Junk Drawer Projects for American Girl Dolls

Right before Christmas last year, a coworker very generously gave me three American Girls dolls that had belonged to her when she was a child. I was awestruck by this gift; she was apologetic that they weren’t in “the best shape,” and I asked over and over if she was sure she wanted to part with them, interspersed with a whole bunch of “wow”. It was an awkward exchange, at best. North Dakotans are so weird.

The dolls were beautiful and in excellent condition, considering their age and the obvious love they had endured. All they needed was a good hair treatment just in time to make it under the tree for Christmas.

A cursory internet search informed me that this American Girl thing is an obsession, with websites dedicated solely to American Girl DIY projects, YouTube channels made by mother/daughter teams with thousands of followers, doll clothing that costs more than my grown-up clothing, plus books, movies, and accessories for days. It’s a sight to behold.

And I can’t afford any of it.

Or more accurately, I cannot afford to invest in it without first testing the obsession level on my kids.

So I did what all good Makers do – I improvised.

Scraps of paper, toothpicks, felt pieces, a compact from the dollar store,and a variety of other miscellaneous items, and, VOILA!, I had doll accessories!

Notebooks, Clipboard, and Pencils

Notebooks are made of small bits of scrapbook paper with lined paper inside, held together by a single staple in the middle. Clipboard is a thick piece of chipboard, a sticker, and a tiny binder clip. Pencils are toothpicks cut in half and colored with Sharpies.

Writing Instruments in a Box

This writing set is made of toothpicks cut in half and colored with Sharpies. Box is a simple origami box. It also has a lid to keep the tiny writing instruments contained.

The Lunch Box

My favorite junk creation is this lunch box from an Altoids tin. I covered the outside of the tin with cute tape, then filled the inside with tiny food. Food comes from a set of miniatures and dessert-shaped erasers, food buttons and a delicious-looking sandwich made of make-up foam and felt.

The Doll Computer

This is my kids’ favorite creation – the doll computer. It is a small make-up compact with the make-up removed. I did an image search for a computer screen and keyboard and played with them until I got the size right. The compact is painted black and the computer images are decoupaged; a few stickers complete the look.

I spent exactly $1.08 on the compact at the dollar store because I wasn’t ready to sacrifice my Mary Kay compacts, but the rest of the items were scavenged from around the house.

Here are a couple of other tips I’ve learned to make American Girl more affordable:

  1. Don’t be fussy about the American Girl brand. Joann’s sells 18 inch doll clothes, sometimes on sale for 40-50% off, but there are always coupons if the clothes are not on sale. (Coupons cannot be used on sale items.)
  2. A lonely sock can be fashioned into a no-sew dress for an American Girl doll. If you cut it just right, you can also get a pair of underwear and a matching headband.
  3. Have the kids ask for doll clothes or doll accessories for Christmas or birthdays and let someone else pick up the tab.

Help me think of some low-budget, no budget ideas in the comments below!

 

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Losing My Favorite Aunt

***My aunt passed away almost a year ago in September. I wrote about my love for her, but did not publish it at the time. I hadn’t reconciled with her dementia yet. Today she gets her tribute.***

I am heartbroken. My Favorite Aunt, Jackie, passed away over the weekend. I was her Favorite Niece Amy, not to be confused with her favorite niece, Amy.

We used these titles for one another for as long as I can remember.

I have many aunts, and I love them all very much, but Jackie was my favorite because she hugged me best. She hugged like life depended on it. She was soft and squishy and put her whole body into hugging me, lingering just long enough and squeezing just tight enough to really nestle into her arms. Then she would lay a big old kiss or two on my cheek. Her affection left the delicious smell of her perfume on my shirt and skin as a constant reminder of how much she loved me, or anyone she hugged.

Jackie had a keen sense of humor. She had one word punchlines and comebacks for days. She was quick and clever with her words, logical and precise in her opinions, and she definitely had opinions. She was the founder and CEO of the Bitching and Complaining Club, but I took it as a lesson in minding my own business while secretly relishing in the unrepeatable bits of gossip she dropped here and there.

Though boisterous and fun, Jackie took it upon herself to make sure all us kids were decent and respectful. Every single one of my cousins has a good Jackie and the Wooden Spoon story. I’m not sure she ever actually whacked any of us with it, though. She would chase us a little, then make us sit down and pout it out for awhile. A few minutes later it would be over and we’d get our fill of those squishy hugs and scented kisses.

Jackie had Alzheimer’s Disease. I hate that word – Alzheimer’s. As an adult raising young children during the height of her demise, I did not spend time with her in her last years. It’s easy enough to say I’m glad I didn’t see her “like that,” or that I should have made a greater effort to see her no matter what, but I recognize that there can be no perfect scenarios with Alzheimer’s Disease.

I saw Jackie a couple of times in more recent years, both pre- and post-dementia diagnosis. I slept the night on her couch once, and she fed me kuchen and soy milk for breakfast at her round wooden table with quilted placemats. We talked for hours. She showed me how her Roomba worked. As I was about to leave, she pulled out three very old handmade quilts and gave them to me to share with my sister. I kept two of them and they are the only earthly things I have to remember her.

