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Pat Benatar is my interior designer

5 Mar

lovecloseupThis is not the first time I have had a harebrained decorating idea inspired by Pat Benatar. No, my friends and Internet acquaintances, this is the second time.

Back in the halcyon days* of college, I decorated my first non-dorm apartment by cutting out hundreds of cardstock letters and adhering them to the living room wall to spell out the complete lyrics of “Love Is a Battlefield.”** At the time, I was totally into eighties music, and I thought “Love Is a Battlefield” served as a fierce yet fun anthem for life at the peculiar meat market that is BYU.

wall2 wall3This project may have factored into me meeting and falling in love with my husband. But that is a story for another day.

Now, in our current apartment, we have a big, blank wall along a space that basically functions as a hallway in our open-concept living/dining room. I felt it presented the perfect opportunity to reintroduce “Love Is a Battlefield” into our lives. (I was going to wax philosophical about what the song means to me now, but I’ll save that for yet another post.)

Also on my brain was a series of murals called “A Love Letter for You” that’s featured on buildings throughout West Philadelphia along the Market/Frankford Line. We used to live in Philly, and I love finding ways to connect our current home with our former homes. I love the tender sentiment of the murals–as the artist Steve Powers described, it’s “a letter for one, with meaning for all.” And I loved the style of lettering, so I wanted to emulate it in my own design.

Images from here, here, here, here, and here.

I was hoping for a slightly more refined look than my college version, so I opted for a watercolor look. I sketched the letters and traced them on to some watercolor paper I had painted red and blue. Then I puttied them to the wall. I have to admit, it was tricky to kern the letters evenly by hand. It reminded me of this lovely video of stop-motion typography.

And here is the result! (As always, please excuse my amateur iPhone photography.)

lovebednookbattleHere’s a rough outline of the process. If folks are interested, I may scan the templates for my lettering and share the files here.

1. Sketched outlines for letters. (You could also pick a font and print out the letters at the desired size.)

2. Tried to enlarge letters by making a shoebox smartphone projector. Alas, it failed.

3. Used the old-fashioned grid method to enlarge the letters I had drawn.

4. Painted a bunch of pieces of watercolor paper with red and blue watercolors.

AWESOME TIP: Did you know you can flatten the curled edges of watercolor-painted paper by simply ironing it? Just put it on your ironing board upside-down and iron it on a medium or low setting. (Thanks, Mom!)

irontip5. Traced the reverse outline of the letters on the back of the painted papers.

6. Cut out the letters.

7. Adhered the letters to the wall with putty.

This is the wall I see from where I sit on the couch and the dining table, and I am loving the view!


* Is there anything other than days that is halcyon? Someone with more linguistics knowledge (coughAllisoncough) please search COCA and share the answer.

** My roommates, thankfully, were cool with it. Some of them also shouldered the arduous task of removing the letters from the wall at the end of the year–I’m forever grateful!


Happy Halloween from baby ewok!

1 Nov

Happy Halloween from the forest moon of Endor!

After strategically calculating the cutest possible costume for our child, we settled on ewok. You be the judge.

(If you’re interested in the DIY tutorials, scroll toward the bottom.)

IMG_0256{“Look, Ma, I have a spear!”}


IMG_0266 - Copy{Ewok with Endor Leia.}

Some people suggested that I go with the white-robe-and-cinnamon-roll-buns Leia because it’s more recognizable (and metal-bikini Leia just ain’t my style) but I was adamant that I dress as Endor Leia, to be consistent with the ewok, you know? My costume isn’t nearly as detailed as the Comic-Con crowd (see my costumes pinboard to check out some impressive cosplays, as the kids call ’em), but this is by far the most effort I’ve put into a Halloween costume, and it was a lot of fun.

It actually worked out perfectly to dress Lars as an ewok, because his just-learned-to-walk stride is uncannily ewok-like. And it is adorable. Just watch:


photo 1 (2){The photo is blurry, but baby’s patience was wearing thin, so oh well. We’re a happy family.}


10{Han Solo.}



13{Princess Leia.}

Full credit for most of the costume creation goes to my awesome mom.

Happy Halloween, everyone! And may the force be with you.


:: The Return of the Jedi has always been my favorite in the Star Wars series. You are required to share your favorite film in the comments.

:: Did anyone else watch those made-for-TV Ewok Adventure movies? My brothers and I loved them, and got so mad when my mom got rid of the VHS. In retrospect, it was kind of violent and the orphaned-girl plot was sad. Not sure what appealed to us so much.

:: When I was young (maybe 9 or 10?), my siblings and I teamed up with a family of boys we knew from church to put on our own production of Star Wars. I’m pretty sure we did A New Hope and Return of the Jedi (but skipped The Empire Strikes Back, because it’s such a drag). The only two concrete memories I have are (1) lovingly fashioning a homemade R2-D2 out of a Quaker Oats canister and (2) reenacting the scene where Leia shares a cracker (we used saltines) with Wicket the ewok. We were very detail-oriented children. Also, one of the kids is now a super-talented playwright. Well, I guess he was back then too. 🙂

:: Doesn’t it blow your mind that they never say the word “ewok” in the movies? I didn’t believe it when I first read that, but it’s true!


Endor Han costume


  • Black fabric (about 1 yard)
  • White collared shirt
  • Black pants or dark skinny jeans
  • Belt
  • Boots
  • Yellow tape (electric, washi, masking, or whatever)
  • Black marker
  • Toy gun and holster

How to

1. To sew the vest, we (a.k.a. my mom) used Simplicity pattern 2346 (option D). We were already buying it for another project and it was really useful, but if you’re a resourceful seamstress you could probably draft your own pattern. It is about a straightforward a sewing project as it gets. So, you can buy and follow the pattern, or you can cut the fabric into once back piece and two front pieces, roughly like this:

photo 5 (3)

photo 3 (3)2. Following the pattern, sew the shoulders and sides together, then fold it inside-out to hide the seams. If you want to simplify like we did, you can skip doing a lining–so for the neck and armpits, just fold under the edges and sew a simple hem. If you want to go the extra mile, you can add pockets, but we didn’t bother (there’s a super-detailed tutorial here.)

