DIY Riddle Valentine

riddle valentineI find it pretty hard to come up with ideas for a fifth grade boy for Valentines. You don’t want it to be too cheesy and young, or too twee, but you still want it to be something clever and memorable. What to do?

We went though some ideas this year and finally landed on the scratch off riddle as our winner. I saw a lot of tutorials on Pinterest, but either I’m not doing it right or these tutorials are less-than-honest about their efficacy. Can you imagine? A DIY that doesn’t quite work right on Pinterest?

We found a clever little riddle online that has a short answer that fits easily under a scratch off area. Have you figured it out yet?

“Smaller than four, yet bigger than three, to make it your food, you must add an ‘E.’”

It’s Pi, silly!

If you like these, I’m putting the PDF up here so you can use them for you own Valentines. I thought it was just cute enough and not too dorky.

I have a few pieces of advice for you when making a scratch off card. Many of the instructions you’ll find on Pinterest don’t really give you all the details.

The basic instructions are to mix 2 parts acrylic paint with 1 part dish soap, and then paint that over whatever you want to be revealed when the scratching begins. Some tutorials do recommend either laminating the surface or putting down some clear contact paper, and this step really is a MUST. Here’s how I did it.

I cut a piece of clear Contact paper to about 8″ x 11″ size. I taped it down to a surface so it wouldn’t curl, and then I painted the whole thing with the paint/dish soap mixture. I let it dry, and then I painted it again. And then I let it dry, and I painted it again. Most instructions will tell you you’ll probably need 2 coats; I found that you really need 3 or ideally, 4. I suppose it depends on the opacity of your paint, but I used both silver and red and with the dish soap mixed in, 4 coats was really necessary to cover the image.

After painting and drying several coats, my sheet was ready. Luckily, I have a Silhouette, so I simply created a page full of heart shapes and sent my paper through the Silhouette, painted side down. If you don’t have a cutting machine, you can cut the shapes by hand. If you have a lot of Valentines to make, I’d recommend simply using a square or a rectangle and cutting with a paper cutter.

riddlevalentine3Here you can see my painted piece of Contact paper, with a few test cuts I made with the Silhouette.

Once you’ve printed out and trimmed your Valentines, simply peel and stick the pieces of painted Contact paper over the answer to the riddle. I then added a chocolate coin as a treat to the front.

Now, the reason I chose the chocolate coin was because some Pinterest tutorial said you could scratch off with this chocolate coin. Wouldn’t that be sweet? Yeah, doesn’t work. This formula for making scratchable areas is sufficient, but you have to scratch pretty hard to get the paint off. A piece of chocolate is neither hard enough nor sharp enough to get the job done. That’s why I ended up adding a paper clip to the Valentine for scratching purposes. I tried several varieties, because I wanted it to be a cute paper clip, but only the metal ones worked, and even then you still have to scratch pretty hard.

riddlevalentine4So that’s it! It was pretty simple to create, and if you can get past the fact that this scratching mechanism isn’t perfect, I think it makes for a cute Valentine.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!


Fox Valentine

The 7 year old and I kind of decided together that this year, the valentines would be Ylvis-themed.

There are lots of “What Does the Fox Say” valentines on Pinterest, and they’re very cute. But most of them say, “What does the fox say? Happy Valentine’s Day!”

People, the fox does NOT SAY happy Valentine’s Day. He says “Wa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pow!” and “Fraka-kaka-kaka-kaka-kow!” and “Ring-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding!” Amiright?

I mean, the whole joke lies in the crazy sounds that the Norwegian duo came up with for the fox. So, you kinda gotta keep that in there.

I made my own printable that makes sure the joke is still conveyed. And if you like it and want to use it, you can download the PDF right here!


To make these valentines, you’ll need a fox cookie cutter, and I was so happy to discover that you can get them in a set of woodland animal pastry cutters at IKEA. You can also order them from Amazonif you don’t have an IKEA around you. And bonus, you also get a moose cookie cutter and what I think might be a snail?

