *needs* to be a Cupboard Under the Stairs!

The photo quality is not great. I was lazy and used my phone to take photos, and this is a basement cupboard under the stairs... so the light quality isn't optimal either.

A Very Harry Invitation

Monday, July 17, 2017

This post is less tutorial and more 'details on the invitations' for the Very Harry Party.

The invitations for the party were Hogwarts acceptance letters. I used a basic font and included the Hogwarts crest on the top of the page and Professor McGonagall's signature which can be easily found on the internet. I also printed the Platform 9-3/4 tickets onto parchment paper, the ticket graphic was also found with a cursory internet image search.

Invitations & tickets were printed on parchment paper.

I purchased basic Kraft paper envelopes and printed the miscellaneous owl imagery onto them.  As I intended to hand-deliver the invitations, I used the Hogwarts crest in the 'return address' area of the envelope and used unofficial owl stamp graphics on the stamp portion of the envelope. 

I used a fountain pen to write the girl's names and addresses onto the envelopes, so I also printed the ink drops onto the envelopes to give it more of an authentic 'quill pen was used' feel... but to be honest, I just wanted to add something in this corner to visually balance the envelope a little better.

The original Harry acceptance letter was addressed to "Mr. H. Potter", so I addressed the letters to Ms. [First Letter of first name] [Last Name]... after mistakingly writing out MRS. 

Whoops... children definitely aren't MRS. 😣

I also purchased the Hogwarts seal and wax sealed the envelopes.

PLEASE NOTE that if you use a wax seal and intend to send your invites via traditional post... I've read mixed reviews on this. The machines the USPS uses will sometimes flatten or completely destroy wax seals. You can ask for them to be 'hand cancelled' but this will very likely come with an additional fee. Before spending the time and $$ to apply wax seals, I recommend verifying that you don't have to pay additional postage or put your wax seal on an interior envelope. The Hogwarts seal, in particular has LOTS of detail, which will be easily lost when flattened.

A quick tip on applying a wax seal: Once you place your wax seal, press firmly and hold the seal in place for a few seconds to allow the wax to cool. If you try to remove a seal too quickly, before the wax has a chance to solidify a bit, you will end up with some of the wax coming away with the seal and your wax impression will be sloppy and incomplete.

Finally, the invitiations were attached to a white balloon. I drew an owl on each balloon with a black permanent marker and attached the balloon to the envelope with bakers twine.

Because I'm a bit ridiculous, I drew a different owl on each balloon and let Little Tomato help pick the owl to match each of her friends.

We hand delivered the invitations to each of her friends. Many of them were home, but for those that weren't, they received a cute little owl on their porch when they got home.

Owl post delivered!

Hogwarts Shield: My DIY Process

Thursday, July 13, 2017

For our 'Very Harry Party,' the main feature of the Great Hall (aka our Dining Room) was a Hogwarts crest shield. I wanted this to be a good size, so it looked proportionate to the mantle.

Hogwarts Crest

For this project, as with the many signs and large scale props at the party, I used insulation foam as the substrate. Insulation foam is lightweight, easy to cut, and inexpensive. A 4' x 8' sheet will cost around $12 -$25 depending on where you buy it and the thickness of the foam.

For the party signage, I bought a total of (2) sheets of foam and made every single indoor sign AND the Bertie Botts display out of the two sheets of foam, a single quart of primer and misc paint colors.

Foam Cutting Tools for Craft Projects: 

Box Cutter: If you use a thin sheet of foam, a boxcutter can work to make cuts.
As most people have this tool already, it can save you from buying extra tools for a project.  HOWEVER, please note that when you cut with a boxcutter, the edges can be jagged and not smooth.   It will also be much more difficult to work complex angles (ex. the curvature around this shield). If you want a more finished edge, are cutting out details (ex. the Bertie Botts display opening), or are using a thicker foam, you will want to buy...

Foam Cutter: This tool is heated and essentially cuts by melting your incisions into the foam. You will need to fine-tune your heat settings so that it is hot enough to cut smoothly, but not so hot that it melts too much of the foam as you are cutting. It will leave a smoother finished edge than blades, and much easier to cut around curves, tight corners and thicker material.

Hot Knife Tool: I used this tool to carve out the negative space on the shield.

* When using any foam cutting tools that utilize heat, please be aware that these are essentially melting the foam, which will release a strong chemical odor. Always work in a well-ventilated area and I would highly recommend wearing a face mask when working with these tools.

Hogwarts Crest Process:

I began by sketching the crest onto the sheet of foam. I just utilized a photo of the crest and free-hand drew it onto the foam.

* When sketching on foam, be careful to sketch very lightly, as any pressure will etch into the surface of the foam. 

Once my sketch was acceptable, I traced over the drawing with my pencil pressing hard enough to etch into the surface, to make the drawing imprint into the foam.

I then cut out the overall shield shape from the sheet of foam.