3. Put on the vest over the shirt. Either button down the collar or flip it inward so it looks more like Han’s shirt (you could make your own shirt, but we were doing the quick and dirty version).

194. Stick a strip of tape on the outer side of each pant leg. Draw horizontal stripes on the tape.

185. Attach the holster to your belt. Wield a toy gun (ideally a blaster, if you’re really on top of things–we didn’t go that route because they’re pretty expensive).

6. Be a charming scoundrel. But don’t get cocky, kid.


Endor Leia costume


  • Green fabric (about 2 yards)
  • Green and brown spray paint
  • Green or brown shirt
  • Skinny jeans
  • Brown or black belt
  • Boots
  • Watch
  • Hair elastics and bobby pins
  • Yarn or twine

How to

1. To make the camo poncho, measure the green fabric so that it drapes at the length of a tunic (mine was about 3 feet wide and 5 feet long).

2. In the center, cut out a circle about 5 inches in diameter.

3. Cut a strip of fabric about 8 inches wide and 2 feet long.

4. Fold the strip lengthwise with the green facing out. Sew along the edge of the circular hole in the middle of the cape. Alas, I didn’t catch any pictures of this step, but this tutorial is the closest approximation of what we did.

5. Lay out the sewn poncho outside on newspaper or other paint-safe surface. Spray paint splotches of various shades of green and brown to create a camo effect (with a pic of the original Endor Leia poncho on hand for reference). Let dry.

photo 1 (3)6. To style your hair, first check out these shots of Leia’s hairstyle. And feel free to google other tutorials that may be fancier/more useful than mine.

7. Separate a section of hair right behind each ear and braid it, securing each braid with an elastic.

18. Pull the rest of your hair into low pigtails and secure with elastics. Braid each pigtail and secure each braid with an elastic.

9. Take the behind-the-ears braids and pull them toward each other, arranging them on your head like a headband. If you want to give it that special ewok touch (and if you have a friend to offer a helping hand), wrap some twine or yarn around the braids. Pin firmly in place.

10. Take each of the pigtail braids and twist into a bun. Pin firmly in place. (You can see in the pictures that I did a ponytail instead of pigtails, but I still separated it into two braids.)

15Note: Clearly, my final look is not very neat. But you know what? That’s OK. Leia’s hair wasn’t plausible or practical anyway. 🙂

1610. Drape the poncho over your shirt. Belt the front of the poncho to your waist, leaving the back loose like a cape. Add a watch and boots–and a blaster, if you have one! 17

Ewok baby/toddler costume


  • Hooded bear suit
  • Brown suede-ish fabric (about a yard, cut to about 2 by 2 feet)
  • Brown yarn and a few brown buttons
  • Bamboo (1 yard)
  • Leather cord or twine (2 feet)
  • Grey foam (I got a cheap foam sword and cut it down)

How to

Note: The great news about this costume is that the look is very rough, so it doesn’t have to be perfect!

1. Buy a furry hooded bear suit from your local Goodwill (I visited two stores and there were a half-dozen cheap baby/toddler bear suits at each).

2. Cut off the feet of the suit and fold into an ear shape. Stitch onto the hood of the suit.

3. Drape the suede-ish fabric over the head of the suit. Cut out a hole for the face and holes for the ears to poke through. Trim roughly around the edge to create the proper shape of the ewok hood. Here’s what it looks like:

4. Stitch a few buttons on the ewok hood and lace some yarn haphazardly through them. Sew a few stitches to hold the ewok hood to the bear suit hood.

photo5. To make the spear, cut a spear blade shape out of foam. Drill a hole toward the top of the bamboo and through the foam.

photo 4 (2)6. Glue the foam blade on top of the bamboo to hold in place. Lace the leather cord or twine through the holes and wrap it around, then tie it to secure.

87. Teach your baby to say “yub, yub.” (We failed at that, but came close with an “ub.”)

8. Wiggle the baby into the suit, and hand him or her a (toy) spear. Guaranteed fun!

A rare sewing venture

15 Jul

Last night, instead of packing for a trip I’ll soon be taking (one that involves Disneyland and a returning missionary!), I stayed up until 1:30 a.m. sewing, working on a handful of alterations I’ve been meaning to do. Although late-night crafting is totally my idea of a fun time, late-night (or anytime) sewing generally is not. It always seems to end in a clustercuss of pin injuries, knotted thread, and a well-meaning project gone terribly wrong (or at least off-kilter).

Alas, my relationship with my sewing machine did not dramatically alter (pun intended!) during this venture, but I am glad that I neglected my packing duties in favor of sewing. I am usually most inspired and motivated when it is late and/or when I am procrastinating something else, and lately I’ve been wanting to give sewing another go. I’ve always admired people who are passionate about sewing and have recently been loving Charlotte’s blog The Creative Domestic and another sewing-centric blog, While She Naps, so when the mood to create something hit me, sewing was the answer. Frustrating though it was at times, in the end I feel satisfied.

What I have to show for my efforts: two pairs of shorts that now actually fit my waist, and a new skirt.

(A fashion blogger I am not.)

(A fashion blogger I am not.)

Sorry, this won’t be a tutorial–I’ll leave that to the experts–but basically for the shorts I very loosely interpreted this tutorial and just took in one side, and for the skirt I did a lot of seam-ripping and trial and error.

