DIY Garden Fairy House With Lights



Over the summer, E. and I decided to make a fairy garden.  Our grocery store was selling some really cute fairy garden ornaments (bridges, table and chairs, gates, benches, gazing globes and a lot more), and we just couldn’t pass up the opportunity. So, we bought some plants, found some nice smooth pebbles during an outing to the river, and bought two tiny fairy cottages (okay, so they’re really just bird houses) that we painted.  I started searching for pictures of other fairy gardens online, looking for ways we could arrange all the little accessories we bought.  I did find some, but I became totally smitten by images of solar-powered fairy houses that would light up at night.  Smitten may not be the right word. Obsessed is probably more like it. I knew I had to at least try to make one

The next day, I went out to the local garden center and bought a larger, octagonal wooden birdhouse and one mini solar garden light. I made the door, window frames and awnings out of green Fimo, and the flowers are made from magenta Fimo. After the clay pieces were baked, I brushed them with artists inks to bring out the details before using a clear gloss sealer on top.  I drilled three more holes in the birdhouse, a small one in the roof for the little awning, a larger one (35mm) in the back that is just big enough for the stake light to fit through, and one in the side for the window at the top of the door.

Before adding any of the details, I painted the birdhouse with the color that E. chose. After a few coats of paint, I sealed the entire birdhouse with about four coats of sealer because the fairy garden will live outside, and I wanted it to be able to withstand the rain. Next, I took a semi-translucent milk jug and cut out “windows” for the fairy house. These should be a bit bigger than the holes, but smaller than the window frames so they don’t stick out around the edges. I used a yellow permanent marker to tint the plastic, and then used E-600 to attach them over the holes. Make sure you glue all the way around the windows to prevent water from getting in!

I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for the roof, and after looking at many, many pictures of fairy houses, I chose to cover the roof with pine cone scales. This was a process that was really just trial and error (as it turns out, a LOT of errors, actually), but by the time I started working with the second batch of pine cones, I had worked out a pretty solid method for removing the scales. First, a note about the kind of pine cone you should use unless you’re a masochist or something. In my (albeit limited) experience, the long pine cones with the smooth scales are much easier to work with than the pine cones that are round, because each scale on the round ones has a sort of “thorn” on the bottom, just where you have to grab with your thumb to pull it.  They are stabby, and thus they hurt. Don’t use them.

On that note, break each of the pine cones in half to expose at the center of the pine cone. This is the super-tedious part: pull each scale off of the pine cone individually.  Yes, you have to. Unless you have teeny, tiny scissors that never go dull. It helps to have a container nearby to place them in. You need to de-scale about 4-5 pine cones to make sure you have enough to cover the whole fairy house roof.  This is repetitive, but it goes surprisingly fast.  Once you have enough scales, use scissors to clip the top part off of each one (the part that was attached to the center of the pine cone).

Next, preheat your oven to 200 degrees and cover a cookie sheet with tin foil. Spread the scales in a fairly even layer on the cookie sheet, and then pop them into the oven for about an hour. If you are like me and at this point your hands are covered with sticky pine sap, this is a good time to wash them. I found that rubbing my hands with nail polish remover, followed by soap and hot water did the trick to clean the sap off of my skin. Once the scales have finished baking, let them cool to room temperature before attaching them to the roof. Once they have cooled, you will notice that the sap has dried, making the scales much easier to work with.

I used E-600 to attach the scales to the roof, just like you would attach a roofing tile. Starting at the bottom, attach the scale with glue so that they are next to each other, but not overlapping. the next row should overlap the seam between the two scales on the bottom row. Continue in this way, making sure to leave some space around your window for the frame and awning to fit, until you reach the very top of the roof.  Then arrange four smaller scales in such a way as to cover the remaining seams and prevent water from getting under them. Alternately, you can cover the very top with something like an acorn cap.  I wanted to do that for our fairy house, but I couldn’t find an acorn cap that wasn’t crushed or rotten.

Once all of the scales are glued in place and dried, you can put a few coats of paint and a clear sealer on them, or you can just use the sealer if you are going for a more natural look. We opted to use the paint and sealer method.  After the last coat of sealer has dried, use clear caulk to make a ring around the outside of the hole the solar garden light will go into.  Be sure that the caulk is in contact with the roof and has no holes or gaps. Allow to dry and fully cure (about 48 hours, roughly).

