Monday, December 9, 2013

EASY MODE: Totoro Tees!

I wanted Chloe's first movie in a theater to be really special.  As it happens, we lived in one of the greatest cities in the world, as far as niche culture goes - New York

My Neighbor Totoro was one of Chloe's first videos at home and by far our favorite to watch as a family.  Miraculously, right around the time I wanted to take her, there happened to be a week long festival of Miyazaki's work happening at the BAM Theater in Brooklyn.

The theater itself is fantastic and old-timey with balcony seats, red curtains, marble and the ornate architecture of theaters gone by.  I didn't get a good shot of the inside of the theater but it's amazing.  

Another pleasing coincidence - two of my Miyazaki-loving girlfriends are also in Brooklyn and one of them has a son the same age as Chloe. 

I decided to make some Totoro T-shirts for myself and the kiddos.  I also thought some soot sprite accessories and perhaps a bag were in order.

The Stuffs You Will Need:

T-shirts - grey, light blue, white - the choice is yours (they didn't have grey in kids so I opted for blue)
Fabric Puff Paint - white and black (glow-in-the-dark is optional)
Black pom-poms
Googly eyes -  small
White tote bag - any size
Glue gun
Barret's, Headband or other hair accessory - even a plain hairband will work as long as it's thick enough to glue a pom-pom to 

The shapes are really simple: eyes, nose, whiskers and mouth.

I prefer to freehand but you could just as easily use a white fabric pencil to trace the shapes before you paint and that may be preferable but I prefer to fly by the seat of my pants with most of these projects - and in life.

 I used the Glow-in-the-dark for the kids shirts because what kid doesn't like a shirt that glows?

I recommend doing the outline of the shapes first and then filling in with a back and forth motion to make a solid shape.

Use constant pressure and even strokes to keep it smooth.

You should let the white of the mouth and eyes dry before adding the black lines and details on top.  Otherwise the layers will combine and distort.

Once the white (or glow-in-the-dark) is dry you can add the pupils and the lines for the teeth.

When you make the lines for the teeth do the horizontal line first.  Then for the teeth work in the rule of halves to keep them equal - center line first, then quarter the rest.

Pro-tip:  You can use a toothpick to smooth out the paint and get rid of bubbles.

A few mistakes I made which you need not are:
  • I used too much paint - this made the designs overly thick and stiff.  
  • I didn't wait until the first layer was COMPLETELY dry before adding another layer on top - this made the pupils and teeth run and become wonky.
  • I let my daughter wear her shirt before the movie and she got it dirty - hence, she wore the adult size tee to the movie as a "dress"!  


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

EASY MODE: Totoro Cupcakes

I love food - eating it, cooking it.  I am not a baker.  I just don't love sweets, at least not enough to make them myself.  For this reason I have mostly abstained from making any sort of birthday cake for my daughter.  Preferring, instead to have some really delicious brownies with strategically placed candles or even *gasp* a store bought cake.  She's only three so that is the sum total of all birthday baked goods thus far.

However, being recently inspired by Cake-mom extraordinaire Kristin Rutherford, I decided to go all out this year and make cupcakes for Chloe's preschool class.  I decided pretty early on that I wanted to do a Totoro theme, since it was her first movie, so I did the precursory Google search for "Totoro cupcakes."  Most of what I saw was way beyond what I would consider feasible given my constraint s- I was making them the same day that I was bringing them to her school.  Yes, I procrastinate.  I consider it one of my finest honed skills.

Most of the really good ones were made using fondant - which, for cost and time reasons, was out.  There was just no way I was going to make 15 individual fondant Totoros.  Sorry, but no.
From: Black-chips

From:  That Girl's Site

From: Celebrate With Cake!

Feeling a little exasperated I headed to Michael's Craft Store to see what I could dig up.  After about an hour of aimless wandering and picking stuff up and then putting it back down, I had finally decided on my approach. 

First I made the cupcakes, sorry bakers it was out of a box.  After they cooled I iced them all with cream cheese frosting - also not homemade, no shame.

Then I cut a stencil out of a cereal box in the shape of Totoro's white stomach.  I held the stencil over the cupcake as I sprayed on his grey fur.  I used Wilton's Color Mist food spray in silver.
Next, it was time to use the Wilton's Decorating Gel tubes for the details.  Note: I considered buying pre-made candy "eyes" but they didn't have the right size in stock plus they tend to be unpleasant to eat, especially for toddlers.  The unfortunate part about using the gel tubes is if your cupcakes aren't flat, i.e. you used to much batter per cup, they eyes and whiskers will run and distort.