The shorts I already had on hand. The skirt was a Goodwill find, originally from Talbots. I loved the fabric, which was a near exact replica of some bedsheets I remember at my grandparents’ very-’70s house (they had avocado shag carpet until the 2000s). It was a size 16, but I figured at only a few bucks it was worth a try to take it in. The seams aren’t the smoothest, but they’re smooth enough, and now it fits me as well as, if not better than, any pencil skirt I could buy. I’ll call it bumpy bespoke.

And now, I have three “new” pieces to bring on the trip. Turns out I was packing after all.

Does anyone else like to postpone packing or other chores by pursuing sudden creative/organizing/cleaning projects? Also, would anyone like to share tips on entertaining a one-year-old on a cross-country plane trip?

Fantastic Mr. Fox party printables and tutorials

12 Jul

I had a lot of fun putting together a cuss-tastic Fantastic Mr. Fox birthday party for Lars–see my first post about it for a rundown of what we did and what inspired it all (also, check out the guide to playing whackbat). Whether you want to throw your own shindig or just want to print out a few fun Fantastic Mr. Fox movie quotes to hang in the office (you’re welcome, Dad), here is a handy compilation of printables and tutorials for these projects: (1) movie quote posters, (2) fox crowns, (3) food labels, (4) party invitation,and (5) paper-pieced fox for a game of Pin the Tail on the Fox. Projects 1, 2, and 3 are super easy, project 4 requires a bit of Photoshop skills, and 5 requires a lot of paper-cutting and some patience. Just put on your bandit hat (or modified tube sock), and you can tackle anything.

(Note: All of the files linked to in this post are via Google Drive. Once you click through the link, just click File > Download. You can download the files for all the projects together here.)

1. Fantastic Mr. Fox movie quote posters

Because who can’t resist quoting this movie?


  • Cream cardstock
  • Poster file (download via link below)

DOWNLOAD: Fantastic Mr. Fox movie quote posters (PDF)


1. Open the file in Adobe Reader and print them on cardstock.

2. Cut each page in half vertically.

Fantastic Mr. Fox party | spifftacular.2. Fantastic Mr. Fox crowns

I saw the idea for fox crowns on Pinterest, but the link was broken, so I had to improvise. I made my own pattern and used it to make the crowns out of cardstock.


  • Orange (or red or brown or purple or whatever color your fox wants to be) cardstock (plan on two or three sheets for each crown you want to make)
  • Cream cardstock (one sheet will yield inner ears for about four to six crowns)
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Pattern file (download via link below)

DOWNLOAD: Fantastic Mr. Fox crown pattern (PDF)


1. Using the first page of the pattern, trace and cut out the outer ears on the orange cardstock and the inner ears on the cream cardstock.

2. Using the second page of the pattern, trace the zigzag lines on the orange cardstock. Tape together two strips for each crown (so, you’ll get two crown bands out of one 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of paper).

Fantastic Mr. Fox party hats | spifftacular.


Small children are guaranteed to remove their crown immediately.

3. Fantastic Mr. Fox food labels

I generally think food labels are superfluous. But I couldn’t resist pointing out how my menu choices related to the book/film. What can I say, I’m not perfect.


  • White or cream cardstock
  • Scissors or paper trimmer
  • Food labels file (download via link below)

DOWNLOAD: Food labels (PDF)


1. Open the PDF and print it out.

2. Trim around the lines and fold the labels in half.

Fantastic Mr. Fox party | spifftacular.

4. Fantastic Mr. Fox invitation

The invite is inspired by the color palette, typeface (Futura), and plaid rug on the movie cover.


  • Photoshop CS4 or above
  • White or cream cardstock (or you can order 4″ x 6″ prints online)
  • Invite template file (download via link below)

DOWNLOAD: Fantastic Mr. Fox party invitation template (PSD)


1. Download the PSD file and open it in Photoshop. It will look like this:

FoxParty-Invite2. You’ll be filling the left side of the invite with a picture. Choose the photo you want to use and open the file in Photoshop. If you don’t want to erase the background (and simply have the photo as a rectangle on the side of the invite), copy the entire image (CTRL+A). If you want to erase the background for a cleaner, cut-out image, use the polygonal lasso to create a selection along the outline of the face, then copy the selection.

3. Paste the selection into the Invite file. Size your copied image (using a tool like Free Transform or Scale) to fill the empty space on the left.

4. Make the text layers invisible (in the Layers window, click on the eye icon for each layer). (This is to make sure the action doesn’t affect the text.)

5. Run the Pioneer Woman Soft & Faded action (download the action set for free here; if you’re new to using actions, this is a brief tutorial on how to install and use them).

6. Make the text layers visible again (in the Layers window, click on the box where the eye icon used to be for each layer).

7. Edit the text to customize with your name and other info.

8. You’re done! Now you can convert the file to a JPEG or PDF to print–they’ll fit any A2 envelope.

Invite for Fantastic Mr. Fox party! | spifftacular.5. Paper-pieced Pin the Tail on the Fox

I was initially inspired by something I saw on Pinterest but decided to style my own Pin the Tail on the Fox inspired by other illustrations on Pinterest and in particular this paper-pieced art.


  • A couple yards of kraft paper
  • Gluestick
  • Cardstock: several sheets of orange, brown, cream, and yellow, green, yellow patterned, and brown patterned (I used the Recollections Spice Market Cardstock Paper 50-sheet pack and the Recollections Mosaic Memories Paper Pad)
  • Fox pattern file (download via link below)
  • Banner text template file (download via link below)
  • Banner tail pattern file (download via link below)
  • Brown marker (optional)
  • White and brown ink (optional)

DOWNLOAD: Paper fox template (PDF)

DOWNLOAD: Banner text template (PSD)

DOWNLOAD: Banner tail template (PDF)


1. Print out the pattern and cut out all the shapes from the first four pages of the pattern.

2. Cut out the shapes using the following colors (or something similar, whatever you think works):


  • head
  • right ear, back
  • left ear, back
  • cheek fur
  • right foot
  • fingers
  • lower hand
  • upper hand
  • left foot
  • tail


  • right ear, front
  • left ear, front


  • bridge of nose
  • left eye
  • right eye
  • neck
  • tip of tail

Dark Brown

  • nose
  • pupils
  • eyebrows
  • smile
  • left whiskers
  • right whiskers

Olive green

  • left iris
  • right iris


  • wheat
  • wheat for pocket

Yellow patterned

  • shirt collar

Brown patterned

  • left jacket collar
  • right jacket collar
  • jacket body
  • top pocket
  • bottom pocket
  • left pant leg
  • right pant leg
  • left arm
  • right arm

3. Optional: Lightly ink the edges of the dark-colored pieces with white ink and the light-colored pieces with brown ink.

