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Iced Angry Birds Cake

Over the years I’ve made a couple Angry Birds-themed cakes. Two of them were for members of the same family, and even though they were made years apart I wanted them to each feel unique. For this first one I used minimal fondant and worked with an iced base.

Cakes like this are pretty easy to do, and while I don’t have full step-by-step pics I’ll outline the process.

The bottom layer was baked and prepared exactly as in my post on how to bake a cake and prepare it for decorating. I then decorated the sides with Smarties (M&Ms for my American readers) and set it aside.

The top layer also started as a 9″x13″ cake which was cut into the shape needed. As for most of my shaped cakes I started with a paper template scaled to the proper size on my computer.

The template serves two purposes. First I used it to trace out fondant pieces for the eyes, brows and beak. As I didn’t want to cut into the template I used a straight pin (that I keep for food use only) to pierce the shapes’ outlines into rolled fondant. The resulted dotted line is easy to cut out with a knife or fondant cutter and the individual pieces can be attached to each other with a bit of water or fondant glue. The eyebrows and pupils were cut from pre-tinted black fondant, the beak was cut from white fondant tinted yellow with icing gels, and the eyes were cut from white fondant later outlined with a black food marker. Before putting away my fondant supplies I also cut out the birthday boy’s name from red-tinted fondant with alphabet-shaped cookie cutters.

Then I used the same paper template on top of the cooled cake and cut around it to cut the cake itself to the proper shape. (You can do these steps in the reverse order but sometimes cake will stick to the underside of the paper and that can discolor your fondant. Another option is to trace the cake shape onto wax paper or parchment paper which won’t stick as easily)

The second cake was then iced with red and white icing to match Red’s proportions and finally the fondant topper was added.

The fondant pieces give the cake a polished look while requiring minimal shaping or sculpting ability, making this a great way for beginners to try out fondant for the first time.

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.


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DIY Checkerboard Minecraft Creeper Cake (NO Special Pan!)

Jakob turned 8 in 2015 and if it wasn’t clear from Henri’s Minecraft party, Minecraft lootbags and Minecraft grass biome cake that same year, 2015 brought in the reign of one particular video game in our household. (They even had DIY Minecraft Halloween costumes that year!)

Jakob was obsessed, in particular, with the Creeper. This unassuming green dude looks real cute until he shows up and blows up.

I decided to take inspiration for the inside of the cake from the Creeper’s multitude of green shades, and to theme the outside on the tshirts the boys would be wearing to the party, with the following image:

While I own a round checkerboard pan kit, I don’t have anything similar for square cakes so I had to get creative. I ended up coming up with a way to get the checkerboard look without requiring ANY special tools, and you can do it too if you follow the steps below.

Step 1 is to bake 4 cake layers, each tinted a different shade of green I used 8″ square cake pans and tinted my batter with gel coloring to get 4 different shades.

These are the colors I went with. You can choose to use more colors and more layers if you like – to copy the actual Creeper would require 8 layers for an 8×8 grid. If you want to match the colors exactly I provide the hex codes for all 8 colors in my Minecraft Steve & Creeper DIY costume head tutorial.

I only own 2 8″ square pans so I baked my cakes 2 at a time.

The cakes will turn golden on top as they bake so my icing swatches came in handy to remember which cakes were which later on.

Unfortunately I don’t have pics of the next steps but they’re very simple to follow-

  • Trim the golden top and sides off each cake
  • Cut each cake into even strips. Be sure to cut each cake into an identical number of strips. If you look at the cut section of my cake below, you can see I cut mine into 7 strips.
  • Place a bit of icing on your serving tray (to anchor the bottom pieces) and place 7 strips of assorted colors side by side to form the first layer. (Replace “7” with the number of strips you have in your cake). Once your color placement is to your liking, add a thin layer of icing between the sides of each strip to secure them to each other
  • Add a thin layer of icing across the entire top surface of layer 1
  • Repeat the last 2 steps 3 more times to add layers 2, 3 and 4. This will have used up all your cake strips
  • TIP: when cut vertically from the end, the cake will have a gridded/pixel look. You can use the same technique to create any pixel art desired
  • The key thing is to remember which direction your strips run. When you cut the cake you will want to cut horizontally ACROSS all the colors, to get the checkerboard look. If you cut horizontally WITH the strips, your cake will look like long rectangles of color.

To finish the cake simply ice and decorate the outside as desired. I covered mine with solid green icing and a fondant Creeper face, then added fondant lettering to match the boys’ shirts and Jakob’s name and age.

