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!

 

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?

Collaborative Art Projects for Kids

 

I’m sure there are a multitude of good reasons for collaborative art. Cooperation, sharing, encouragement, membership in the Mutual Admiration Society, etc.

All benefits aside, we do collaborative art in our house because my kids are unholy terrors and they fight about everything: new crayons, whose turn it is to use the red marker, a sliver of paper crossing the imaginary line between them, the “better” glue stick, and everything in between. It. is. ugly.

So we work on art together. For now, at least. I’m hoping they’ll chill out a little after they get the hang of working together.

Here is an assemblage of our favorite collaborative art projects. Click on the pictures to connect with the printables and the artists.

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Mr. Printables Haunted House
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Mr. Printables Christmas Tree
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Mr. Printables Candy Land Heart
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Hattifant’s Mandala Doodle Poster
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Le Zebulon’s Klimt Tree of Life Collab
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Krokotak’s Leaf Mosaic using Radial Symmetry
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Frugal Fun 4 Boys’ M.C. Escher Lizard Tessellations

What are some of your favorite collaborative art projects?

 

Fun With Altoid Tins

Do you ever save certain items, knowing they have a destiny but unsure of what it is? If so, welcome to my world of beads, buttons, fabric, anything tiny, empty pill bottles, vintage jars, and, yes, Altoid tins.

I found many a cool idea for Altoid tins on Pinterest, most above my skill set, so my tins sat in wait until inspiration hit me, which of course, it did, as Easter basket season approached.

I’ll spare you the long process of how these finally came together, but I daresay it involved many an hour on Etsy looking for the perfect miniatures to fill them, only to realize I already had everything at home in the dollhouse and Lego bins. I am a horrible minimalist sometimes.

The first tin has four tiny Lego cars, four tiny Lego people, a tiny train, and a road scene folded up inside. I painted the outside of the tin black with roads and parking spaces.

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The second tin is an idea I’ve been cooking up (see what I did there?) for quite awhile. It’s a miniature kitchen and table, filled with tiny dishes and cooking implements, utensils, two tiny chairs and Lego food pieces. One side of the tin is painted with a stove and counter top, the other is a red checked table cloth.

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Be it known I’m not a painter; my hands are unsteady and my eyesight is poor, not to mention I don’t have high quality paint or paint brushes, but I don’t think my kids will even notice.

These tins will be tucked into two of my kids’ Easter baskets along with some candy. I think they will be thrilled. If not, I secretly enjoyed playing with the tiny kitchen for quite awhile. 😉