4. Now comes the tricky part: Assemble the pieces and glue them in place.

Rather than dictate a certain order to assemble the pieces, here’s what I suggest: Cut out the outline of the fox from the last three pages of the pattern. Then start inward with some of the smaller pieces (like the eye) and cut that out of the outline. Then, align a larger piece (like the head) underneath the outline and use the hole you just cut out to determine the placement of that piece. Like so:

Fantastic Mr. Fox | spifftacular.5. Optional: Draw a simple tree on the kraft paper with the brown marker.

6. Glue the completed fox onto the kraft paper.

7. Optional: For the banner, open the banner text template PSD. Insert the birthday boy or girl’s name. Print out across two sheets of paper, and cut out following the arch shape of the text. Then open the banner tail pattern PDF. Print it out and use it to trace and cut out the tails for each end of the banner. You can use the brown ink to lightly ink the edges of the banner to create a shadow effect. Then place and glue the tails underneath the main part of the banner, then glue it all onto the kraft paper above the fox.

Pin the tail on the fox | spifftacular.8. Create as many extra tails as you need to play Pin the Tail on the Fox. Have some double-sided tape on hand to put on each tail, then see which player can get the tail closest to the right spot!

Pin the tail on the fox | spifftacular.I’m still new to this whole tutorial-writing thing, so please feel free to comment if you have any questions. Also, feel free to comment with your favorite FMF quote. 🙂

Fantastic Mr. Fox: How to play whackbat in real life

3 Jul

One of my favorite things from our recent Fantastic Mr. Fox party was a rousing and ridiculous round of whackbat. If you haven’t seen the film (you should!), here’s how the game is explained:

It’s all pretty nonsensical, right? For example:

  • Coach Skip says the whackbatter is supposed to try to hit the cedar stick off the cross rod, but then Kristofferson slides under and leaps over the cedar stick and instead knocks off the twig basket.
  • The twig runners run the flaming pinecone, not a twig, down the field.
  • Several of the twig runners simply spin in place for the entire game.
  • Oh yeah, the arrows in the diagram don’t mean anything.

The nonsense, of course, is part of the appeal. For the indifferent-toward-sports among us, it’s a commentary on the silly complexity of athletic rules. But to replicate it in real life, it had to make a little more sense. I diligently scrutinized the whackbat scene like a coach analyzing game tape. (There’s a special feature on the DVD called “A Beginner’s Guide to Whackbat” but it’s basically the same footage and information.) Here’s how it breaks down frame by frame (click the image to enlarge if you want to see the details):

whackbat-coachskip-guideAfter analyzing every move, I made a few tweaks and came up with the real-life adaptation of whackbat, trying to make it fairly easy to figure out yet preserving the charming absurdity. And so I give you:


  • A bunch of pinecones (alas, setting them on fire not recommended)
  • A whackbat (a toy bat or even a tennis racket will do)
  • A twig basket (a basket or other small container will do)
  • A cedar stick (any old stick will do)

Update: I made a whackbat in honor of my dad’s birthday. Egg carton wrapped with brown craft foam and studded with wooden spools + PVC pipe wrapped with leather cord. Totally legit. As proudly modeled by my dad and uncle Eric:

Game set-up

Set the stick and the basket on the ground on opposite ends of the field, and place the center tagger between them, the whackbatter behind the twig basket, and the rest of the players all around, roughly as shown below.


Positions and game play

There are 13 players on two teams. There is also an umpire. The first team comprises the Center Tagger, three Taggers, and three Grabbers. The second team comprises the Whackbatter and five Twig Runners. Teams switch positions after each round. There are eight rounds in a game.

Here’s how they all play the game:

  • Center Tagger: Chuck the pinecone toward the whackbatter.
  • Whackbatter: Try to hit the cedar stick with the pinecone. If you don’t hit it, run down the field and tag the cedar stick without getting tagged by a Tagger.
  • Twig Runners: Catch or pick up the pinecone and run it on your own, or pass it relay-style to other twig runners, to put in the twig basket. If you’re not running the pinecone, spin in place!
  • Taggers: Try to tag the Whackbatter before he or she tags the cedar stick.
  • Grabbers: Throw pinecones indiscriminately at other players. Then pick up pinecones at the end of each round.
  • Umpire: Yell “Hot box!” when the whackbatter has been tagged and/or when you feel like the pinecone would probably have burned out had you actually set it aflame. Keep track of all scoredowns.


  • Whackbatter hits the cedar stick with pinecone = 45 scoredowns
  • Whackbatter tags cedar stick = 27 scoredowns
  • Twig runner gets pinecone in twig basket = 18 scoredowns

You can also throw in some arbitrary, Whose-Line-Is-It-Anyway-points-don’t-matter scoredowns, for things like awesome spinning or skilled dashing back and forth.

At the end of each round, divide the total scoredowns by nine.


Printable whackbat instructions

Make it easier for your aspiring whackbatting friends and print out these handy instructions.