Unfortunately I do not have any photos of this early process. I powered through these initial steps one evening while watching a movie and enjoying a glass of wine. πŸ˜‹

After the overall shield was cut out, I used the Hot Knife Tool to etch the design into the surface of the foam. I had to fiddle with the heat setting quite a bit to get the heat setting 'just right.' In some areas the tool was getting too hot and etched more deeply and wider than I would have liked, especially with the eagle wing details which I ended up simplifying to avoid ruining altogether. It was a little finicky. But I knew that it would be painted and hung high enough that the details wouldn't really matter.

Foam cut & design etched into the surface.

If I were to do this again, I'd be really interested in playing with adding wax or clay to build up the animals more, to give it a more three dimensional feel. But I was relatively happy with the end result.

Next up, I gave it a full coat of primer.

Then I painted it with a 'gunmetal metallic' craft paint and added some antique wax to make the features stand out better.

Metallic Paint Coat

BUT... then I realized that, though it looked pretty good when laying down on a table (as above), it was really hard to see the details when hung upright. The metallic sheen and dark color made it look really flat.

SO... I then bought a faux stone spray paint and gave a light coat of stone finish over the shield and reapplied the antique wax to the details.

Final shield hung above the mantel.

I apologize for the poor lighting on the shield in the photo above. Our power was out during the party (a strong storm the night before had taken down a lot of power lines), so the windows were our only source of light.

How to Make a Brick Wall: Platform 9-3/4

Friday, July 7, 2017

If you're planning a low-budget, quick solution, many people choose the plastic sheet with a brick print found HERE on Amazon.  You can hang it and cut a slit up the middle for kids to walk through, easy-peasy.

However, if you know you will be decorating for Harry Potter more than once (Little Tomato wants to decorate Harry Potter for Halloween), a more durable solution is a good idea. 

I added a magnetic closure to my brick wall, so it will close back up after each person passes through it. It definitely added time to the project, but I felt it was really worth it in the end.

Brick Wall

Supplies Needed:


Sewing Machine & Sewing Supplies (scissors, thread, cutting mat, etc.)

Canvas Dropcloth
* I purchased my canvas drop cloth at a home improvement store. Depending on the size, these cost around $10-$15. I purchased a 6' x 9' size, as my opening was larger than 4'-0" so I needed a larger size. You can find these on Amazon as well. (6' x 9' is HERE).

Red & Black Paint 
*Black is optional, used minimally to darken the red for a second coat, to give the bricks a more realistic look.

Painter's Tape
* HIGHLY recommend 1/2" wide 

Ruler / Measuring Tape

Sponge (Builder's)

Optional: Sponge (Natural)

Tension Rod

Optional: Magnetic Mesh Screen
* I purchased mine at a home improvement store on sale for $8, but it can also be found HERE.


For the sewing portion of this tutorial, you are essentially making rod-pocket window panels. If you can find perfectly sized window panels for your opening, that would definitely save you the sewing and you can skip right to the painting part. I opted to sew the drop cloth as it was a cost savings and I could perfectly size the panel to my opening.

To make your rod-pocket panels, see the rod-pocket tutorial HERE for in-depth instructions on the sewing steps. This site gives way better instructions than I would be able to articulate from reverse-engineering my process. 

Magnetic Closure:

I allotted an additional 3" of fabric in the width of my panels to sew the magnetic screen into the back of the panels. You can either choose to keep the full mesh screen in the back of the panel, or you can cut out the strip with the magnets and sew just this piece into your panels. I kept the full panels. It may not look as nice from the backside, but I was worried that I would not be able to align the magnets properly between the two panels if I didn't keep the full panels intact. 

Painting the Brick Wall:

The first part of painting the brick wall is a LOT of measuring and taping. 

I had 1" painter's tape on-hand, so used this and cut it in half. It was a royal pain. If you're buying tape for this, I would HIGHLY recommend buying the 1/2" wide tape and save yourself cutting.

My panels had magnets that held them together, perfectly aligned where I wanted them to be aligned. If you did not add magnets, make sure you either pin your panels together or tape your panels together on the backside to keep them from shifting when you start taping. When your panels hang, you want the bricks to align between the two panels. 

I made my bricks 4" x 8" in size. To do this, I measured 4" in height with a ruler and then laid a layer of painter's tape at the 4" line. 

Repeat up the entire length of your panels.

Painter's Tape...

Once I had the horizontal rows, I began measuring 8" across and adding the vertical lines.

8" across : Add Tape, Repeat.

I offset every other row to give it the brick pattern.

Once your taping is complete, get out your sponge and paint! 

Dip your sponge in the paint, but don't let the paint get too thick. You want to be able to see the pores, not get globby areas of paint. And don't worry about being a perfectionist. You may see areas that appear too thick and others that are too thin, but once it dries and you take a step back (especially once the tape is removed), it will be much more natural looking than you think.

Essentially, by covering these lines with painter's tape, your natural fabric color will stay clean. The canvas color was perfect as a mortar color. 