I used the placement of the face as my reminder which way to cut the cake later.

As you can see from the cross-section, the inside worked out perfectly! It looks just like the Creeper and Jakob was thrilled.

Jakob’s other birthday cakes

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.


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How To: DIY Super Mario Bros Banner

For my last post of Mario Month 2022, I’m going to show you how to make these DIY Super Mario Bros-themed banners:

I used them as stage runners for a Mario-themed skit, but they can also be hung as banners to dress up the decor at a Mario-themed party, photoshoot or event.

In case it’s been a while since you’ve seen what a Super Mario Brothers game looks like, this is the setting I was attempting to recreate on stage:

I’ve already made a warp pipe set piece, but to really give the stage a “Mario-world” look I decided to make banners/runners in the style of the iconic bricks, blocks and ground texture.

If you look at the screenshot it’s clear there are 3 distinct patterns – the bricks, the “?” blocks, and the ground sections. Before I can scale and print my templates I needed to know what dimension I could work with.

I used the same roll of recycled paper as for the warp pipe, and it is 36″ wide so the easiest thing to do was to cut the roll in half lengthwise, and base my measurements around that.

On my computer I cropped out one repeat section of each of the 3 patterns and scaled them evenly to be 18″ high.

I printed the templates and taped the sections of paper together to have exactly the pieces I needed. Then I cut my strips to the proper length. The floating banner (the one Mario jumps on/under) was cut to fit 6 blocks of my template wide to best fit the width of our band’s drum riser. For the ground-level banner, I wanted to fill as much as possible of my stage width, so I divided my total stage width (about 30′) by the width of the ground template, and made sure I cut my length appropriately to fit in the maximum number of repeats that would fit my stage.

This paper rolls up nicely which makes storage of both the materials in progress as well as the final banners a breeze!

As for the warp pipe, the whole project was done with inexpensive materials, including the acrylic paint. I started with the floating segment and marked off the width of each segment, then painted the brick sections brown.

I had just barely enough room to set it aside to dry so I could move on to the stage runner.

The stage runner was given a brown base coat along the entire length.

Due to space constraints, I set up my workstation to allow me to keep moving the runner to the right, while working from the left.

Luckily by the time I ran out of room to extend the far end, it was dry enough to roll up on itself.

The ground template would be getting a lot of use as I had to trace it over and over along the entire length of the runner, so I protected it with my favorite cheap lamination method – packing tape.

Then I set about tracing it over and over and over…

Carbon paper is fantastic for this as it provides erasable marks that are dark enough to be seen but light enough to be painted over. I used a ruler to be sure my lines would be straight, and a pen, stylus or chopstick/skewer would all work equally well for the tracing.

Once all the tracing was done it was time to paint the details. This required black and white paint, along with some extra brown to fix any mistakes.

I didn’t want any color bleeding, so first I worked my way through painting the white sections…

…rolling the work up as soon as it was dry enough to move forward…

…and then once the white was complete I moved it to the other side to start over, now painting the black ones.

It’s a long process, but very relaxing and great for podcast/audiobook listening!

With the ground painted and set aside, I returned to the floating banner and added a lighter brown base to the “?” block sections.

Just as for the ground, I traced my templates and then worked in sections to paint them.

First I did all the black and the bit of white highlight on the bricks…

…and then I went back in and did the remaining brown on the “?” blocks.

I love the finished result! It’s so easy and doesn’t take too long but has such a high visual impact for the stage or as party decor.

You can see how accurate the result turns out when you use a good, scaled template.

Once all the painting was done I gave the banners a few days to air dry to be sure there was no moisture left in the recycled paper, and then I set about laminating them.

If you’re only making a banner for a party or to stage a photoshoot, this next step is optional.

Just as for the warp pipe, these banners would be used in a stage show with multiple performances and incredibly quick set changes, and it would be a waste of my time and effort making them if they ripped during rehearsal or mid-performance.

Starting with a 1-2′ strip of tape, I lay it on one of the straight edges, overlapping halfway. Then I lifted the edge of the banner and folded the free half of the tape over, pressing well. This protected the edge of the paper from any moisture getting in.

Repeat the process on all edges. For a long banner like the ground one, you can do this in sections as you go.

Then, using more packing tape, work horizontally across your piece to laminate it. Overlap your strips slightly, again to make sure no gaps are left where moisture could get in. Once done, trim up your edges with a craft knife.