Download PDF: Whackbat instructions


When we played, I didn’t have all the rules and positions as organized as I do here, plus we had some pretty young players, so things were a little more chaotic–but I think that added to the charm and fun of it all. So although I’ve tried to provide some clear, practical instructions here on how to play whackbat, feel free to ignore them and do your own thing. Relish the nonsense! And let me know how your game goes!



A Fantastic Mr. Fox birthday party

1 Jul

Update: Make sure to also check out the guide to playing whackbat and all the party printables and tutorials.

YAY! We kept a tiny human alive for a whole year! We all survived!

That is pretty much the reason we have first birthday parties for children. Also, of course, we are crazy in love with our little boy and want to celebrate his first year with friends and family and CAKE. And, with of course, a theme.

For Little Lars, the theme had to be Fantastic Mr. Fox. Mostly because: Lars is fantastic. Obviously we’re a bit biased, but like his foxy counterpart, Lars charms pretty much everyone he meets. He also happens to have lots of adorable vulpine apparel, all supplied by my family, who are big fans of the film. My dad and brothers particularly love the vulpine explitive “What the cuss!” and manage to work other lines into conversation quite often. And Roald Dahl has always been one of my favorite authors–I amassed virtually his entire works as a kid.

{“Different” poster from here; “Fantastic” poster from here.}

I was inspired by both the original book by Roald Dahl (and the scribbly illustrations of Quentin Blake) and the delightful film adaptation by Wes Anderson. I particularly appreciate the attention to detail in Wes Anderson’s films–every object, every expression, every frame, is lovingly (and quirkily) just so. It’s no surprise that his work has spawned both playful parodies (like this and this) and some impressive fan art (like these posters and so. many. costumes.), and such artistic meticulousness inspired my own crafting.

For anyone who’s interested, I plan to provide tutorials and downloads for some of the party details, but this is already going to be a super long post (I am never, ever brief), so I’ll share those in future posts.


Invite for Fantastic Mr. Fox party! | spifftacular.Fantastic Mr. Fox party invites | spifftacular.

For the invite, I borrowed the color palette of the film–mostly butter yellow and a mix of reds and oranges–and used Futura, styled like the movie poster/cover. The plaid background is loosely based on the plaid rug on the movie cover. For some of the envelopes, I used basic white A2 envelopes and inserted some patterned paper for just the inside fold; for a few others, I unfolded an envelope and used it as a template to make an entire envelope out of patterned paper.


The first decoration should be filed under “I am a crazy crafter, emphasis on the crazy.” I found an idea on Pinterest (and ye all know how I feel about Pinterest now) for a pin-the-tail-on-the-fox game, which is perfect since Mr. Fox does indeed lose his tail in the story. But the cutesy cartoon style of it wasn’t quite right; I wanted to emulate the style of the film. So basically, I found a picture of Mr. Fox on a movie poster, enlarged and printed it, then traced the different elements of the image and cut them out of cardstock. And then I pieced them together. It was laborious yet satisfying. And it served as a game, decoration, conversation piece, and photo backdrop all in one.

Pin the tail on the fox | the tail on the fox | spifftacular.Pin the tail on the fox | spifftacular.

The other decorations were comparatively simple. My mom made sure that I took a picture of baby Lars every month (and made a sweet scrapbook of them for his 12-month mark), so I picked one from each month, mounted it on patterned paper, and displayed them on our window (where we have more open space than any of the walls).

Fantastic Mr. Fox party | spifftacular.Since my family loves quoting the movie, I wanted to work that in somehow. So I just made some simple typographic posters (set in Futura again) and added strips of the plaid background I made for the invite. Then I hung them up with some outtakes from baby’s monthly photos.

Fantastic Mr. Fox party | spifftacular.Also, I’m not sure if this quite qualifies as a decoration, but we also had fox crowns. Because why not? I saw the idea on Pinterest, and it was pretty straightforward. Also, if you wanted cake, you had to wear the crown.

Fantastic Mr. Fox party hats | spifftacular.IMG_2566-edit


I am not a talented cook, and I am particularly unskilled at cooking for crowds, so I tried to keep the food simple. The menu included chicken nuggets of the meaty and fake/vegetarian variety (since Mr. Fox steals chickens… it totally works, right?), sweet potato fries, carrots (also stolen by Mr. Fox) and dip, pretzel sticks, apple slices, apple juice, and M&M’s (because chocolate).

Although I generally think labels for food are superfluous (can we really not identify apples without the label?), I did make little notecards to scatter on the table that included quotes from the book and the film relating to food. Food plays such a central part in the story (as discussed here and here) so it seemed fitting.

Fantastic Mr. Fox party | spifftacular.I briefly considered making a batch of Mrs. Bean’s Famous Nutmeg-Ginger-Apple Snaps, an intriguing cookie referred to in the film and brought to life by both Mario Batali and the Vancouver Observer. But I didn’t feel like baking any more than I had to, so I didn’t. If you try it, let me know how they are! (I did make some Apple Lemon Muffins today using the leftover sliced apples–they were yummy!)

As for the cake, I made the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook’s traditional vanilla birthday cake.

Magnolia Bakery's Traditional Vanilla Birthday Cake | spifftacular.If you have not yet welcomed this cake into your life, please do so as soon as possible. (The recipe is online here, but the cookbook is well worth checking out.) Cake has never been my favorite dessert, but this cake made me a believer.

Lars is now a cake believer too:IMG_2571-editTHE GAMES

As mentioned above, we had pin-the-tail-on-the-fox, which is always a classic.

We had the movie playing in the background to keep the kids entertained during lunch and in between organized activities.

I also had plans to let the kids decorate some apples with gold star stickers (they’re Mrs. Grossman’s stickers–I used to love those as a kid!). In the story, Mr. Bean is a turkey-and-apple farmer with “Red Remarkable” apples that make remarkably strong apple cider. Mr. Fox comments, “Even these apples look fake, but at least they’ve got stars on them.” Alas, I was distracted by the rest of the party and forgot. Oh well. At least I can share it on the Internet, right? It probably wasn’t practical anyway, since you’d have to remove the stickers to eat the apple.

fox-applesFantastic Mr. Fox party apples | spifftacular.And now, possibly my favorite part: WHACKBAT.

