Simple Projects

ornamentsA few of you have asked if I ever do simpler projects. Definitely! In fact, I’d like to introduce a new blog category, which I’ve aptly titled “Simple Projects.” Here, you will find projects that are just a few steps. Like the scented French pastry ornaments pictured above, this fantastic pom-pom cannon, these dashing foam swords, and these flying books.

A quick aside about these French pastry ornaments and our undying devotion to accuracy. Yes, we did the initial research using Google. But since the internet isn’t always the most reliable of sources, I took them to a local French pasty shop called The Little Chef for some fact-checking. Edwige Fils-Aime, the owner and chef, was kind enough to take a look and correct them for me.

the little chefWhile he was doing that, I got to take a look at things like this:

pastriesAnd this:

puffsAnd THIS!

cakeAll in the name of research and accuracy, of course. And if some of the pastries happened to come back to the office with me, what of it?

To create French pastry ornaments, you’ll need:

  • French pastry template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
  • Hole punch
  • A selection of shimmer ribbon
  • 1 bottle of imitation vanilla extract
  • Q-tips
  • Scissors
  • Colored pencils

Print the template (which features the artwork of talented student artist, Aliisa Lee), and use the colored pencils to decorate the pastries. Punch a hole at the top of the ornament and run a piece of ribbon through it. Knot or tie in a bow.

Dip a Q-tip into the imitation vanilla extract (I found clear vanilla extract at the store, which worked great on the white paper). Gently rub the vanilla extract-infused Q-tip on the back of the ornament.

tarte au citronThe Little Chef was also a contender in our Hansel and Gretel Gingerbread Cottage Challenge. You can see his cottage (with a truly artisanal chocolate fence) here.

Monkey Business

monkey businessWith a turn of the wrist, this gymnastic little money swings around (and around and around) his colorful rainforest branch!

monkey swingsWe read BIG Little Monkey, written by Carole Lexa Schaefer and illustrated by Pierre Pratt (Candlewick, 2008). A little monkey wakes up one morning, ready to play, and finds that his family still wants to sleep. He decides he’s ready to be a Big Little Monkey and leave the tree to find some new friends to play with. He encounters a sloth, a parrot, and finally…Sly Boa. The game “curl my tail around in tricky ways” doesn’t sound too good to Big Little Monkey, so he quickly scoots back to his family, happy to be their Little Monkey once again.

You’ll need:

  • 1 small oatmeal container
  • Dark brown construction paper for body, hair, and ears.
  • Light brown construction paper for mouth (approximately 2.25″ x 3.5″)
  • 1 oval of self-adhesive foam (approximately 1″ x 1.5″)
  • 2 wiggle eyes
  • 1 strip of brown poster board for the tail (approximately 2″ x 10.5″)
  • 1 monkey business template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • An 8.5″ x 8.5″ square of tagboard for arm & leg templates and tree branches
  • box cutter
  • 1 brass tack
  • 1 paper towel tube
  • A pencil for tracing
  • 6 – 8 green construction paper leaves
  • 2 small feathers
  • Scissors, tape, and glue stick for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

Begin by wrapping the oatmeal container with dark brown construction paper. Fringe more dark brown construction paper and tape it to the top of the lid for hair. IMPORTANT: Make sure you don’t tape the lid to the oatmeal container closed! You’ll open the container later to secure your monkey’s swinging arm.

Cut the light brown construction paper rectangle into an oval, and glue to the front of the head. Attach the wiggle eyes (using hot glue), the self-adhesive foam oval, and two dark brown construction paper ears. I used the markers to drawl little swirls in the ears and put a smile on my monkey’s face.

monkey faceYou’ll notice that the ears very close to the eyes and mouth. This is so the ears don’t hamper the movement of the monkey’s swinging arm.

The face is done, now for the body! Curl one end of the brown construction paper tail around a marker, then tape or hot glue it to the back of the oatmeal container. Cut the arms and legs out of the template and tape (or hot glue) the two legs and the short arm to the container. I curled the short arm up in the classic monkey “hand in the armpit pose.”

classic monkey armFinally, the monkey’s swinging arm. Cut a tagboard arm from the template, then place the paper towel tube on the round part of the swinging arm. Use the pencil to trace the diameter of the tube onto the template. Then cut the circle out.

swinging arm stepsUse the box cutter to make a small slit at the bottom of the swinging arm (you can see it in Step 3 of the image above). Make another slit in the side of the oatmeal container. Push the brass tack through the slit in the swinging arm:

swinging arm 1 Then remove the oatmeal container’s lid and push the brass tack through the slit in the oatmeal container.

swinging arm 2Reach inside the container to unfold the prongs, then replace the oatmeal container lid.

swinging arm 3The monkey is done, now for the rainforest swinging branch! Cut two tagboard branches (mine were about 8.5″ long):

branchesHot glue or tape the tagboard branches to the very end of the paper towel tube. Use markers to color the bird and the butterflies. The butterflies and green construction paper leaves can be glued of taped onto the tagboard branches. The bird requires just a few extra steps. First, fold the template like so:

bird step 1Using the dotted lines as guides, fold the two tabs outwards.

bird step 2Use tape to attach 2 small feathers to the bird template as a tail. However, when you finally tape or hot glue your bird’s tabs to the branch, make sure the bird is at the very end and the tail faces away from the monkey’s swinging area.

end of tubeAgain, attach the branches and bird on the very end of the tube! Otherwise, those items will be smacked repeatedly (or completely taken out) by the swinging monkey. We had a few tangled monkeys and squashed birds at story time, and had to do some quick repairs.

To operate the monkey, slide the swinging arm over the paper towel tube, hold it at arm’s length, and begin swaying the tube back and forth. As you build more momentum, the monkey will circle around and around on it’s branch. It’s virtually impossible to not make monkey noises while you’re doing this. Go on. We dare you to not make monkey noises!

The Perfect Boggart

the perfect boggartNeed a boggart in a suitcase to transport to your next Defense Against the Dark Arts class? We can make that happen! Imagine a suitcase innocently resting on a tabletop (or handsome leather chair). But then, just when you least expect it, it jumps and bumps as the boggart inside tries to escape!

I created this suitcase boggart for a Harry Potter event my library hosted, and it was very much enjoyed. Best of all, it was super simple to make. The secret behind the boggart is this:

weazel ballMeet the “Weazel Ball.” It’s a pet toy with a rotating motor inside it that causes the ball to scoot around randomly, pulling and twitching the furry weasel on top. It’s meant to drive cats and small dogs crazy, but I knew it would be the perfect boggart. I purchased this one on Amazon for $6.

In addition to the Weazel Ball, you’ll need a suitcase or trunk. The 12″ X 18″ suitcase pictured in this post is made of decorative cardboard. I found it at Michael’s Crafts on the 40% discount shelf, so it cost $15. Woot woot!

My suitcase was smooth on the inside, but if you use something with a textured wood interior, you might consider removing the furry weasel from the ball so it doesn’t snag on the wood and slow the ball down.

interiorThe most important thing when selecting your suitcase (or trunk) is the ability to latch or padlock it shut. This will prevent young skeptics from pulling up the lid and shouting “Daaaaad! I told you there’s no boggart in here!”

latchesThe other thing you’ll need are spare batteries. If you haven’t heard from your boggart in a while, the battery may have run out (the Weazel Ball uses a single AA). Depending on how long the event is, you’ll want several on hand.

You could get ambitious and put more than one Weazel Ball in the suitcase (I’ve only tried one). But if the suitcase is threatening to bounce off the table, put some no-skid rug runners or self-adhesive foam pieces on the bottom to help it stay in place.