Painting Bricks

We did an initial coat of red paint, but found it to be rather flat (and some of the paint got so thick in areas, it didn't look quite 'spongy' enough. So we found a cheap natural sponge at Hobby Lobby that had a lot more natural open pores and did a light second coat, adding some black to the red paint for a darker red and a light third coat adding some white. Add VERY LITTLE white, if you want to do this. Red can go pink VERY fast.

* Painter's Tip: With a canvas this size (literally, ha!), I would highly recommend that you start at the top and work your way to the bottom. Don't paint yourself into a corner, or start with edges and then have to lean over wet paint to reach the middle. 

Once all your layers of paint are dried, you can peel off the painter's tape. 

Brick Wall

How to Make a House Scarf

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Scarves are an excellent beginner's sewing project for kids. Little Tomato wanted to learn how to sew last year, so we had worked on a few exercises (which I will link at the bottom) and this was her first real project.

Gryffindor & Ravenclaw Scarves

Supplies Needed:

Scissors or Rotary Blade
Cutting Mat (if using rotary Blade)
Ruler or Measuring Tape

1 yd each color, two colors per scarf. This yields (5) scarves.

* Most fleece I have found is 58" wide. This yielded 5 scarves of each house (Gryffindor & Ravenclaw). Little Tomato and her friends are 9-10 years old, so this scarf length was perfect on the girls, at around 5'-6" in length. If you are making scarves for younger kids, you can get away with less yardage to yield shorter scarves.


Fleece is a great fabric for this quick scarf, as you don't have to worry about finishing ends. However, due to the stretchy nature of the fabric, it isn't the easiest to get perfectly straight cuts. You may find that you have extra (or not enough) fabric when you are cutting the fleece into stripes. Please note, the dimensions are forgiving. If you have any stripes that are noticeably wider, you can make these the end pieces that are cut into fringe or trim them down to match.

Step 1:

Cut the fleece lengthwise into 7" strips.  This will give you a total of (5) strips of each color.

You will have (4) strips that are 7" x 58", and one strip that is about 8" x 58". You can either cut this strip down to match the 7" size, or plan for this to be the end stripe that becomes your fringe.

Step 1: Cut Along Dotted Lines

Step 2:

* Fleece can have one side with a slightly different nap or texture than the other. If your selected colors have a front & back that don't match, you will want to make sure that you are pinning your fleece together 'right sides facing' on this next step.

Pin two colors together (ex. red & gold) lengthwise.

You can choose your seam allowances for your comfort level, but I would recommend at least a 1/4" seam allowance. Sew together.

Repeat this step, adding all of the strips in a color alternating pattern until all are sewn together. 
** If you chose to keep one strip wider (the 8" length), make sure that these are the first and last strips, as these will be the ends that you cut into fringe. See diagram below in Step 3 for illustration.

Once completed, this will give you a single piece of striped fleece, at 58"W x 2 yards (minus seam allowances) with a total of (10) stripes, (5) of each color.

*** MAKE SURE WHEN YOU ARE PINNING TOGETHER THAT YOU PAY ATTENTION AND HAVE ALL OF THE SEAMS ON THE BACKSIDE. I made this mistake and had to seam-rip out a full strip that had the seam on the front side. Not fun.

Step 2: Sewing Strips of Red & Gold together 

Step 3:

At the beginning of this step, you have a single piece of fleece that is striped.

Now you are going to cut the fabric widthwise, to yield (5) long striped pieces of fleece. See diagram below.

Step 3: Cut Along Dotted Lines.

On this step, you will have a little excess fabric, as shown above. You will find that, with the fleece salvage ends and the stretchiness of the fabric when you sewed the stripes together, this excess is much less than the illustration shows in reality. πŸ˜‹

Step 4:

Now you should have (5) pieces of striped fleece that are 11" wide. 

Take one of these pieces and set the other (4) aside.

Fold the fleece lengthwise so that the finished (right) side is on the inside, together. 

Step 4: Fold Along Middle & Pin Long Side Together with Right Sides Facing.

Pin the long side together, making sure to line up the stripe colors as closely as possible. 
* All of your seams should be visible - the right side of the fleece should be folded together.

Sew along this pinned side. 
* Once again, seam allowances are to your preference, but I recommend at least 1/4". 

You are essentially making a tube, so that when you finish sewing the long side together and turn it right-side-out, all of the messy seams are inside the tube.

Repeat with the other (4) pieces of fleece until you have (5) completed 'tubes.'

Step 5:

Once you have completed all (5) tubes, turn them all inside out, so the finished side is exposed. 

If you want fringe, cut about halfway into the end stripes. I did not measure these, but just 'eyeballed' a general 1/4"-1/2" width for the cuts.

Voila, House Scarves!

Gryffindor Scarves

Ravenclaw Scarves

And for some fun sewing practice sheets for kids, check out the sewing machine practice sheets HERE from the blog "So Sew Easy!"  

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