Related post: How to play whackbat in real life


Whackbat is a cricket-like sport played by the woodland animals (Mr. Fox is a champion whackbatter, of course). The film explains the rules…

Coach Skip: Basically, there’s three grabbers, three taggers, five twig runners, and a player at Whackbat. Center tagger lights a pine cone and chucks it over the basket and the whackbatter tries to hit the cedar stick off the cross rock. Then the twig runners dash back and forth until the pinecone burns out and the umpire calls hotbox. Finally, you count up however many score-downs it adds up to and divide that by nine.
Kristofferson: Got it.

… but it’s all intentionally nonsensical. But I really wanted to make it work. So I watched the whackbat scene play-by-play, made up a few rules of my own, and we managed to have a pretty fun and ridiculous round of whackbat. Fear not, this will also be covered in detail in a future post. You too can become a whackbat champion.


I did not in fact have any favors to send home with guests. But I had a ton of extra pinecones leftover from our whackbat shenanigans, and some of the kids asked if they could take one home. This is exactly why I didn’t bother with favors–who needs a cheap plastic toy when you can have a pinecone? Kids are the best.

I did find a cute design for bags shaped like foxes and other creatures, so if you want to do favors you could use those and maybe fill them with an apple or two and some gold star stickers.


Huzzah for friends and family! These folks humored me by playing whackbat, and they’re so good to us and Lars.

2014-06-28 12


He really is fantastic, isn’t he?

IMG_2633-editPsst… if you are the pinning type, feel free to share this on Pinterest. I didn’t set out to make this a DIY-dominated blog, but I’m excited to share the fantastic fun!

The 7 steps toward Pinterest nirvana

24 Jun

This month I’ve been planning a first birthday party for my firstborn. As with most first-child experiences, I’m probably way overthinking it, so of course I turned to Pinterest for inspiration. Which can sometimes be dangerous if you’re even slightly type A or insecure. But I made it out alive, and through the endless scrolling, I dare say I have made peace with Pinterest. This is a lengthy (yet slightly Buzzfeedy) look at the thought process that has led me to Pinterest nirvana*:

1. Ain’t nobody got time (or money) for that.

The 7 steps toward Pinterest nirvana | Spifftacular.

“Her oral report was phenomenal, but it was the embers of burning francs billowing through the air that earned Quinoa an A+++ on Famous Consumers Day.” Via
My Imaginary Well-Dressed Daughter

When I first scrolled through Pinterest for ideas on my chosen theme, I felt overwhelmed. I found articles featuring parties of the same theme that were beyond elaborately decorated. They had transformed the entire space: an alternate universe completely reigned by The Birthday Party Theme. How could I ever compare? I still use two Rubbermaids for living room side tables. No amount of chevron is going to make up for that. Le sigh.

2. But don’t hate the crafty people.

The 7 steps toward Pinterest nirvana | Spifftacular. That said, I’m no Pinterest hater. I recently saw this article bashing Pinterest-worthy parties and this one criticizing the obsession over capturing perfectly staged memories, and although they have some good points, I don’t like the us-vs.-them approach. I’m sorry that some parents feel guilty or judged for not meeting a certain ideal of craftiness, but that doesn’t mean people who genuinely enjoy crafty endeavors should feel guilty either. And although I agree that we shouldn’t prioritize how things look over authentic experiences (more on that in a minute), that doesn’t mean that memories that happen to involve adorable crafts aren’t authentic.

I thought of my mom, who threw tons of creative, festive parties before the age of Pinterest. I have fond memories of the crafty aspects of those parties: my friends bedecked in chef’s hats and aprons for my cooking birthday party, the cake decorated with a popsicle-stick picket fence for my garden birthday party, and the sweet Lego-brick cake for my brother’s Lego birthday party.

My mom had a knack for creativity and cuteness, and she masterminded cool kid parties not because she was trying to impress anyone, but because she enjoyed doing it. And she always made sure to involve me, so it was an opportunity to create something together, and today I’m grateful she passed that joy of creativity on to me.

I don’t throw extravagant parties, but I consider myself pretty crafty. I was the kid that would rather spend time creating, say, a dollhouse out of recycled materials than playing outside. I was also the kid who toted a glue gun just about everywhere I went (how did I have friends??). If it wasn’t for obsessive-compulsive late-night crafting, I wouldn’t have met my husband (but that’s a story for another day). So, I am a firm defender of earnest, ambitious crafting endeavors.

3. Repeat after me: It’s curated.

The 7 steps toward Pinterest nirvana | Spifftacular.

Photo illustration by me. Original image via

The key to not getting depressed by Pinterest and other social media is to remember that everything is highly curated. I know my online self is decidedly more together than my face-to-face, 24/7 self. We are viewing only a small, carefully presented piece of someone’s life. Sometimes those pieces paint a picture of an unattainably beautiful life. But we all have problems. Those problems don’t need to play a starring role on social media, although I do appreciate it when people are candid (especially like this). It’s just helpful to keep in mind that behind every “perfect” pin is a real person with her own mix of triumphs and talents, challenges and anxieties.

4. Photograph less, experience more.

The 7 steps toward Pinterest nirvana | Spifftacular. One point I agreed with in the second article mentioned above is that we can become so preoccupied with capturing a memory (and then sharing it on social media) that we fail to actually enjoy the moment. In a fascinating series from NPR about photography and memory, one story cited research showing that we actually remember fewer details about the things we photograph. As a source in the article says, photos can be “rich retrieval clues,” but photographs are not memories. So although I hope to catch a video of my little guy demolishing his first cupcake, I’ll try to spend more time enjoying the day than trying to catalog every moment to post on Facebook. (There’s also this NPR story about how parents absorbed with their smartphones have a heartbreaking effect on their kids–seriously, put down the smartphone, people!)