I chose to also laminate the back of my banners. While this does use up extra tape and is not visible to the audience, it provides an extra layer of durability and moisture protection. Also, as we were using velcro tape to quickly hang and remove the banners during each performance, I didn’t want to take a chance on being able to pull the tape off from the paper and damaging it.

The finished banner is now durable and reliable for frequent rough handling.

I then repeated the same process on the ground-level banner.

And with that, they are complete. The banners roll up easily for storage and transport, and applied perfectly to our stage pieces with heavy duty velcro tape. We had incredibly quick, rough set changes where the stage hands slapped them into place and then ripped them off while running off stage during the blackouts, and they held up perfectly!

Here’s how they looked on stage. The original plan was to have the drum riser get the floating banner and hang the ground runner off the front of the stage, but in dress rehearsals we realized that it would be too low to be seen by anyone in the audience except the very front, so we raised it up to run the length of the full band riser instead.

It was a really cute, fun skit/dance number, and definitely an audience favorite. I was so pleased that my stage runners, warp pipe, and all the costume pieces were an important part of that, and have held up to this day (4 years later).

All of this year’s Mario Month posts are from that skit, and next year’s will include instructions on how to make Princess Peach’s wand, Toad’s hat, and the Piranha Pete costume.

Here’s the full 2022 Mario Month summary:

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.


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How To: DIY Super Mario Bros Wario Costume

All month long I’ve been sharing Super Mario Bros-themed DIYs for my official 2022 Mario Month, and today’s post pulls all the Wario costume pieces together with some final touches to round out an easy DIY Wario costume.

For a refresher, here’s the yellow-and-purple guy himself:

And here’s how my cosplay turned out:

You will need:

To make the Wario hat you can follow my DIY instructions here.

My easy DIY instructions for the Wario mustache are posted here.

Wario’s gloves are a pair of simple white gloves with a rolled cuff and large blue “W”s on the back of each hand. I used an inexpensive pair of winter “one-size-fits-all” stretchy gloves and the same dark blue felt as for the W on his hat.

Because my costume was needed for several performances with quick (and rough) costume changes, I sewed the “W”s into place with matching thread. If you’re not worried about durability you can choose to use hot glue instead. In both cases, however, I would attach the letter while wearing the glove, as if you sewed it while laying flat it would not stretch properly once worn. (The glue or stitches would hinder the gloves’ stretch and the letters would appear wonky and/or possibly detach).

Repeat the process for the other hand.

Note: I’m right-handed, so it was easy to sew the left glove while wearing it, but not as easy for the right. At first I tried to compensate by wearing the left glove backwards on my right hand, so I could continue to sew with my dominant hand.

Unfortunately the results look terrible. Therefore I really recommend wearing the glove on the appropriate hand and sewing with your non-dominant one if necessary. If you go slow and take small stitches while awkward…it’s not impossible, and the results look much better.

Wario’s clothes consist of a solid-color yellow tshirt and purple pants with suspenders. I’ve linked suitable options for all three items above, though for my costume I was lucky and found the shirt and pants at my local thrift store. I didn’t think Amazon would have purple suspenders so I made my own. I happened to have some purple fabric at home so used that, though the color match wasn’t the best.

To make the suspenders yourself, put on the pants and and take the following measurements:

Length: measure the length in inches from the waistband in front, up and over the shoulder, and down the back to the waistband in back. Add 3-4″ to this measurement.

Width: the desired width of your suspenders in inches, doubled, plus 1″.

You will first create a tube by folding your fabric in half lengthwise, wrong-sides out, and then sewing a line about 1/2″ in from the open edge.

Once your tube is secure, carefully flip it inside-out. A knitting needle/skewer/chopstick is handy for this! Arrange the fabric so the seam is in the center and iron or finger-press the edges down to keep the strip flat.

The 3-4″ inches extra length added were for use in attaching the suspenders. If your pants have belt loops, first pass one raw edge through the opening of the claw hook, fold the edge in about 1/2″ and then sew down securely. My hook rotates but if yours is stationary be sure to have the side of the tube with the seam at the back.

Once the hook is attached, fold the other raw edge over as well and then sew it to the pants at the rear waistband, again being sure to have the seam on the inside. If you prefer a less permanent option, you can use claw hooks on the other end of the tube as well, and attach on both sides using the belt loops.

If your pants don’t have belt loops you will need to sew all 4 edges into place.

