Clay Menagerie of Friends and Foes


My younger son will not be outdone by his sister!

He got into the polymer clay and sculpted, baked, and painted himself up a whole little zoo.


First up is a piranha.  Notice the bloodthirsty mouth.


Next is the shark.  We can tell it’s a shark because it has two dorsal fins.  Science, boys and girls!


Moving on into the movies, we have Jabba the Hut and his horrible pet, Salacious Crumb.  I love that little guy.  He’s so icky!


Here’s a big black spider.


A blue whale.  He really nailed the shape of the body, I think.


And now we get a little more personal.  Here’s Porky


…and Lucky!

The sculpture of Lucky just about started WWIII around here.  My older son spotted the baked-and-cooling duck and banged on it, breaking off the wings.  Not cool at all!  Negotiations ensued and a cease fire (and apology) were issued, and the last of the Sculpey was used to mend the duck.  A few more minutes in the oven and a cooldown under lock and key got everyone back on track.  I think it looks even nicer with the repairs, and it surely is more sturdy.  If the truth must be told (and it must!) the wings were already starting to crack off simply from their own weight before the hostilities.  Most importantly, the boys are back on the best of terms.





Project idea: owl cash register paper roll notepad


Here’s a treasure I found at a rummage sale this summer.  It’s probably from the 1970s.  Orange owls were so very…well probably not groovy, maybe the 70s verion of groovy.  Cool?  Maybe.  No, I think they said “groovy” on The Brady Bunch.  But were they square when they said that?  Hmm.

I’ve had this hanging on the inside door of my kitchen cupboard and I really like it.  I can keep a running grocery list there until I’m ready to go to the store.  Then I tear off the list and leave it on the counter when I go to the store.  🙂

But it does seem a shame to cover that cute little owl with a big old roll of paper.  Here’s what it looks like when the roll is full:


I’ve already got this and I don’t need another, but I’m putting these photos up here for anyone interested in making one of their own.  It’s just so cool, and it could be made of mostly scraps and recycled materials.


The bar to hold the paper roll looks an awful lot like a belt buckle with a couple of snips.  It’s held in place with two brass fasteners that poke through a couple of holes in the wood.

This little guy was probably made in a factory, and the cutter looks like it was made by the zillion for little owl note thingies.  But you could make your own out of the steel cutter from a box of foil or freezer paper.  I think the bends at the ends are key so that it lifts off the base a tiny bit.  I think it’s also important that it’s about 1/4 inch above the bottom of the base.  I haven’t cut myself yet, and I am very clumsy.  So it’s surprisingly safe this way, at least for grownups.

I’ve seen other ideas to make your own that are cute too, like using ribbon or  shoe string to hold the paper roll.

I keep trying to imagine how to make something this cute and practical without covering the owl.  I thought maybe putting the roll hanger where the cutter is, like a perch, and then have the roll hanging down from that with a cutter below that.  But then it would be impractically large, plus it would look like the owl is pooping all over the grocery list.  The kids would be drawing inappropriate mysterious chunks on the list and maybe that would be kind of fun for them, but I need to start thinking like a grown-up.  So maybe just a tiny owl or other decoration with a more plain backing, maybe with decorations around the edge.

Idea: A bride, and the list is her train…with chores written on it…to keep track of wedding planning stuff.  Oo, oo!  Somebody make this and show me how it turns out!

DIY Cheap Recycled Outdoor Hanging Ghost Decorations

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I made this little ghost from a thrifted sheer curtain panel, an empty milk jug, and some scraps of vinyl fabric.

I cut out face shapes from the vinyl and glued it to the curtain.  I tossed the curtain over an empty milk jug and tied it to the tree.

Bonus: the curtain already had a little hole, and that saved me some time.

I tried to make my ghost scary, but he just looks worried.  Poor little guy!


For advanced crafters: I keep a huge stash of these light-up glow sticks on hand.  I buy them at the Dollar Tree.  They are nice for when the power goes out so the kids don’t get scared, and they come in handy for decorating too.  Just crack a stick and drop it in the milk jug.  It glows for a few hours, so one stick per night is all you need.

Don’t worry, that’s not a real rat.


Ooo, spooky!


I made this ghost last year.  I sewed the face bits (made from rags) instead of gluing them.  Sewing may have been easier than gluing if you can believe that.  When I used the glue, I had problems with the glue leaking through the sheer curtain and sticking to other things.  Maybe next time, I’ll use glue dots.

If you’re wondering what I was trying to do with that mouth, I’ll tell you:  I have no idea.  I think I was trying to make it look scary, but I don’t remember.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.  Clearly, I need help!