5. To thine own self be true.

After spending awhile on Pinterest, I start to get irritated by the stream of images cluttered with my pet peeves: superfluously outfitted “tablescapes”, sloppily typeset posters, and any variation of keep-calm-and-carry-on. Pass.

Everything about this makes me want to cringe. Image via  Turn Up Gear

NOOOOO. So many things wrong here. Image via
Turn Up Gear

Just because it’s on Pinterest doesn’t mean it’s awesome or that it’s right for you. I know my style and my strengths and weaknesses, so I say yes to some crazy craft projects, no to elaborate or labor-intensive recipes. For our upcoming party, there will be several frozen foods on the menu. And that’s OK.

6. Reminisce about pre-Pinterest pinning.

The 7 steps toward Pinterest nirvana | Spifftacular.

Image via
Sarah London

As I said, my mom was crafty and cool before there was Pinterest. I remember we would both scour issues of Family Fun magazine for project ideas, and sometimes we would even go on model-home tours just to get some home-decorating ideas (like hot-gluing silk flowers all over a lampshade!). She had a drawer full of file folders with categorized ideas for holidays, parties, gifts, and other projects. I asked my mom about how she felt about the old-school files compared to Pinterest, and she reassured me she is definitely a Pinterest fan–she loves the ready access to ideas and inspiration. She said it does seem like moms today feel more pressure to have “Pinterest-worthy” homes and lives, but that we should remember it’s just a tool.

My mom also told me about her grandma’s version of Pinterest: “She had a scrapbook which was filled with clippings of various things, but a lot of them were poems that she liked. I think that was a popular thing of the day. I feel like there’s something inherently satisfying about preserving things, whether it’s ideas or pictures or whatever, and maybe it’s just part of our DNA.”

7. Stop pinning, start doing.

I recalled this talk from a few years ago; I love President Uchtdorf’s insights on creativity:

Once I stepped away from the screen and started working on my own projects, I stopped worrying about what some stranger on the Internet had accomplished and learned to love what I was accomplishing–I felt the thrill, the satisfaction, of creation.


* I’m using the term “nirvana” generically here–I really hope this isn’t offensive to those of the Buddhist persuasion.

The 7 steps toward Pinterest nirvana | Spifftacular.

A Father’s Day gift for a rockin’ grandpa

15 Jun

Grandpa-closeupMy dad is awesome. He is hardworking, faithful, and wise. He is caring and supportive. And he is a pretty cool grandpa.

His daily uniform consists of Chuck Taylors, cargo shorts, and a Hawaiian shirt or tie-dye shirt. He was an English major in college, but his speech is primarily composed of references from Monty Python, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and old SNL skits. And he could tell you a detailed history of just about every rock band in existence.

To honor his singular rockin’ style, I decided to design an album cover as a Father’s Day gift. On the wall of his office, Dad has a grid of framed album covers from some favorite bands. Last time we visited my family, my mom got some great pictures of Lars and Grandpa rocking out on the drums (mostly Lars enjoyed tapping the drumsticks together), and I knew it would make the perfect album cover. I decided to channel the style of the Beatles and other albums in the early ’60s. I even modeled my VW/Munson Records logo on the Capitol Records logo. I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out.

Grandpa-final-webHappy Father’s Day, Grandpa VW!

If anyone else out there wants to make their own vintage rock ‘n’ roll Father’s Day album cover, here’s how I did it in Photoshop (it’s pretty simple if you have moderate Photoshop skills):

  1. Create a canvas of 12 x 12 inches.
  2. Paste the photo you want to use, and size it as you like.
  3. If the background is cluttered, use the Polygonal Lasso tool to clear it (here’s a tutorial for that process if you’re not familiar)
  4. Add text layers. The typeface for “Lars & Grandpa” is Stereofidelic; “The First Album” and “Father’s Day 2014” is Tandelle; “VW/Munson” is Lakesight.
  5. Create an oval around the record label text. Create five stars and align them in a row.
  6. Make a copy of all the text layers, then make them invisible.
  7. Resize canvas (with anchor in center) to 14 x 14 inches (I did this to keep the action in the next step from blurring the image edges too much).
  8. Run the Pioneer Woman Vintage action (download the action set for free here).
  9. Crop the canvas back to 12 x 12 inches (with anchor in center).
  10. The text in the corners has probably gotten too fuzzy to read. Make the copy layers of the text visible now, and make sure it’s above the other layers. Play with the opacity (I had mine around 50%) of the layer until it looks less fuzzy.
  11. Print it! I printed mine at, since they do a 12 x 12 size.
  12. You’re done! If you have any questions, feel free to comment and I’ll do my best to help.

This is how a word nerd and a map nerd decorate their kid’s nursery

24 May

When you give your baby a name like Lars, you hope that he’ll have the gumption to pull it off later in life. Dave and I joke that hopefully he’ll just grow up to be a linebacker and no one will give him any trouble with it.

But the reality is, Lars’s destiny is to be a nerd. He is, after all, the child of a writer/editor obsessed with puns, grammar, and typography, and of an urban designer whose idea of fun is analyzing street patterns or comparing blocks of desert cities. We also share a fond appreciation for all things Scandinavian, a part of our heritage.

Fortunately, we have accepted and embraced our nerdiness and fully plan to nurture it in our little guy. In that spirit, we designed a few festive pieces for his nursery:

Baby’s family birth map

Baby's family birth map - spifftacular.wordpress.comDave mapped where his and my ancestors were born all the way to ten generations back. Purple represents my ancestors (obviously), and orange represents Dave’s. The size of the dot correlates to how many ancestors were born there. Opacity represents how long ago they lived there (meaning the darker dots are more recent). Locations listed in the key are simply numbered left to right.