Remove the stake from the bottom of the garden light and push the glass lamp cover through the hole so that the cap rests flush with your caulk seal. Now all that’s left to do is decorate your fairy garden and enjoy!

Here are some pictures of our finished fairy house!


IMG_20150908_163004223 Fairy-House-Lights-DayIMG_20150907_195910735IMG_20150907_195833348fairy-house-lights-1

Jack Sparrow Costume Part 2 – Adding the Dreadlocks to Your Swashbuckling Pirate Wig


Now that the dreads have dried, we’re ready to add them to the wig!  When you’re all done, you should end up with something like this:

Jack vs. the Kraken

Jack vs. the Kraken…okay. Not really.











Here’s a list of the items you’ll need:

  • 1 dark brown wig, preferably medium length.  You will be cutting and altering this wig, so be sure to use one you don’t really care about. Ours came from a discount Halloween bin, we used this one, which had to be thinned a bit and trimmed to the proper length.
  • Kuchi pendant with beads. This was kind of hard to find, and although it’s not exactly the right one, it looks close enough.  I searched ebay until I found one similar to the one used for the films
  • 1 black or dark brown ponytail holder (for the mini-ponytail thing on the top of jack’s head)
  • Chinese coin pendants
  • Seagull Coin pendant (we found an arcade token that was about the right size, which I painted)
  • String of black and red beads with white dots
  • Reindeer shin bone (ours was just a wooden clay forming tool that was sanded down and then painted to resemble the one worn by Jack Sparrow)
  • Paint to customize beads if desired. If I couldn’t find a bead, I made it out of Fimo and painted it to look more like the original
  • Twine, leather strips, or other type of string for attaching elements to wig
  • Large red bandanna
  • Small strips of the red bandanna for tying to the ends of the dreads

Please note that you may add as many or as few of these accessories as you like.  As stated in my previous post, I did go a bit crazy with the details.

With the front of the wig facing you, make a small ponytail on the top left hand side about 2 1/2 to 3 inches from the front edge of the hair line. Once this is done, trim the ponytail so that it is only about 5 inches long and make it a bit layered.  There should also be a tuft that is much shorter than the rest of it.  Like this:


This is the ponytail. Notice it is to the left of the center part of the wig.









If your wig doesn’t have shorter layers in front, the front and top of the wig need to be chopped unevenly.  I can’t really describe this part, as each wig will be different, but I suggest looking at several pictures of Jack Sparrow’s hair for a reference.  Be sure to leave the back nice and long for the braid.

The dreads should be placed along the bottom edge of the wig, along the sides, and up to the side-burn area. In addition, you will need to attach 2-3 dreads near the top of the wig “scalp” so that they can be incorporated into large braid on the back of the wig. Here are some images of the underside of the wig:


Notice the strings on the wig lacing. This is where the dreads and accessories are attached.









A closer look at the strings.

A closer look at the strings.









To attach the dreads to the wig, place the ends of the string in the middle of the dread into two adjacent holes on the lace wig scalp. Tighten with a double square knot. Attach the accessories to the desired area of the wig in the same way.

Here are some close up photos of the decorative elements we chose to attach to the wig:

The faux "reindeer shin bone" with the black and red beads

The faux “reindeer shin bone”. I really just sanded down a clay shaping tool until it looked close enough to the original. I painted it white and then used a rag to rub off some of the paint. Then I added a patina using black and brown artists ink. I also coated the whole thing with a matte sealer to protect the finish. Also note the Chinese coin near the bottom of the photo.











Kuchi Pendant

This gets attached to one of the dreads on the right hand side of the wig. All of the beads (except the pendant and the top most bead) are made of fimo, which were then painted to look like the ones worn by Jack.
















Jack's iconic pieces of 8

The coin at the bottom is fimo…until I can find a better one, anyway. The red one was hard to find, so I painted a plain wooden bead to look like Jack’s.










Hand painted coin

I found a coin that was about the right size and color, drilled a hole at the top and then hand painted the waves and seagulls. Note the red piece of bandanna wrapped around the dread, too.










Again, you can use as many or as few of these as you like.