Wario’s pants are actually overalls with big white buttons but it’s easier to create suspenders and then fake the button look on top. If you prefer to make overall straps then instead of attaching claw hooks you will need to make a buttonhole and then sew 2 buttons onto your pants. I was worried buttons might undo during my dance number so I went for the more secure option of suspenders.

To fake the button look, cut two circles out of white felt and stitch (or hot glue) them into place above where the suspenders attach.

With that, your Wario costume is done! I wore this during a performance with fast quick-changes, so having my next costume underneath was the perfect way to add some padding and give Wario his more rounded physique.

Here’s the full 2022 Mario Month summary:

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.


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How To: Easy DIY Super Mario Bros Mario, Luigi, Wario and Waluigi Mustaches

Today’s post for Mario Month is a really fast and easy DIY for making Mario, Luigi, Wario or Waluigi’s iconic mustaches. You can also adapt the same technique to make any other style of costume/cosplay/dress up mustache you’d like.

You will need:

The first thing you’ll want to do is find a reference image of the look you’re going for. I found this clear picture showing all 4 character’s faces from straight-on.

You can freehand your desired shape onto scrap paper if you like. In my case, I cropped out the mustache portion of each image, scaled it for an adult-sized head (with the same proportions as on the characters) and printed it out.

Once you have your template drawn or printed, cut it out and trace it onto your cardstock. This will be sandwiched between two layers of felt to give the mustache stability. For Mario and Luigi it’s not as important, but Wario’s and Waluigi’s need a stronger construction to keep them from falling flat and limp.

Next, trace your template again, this time onto your felt (image 1, below).

Important- you want to cut out your shape BIGGER than the template (image 2, below). You can freehand this when cutting or trace around your outline and then cut along that new line.

Trace the felt cutout a second time (image 3, above). Then stack your two pieces of felt to be sure they are identical, trimming or adjusting if necessary (image 4, above).

Place your first felt piece with the front (public) side facing down. Place your template on top. Make sure your second felt piece is oriented correctly and then sew the middle of a strip of elastic to the center. The ends will be knotted and trimmed later, though if you prefer you can cut yours to length now and sew the two ends together here for an unbroken loop.

Using the same thread color as your felt, sew the two halves of the mustache together with the piece of cardstock in between. You can use a running stitch, backstitch or whip-stitch the edges. Alternatively, you could hot-glue the two layers together.

The two larger mustaches (Wario and Waluigi) need a bit of extra support to remain upright and angled as in the reference images. (You can see how it pulls away from the face on the right side of the upper image). Try on the mustache and mark the spot where the elastic and mustache should meet (as I am doing on the left side of the upper image). Note: it is important to mark these points while WEARING the accessory due to the elastic’s stretch. Once your spots are marked, sew the inner felt piece to the elastic on each side of center.

Here you can see the final Wario result! The two ends are standing up perfectly and the extra two stitches keep the mustache conformed to the face instead of free-floating. They also help hide the elastic when the accessory is viewed from the front.

The process is exactly the same for the remaining characters.

Here you can see all 4. Wario and Waluigi have the extra stitches on the elastic. Mario and Luigi do not and I think they would have benefited from it.

In all, this was a really quick and easy add-on to these costumes. They held up through 6 full performances and many rehearsals, including rushed quick-changes between numbers.

Here’s the full 2022 Mario Month summary:

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.


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How To: Easy DIY Super Mario Bros Hats

Continuing Mario Month, today I’m going to show you how to make really easy character hats for Mario, Luigi, Wario and Waluigi.

I’d looked at a lot of online DIYs when planning my Wario costume for our Super Mario Bros skit, and I liked bits and pieces of each. In the end I compiled suggestions and ideas from a few different patterns and am sharing it as a tutorial so you can use it to make your own costume or cosplay pieces!

For reference, here’s Wario and his hat.

While it’s very similar to the other 3, his is unique in having the white circle cut off by the brim, and by having his initial oversized. As such I decided to make his first, and then focus on the 3 remaining hats for my castmates.

You will need:

The first thing you want to do is draw a template on paper you can cut out. If you have bowls of the appropriate size then you can trace them, otherwise you can use a compass and ruler.

To save paper, draw your circles within each other. In my original template (above) I didn’t have a bowl with the diameter I wanted, so I traced my largest bowl then manually sketched in another circle about an inch wider, so there’s an extra circle showing. Also my pencil marks aren’t as easy to see so here’s a clean template with dimensions:

These dimensions are for an adult-sized hat but it’s easily customizable to make any size you’d like.