Lars birth mapHe used FamilySearch to do the research, then used Google Earth to map it and Illustrator and InDesign to design the final graphic. Of course, shortly after he had already dedicated painstaking hours of perusing family trees, he discovered a nifty tool called Rootsmapper that does the mapping work for you. Oh well. Read more about the map on Dave’s urban design blog. You can also check out this post to see some other neat graphics he made about where his ancestors lived and died (we opted not to feature this in the nursery, because birth seemed a more fitting theme than death).

Name punctuation style guide

Baby name punctuation guide - spifftacular.wordpress.comAs a writer and editor, I am naturally a stickler about punctuation. One of my biggest pet peeves is the incorrect punctuation of possessives. Since we gave our kid a name that ends with s, I knew he would face a lifetime of punctuation trickery: Where to put the apostrophe? And should there be an extra s? I was so concerned about this I almost decided against the name even though I love it so much.

I know I can’t prevent his future classmates and colleagues from writing such horrors as Lar’s, but I at least wanted to give him a good foundation. So I compiled excerpts from the sections on possessives from the top style manuals–The Chicago Manual of Style, The Associated Press Stylebook, and Strunk and White’s Elements of Style–into a handy mini (dare I say baby-sized?) style guide. Of the three, two recommend apostrophe + s for singular possessives, and one recommends just an apostrophe. (My personal preference is the former, but I don’t mind the latter.)

To make it even more personal, I also included a few lines about the origin and meaning of the name Lars.

Baby name punctuation guide - spifftacular.wordpress.comI used Futura because it seemed like a fittingly Scandinavian typeface (which until recently was the go-to typeface for IKEA), plus Century Schoolbook because it reminded me of the old copy of Strunk & White I got from my dad; I also used it on the Swedish ABCs project below.

Swedish ABCs

SwedishABCs -

Back when baby was still the size of a blueberry in my belly, I stumbled upon this neat collection of illustrations from a vintage children’s book with an animal for each letter of the Swedish alphabet (except W, inexplicably). The images were a little crooked, so I straightened them out in Photoshop. Then I printed them on cardstock and cut them out. I put some command hooks on the wall, strung some cream-colored ribbon, and used some metal clips from IKEA to fasten the cards.

SwedishABCsCrib - spifftacular.wordpress.comYou Are My Sunshine & It’s A Small World

You Are My Sunshine -

OK, I can’t take credit for these but I’m including them anyway because they’re in the nursery and I love them.

The “You Are My Sunshine” canvas painting is made by my super-crafty mom. “You Are My Sunshine” was a favorite lullaby of my family growing up, and I love that it’s a tradition in my own little family now.

NurseryArt -

Also, a few years ago, long before Lars came along, Dave and I were at Disneyland with my family and found an awesome print inspired by It’s A Small World. I’ve always liked the ride and its aesthetic, and we both thought the print would be right at home in the nursery.

Lars is destined to become a nerd. A glorious, glorious nerd. And I hope his room will help remind him of that.


28 Sep

Photo by just.Luc/Flickr

Since Dave and I got married we both agreed that although babies are awesome, we wouldn’t have kids immediately. Fortunately, we have a handful of friends with adorable babies we can admire, and I have been able to serve in the Primary at church for the past year or so. For the most part, our baby hunger has been appeased. For the past month, however, I have entered a dangerous phase: nesting.

The problem is, I am still job hunting (talented writer/editor/designer for hire! inquire within!). So except for the occasional errand, I am home all day. It started out seemingly harmlessly–in between working on job applications, I would check out a few design blogs to get ideas for decorating our new apartment. Perfectly understandable, right? Most people want to find some way to decorate their new digs, right? But then I discovered Young House Love. Two young people falling in love with their first house? Which they have redecorated and renovated in the most fabulous, inspiring manner? Oh, and they have an adorable baby? Yes, I’d like some of that.

And so it began. And in the past few weeks, I have fantasized about the following things:

  • painting the entire apartment (I’d like to paint the moulding a crisp white and the walls a soft brown tone)
  • liquid-starching fabric to the walls (if painting doesn’t work out)
  • fashioning some nifty DIY curtains (something like these perhaps, or with a fabric like this)
  • painting the living room furniture purple (I’m thinking a dark plum)
  • constructing a sideboard table for the living room (we need storage!)
  • scrubbing the hallway wood flooring (we live in a house that’s at least 100 years old, and it needs some love)
  • painting the fireplace in the bedroom (it has an odd combination of teal tiling, black-and-red paint, rusty brown metal, and a white mantel)
  • buying a classy couch that doesn’t require an obnoxious, temperamental slipcover
  • buying or DIYing a rug for the living room
  • using moulding to make some floating bookshelves
  • repurposing a few knit sweaters into a pillowcase
  • trying my hand at a DIY version of this pillow and this lamp

And those are just the ideas I have for the home decorating department. I have also become interested in sewing and quilting (this does not mean I have tackled such projects yet…I’ll blog about it when I do!). And occasionally I feel the urge to bake, but that’s fairly characteristic. Most telling of all, I have even read a few mommy blogs. Gasp! Well, for the most part those were just blogs that I stumbled upon in my search for fun home decorating blogs. I did find some neat blogs in the process though–blogs that are genuinely enlightening (see Segullah) and useful (see Frugal Girl).

Frankly, I blame Young House Love. I also blame my friend Elisse for having a truly angelic little daughter–she is the sort of baby who is so pleasant and adorable that she makes any reason not to have children simply fade away. We spent the past weekend with Elisse and her darling little family, an adventure I blogged about here.

In the meantime, I have purchased a lovely non-refundable, non-maternity bridesmaid dress for Katie’s wedding in June. Since I can’t have a baby between now and then, I sure hope I get a job to keep me busy.