So, bake your cookies. I used this recipe, but you could pretty much use any sugar cookie recipe if you have a favorite. The key to making sure your foxes turn out right is to make sure the cookies are very chilled when you stick them in the oven. Roll the dough out chilled, and I even recommend putting the cookie sheet with the cut-out cookies back in the fridge for 30 minutes or so before you bake them. Then you won’t get too much spreading.

foxvalentine1You’ll need some treat bags that fit your cookies; I bought some like these that work perfectly. I made a PDF sheet of labels that, again, you can get here; it has 4 labels, each one with a different fox “sound.” Print out a page on cardstock and then cut them along the light gray solid lines. For each label, you will fold them in half along the light gray dotted line. I left a space at the bottom where you can have you child sign the valentine.

Put a cookie in a bag, fold down the top, and slide the fold into the label. Staple on either side to secure them.

foxvalentine4And then have a fabulous Valentine’s Day! Coming up next are the 10 year old’s valentines, so stay tuned!


DIY Lego Minifigure Costume


I promised I’d show you how I made the 7 year old’s Lego minifig costume, so here we go! I have to apologize in advance that I didn’t take nearly enough photos. There was so much trial and error and it was, frankly, so epic, that I couldn’t handle taking pictures of the process as well.

But I’ll explain in detail and show you what I’ve got!

There are two elements to this costume: the shirt and the head. You could go crazy with legs and hands, but it seems really cumbersome, and you fully get the picture with just the head and shirt. I just gave my son yellow dishwashing gloves to simulate the Lego hands.

Here’s what you need for the shirt:

  • several pieces of foam core poster board
  • masking or painter’s tape
  • hot glue gun
  • paint in your choice of colors

To make the shirt, I used foam core poster board. I took a shirt that belonged to the 7 year old to use as a pattern and essentially cut out a trapezoid that would serve as the front of the shirt. It should be shaped something like this:

Legominifig7You’ll want to cut a second one out exactly the same size and shape for the back. I recommend a straight edge and a craft knife to cut the poster board; it worked really well.

Next, measure your child’s “width.” That is, determine how thick you want this shirt to be to accommodate his or her stomach and torso. I made mine 6″ thick and it was pretty tight. I didn’t want it to be too disproportionally thick, so I erred on the side of small. I should’ve made it 7″ or even 8″ thick. Keep in mind that your child’s head will need to fit through this shape as well.

Once you’ve decided on the width, you will cut two rectangles that are the same length as the angled side of the trapezoid and are as wide as your chosen width. So:

legominifig8Make sure that you are measuring the length of the side and not the height of the entire trapezoid. There’s a Pythagorean theorum in here somewhere if that helps you. If you only measure the height, your side piece will be too short.

Once you’ve got your dimesions, you can cut two identitcal sides.

legominifig9Now it’s time to glue them together! I just used hot glue, which seems to have worked quite well. Once they are glued, I used painter’s tape to cover the seams so that painting would be easier. You’ll have some raw foam core edges that don’t take paint very well, so covering them with masking tape works well.

Now you’ll want to cut out two U shapes from the top of the sides for your child’s arms. I sort of put the shirt on him to measure, but it’s kind of a guessing and trial-and-error game. I cut once, tried it on, and then had to cut a little deeper so he could put his arms down.

legominifig10You’ll want to cover the cut edges of the arm holes with masking tape, too. Here’s an actual photo!

legominifig3Your final step before painting is to add the shoulders. You’ll need to measure your child’s head to make sure that it will fit through when you put the shirt on. I cut two small rectangles and then cut half circles out of them to make space for my son’s head.

legominifig4Then you can paint your shirt however you want. I found that diluting the paint with some water made it go on smoother.

Then you’ve got yourself a shirt!


The head is more complicated, but if you take it step by step, it doesn’t require a lot of advanced skills.

Here’s what you’ll need for the head:

  • a sheet of styrofoam insulation, preferably 1.5″ thick. You can buy this at Home Depot; it’s back in the lumber area. The only thick sheet they had at my Home Depot was pretty enormous; it barely fit in my car! But it only cost $14.
  • a 12″ styrofoam wreath. I got mine at JoAnn, but you can get it at Michaels, too. Easier if you choose white. First things first: make sure this wreath can slip over your kid’s head and slide down around his or her neck.
  • a small hand saw
  • sandpaper
  • glue gun
  • drill with 1″ paddle bit (optional)
  • spackle (optional) and a putty knife
  • yellow paint (NOT spray paint)
  • black paint
  • Dremel tool with sandpaper attachment (optional)

The instructions for making this head can be found on Instructables. There are a lot of versions on the site, but the one I’ve linked to here is, I think, the best and easiest. I will give you a Cliff Notes version and also tell you what I did that differed from their instructions. I think I made it even a little easier.