Cut out all pieces from your template. The easiest way to do this is to cut out your largest circle (A) and then cut circles B and C from within A. You can cut square D out from circle C after using it, or out of a scrap of paper (so you can keep all 4 pieces of your template for future use).

If you’re planning to make numerous hats you can preserve your template by laminating it with packing tape as I did for the Warp Pipe. You can also cut it from cardstock instead of plain paper for added durability.

Circle “A” is cut twice. One “A” will be left whole and will be the top of the hat. The second “A” will be the lower half. Circle “B” is cut from inside the second circle “A”. It should be centered evenly and then shifted down a bit to leave one section a bit deeper. (In the image below, you can see the hole is a bit higher and to the right vs centered, leaving more yellow on the lower left side).

If you are making Mario, Luigi or Waluigi hats, you can continue to the brim. Wario’s hat is the only one with a two-toned brim, so I traced half of template “B” onto white felt – “(B)” above.

All 4 characters have a white circle on their hats, so you can cut circle “C” from white felt.

Take circle “A” with the hole in it and position so the deeper section is upwards. This is where the details will go.

Position circle “C” into place (noting for Wario that his is the only hat whose circle is more obviously cut off by the brim) and then use matching thread to sew it into place. (You can also use hot glue, as I did for the other hats later in this post).

The other 3 characters’ initials will be cut from square “D”. Wario is the only one with an exaggeratedly large initial on his hat. Cut the “W” from felt and sew (or glue) it into place.

For Wario’s brim, first I lined up the white half on top of the yellow circle “B” and then cut off the excess. Then I sewed the half-circle edge together, leaving the straight edge open. Next I flipped it inside out and smoothed it flat, and then stitched the flat edge shut.

To easily center the brim, fold it in half and mark the center lightly. Do the same on the yellow circle. Line up the two marks, and keeping them aligned, sew the flat edge of the brim to the hat under the initial.

Place this completed lower hat piece upside down on the whole circle “A”. In the first image I had pinned them together, and the second image is after the stitching is complete.

Flip the hat inside-out and you’re done!

If you find the head-hole too small you can cut it larger, but you want to err on a more snug fit as felt will stretch over time. I used the 6″ diameter for all 4 hats and they fit perfectly, staying in place during 6 performances and multiple rehearsals!

The remaining character hats are all identical (except for color and initial) so I did them all assembly-line style. First cut out all template pieces.

Cut the initials from square “D”. I used scraps from cutting out the largest circle. I also switched to a glue gun for the details as it works really well on felt (though since the hats would be getting a lot of rough usage I stuck to sewing for the main construction).

Glue the details into place…

…fold the brims in half and sew them shut…

…then sew the brims into place. After that just sew the two large circles together and flip.

A final, optional step is to iron the edges to help keep them crisp and flat.

Each hat takes under 30 minutes to complete, making this a really quick and easy DIY.

They make a great addition to any Super Mario Bros costume or cosplay and would also be wonderful party favors for gaming-themed celebrations.

Here’s the full 2022 Mario Month summary:

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.


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How to: Super Mario Bros Warp Pipe set piece

It’s Mario month! March 10th is Mario Day (get it? MAR-10 looks like Mario!) but I’ve decided to make it an entire Mario month here on the blog by sharing a bunch of Super Mario-themed DIY projects. This assortment of costume and set pieces were made for a Mario Bros skit we did in Becket a few years back, but they would work just as well for Hallowe’en, cosplay, photoshoots or even birthday party decor and favors.

The first of the bunch is a set piece, specifically the Super Mario Bros warp pipe:

If you look closely at the warp pipe you’ll see there are two distinct repeats.

Ignoring the black outline for now, the top section has two unique horizontal stripes followed by a repeat that runs the rest of the shorter section (the vertical sections and checkerboard). The bottom section of the warp pipe has a horizontal black shadow followed by a similar, but narrower, vertical stripe/checkerboard repeat.

You’ll want to scale the pipe to your desired width. For the base of my set pieces I used a roll of recycled paper that was 36″ wide, so that was my max width. The paper would later be mounted onto plywood with an angled brace on the back to keep it standing on stage.

A design like the warp pipe is pretty linear and easy to plot out freehand, but I wanted to make sure I had everything scaled properly so I cropped out both repeats highlighted above and resized them to be 36″ wide. I then taped my printouts together to get an accurate slice of each pipe section.