At the thrift store, sometimes I can get sheer panels for only a dollar or two.  Sometimes they have holes in them or they’ve been clawed by pets, but that doesn’t really matter for making raggedy ghosts, does it?

I tried to do the same thing with white garbage bags, but they weren’t as cute.  The plastic wasn’t as floaty and it looked like a bag of garbage hung from a tree.

I think you had better try this and send me some pictures.  Or at least tell me what I’m doing wrong with these faces!

Thanks for checking in!  Maria

How to make a homemade shrink plastic tag



I am the luckiest mom ever!  I have three awesome kids, and they keep me laughing like nobody’s business.

My eldest is fifteen, and he has special needs.  He speaks well and often, maybe even constantly, and sometimes we wonder what in the world he is talking about.  He says things differently from how everyone else talks, and there seems to be a secret code.  Whenever we crack the code for a new phrase that he has been using, we all get pretty excited.  It is really fun to see how his brain connects things together.  He always has an unusual point of view, and we learn a lot about the world when we look at it through his eyes.

Case in point:  One day a couple of years ago, he came home from school and did his usual settling thing (putting his backpack away, using the bathroom, getting a snack, etc.) but instead of rushing to the computer like usual, he scurried for the couch and covered himself up with a blanket.  Hmm…I got suspicious and pulled the blanket off, asking, “What are you doing down there?”  He responded “Uh-uh!” shaking his head from side to side and obviously posing.  Then when he saw that he was busted, he smiled and said, “Eat a BLOOK…of butter!”  Yes, he had a whole stick of butter in there, and yes, he was trying to eat it.

Pretty soon, every time I left him alone for even a minute, I came back to find him hiding under the blanket with a stick of butter, and each time we would repeat our lines.  “What are you doing down there?”  “Uh-uh!”  “Eat a BLOOK of butter!”  Most of the time, he didn’t even eat the butter.  He just waited for me to bust him so that we could play our BLOOK of butter game.  It was so silly, the whole family had to get involved.  We found ourselves asking for a BLOOK of butter at the dinner table, tricking him to see if he noticed when we changed the words to the ritual, hiding the butter, taking turns playing his part in the game, and so on.  Remember this was a couple of years ago.  We did this for a couple of years without really understanding at all.

Recently, we bought The Lorax for movie night.  We knew our eldest had seen it in the theater with his friends from school, and he had told us it was a good movie.  Once we started watching the movie, I understood why he liked it so much.  The best part of the movie for my son is a group of animals called Bar-ba-loots.  They look like adorable bears.  There is one Bar-ba-loot in particular who is very sweet and gentle.  He’s the biggest one, and he wears his heart on his sleeve.  When the Once-ler cuts down the tree, all the Bar-ba-loots stand in a circle and hold hands, but the biggest one also cries.  He loves to eat too, and he’s just a gentle, lovable teddy bear.  And, you’ve got it, there’s a moment where the Barbaloots have invited themselves over to the Once-ler’s house, and the Once-ler opens the fridge, and there he is:  the biggest Bar-ba-loot, popping a whole stick of butter into his mouth.  We went crazy laughing, and we played that scene over and over.  Now we knew where the butter-eating came from, and my son was able to tell us that he called it a BLOOK because it sounds like Bar-ba-LOOT.

That’s the long drawn-out explanation for my project I am showing off here.  I made my son a tag for his backpack with a BLOOK of butter on it.  He uses his backpack every day, and he takes it everywhere he goes, so I hope he will get a lot of smiles out of this little tag.

When I was a girl, I saw TV commercials for something called Shrinky Dinks.  Shrinky Dinks were a craft kit you could buy made with polystyrene, which is #6 recyclable plastic.  You could color the plastic and then melt it in the oven and it would shrink.  Then you could use the shrunken plastic to make things.  I never used them when I was a kid because they were kind of expensive.  But nowadays, we crafters save money by cutting up our trays from the grocery store salad bar instead.



Here’s how to make a BLOOK of butter backpack tag with shrink plastic.

You will need the following:

One #6 recyclable plastic tray

Bic permanent markers in whatever colors you like.  Do not use Sharpies.  I’ll tell you why below.

An oven

A pan or cookie sheet


Two sheets of aluminum foil

Your dullest, lousiest scissors

A hole punch.  If you’ve got a dull, lousy one, use it.

About 12 inches of thread.  Dental floss will work.

A piece of strong cord for your finished tag.

optional, but awesome: Future acrylic floor wax.  Just a few drops.


I'm CRAFTY, not artistic.
I’m CRAFTY, not artistic.