Essentially, you are going to be cutting a bunch of disks out of the styrofoam and stacking them to form a cylinder. You’ll use the wreath as the curved edges. So the first step is to carefully cut your wreath in half so that you have two wreaths, each one with a flat side and a rounded side.

legominifig2I know it’s kind of hard to see here, but that’s one wreath, cut into two, using that little handsaw thing.

Now you can use your wreath as a template to cut your disks. Trace the shape– inside and outside circles– onto your styrofoam. Depending on the height of your child’s head, you’ll probably need at least 4 or 5 of these. Then, cut them out with your saw. Be careful to make sure that you are cutting straight up and down so that you don’t end up with slanted sides.

legominifig11You may be surprised, as I was, how difficult it is to keep the saw going straight up and down.

As you get towards the top, you’ll want to make the center cut outs smaller and smaller so that the head sits snugly on your child’s head. That way, when she turns her head, the Lego head will go with her. I took one of my circular cut outs, and before I cut the center, I placed it on my son’s head and kind of traced around his head onto the circle of styrofoam. Then I cut out the oval shape and tested it a few times, making adjustments along the way, so that it sat on his head like a hat.

You’ll end up with a piece that looks more like this:

legominifig12For the top piece, you won’t want to cut all the way through since you’ll need a closed top. I carved a small oval halfway through the top circle so that it accommodated my son’s head. I carved it with the Dremel sanding tool, so I was really just sanding a little oval impression into the styrofoam.

Now you’re going to stack up all your disks, starting with one half of the wreath, then the full circles, then the head-shaped-opening circles, and finally the other half-wreath. Make sure it will fit on your child’s head before you glue.

Once you’re sure everything fits nicely, start gluing. The hot gluing was a little tricky because you need to get a lot of glue out of your gun in a little time. Just work as quickly as you can so that the glue doesn’t harden before you connect it.

Once you’ve got everything glued together, sand the sides so that everything is flush. Optionally, you can spackle any spots where there’s a chunk missing or if the pieces aren’t completely flush together. I used almost an entire small jar of spackle. But in the end, when you are done sanding and spackling (if you so choose), here’s what you’ll get:

legominifig13Pretty cool, eh?

Time to add the face. Draw your chosen face onto the cylinder. Then, cut out the eyes and mouth. I used a 1″ drill bit to drill the eyes, which worked really well. I used a kitchen knife and my Dremel tool to cut out the mouth, but you could probably do it with only a small kitchen knife, depending on the mouth your child has chosen. I drew the eyebrows on because I knew I was just going to paint them.

legominifig6Use the sandpaper to smooth out the holes and the inside of your head.

To make the button on top of the head, I cut out two smaller circles from the styrofoam insulation and glued them together, sanded them, and then glued them to the top of the head.

Now it’s time to paint. Spray paint will actually dissolve the styrofoam, so use regular craft paint. I painted the entire head yellow, and then I painted the insides of the eyes and mouth black, so that it looked more like they were painted on. Then I painted the eyebrows on in brown.

legominifig16And that’s it! Takes a good amount of time, but isn’t really that hard.

Enjoy, and let me know if you have questions!


Happy Halloween!

halloween1Here we are, completed costumes and all, ready to trick or treat!

This year, my costume production was pretty labor intensive. My 10 year old wanted to be an Xbox controller, for which I learned how to solder wire so I could make that light up Xbox logo (more on that in a moment). The 7 year old wanted to be a Lego Minifigure, for which I constructed and carved a head out of styrofoam. FTW!

A few more shots:

halloween2That’s the Lego boy at school. That shirt is an exact replica (perhaps “exact” is a little strong) of the Lego torso that he uses as himself when he puts himself into his Lego play.

halloween5Here you get a better sense of the light up nature of the Xbox controller. The 10 year old liked it, too, because he had these little on and off switches that turned the X on, or set it to blink, or whatever.

halloween4Wires showing a bit here, on the Xbox. Ah, well.

halloween6That’s the Xbox at school. He was a little annoyed because so many people came up to him and tried to “play” him, punching his light up buttons.

halloween3That’s me and the Lego at school. I made my costume the night before; not very original but simple and easy to move around!

I will be putting up tutorials for these costumes next week, so stay tuned!

Oh, and rabbit, rabbit.