This is the roll of recycled paper I used. The split sections were cut for the matching stage runners and then I cut a piece about 4.5′ long for the warp pipe itself.

This entire project was done with inexpensive materials, including the acrylic paint.

Start by painting the entire surface the pipe’s base green. I didn’t cut the pipe shape at this point because I would be using the side edges to line up my pattern.

Once dry, draft the pattern onto your surface. You can measure it out if you like but I found it easier to use carbon paper to trace the top pipe pattern, and then used a ruler to measure out and repeat the checkered grid 6 times. By tracing the top with carbon paper I had the exact placement of the vertical lines and was able to easily use a ruler and continue them down to where the lower section began.

For the lower pipe section I repeated the process, tracing the top of the lower pipe and the first checkerboard repeat. I then moved the template down to the bottom edge and traced the vertical lines again. I didn’t trace the horizontal lines as I wanted to measure out the checkboard squares themselves, but by tracing the vertical lines I was able to connect them to the ones higher up and ensure my lines were straight. It really helps to use the longest ruler you’ve got! I use this adjustable t-square for drafting and as a cutting edge and love it.

I boosted the contrast on this image to try and show all the pencil lines. I wasn’t terribly concerned about them showing through the paint as this is a stage prop and wouldn’t be seen from close up, but if you are concerned about that you can sketch lightly or erase your lines slightly to soften them (though that might require paint touch-ups later).

Now that the guide lines were in place I used a craft knife and my ruler’s edge to trim the side for the warp pipe’s shape. I then painted the lighter green color. You can also do this in reverse – do your base layer in the lighter shade and then add the darker details later. You can also sketch right onto your untouched paper and paint both colors later, if desired.

Do as many coats of the green as required for it to be opaque. Once the greens are dry, add a black border and shadow under the top section.

You could stop at this point but since mine was for a set piece that would be carried on and off stage for at least 6 shows and a handful of rehearsals, I wanted to make sure it would be durable. I knew it would be glued to wood but didn’t want the paper to tear or have paint flake off. So I decided to use my favorite cheap & easy lamination method – clear packing tape!

Start by adding one strip of tape that overhangs your piece on both ends to secure it to your cutting surface. (My cutting surface is my dining room table, which has many cuts from previous projects. Don’t be like me LOL).

You’ll want the tape running either vertically or horizontally, but for the best look you want it running in nice, straight lines. I used the edge of the black border to line up my first strip.

I deliberately DIDN’T line up to the edge of the pipe, even though I was confident my edge was straight. This is because I wanted my edge piece of tape to be centered half on, and half off the edge, so I could fold it over the edge for protection.

Continue taping, doing your best to keep the tape smooth and flat, without wrinkles. Large air bubbles can be popped with a pin and smoothed out but an even application will help avoid them. If you look closely at the top left of the pipe in the image above, you can see the tape overhanging the side of the top of the pipe, about to be folded to the back.

Here it is fully taped.

If worried about the glare from the tape you can also use Mod Podge or a spray sealant.

And here it is in the show! For reference, that’s me as Wario, and I’m 5’4″. It made a great bit of stage decor and a convenient hiding place for some skit props we hid behind it!

Here’s the full 2022 Mario Month summary:

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.


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Turn Any Playset into a LEGO Playset!

It’s International LEGO Day today, so to celebrate here’s a really easy DIY you can do to turn any dollhouse/playset with flat surfaces into a LEGO playset!

That’s right – with just a few simple household tools we’re going to turn this:

into this:

What you’ll need:

For this project I used this ArtMinds Wood Castle (linked above).

Jakob had received this castle as a Hanukkah gift from my parents and I wanted to surprise him by turning it into a LEGO playset since he never really played with action figures but was completely obsessed with LEGO.

If working with an unfinished product like this castle, you’ll want to sand it before you begin. Some of the edges are unfinished or rough and could cause splinters. The wood is soft, though, so it’s easy work to bring it outside and give the exposed edges and surfaces a quick sanding. This will also help make sure your surfaces are flat.

If using something like a plastic play house, you will want to sand any of the surfaces where you plan to attach LEGO plates to help ensure they stick well.

After sanding, wipe all surfaces with a damp sponge or paper towel. You want to remove the fine sanding dust so it doesn’t interfere with your glue later.

We’ll be using a craft knife to score the LEGO baseplate and LEGO bricks to give us a good edge to cut and snap from.