You'll need black, white and green.
Overall I was happy with the results, though some of them came out better than others - usually depending on how domed the cake I was working on was.  As I said before, if I overfilled the cups it made the eyes and whiskers janky.  I recommend using a measured scoop to ensure an even, flat cupcake.  DO NOT OVERFILL 1/3 is less than you think!

But, janky eyes or not the kids didn't seem to care!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Sci-Fri Edition: The Mystical Magical Crystal Tree!

I just had to share this wondrous children's toy/activity that I only recently became acquainted with.  One of my oldest, dearest friends brought it to a recent Cards Against Humanity outing as a gift for my three year old daughter. (Side note: We met at kid friendly t.b.d.Brooklyn, which has a small area of grass and many picnic tables.  They also have great grilled food with vegetarian options - a jalapeno jack cheese veggie burger with Sriracha mayo - Hey-o!)

When I got home Chloe and I decided to give it a go.   
Upon opening the package we found two pieces of cardboard cut out into the shape of a tree, a bag of crystals, and a white plastic tray for holding the tree.

Once the tree was assembled and the branches arranged we fit it into it's holder and filled the tray with the crystals and some water.


As the cardboard began to absorb the water started to see crystals growing on the trunk and branches.

Chloe (and I) were so fascinated by the Magic Crystal tree that I found myself on Amazon looking for more iterations on the same theme.  There weren't very many but there were some other cool ones worth trying.  (See:  Magic GardenMagic Crystal DinolandSnow Bonsai   )

But THEN, then I hit the mother lode.  While searching for more kits I stumbled on a site called Steve Spangler Science.  Some may recall the Mentos and Diet Coke experiment that awed the masses with it's operatic soda geysers, you can thank Steve Spangler for that (and the producers of Mythbusters).  A veritable Ron Popeil of science toys.

The site is free to sign-up for and (among other things) it houses the largest online database of DIY science projects for kids.  And, OHMYGODYOUGUYS, they have the Magic Crystal Tree experiment and it's ridiculously easy. 

This website was an uber find!  I hereby set a goal of trying at least once experiment a week with Chloe.  Go science!


Thursday, October 10, 2013

EASY MODE: "Ponyo" Wall Mural

I always knew that I would paint a mural for Chloe in her room.  I started brainstorming about themes late in my third trimester.  Some of my earlier ideas were the Dr. Seuss classic, "Oh the places you'll go,"and Hayao Miyazaki's stunner "My Neighbor Totoro."

Copyright  Random House 1990

Copyright glsolo 2013

Then finally one day, while we were snuggled up on the couch about to watch "Ponyo," I had my moment.  As I watched the opening title sequence I was struck my the simplistic beauty and the amazing colors.  Very simple lines, easy to replicate and a character and story we both love.  It was perfect.

First things first, I tried to find some images online of the title sequence and came up empty.  Instead, I chose to photograph my TV as the sequence was playing.  I took several of my own reference photos.

Copyright Disney 2009
Copyright Disney 2009

Inspiration in hand, the first step was a trip to the paint store to pick out the wall colors I would need.  I chose three different blue green shades that I liked and once home I decided we would need a fourth color so I mixed a new one out of the preexisting colors - making sure to mix enough for touch-ups since you won't be able to mix the same color twice unless you're measuring, which I wasn't.

The next step was to paint all of the blocks of blue and green that would be the water.  No need to mark it out, I just used a free-form method in shapes that I liked.
Note:  I used three quarts of interior wall paint for the water and latex craft paints for the rest.

I marked out the area where the house and island were going to be so that I didn't have to worry about painting over the green and having it effect the final look of the house. 

Then it was time to pencil out and paint the rest of the additions.

I chose to include the stylized white waves so those need to go on next.  Then the fish, boats, starfish, whatever else you decide to add.  I wanted to do one of the larger apartment buildings since we lived in New York City and Chloe loves it so much - but in the end I never got around to it.

Lastly, once everything under water has been painted, you can go over all of the water with a black paint marker to make the "water lines."  These do not need to be perfect.  They aren't perfect in the movie and they need not be perfect here.

I was thrilled with how the final mural turned out and I think choosing the right theme - one that wasn't beyond my limited skills as an artist - was key in making this such a success.

Anybody else have any fab murals they want to share?