For my son’s second birthday his cake had to be something to do with construction vehicles, he is obsessed with them. When I looked through google images for ideas I thought doing a construction site with toys for the vehicles was the best option for a few reasons:
It didn’t look too hard
He could keep the toys afterwards which he would love
I was worried if I did a cake that was shaped like a digger he might get upset when it got cut up, the construction site wouldn’t have this issue
I’m happy with how it turned out, my son was really happy when he saw it. The only thing was he didn’t actually eat any of it, he only wanted to play with it. When I asked him the next day if he wanted some cake he went and got his diggers and brought them over to play with it again – and still didn’t eat any of it.
My husband helped to plan and decorate it and my Mum baked the actual cake for us. My husband is a civil engineer so when we were looking through photos on google images he kept pointing out how some of the construction sites didn’t make any sense. We sat down for a planning meeting to make sure the site was well set up. We didn’t want to make the cake giant and 5 vehicles is a lot to fit in a small space so we couldn’t get it to be a very realistic site. But planning it with paper the same size as the cake tins helped a lot to decide what to do.
The road cones were made from fondant, I shaped them first and then painted them with food colouring to make them orange.
1. Get a white flower. It can be a single flower on one stem (like the rose shown below) or a spray (that’s where lots of flowers are on one main stem).
2. Cut the very end of the stem off completely (about 1cm). Then carefully cut the stem lenthways to split it into segments (I did 4).
3. Put each section of the stem into a different container.
My container is 3D printed, if you have access to a 3D printer you can download the stl file here. Otherwise use anything that you can get to go close together (eg. test tubes, slim containers, you could even use plastic bags).
4. Add food colouring to the different sections. I found using primary colours worked the best (yellow, red and blue – I used yellow twice on opposite sides if you’re wondering how that makes 4 sections). The food colouring I used was a standard supermarket one, I added 10-20 drops for each section. Top up with water, I used an eyedropper to add the water so it wouldn’t spill over and into the other sections. You will probably need to prop it up in a glass or jar to hold it upright.
Note: You can switch step 3 and 4 around if you like. It doesn’t matter if you put the food colouring in the containers first and then put the flower in or if you add it while the flower is in there.
5. Wait. Wait some more, it takes at least a day. If the liquids are drying out you can top them up with more water and extra food colouring if it’s not too difficult to add. At first the colours come through faintly and then they get stronger.
6. When it’s finished soaking up food colouring you can cut the stem past the split and put it in normal water.
I’ve tried a few different flowers and these are some tips/things I’ve noticed:
Sometimes you get a brown section, I found using primary colours only worked best to avoid this but it still happened sometimes.
Some colours are stronger than others. Blue is very strong whereas yellow wasn’t,
so I added about twice as many drops of yellow food colouring than I did for blue.
Sometimes it doesn’t work well. I had one flower that had just very faint colour come through. It was disappointing but try not to be discouraged, when it does work it is very magical and worth the effort.
I recently made a water table for my son. The plastic container that goes in it is a storage container that rolls under a bed. I got two bins so I could put sand in one and switch it out for the empty one to use for water or other messy things (cornflour goop etc.). They came with lids which has been really useful for covering up the sand.
At first I put quite a bit of sand in so the sand one was too heavy to lift by myself. That was very annoying and I started to wish I’d just stuck to the original water table plan. But after some sand got tipped out it was easier to switch them around. And I found it was used much more with the sand tub than it was as a water table. The plan is to build a proper sand pit but that hasn’t happened yet so this has been great to have in the meantime.
I bought the plastic tubs first so I could base the dimensions around it. The one I had seen that I was copying the idea from had the lip of the container fit perfectly into the frame so that was what was taking all the weight. I don’t have much woodwork experience so I didn’t trust myself to get the measurements perfect enough for that. So for my one the weight is all taken by the supports that are underneath the tub. I put four of them in.
I used untreated wood that I painted. I started it when my son still chewed everything so untreated wood seemed the safest option even though I knew it would be getting wet. I usually put a tarp over it when it isn’t in use so it’s been lasting well. I wasn’t sure what height to go with so I designed the legs with the intention that I could attach a piece of wood to the inside of those corners later on if it needed to grow taller. I ended up going with the frame being 40cm high and the overall height with the tub inside it being 46cm. It’s been in use for about 8 months now and has been a good height so far.
I didn’t round every single corner and edge, just the outer ones that seemed like they could be dangerous. I drew them on first and then sanded back to the pencil line. I used an electric sander for the main part and then smoothed it off with a sanding sponge. I’d never used a sanding sponge before and I found it amazing for getting a nice rounded shape. Sanding blocks always gave a faceted look when I tried them but the sponge shapes itself to what you’re doing. As you can probably tell I really like sanding sponges now.
I painted it with child safe acrylic paint. I found I really liked the look of the bare wood so contemplated finishing it with a varnish or oil but I figured it was going to get splashed with food colouring and paint so would probably stain less if it was painted.
The paint was rubbing off onto the deck when I moved it around so I bought some plastic furniture sliders to hammer into the bottom and they’ve made it heaps easier to move around.
Future plans are to make a table top to attach to it, I even have the piece of plywood for it but it hasn’t happened yet.
My mum had been looking for a magnetic photo frame but hadn’t been able to find something she liked. So when it was her birthday I thought I would get her one. I couldn’t find anything nice either, a few years ago they had been popular but now there only seemed to be a few really ugly ones around. Since I couldn’t find anything I made a couple instead.