In my case, every surface in the castle had the same depth, so I wanted to start by cutting my baseplate into strips that were the proper depth. Then later I could cut them into individual pieces for each section.

Set the corner of your baseplate into the corner of one of your sections and use a separate LEGO brick to mark the edge line. We don’t want to cut the studs in half so if necessary err for pieces that are slightly too short instead of ones that would stick out beyond the edge of your playset.

Once you know your depth, use additional LEGO bricks to continue the line all the way from edge to edge. Do not use flat bricks for this as the thickness of the standard bricks will help keep your blade from slipping. Be sure to press the bricks securely as any gaps where they’re not properly seated onto the plate could allow your blade to catch.

NOTE: use a cutting mat or cut on a protective surface. I use my table as a craft table so I cut directly on it. Don’t be like me!

Run the blade of your craft knife down the edge of bricks once or twice, then snap your baseplate away from the cut edge. If you use enough pressure when scoring it should snap cleanly.

If the baseplate doesn’t snap clean off, you can slide your craft knife down the cut edge and the two pieces will separate easily.

Here’s a video for those who find it easier to see the process:

As you can see, with proper pressure the piece will snap cleanly off with a neat, straight edge.

Now that you have strips that are the proper depth, use the same brick-marking method to mark off the width for each section you want to cover. Do each section one-at-a-time.

Here’s the first baseplate flooring cut to size and inserted in place.

NOTE: They are not glued into place. I merely like to place them where they’ll go to help me keep track of what I have left to do, and to make it easy to know where they will go later.

Repeat this process until you have cut baseplates for every surface you’d like to cover. I did all floor surfaces, as well as the stairs. After this image was taken I also cut pieces for the windowsills and doorframes.

When all your pieces are cut, lightly roughen the backs of each with your sandpaper. You want to remove the plastic’s shine and roughen up the surface to help the glue better adhere. At this point you can plug in your glue gun so it can start warming up. I like to keep my glue gun on a silicone mat or scrap tin foil to protect my surface from glue drips.

Apply glue to the back of each piece and hold in place for a moment, pressing firmly. Once all the sections were glued I set it aside overnight so the glue could harden fully.

That’s all it takes! One baseplate was enough to cover all the surfaces shown plus have some extra left over.

The studs on the floors and stairs allow your Minifigs to be posed nearly anywhere, and the ones on the windowsills are really cute to put flowers and plants. Plus you can build off the plates, creating LEGO furniture for your playset.

I couldn’t resist staging a few characters for Jakob to find when he got home from school.

The “renovation” was a big hit, and while it only took a bit of time over one evening to do, it has held up since 2018 and is still going strong. I hope you enjoy this DIY and that it gives you inspiration on how to convert existing toys that might not be getting much love into ones that will be played with for many more years.

Happy International LEGO Day!

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How to Make Plastic Canvas Gift Tags

Looking for a different way to label your gifts this holiday season?

These personalized plastic canvas gift tags are quick and easy to make and are reusable as charms after the wrapping paper’s been recycled.

You only need a few supplies to get started:

  • plastic canvas – I used 7-ct but if you have a more complicated design that you want to fit into a small area, you can use 10-ct or 14-ct. (The “count” is how many holes per inch).
  • plastic lobster hooks – metal will work just as well. You can even cannibalize hardware from broken keychains or charms you already own
  • yarn – scraps from other projects will work great for this
  • yarn needle
  • scissors

The first step is to choose your designs so you can create a chart. My example tags were made for a young boy whose name starts with a “B” and was really into Minecraft, and a young girl whose name starts with “K” and was really into Monster High. So I decided to put their initials on one side and something iconic from each theme (Creeper & Skullette) on the other.

I used Excel to create my charts but you can just as easily use graph paper. If using Excel resize your cells into squares and then use the color fill to draw your designs, 8-bit pixel-style.

For the Creeper tag I went with a square shape since most Minecraft mobs have square heads. I then “drew” a capital b in a grid of the same size as the Creeper face. I decided not to do the typical blend of colors for the Creeper since this was just a quick add-on to the birthday party gift we were giving, but you can get as creative as you’d like!

For the Monster High tag I found a free-use Skullette chart and used the size of that chart as a basis for my “K” chart, which I drafted in a font similar to that of the Monster High lettering.

You have freedom to design anything you’d like for your tags! Your only limit is the total size you’d like your tags to be, as the bigger your design, the bigger the results.

