{Crappy Crafts} Doll camping accessories

If you can’t tell from some of the other “projects” I’ve posted on the site, I have a creative mind but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. I mean, it’s embarrassing.

The reason I still post my crafts is in case someone a bit more crafty than me is inspired by what I’ve thought up.  So in acknowledgement that some of my achievements belong in the Pinterest “fail” category, I’ve decided to, going forward, entitle these posts: Crappy Crafts.

I really want to add a trademark symbol after that but I know what trademarks are and this isn’t trademarked. Alas. Just mentally put the tm there. It looks cooler.

Anyway, I love dolls. I didn’t like dolls as a little kid (I specifically remember having Barbies and Transformers around 4 years old and having them fighting a war against each other), but as I grew up I became more girly.  I could spend all day playing dolls with a little kid.  L also hadn’t shown much interest in dolls until recently, but luckily brother J is showing interest too so now I have some quality doll playing hours under my belt.

L, however, has loved her little pacimal monkey, Ooie, (note: the company is pretty much out of business now so you can’t get pacimals any more) since she was about 9 months old, and she treats him like her little baby.  So to try to encourage doll play with him, over the years I’ve gotten and made as many accessories for him as I could get away with. He’s about 8 inches tall so the Circo mini series works well for him (clothes, doll crib, potty/highchair set, etc).  [By the way, isn’t this the CUTEST thing?]

Over the summer, we as a family went backyard camping and L loved it. She wanted Ooie to participate fully next time with his own sleeping bag. Challenge accepted.

The Circo mini crib has the perfect squishy bedding to form the base of a sleeping bag (I can’t find a purchase link to the crib but here is the twins bunk bed set with the same bedding).  I sewed on the pillow that came with the crib and added a soft blanket (more like a nap mat than a sleeping bag).

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It has already fallen apart but it was cute while it lasted.

As usual, I decided to take it about two or three steps more and made a collapsible tent, a grill, and a fold-up lounge chair.

For the tent, I used an old Sweetheart Cottage playhut that had already fallen apart.  The pop-out roof gable was perfect for the size tent I wanted, and it was put together with bendable poles so I could take it all apart and put it into a bag for portability:

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Here you can see how the poles became the handle for the ‘carrying case’

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The grill was easy enough (you can see it in the above pics). I had a metal M&M tin left over from Valentine’s day and used the instructions from this website as inspiration.

Ahem. This is most definitely not mine. See why my versions are called “Crappy Crafts”?

I then added some 3m wire hooks as legs and as a handle and threw in a battery operated tea light for the fire.

Finally, the chair.  This was actually harder than I thought it would be.



I used a wooden easel stand:

But I wanted to use the “back” of it for the chair, which means the center of gravity was off.  I ended up putting a wood sample as the seat of the chair and then wrapping a long strip of cloth for the back.  Velcroing the cloth made the chair tip the correct way and keeping it un-velcroed allowed it to collapse.

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The back of the chair/the front of the easel

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So that’s it! L loved her camping toys and played with them a bit and has recently pulled them back out to have sleepovers for Ooie.  All of the items are a bit precarious since I can’t sew worth a darn but hopefully someone with more skill can make use of these ideas!

Next crappy craft: my easy peasy soft baby carrier for a tiny stuffed animal.

Previous crappy crafts:

 A Desk For the Boy

Play Kitchen


What do you think? Any other ideas on how to make a camping play set for a doll? Let me know in the comments!


A few recent preschool related articles

First is the Brookings Institution’s write up on new research into Tennessee ‘ program. The author also tackles misleading statements regarding previous research,  including Tulsa’s program.

Second,  good discussion on universal pre-k on the Freakonomics blog. They seem to have come to the same conclusions I have.

Third is the YWCA Tulsa’s recently released report on “Child Care in Crisis”.  I am looking for an online link. The center just ended its forty year program due to rising costs.

A desk for the boy (or: turning the toddler bed upside down)

Well, I broke the crib. Whoops.

It was set as a toddler bed but I slept in it with the J almost every night for months. I finally moved it back to a crib (long story). Well, when we did so, it was just…not safe. Cracked supports, etc.

So J is now back to a mattress on the floor.  As for the crib…

I was inspired by this:



Super easy, right? Just keep the one side off (like a toddler bed), raise to newborn height, add some chalkboard paint, and voila. The creator of this desk had to get some particle board to sit on the mattress supporter, but my Ikea Sniglar crib actually has a solid mattress support so no problem.

Well, eep. First of all, I broke the crib some more by trying to get the railing off again. And because of how it’s designed, it was basically impossible to raise it to newborn height without the rail.

So what did I do? I put the crib back to toddler bed height, with the rail off…

and turned it over.



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Does it look like a crib turned upside down? Err..yes. Actually, without the mattress on the bottom there/quilts hanging from the desk, it actually does look pretty desk-like. But I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to create a little tent/nook.

I put my breathable bumpers around the legs to obscure the untrussed turkey look.  If I wanted to go hardcore, I could nail some particle board around the edges. Oh, and paint the desk. Those would probably make the look complete.