I used a sheet of thin wooden veneer that I’d bought a few years ago for a different project but never used. It was from an art supplies store and had an adhesive backing. It was thin so was like working with cardboard.
Flexible magnetic strips or sheet
Double sided tape
You need to be really precise with the cuts for this to look good, I used a craft knife, ruler and cutting board. The cutting board made it much easier and quicker to do because I could use the grid for right angles and the 45 degree cuts.
These are the steps for how I made them:
1. Cut a piece of cardboard to the size of the finished frame, the opening needs to be slightly smaller than the size of the photo so you don’t see the edges of the photo.
2. Cut the pieces from the wooden veneer with corners at 45 degree angles (just like a normal wooden photo frame would be).
3. Stick the pieces of veneer onto the cardboard frame (the veneer had a peel back adhesive backing but you could use double sided tape if it didn’t).
4. Cut out a piece of cardboard to go on the back. One end needs to have the opening to put the photo in, the cut out circle is to make that easier to do. I creased the cardboard where it would attach to make it a looser for the photo to slip in and out.
5. Attach the backing piece along 3 sides only, I used double sided tape. The pencil line in the photo below shows where the edge of the photo will be, the tape needs to be outside of this.
6. Cut up some flexible magnet and attached it to the back with double sided tape. I used a really thin piece at the end with the opening. I wrote the size of the photo it takes onto the back so it would be easy to remember when getting a photo printed for it.
I wanted to make a wall mounted terrarium that didn’t stick out of the wall too far, I had quite a bit of trouble finding a container that would work. I ended up getting a couple of acrylic containers from a Japanese homeware store. The beauty/jewellery section had quite a few drawers and things that were made from it. The rectangle terrarium is made from a drawer (I used the outer bit, not the drawer) and I have no idea what the other one was meant to be used for. It’s supposed to sit up on it’s side, kind of like a brochure stand. I made the wall fixtures from dowel and metal shelving brackets, if you go to the end of this post you can see how those were done.
Air plant wall terrarium
This terrarium uses layers of sand, an air plant, driftwood and a cut geode. I collected different types of sand and broken shells from local beaches. I washed them because I didn’t want the terrarium to be stinky. For each sand type I put it in a colander that was lined with fabric and poured boiling water over it. When it had drained off I lifted the fabric out, put it in a container and left it in the hot water cupboard to dry.
The geode is hot glued to the front of the acrylic container. I put the glue the whole way around to create a seal so the sand wouldn’t fill it in. Layering the sand was harder than I thought. I had originally wanted a broken shell layer lower but when I put sand over the top it was so fine that it filled in all the gaps and made it so you couldn’t see the shells at all. The black layer is finely broken up bark that was also from the beach, that layer seemed to create a barrier so I could put the sand above it and not have it fall through so much. The layers are quite fragile, if it was shaken they’d probably be lost. The good thing about the air plant is that it doesn’t need much water so there isn’t any water being poured on the sand, I’m pretty sure that helps keep the layers separate.
I glued the airplant onto a piece of driftwood to keep it in place. For watering I put a few drops on it every few days from a squeezy bottle.
Angled wall terrarium
I wanted the terrariums to be two different environments, this is the wet one. Both the plants in this one are ones that are meant to have similar conditions. The plan is for the plant on the left to cascade down the wall.
I like the look of it but I’ve had trouble keeping the plants alive. There’s this whole thing where you have to water them. And not too much water, just the right amount. The layer of stones in the bottom is to help the soil drain, you’re meant to do that because there isn’t a hole in the bottom like a normal plant pot. But I was worried about over-watering it so didn’t water it enough and killed the plant on the left so had to replace it. Then I gave it too much water and almost killed the other plant. The air plant is much easier to look after. It might just be that my house doesn’t have the best conditions for these particular plants, but if it keeps being a problem I’ll probably re-do it with succulents instead.
Terrarium wall fixtures
The fixtures that hold the terrariums to the wall are made from dowel and shelving brackets. I’m pretty happy with the design for these, I think it’s quite clever. The metal brackets take the weight while the wooden piece covers it to look nice and stops it from being able to slip out forwards. Below you can see how the fixtures work:
I started with the dowel and cut them into the shape you see above. The diameter of the dowel is slightly wider than the width of the metal brackets. Cutting the wood wasn’t very easy to do. Because it was round it was harder to clamp and I had to use some old neoprene to stop the clamps from marking the wood. The order that worked best for me was:
Saw lengthways first (on the whole piece of dowel)
saw down halfway to remove that piece
then cut it to the final length
I found that easier because I still had the whole piece of dowel to clamp when I was doing those tricky cuts, otherwise it was just too small to work with. This was what I ended up with:
Next I used a chisel to cut out where the metal bracket would go. Again I used neoprene when I put it into the table vice so it wouldn’t mark the wood.
After sanding them I glued the metal brackets into the dowel, I used Liquid Nails. I didn’t think it was necessary to use screws as well since the wood itself wasn’t taking any real weight, it really just needed to be held on to look nice. Then I gave them two coats of danish oil to give a nicer colour and finish.
The slightly tricky thing about attaching them to the wall was that they needed to be screwed into a beam to be strong enough (the terrariums are quite heavy). Because of the distance between beams I could really only get one fixture per terrarium to go into a beam. So for the rectangle one I made it the bottom one since that was the one that was taking most of the weight.