The next step is to cut out plastic canvas pieces the sizes required for your tags. Remember that it takes 2 holes on the diagonal to make 1 continental or cross stitch with plastic canvas, so if your grid is 10×10 pixels then you need to cut out a piece of plastic canvas 11 holes x 11 holes, etc.

Stitch your pieces as desired. I used continental stitch (half of a cross-stitch) and did the green background for each piece first, leaving one piece with a tail about 3-4 times as long as the full perimeter. This is optional but by leaving the seaming yarn as your tail it’s one less end to hide later.

After the green I filled in the spaces with black for the “B” and the Creeper’s face.

I followed the same process for the other tag, working from background first to the details last, so the details would remain sharp and not risk getting fuzzy at the edges. First I did the white background (flipping Skullette so the bow would be on the right since the original chart was for Perler beads which get flipped after ironing), then the purple (as I didn’t have pink scraps handy), and finally the black, which I also used to backstitch some shading under the “K”. I didn’t do the tail trick for this one as I wanted to seam it with a different color.

To seam, hold the pieces with wrong-sides together and go from back to front through the first corner 3 times. Next whipstitch around the first side and when you get to the next corner, go through it 3 times again, and continue this process around. When you get to the corner where you’d like to put the hook, do the first corner wrap, then wrap twice while also going through the hook’s jump ring, then go through the corner alone once more.

After all 4 sides are fully seamed you can skim your needle through one side’s wraps and pull the yarn through, for about an inch, then trim the excess as close as you can.

These little tags are under 3″ making them perfect to clip onto a schoolbag or tote.

They really add a personal, handmade touch to a gift without taking too much time or costing the bank.

Have fun creating your own!

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Easy Jughead Cosplay

There are 4 more sleeps until Halloween, and that’s plenty of time to make most of the costume and prop tutorials I’ve been sharing over the last few weeks. Today’s post is so quick and easy that you can make it in under an hour and probably have all the materials you need already!

Back in 2019 Henri couldn’t wear his actual Halloween costume to school because the Neighbor outfit (from Hello Neighbor) had a mask. It didn’t take any time to come up with a school-safe alternate idea for my little brunette food-machine – Jughead! Henri’s a voracious Archie comics reader and we joke that his favorite food is “food” so combining the two was a no-brainer.

The costume is really simple because you can wear any school-appropriate outfit that a teenager would wear. The main key to get the look is Juggie’s trademark hat, and then as a bonus you can include a burger to really sell it.

We went with the comics version, not the Cole Sprouse version from Riverdale, mostly because I didn’t feel like knitting the whoopie cap.

Step 1: A burger. If we’d had a toy or squishy burger I’d have used that, but since we didn’t I went with an easy thought bubble because Mr Jones is always daydreaming of his favorite food.

You can find free clipart online and prepare the image in any software that will allow you to manipulate images. My preference is Excel but you can also use Word, BeFunky, Photoshop, etc. You can also draw the image digitally in something like Procreate or draw it outright on cardstock and color it in with any art supplies you have already. You want to scale your final image to fit as large as possible on a single sheet of paper (if printing it) or can go as large as you like if drawing it on something larger like a Bristol board.

I’ve included the image I used here as a free download. For best results print directly onto cardstock or print onto computer paper and then glue it onto cardstock or cardboard. A panel from an old cereal box or shipping box from the recycling bin is perfect.

To finish the prop and protect it, laminate it with packing tape! I like to cut the image out first so when I laminate I can have a thin edge of tape just past the paper, so no moisture can get in. Cut out your image and lay strips of packing tape evenly across the front of the image, smoothing down any bubbles as you go. Next, flip the image over and repeat the process. Use your fingers to make sure the seal around the edges of the image is tight, and then trim away the excess tape. Finally, tape a stick of some kind to the back. I used a wooden chopstick from takeout sushi that I covered with white electrical tape.

Step 2: The whoopie cap. If there’s ANY key piece for a Jughead cosplay, it’s his unique hat. Cut a strip of cardboard the height of the cap, and long enough to go around the wearer’s head with about an inch of overlap. If you want to paint it gray do that now, though we didn’t bother. Cut the top into points and then try it on the wearer again to make sure it fits and that the points line up where the seam will be.

Draw or paint on the iconic buttons Juggie always has. I used permanent markers and White-Out. Finally, staple or tape the edges together.

That’s all there is to it! So quick and easy it can be ready for school the next day without keeping you up into the late hours of the night.