The very last time I saw Aunt Jackie, she was living in a special home for dementia patients. She recognized me immediately and held out her arms for a hug. Her perfume had changed, but she smiled her biggest smiles and was bubbly and sweet to my kids, transporting me back to when she doted on little me 30 years ago. She said just enough strange things to remind me that she wasn’t the same person anymore, and while dementia had a pretty good grip on her mind by then, it hadn’t destroyed her personality at all.

I often wonder when was the last time she remembered me. It’s an unanswerable question, but I hope it was a good thought, and I hope she was proud of me. I was lucky to have her.

Classy Winter Centerpiece

Everybody! I have put together a Pinterest-worthy centerpiece.

I didn’t bedazzle the whole table like a true Pinterest godness, but I’m OK with that. I mean, honestly, I’m sitting at the table eating Cinnamon Toast Crunch, not prime rib.

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And it was easy. And cheap. I bought a red glitter cake stand from the Target dollar section and a plastic silver charger for $2.50. The candles and trees were on clearance at Joann’s for less than $5, and I had the rest of the stuff on hand. The goblets are my grandmother’s from her Avon collection, the jingle bells were in the kids’ craft box, the wagon was hanging on the tree, and I found the antelope in my son’s large collection of tiny animals.

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I ditched the original top of the cake stand and drilled a hole in the charger instead. A little hot glue protects it from kids who can’t keep their hands off anything.

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I seriously impressed myself with this centerpiece. Mediocrity is my usual benchmark.

Merry Christmas from The Lunch Hour Gardener!

 

 

My Favorite Advent Calendars

December starts tomorrow! The first of December is the traditional day that Advent calendars begin, and I’ve gone a little overboard this year and have four separate calendars going for my family. Possibly five if I don’t get off the internet soon.

Here is a list of my favorite Advent calendars, buildables, and printables, including several I am using this year, and a shameless plug for my own creation.

**Click on the photos to take you to the Advent calendar you want to explore.

Let’s start with my very own Advent card printable. I have a new secondary blog called Bad Mister Kitty for artwork and printables, and this card set is available for free over there.

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Bad Mister Kitty’s Advent Cards ~~ 25 days to unravel the marvel and the mystery of the birth of our Savior
Hattifant's Woodland Cuties Printable Advent Calendar. Head on over to her website and check out everything. You'll fall in love, I promise.
Hattifant’s Woodland Cuties Printable Advent Calendar. Head on over to her website and check out everything. You’ll fall in love, I promise.
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Mr. Printables Christmas Street Advent Calendar ~~ Stay awhile and check things out on this website, too. It’s another one of my favorites.
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This is my Mr. Printables Christmas Street Advent Calendar. I printed it on colored cardstock. These boxes are filled with Lego pieces that will make a total creation by Christmas Day.
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Pure Sweet Joy’s Tiny Box Advent Calendar
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Lumberjock’s Santa Down the Chimney Advent Buildable ~~ Plans can be purchased on furnitureplans.com. This is adorable.
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Home Naturally’s Rustic Spiral Advent Calendar. No instructions or building plans, but nonetheless a beautiful way way to anticipate the birth of Jesus.
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Little Bins for Little Hands’ Lego Advent ~~ includes many, MANY Christmas Lego ideas for a new build every day in December. Legos fit perfectly into any tiny box Advent calendars.
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Your DIY Family’s Mini Forest Advent Calendar uses simple supplies to make a delightful little Christmas forest.
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Hello, Wonderful’s Santa Advent Favor Boxes. If it isn’t obvious, I love tiny boxes.

 

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The Full Routly’s Advent Nativity Set. A 25 piece nativity set is almost impossible to find. I printed this set onto cardstock, colored each piece, and adhered them to felt to use on a felt board.
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This is our printed and colored set on the felt board. The kids love to put together the whole nativity scene and add in butterflies and bugs and rocketships and aliens. It’s quite a sight.

 

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RedBirdBlue’s Printable Christmas Story Advent Calendar. This is a beautiful set and story, and the silhouettes look great in both color and black and white.

 

Which one is your favorite?! I can’t choose, can you?

Something New! Advent Printable Cards!

I wanted to share a little something that is going on behind the scenes! I’ve started another blog, affectionately titled Bad Mister Kitty!! My new site is just that – new, and not a replacement for this one. I will continue to post here also.

Bad Mister Kitty will be featuring original artwork, art and craft ideas, mandalas, Zentangle, coloring pages, and other printables.

You can connect with Bad Mister Kitty on Facebook and Twitter, too.

My platform is (a little) larger on The Lunch Hour Gardener, so I wanted to share my newest creation here to jump start a following on Bad Mister Kitty. I have created a free pack of 25 Advent cards to print and use during December that unravels the marvel and the mystery of Jesus leading up to His birth.

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Go here to get the free printable cards and start your Advent journey with me on December 1st.

Print a set for everyone you know and share it, then join up with Bad Mister Kitty in whichever way suits you best.

There’s also a pretty cool Zentangle turkey over there to print and color.

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Send a comment and let me know how you plan to use the Advent Cards this Christmas season.

Christmas Blessings,

The Lunch Hour Gardener ~~ Also Known As Bad Mister Kitty