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!


DIY Steel Wire Bracelet

steelwire1I was at the hardware store some weeks ago, and I saw all these weird components that seemed like they could come together into some pretty cool jewelry. So I wanted to give you all a little series where I make different pieces from things found in the hardware store. It’s fun, right?

First up is my delicate wire bracelet. There are a bunch of different gauges of this galvanized, twisted wire available at your local hardware store, and it’s super inexpensive. Mine was about $0.39 a foot. I liked the thin wire and thought it would look cool with several rounds of it stacked together. Here we go!


  • several feet of galvanized wire, preferably very thin (eyeball it at the store and go for it!)
  • crimp tubes, large enough for the wire to go through twice (if you get a multipack like these Beadalon Crimp Tube Variety Pack you’ll have several sizes and can choose the one that fits best)
  • jump rings
  • a clasp
  • jewelry pliers
  • wire cutter

To start, cut your wire into appropriate lengths. This bracelet looks best when it’s relatively tight around your wrist. Keep in mind that you are going to be folding about ½ inch of each end over. I cut mine to about 8″, and I wanted 5 strands.

Take a strand of wire and bend about ½ inch over. It’ll take a little muscle since this is pretty strong wire.

steelwire3Crimp it with your fingers or some pliers to make a bend like so:

steelwire4Slide a crimp tube onto the wire from the other end and move it up towards the bent end.

steelwire5This is the hardest part: getting the crimp tube to slide over the main wire and the end of the bent section. You’ll have to squeeze the bend so you can get the end of the wire as flush with the body of the wire as possible. Slide the tube up so it sits over the end of the wire.


steelwire7You only need to slide the tube so that the wire end is just barely poking out:

steelwire8Carefully crimp the tube with pliers or a crimper.

steelwire9And you’ll have this:

steelwire10Repeat the process for the other end, but this time you’ll need to slide the crimp tube on before you start bending the wire. Once you’re done, you’ll have a wire with two loops on either end.

Repeat the entire process for all your wires. Now, gather up your wires and connect all of the ends together with a jump ring.

steelwire11Once you’ve connected one end, you can connect the others with a jump ring; be careful to keep the wires in the same order.

Attach a clasp to one end, and then close the clasp. Using your hands, mold the wire a bit so that it’s slightly more rounded.


steelwire14And you’re done! Simple, inexpensive, and I love the delicate look it gives.


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DIY Olympic Rings Necklace

Since we’re coming up on the Olympic Games again soon, I thought I’d re-post this tutorial from the last Olympics. I hope you enjoy!

We’re starting to get a little excited about the Olympics over here. We aren’t a big sports family, but RD Husband has one sister who was an athlete in the Olympics in 1988 and another who has coached Olympic teams. So we have a soft spot for the games.

This necklace is easy and inexpensive to make. Here’s what you’ll need.

  1. Cord in 5 different colors: red, green, yellow, blue, and black. I used Chinese knotting cord in micro size G, which I ordered from here. You could also use crochet thread, embroidery thread, or embroidery floss, all of which are readily available at craft stores.
  2. 26 Gauge Wire
  3. G-S Hypo Cement, or another strong jewelry-type glue. Michaels carries Aleene’s or E-6000, which both should work.
  4. 5 rings (I actually bought a cheap Claire’s Accessories necklace and took it apart, but you can find these at Michaels in different sizes, too).
  5. A few binder clips
  6. Chain in desired length. I used about 17″, divided into two lengths of 8.5″. You could get something simple and inexpensive like this, or check out a jewelry supplier like Rio Grande or Fire Mountain Gems.
  7. Two jump rings and one clasp. (The clasp isn’t pictured. Sorry!)

Most, if not all, of these things can be found at Michaels or JoAnn Fabric.

First step is covering your rings in the cord. You want to attach the cord with glue at the beginning, wrapping it a few times around.

Secure it by clipping a small binder clip over it and let it dry for about 15 minutes. You can prep all your rings this way, and by the time you are done with the last one, the first one should be dry enough to work with.

Now, wrap the cord around the ring, keeping it tight and each coil snug against the previous one. You don’t want to see any metal through the wrapping.

In order to keep the right tension, you’ll need to hold the parts you’ve already wrapped tightly while you wrap more.

Stop wrapping with about a quarter of an inch or so left to go.

Now, place more jewelry glue on the exposed metal, and then continue wrapping until you have covered the ring. Don’t worry about the long ends of the cord just yet. Secure this section with your binder clip and let it dry.

You’ll do this for each ring in each different color cord. Once they’ve dried (I let mine sit overnight just to be certain), you can clip the cords close to the ring. I chose a side I wanted to be the “back” and clipped them both on that side, so the edges wouldn’t show. Although if you’ve glued enough, the edges will sort of blend together with the ring.

Once you have all your rings, it’s time to lay them out in the correct pattern. Check online and look at images to get your order correct. Then, you are going to start wiring them together.

Cut a small length of wire, about 3″ long, and place it over one of the connections between rings.

Turn to the back, and twist the two wires together, like twist ties. You can use your fingers, or if you have needle nose pliers, those work well, too.

You’ll twist until the connected wires are about 1/4″ long, and then snip the wires off. Fold them under and towards the rings so that they don’t stick out, but keep them hidden in the back.

Once you get a few together, it’ll look like this:

Make sure you are wiring them tightly together so that they keep their shape.

You’ll want to make attachments at all these points:


When you’re done, it’ll look like this:

Then, you just need to attach the chain with the jump rings to the blue and red circles.

Attach your clasp, and your necklace is done!

Now you’re ready to watch curling! Hope you enjoy!


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!