The first thing I had to do is get some inspiration.  And also a little drawing.  I drew this myself.  Can you tell?  I had to write the word “butter” on it so you could figure out what it was.

I have found the best size to be about 3 inches across, or maybe a little smaller.  When I make my tags too big, they tend to curl up on themselves in the oven.

I turned on the oven to 350 degrees and let it preheat.



Next, I cut out my plastic tray.  I used the flat part.  I made it a little bigger than my drawing.

I used the (almost) dullest scissors in the house because cutting the plastic really trashes scissors.  I did not use the little kids’s “hair-proof” scissors.  Somehow, my kids managed to cut hair with them.  But they do not work on plastic, or paper, or string, or really anything else.  They mostly work to remove money from parents’s wallets.  But that’s a side issue.


Next I traced the design on the plastic.  I did this with a black permanent Bic marker.  I used to use Sharpies because I had them on hand, but they rub off too easily.  Bic markers work much better.  I used a fine point marker for this project.  Bic also makes ultra-fine point markers for tiny details, and I like them too.


Then I colored in the yellow parts around my black outline.  Why did I do that?  It wasn’t very smart because I had to be careful not to get black ink on my yellow marker, but it turned out OK anyway.

I punched a hole in the top of the plastic, but I couldn’t manage a photo because I only have two hands.  How do real bloggers do this??


Then I got smart, and re-did my butter drawing to look less squashed.  I have three kids.  If I make a blook-of-butter tag for one of them, I had better make one for each of them!


This time I got smart.  I colored the yellow part, then traced the outline and wrote in my letters.  I also wrote “1 blook,” just so there’s no mistake about it.



Ah, that looks better!

Next, I put my two tags on a foil-lined tray and popped it into the oven (which I had preheated to 350 degrees).


I checked after a couple of minutes and freaked out because my tags were curling up like crazy.

I’m a big girl, and I’ve done this before, so I knew it would be OK, but I needed something to do so that I wouldn’t run around screaming or anything.  I decided to make that third tag.


This one is dedicated to science.  See where I left the #6 recyclable symbol in the corner?  I wondered if it would stay or if it would shrink out.  My hypothesis: it would shrink out.  (I figured these trays are probably made by heat-shaping them, so maybe heating again would un-shape the symbol.)  Let’s see!


At about the same time as I finished preparing my third tag, the first two tags stopped shrinking and looked mostly flattened out.

I wanted my tags to be all the way flat, so I took the tray out of the oven, put another sheet of foil on top of the tags, and flattened them all the way with my hand on a potholder.  I held them for about 10 seconds.  Then I flipped them off the tray onto the table, and put my third tag in the oven.


Here are the first two tags.  You can see that they shrunk down to about half their original size, and they were thicker.


I decided to coat them with a little acrylic so the design would not rub off.  To do that, I ran a piece of thread through the hole.


Then I set up a very high-tech system called a couple of cups, some thread, and two clothespins.  I left a little room between tags so they wouldn’t bump into each other.


I painted each tag with a tiny bit of Pledge floor finish.  It used to be called Future, but I guess Pledge bought Future or some such thing.  I think I could use a little clear nail polish instead.  I’ll try that next time and let you know how it goes.

Then I let the tags dry for an hour or so.



Here’s the stringing part.  The hole shrunk too, and it was too tiny to let me easily run my satin cord through.  So I made a loop with sewing thread, and pulled the satin cord through the hole with the thread.


Then it was ready to tie!



I put it on my son’s backpack with all the other stuff he keeps there.  Cute, huh?


And here we go for science.  Can you tell which tag had the #6 recyclable symbol on it?  I can’t either.

We keep a kit at home with the essentials: cut-up plastic trays, the dull scissors, the hole punch, the markers, and printouts from the internet (and our own drawings) of ideas we have for shrink plastic art projects.  We make things with pets and other animals, favorite movies and video games, flowers, foods, silly phrases, you get the idea.  We never lack for inspiration around here.

Since we keep it all in a kit, we can make a little art whenever we have a few minutes.  It takes about 15 minutes start to finish for the drawing and shrinking part.  The sealing with acrylic is optional, and can be done later if necessary.

As a mom, I like to have lots of little creative projects handy so we don’t get too bored.  My kids know if they complain about being bored, I will put them to work, so they like having a kit too.

I hope you enjoyed learning how I made these tags.  I’d like to see what you are making too.  If you would like to submit photos of whatever you’re making, please send me a message.  I don’t know how yet, but there’s probably a button on this page somewhere…or you can make a comment and we’ll figure it out together.

Thanks for reading!