Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Super fun DIY magnetic story kits / birthday party favors for under $2 per kid!!

Another year, another birthday party, another brainstorming session about what to give out for party favors. Every year I try to think of something besides the usual bag of plastic toys and candy (not that there's anything wrong with that - and let's face it, kids love it.) I love nothing more than a creative challenge so it's become fun for me to come up with a cool, new idea each year. Last year I made these cute little notepads and also included a bunch of other stuff I got on the cheap at Michaels. This year I had the idea to make some magnetic poetry story making kits (don't sue me Magnetic Poetry!) and I'm SO happy with how they came out!!

Here's what you need to make them:
2 cases of Altoids (12 tins total), about $5/each at BJ's: $10
2 sheets of magnet paper, about $9/each at AC Moore: $13.50 (I used a 50% off coupon for one)
acrylic spray sealer (I also had this on hand)
shipping or address labels (I used half-sheet shipping labels that I had on hand)
random, cute scraps of paper (you might recognize mine from last year's project :)
some basic computer skills
rotary trimmer, or an x-acto and ruler

The most time consuming part of this for me was coming up with the text. The first draft was insane, but I was able to condense it down to the basics, I allotted half the page (which is also where the labels split) for each kid. The easy part is making it silly, the hard part is making sure your words/story parts work together. the hardest part is making the tense work with the verbs. I didn't go too crazy with it, but I tried to just keep everything past tense and have enough little words (on, it, at, of, etc.) and also add-on endings (ing, ed, s). When brainstorming I thought about it as if I was writing mad-libs and just added in as many variations and embellishments as I could. I did a mix of single words and story parts (like, "there was a" "later that day" "huge bowl of" etc.) Once I printed the text on to the shipping labels I was ready to carefully stick them down on the magnet paper.

be sure to burnish them down well
Once I had them all stuck down I sprayed them with the acrylic sealer (I did this down in the basement because it's stinky). Do this in 3 light coats (allowing it to dry fully between coats). I can't stress enough how important this step is, it takes the magnets from paper that will easily be ruined being on a refrigerator and turns makes it have an almost vinyl-like feel and appearance, so profesh!!

While they were drying/in between coats I got to work emptying the Altoid tins (maybe you're the type of person who eats a lot of Altoids and keep the tins - if so this is the perfect craft for you!) Unfortunately I don't eat that many, but now I have a huge jar of them, fresh breath forever!

When all the sheets were dry I started cutting them out. I used a rotary trimmer, but you could just as easily use an x-acto and a ruler, or even just scissors. I cut them into long strips and then just used scissors to cut the words apart from each other. I also included a few blank strips with each set so kids could add in any words/phrases they thought were missing. The tricky part here was that my rotary trimmer base it metal! Ahh! This made the sheets a little hard to wrangle, but I managed.

I snipped the words directly into each tin so that I wouldn't get the individual sets mixed up since I had personalized each one with the kids' names. This part took kind of a while, but since we had a blizzard today it was the perfect opportunity to get it done, plus I was so psyched with how they came out it was exciting to see it all coming together.

At the same time as I made the words I also made smaller labels (cut from the bigger, half-sheet shipping labels) in a size to fit the top of the Altoid tin. The final step was wrapping the tins with my paper scraps and sticking on the label.


And here's a quick story I forced Finn to make so I could take a photo Finn made. Fun times!!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Started on a summer Sunday...

In 1986 I was 12, homeschooled, awkward, and had just discovered college radio. I became obsessed with WSMU, the radio station of what was then called Southeastern Massachusetts University, and which would later become University Of Massachusetts Dartmouth (and my own alma mater). My favorite DJ had a British accent and I imagined him to be exceedingly good looking. I spent a lot of time mustering up the courage to call in, but the stress over what I could request to impress him became too daunting. But more than that it was about the music. I felt like a switch had been flipped inside me. Up until then I mostly listened to stuff I heard on regular radio; I had Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Weird Al, Huey Lewis and Chipmunk Punk on pretty heavy rotation, but all that changed when I discovered WSMU. I listened in my room, at night, on my double tape deck boombox. I started recording shows and then feverishly tried to write down all the band names when the DJ came back on. I would then try to match up the songs and maybe 75% of the time get them right. I made a LOT of those tapes, the only thing slowing me down was that I didn't have access to many blank tapes, but then I learned that you could record over any cassette if you taped up the holes on the top side (sorry about those Bing Crosby Christmas tapes, mom).

There was one song that really packed a huge punch for me, I had never heard anything like it and I just couldn't get enough of it. It was called Silly Girl, and at the time, in my scribbled notes I had it erroneously attributed it to Black Flag. I listened for other Black Flag songs, because clearly they were my new favorite band, but everything I heard just confused me. This wasn't right! This couldn't be the same band! I considered calling the hot British DJ and asking him, but I was too embarrassed. It wasn't until about a year later that I heard the Descendents and realized (with a tremendous wave of excitement) that it was their song.


For years I laughed at my own naiveté for confusing Black Flag and the Descendents. Then tonight Tom and I went to see Filmage (which was totally amazing) and Bill Stevenson recounted how he wrote "Silly Girl" during the time that the Descendents were broken up and he was playing with Black Flag! He knew it wasn't right for Black Flag so when the Descendents got back together they made it into a song. This kind of blew my mind! So was it a crazy coincidence that I wrote down Black Flag on my tape of that song?? Or maybe that DJ was telling the story of the song and knew that info? Which doesn't seem likely to me because, back then, unless you knew the bands I can't imagine anyone would know a random tidbit of info like that. But who knows... it's just funny when little moments like that come rushing back from the depth of your memories. It's kind of like a bit of time traveling. I'm going to go look for those tapes.....