What to do with that extra side?



(from Blue Cricket Design)

I don’t have a picture of my version but it pretty much looks exactly like that. For once.

The Career-Killing Aspects of Motherhood {Guest Post}

Voting Mom(whom I have decided to term Haughty on this blog, but she hasn’t approved that yet) was kind enough to let me repost this here. Check out her blog!


Recently I have been psychologically bombarded, seemingly out of the blue, with a very clear message: it’s all over for you, career-wise, once you have kids. Today it was this article in Slate, rapid-firing statistics about how dismal the outlook is for female academics once they decide to bear children before mentioning on page 2 that oh, yeah, this same phenomenon applies to women in business, in law, and in, you know, every single other possible profession. Last year, it was Ann-Marie Slaughter in The Atlantic expounding upon Why Women Still Can’t Have It All, ten years ago it was The New York Times exposing The Opt-Out Revolution, and daily it’s the droves of my educated and successful friends quitting their jobs to become stay-at-home-moms at the exact second their family can possibly afford for them to do so.

This is all heavy on my mind today as I sit on the Acela from DC to New York, headed for my first business-trip/overnight time away since my baby was born 6 months ago. I am armed with all the latest accoutrements of working mothers: the electric breast pump, enough empty bottles to hold 72 ounces of expressed milk, ice packs, an iPhone app that lets me view my baby via a camera in his nursery during naps. It is excruciating. My eyes keep shifting from side to side, wondering if anyone on this train has noticed yet what a horrible mother I am. I have been gone for two and a half hours so far and have resisted the urge to call my husband to check on the baby approximately 57 times. Of course, logically I realize that this is ridiculous. It’s the hormones, man.

Then there are the countless days I sit at home with the baby, wondering what I am doing with my life. This is not to say that I don’t find the time I spend mothering valuable – quite the opposite. After watching my 7-year-old grow up way too fast, I am savoring every second with my infant. But underlying the bliss I feel when kissing his sweet face is the fear that I have completely derailed myself and curtailed all of my ambitions in the name of supporting my husband’s career (gasp!) and being available to my kids for the short time that they are children. It’s this very short nature of childhood that creates the dilemma – is it worth it to throw your entire life’s career plan off track, to alter your next 40-odd years, when your kids only care about spending a lot of time with you you for five or six years, max? I mean, it really sucks to sacrifice everything you every worked toward, professionally, only to realize that your first-grader would really rather be over at his friends’ houses or in the basement, playing video games. On the other hand, at what cost do you decide to miss those few precious years, when you are the Most Beautiful Woman In The World and The Only One That Can Make It Better?

As I am the stubborn sort who must have her cake and eat it too, I have attempted to thwart the system by opening my own business so that I can work as much or as little as I want to. The thing about a business, though, is that it tends not to succeed when you don’t spend time on it. This is also, of course, something that could be said about children. At this very moment I am involved in an elaborate text exchange with a client about what days I can and can’t do work for her next week based on when my part-time nanny is available. The other day, at lunch with one of the only women I know who still has a high-powered career in a cut-throat field after having a baby, I inquired about the possibility of my returning to said field eventually. She gently informed me that the decision to become an entrepreneur, only to then turn around a few years later and try to get a job, might come off as somewhat flaky. I, the one who went back to work when my first son was 6 weeks old, who graduated with a top-tier MBA shortly after his third birthday, am now considered a flake. The opportunities I have turned down in the name of motherhood are countless, as are the precious moments I’ve missed in the name of ambition.

To survive in the face of these gigantic, looming, life-affecting questions of working-mom guilt and constant mental conflict, I have resorted to making decisions minute-by-minute based upon the practicalities of my exact circumstances. In this one, I am sitting with two men in a four seat booth – one next to me and one directly across (I attempted to sit next to a woman, but I seem to be the only female on a business trip today). My breasts feel like they are going to explode, and I need to head straight to the conference center upon disembarking, but I guess I will not be pumping on this train.





A little bit of blog-keeping from me – yes, I’ve been very very silent. Don’t worry, I have copious amounts of ideas floating around my head for the blog. However, I’ve been somewhat obsessed with a writing project that {gasp} has nothing to do with parenthood.

I’m finally making myself take a break from that project, but then my first priority is some stuff around the house I’ve been meaning to do – actual housekeeping! Then the blogkeeping can return in earnest.



Says Little Engineer. Don’t worry, I wouldn’t feed it to any of you.

I have some left over frozen breastmilk that is really pushing its expiration. I was saving it for an emergency, but now that LE is approaching 2, I think we’re safe. And now that we are going “plant-based” (more on this later), I figured I would try to make LE some last milk based ice cream. When I googled breastmilk ice cream I didn’t see too many impressive recipes, so I just blended it with banana, blueberries, and spinach for a baby milkshake!

What creative things have you done with your extra breastmilk?

Originally posted on The Engineer and The Lactation Chic.

Top 10 Most Awkward Things My Toddler Has Said About Jesus

It's fitting that I'm posting this 10 minutes after coming home from the church kids' music program

It’s fitting that I’m posting this 10 minutes after coming home from the church kids’ music program

So, I owe you a post on preschools. And a post on infant sleep. Alas, four sick family members, a newly crawling baby, a sitter mix-up, and a tantrum-throwing toddler has made for very little research time for me.

So, as an offering, I give you, Top 10 Most Awkward Things My Toddler Has Said About Jesus

Let me explain. We have a Benjamin Franklin action figure and a Jesus action figure. Both are remnants from our ironic college days. Of course, L found them and appropriated them as her own.

We’re trying to raise our children in a Christian home. We like that she recognizes the figure as Jesus, so when we read her books about Jesus or sing songs, she has some sense that she’s familiar with him. Kinda like her obsession with Dora, but less throw-myself-out-the-window annoying.

Given that, our Generation Y-ish appreciation of total and complete awkwardness still gives us endless amusement with the following pronouncements, even if our more religious friends might be slightly horrified:

10. “Ya Ya Ya, Jeeesus” *

9. “Oh no, Jesus Fall!”

8. “Thank you. Jeesus Chwist!”

7. “Jeees-us! Jeesus! Whey’d Jesus go?”

6. “Dance, Jesus, Dance!”

5. “Jesus KISS Franklin! Kiss! Hug!”

4. “No, Baby, MY Jesus. Mama, Baby take my JEES-US!”

3. “Jesus eat cracker thank you Mommy.”

2. ” Jesus Franklin toot diaper change!”**

Before I get to #1, here are explanations of #10 and #2

* “ya ya y” is how L pretend “sings”. But it sounds like she’s going, “Yeah yeah yeah” like a bored teenager.

** #2 has led to me saying THE weirdest thing in my life – “No, honey,Jesus and Franklin are big boys. They go potty.”

So, #1. Let me back up. L decided at one point that she wanted to be a baby, like her brother. She asked to be given a bottle. I couldn’t find a doll bottle anywhere, so I grabbed the first thing I found…Jesus.

“Here honey,” I said, “Let’s pretend Jesus is your bottle for now.”

Which led to her saying for the next 4 hours, to anyone she encountered,

1. “Lucy want Jesus milk!”

The No-Cost, No-Time, No-Construction, No-Sew Play Kitchen

ikea play kitchen

There are a few things you need to know about me.

1. If I don’t finish something in an afternoon, it will never get done

2. I’m extremely cheap

3. I can’t sew

4. I can’t build things

So when I decided I wanted to build L a kitchen today, my options were limited.

Enter the Ikea Leksvik hat rack. We love this hat rack (and the matching shoe rack). However, we just don’t have space for the hat rack in the new house.

I turned it upside down and moved some hooks around. Voila, the basis of the kitchen.

The Sink:

One of the types of hooks looked like a J-faucet and the other type looked like faucet knobs, so I adjusted the hooks accordingly. I used a wire basket for the sink  (with some screws in empty hook spots to hold it in and shelf liner on the bottom). Next to the sink is space for an outlet (an outlet cover I had lying around.)

The Stove

For the stove, I cut up a Crate and Barrel flexible cutting board. I stuck some blank CDs and put the cutting board on top of them, and then drew in some ‘coils’. I used the hooks that looked like knobs for the stove knobs, and I also used some Pottery Barn curtain rod finials in the middle (they could be broadway lights, or knobs – eh, use your imagination).
I didn’t really have any materials for an oven but I did use the wire basket part of a very small rice cooker/steamer that I never used and placed in under the stove. L seemed to get very quickly that it was supposed to be an oven.

The Backsplash

We already had a corkboard hanging, so I just added a spice rack, a magnetic board, and a clock. I ‘installed’ another ‘outlet’. I also have some push lights that we never use so I added them to the corkboard as well. Finally, I hung a lampshade for the kitchen light.

What makes this even better is that since it’s a hat rack made for hanging, we can hang the entire kitchen at toddler height and hang the backsplash above it.


Update: Lactation Chic asked me for more detailed photos. Instead of honoring her request, I added on to the kitchen and took some fuzzy cell phone photos. Sorry!

The countertop: I placed the Ikea structure onto a cheap silver-ish Target trunk we’ve had forever. The hat rack was longer than the trunk so I also put a crappy orange crate we had in our backyard next to the trunk. On top of the trunk and the crate, I put some awesome granite and marble hot plates my parents had given us from pieces of their old kitchen. Then I put the hatrack on top, to create an island/countertop in front of the sink/stove combo.

More backsplash: I added another corkboard and put in a picture/window and a little mailbox. I nailed the hatrack into the two corkboards to keep it secure on top of the trunk.

An oven! I took a priority mailing box (that just came today!), covered it in foil, cut a square hole and put a cute square scrapbooking box I have. Then I placed it in a square aluminum desk inbox/mail holder thingy and stuffed the whole contraption into one of the hat cubbies.

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