I couldn’t find an affordable bandanna that looked like Jack’s, so I bought an over-sized cotton kitchen towel and dyed it red. I drew on the scrolling vines and flowers with a fine tip fabric marker, and the flowers were painted with medium blue acrylic paint, trying to stay as true to the original pattern as I could.

Here are more pictures of the finished wig:


Jack caught "borrowing" Vader's Light Saber

Jack caught “borrowing” Vader’s Light Saber













Jack meets Jango Fett

Jack meets Jango Fett












If I can find the images without the hat, I’ll be sure to post them, but these will do for now.

Let me know if you decide to make a wig like this one!  I’d love to see it!

Jack Sparrow Costume Part 1 – DIY Dreadlocks for a Proper Swashbuckling Pirate Wig



It’s August, and that means there is a lot of talk about Halloween in this house.  Last year, my son was Jack Sparrow.  I made his entire costume by hand, from the felted wool pirate hat to the boot covers and buttons.  Hopefully we’ll get more into that later, but for now I thought I’d post a tutorial for making this salty, dreadlocked pirate wig:

Salty Pirate Dreads.

Salty Pirate Dreads.

Before we begin though, I have to confess…I went a bit overboard making this wig, because I saw that an investment of about $50 could transform a $3.00 wig I bought years ago at an after Halloween clearance sale into a high-quality costume accessory that could be used many times in the future. To customize this project to your budget, you can use as many (or as few) accessories for this wig as you like.

Make sure to purchase enough wool roving to make several (at least 18) dreadlocks. I bought 10 oz. of wool on Etsy (the link to the store will be posted at the bottom of the page), and I still have plenty left over, even after making a set of 12 dreadlocks that ended up looking more purple than brown and were unusable for the Jack Sparrow wig.  A word of caution:  RIT dye doesn’t seem to work very well with wool, so unless you want to end up with strange purpley brownish colored dreads, use gel food coloring .  I used Wilton colors, and the final product matched the original wig  color very nicely.

What you will need for this portion of the project:

1 dark brown wig, medium length
8-10 oz. hank of wool roving
Large bowl of warm, soapy water
A towel, wooden cutting board or other rough, clean surface for rolling out dreadlocks
A 5″ length of string for each dreadlock you plan to make
Assortment of black, brown, and yellow food coloring pastes
White vinegar
Glass measuring cups
Oven-safe baking dishes or bowls



Prepare your bowl of warm, soapy water.

For each set of dreadlocks, cut the wool into 2-foot lengths. (This seems long, but you’ll be folding each dread in half to attach it to your wig, so you’ll actually end up with two 12″ long dreads.)

Jack Sparrow Halloween Costume Wig DIY

Hank of wool roving waiting to be divided

Next, separate the hank of wool you just cut into 1/2″ to 1″ wide sections. Fold each dread over on itself and match the ends. This creates a loop at the top, like this:

This is the loop...

Making the loop…

Do the same thing to one of the pieces of string. Lay the looped end of your dreadlock over the loop of string. Bring the ends of the string around wool and through the looped end of the string. Pull to tighten.


Lay one of your pieces of wool over a string, like so…

Jack Sparrow Dreads, Step 2

Later, you’ll use the string to tie the dreadlock to your wig!

For added security, tie string in a regular square knot. Your wool should now closely resemble a long white mustache.


Tie a square knot at the top…

When you finish securing the string to a piece of wool, drop the whole thing into the bowl of soapy water.

After all of the dreads have been added to the water. agitate them gently with your hands or a spoon.

Lift dreads out one at a time by the string at the top. Squeeze excess water from the wool and straighten the dreadlock. On the surface of the towel or butcher’s block, roll each dread from the center out toward the edges. The friction from the rough surface will cause the wool to felt, creating a look that is very similar to dreadlocks.


Roll out from the center moving toward the ends…

Set your new dreads aside for a few minutes to prepare them for the dyeing process.

Preheat your oven to about 170 degrees.  After the dreads have air dried for a bit, prepare a dye bath by mixing together vinegar and one or more of the food colorings.  Take care to try to mix the colors to match the wig you’ll be using.  Pour vinegar and dye mixture into a non-reactive glass casserole  dish that is large enough to accommodate your dreads without crowding them.  Place the dreads into the dye bath.  Make sure that there is enough of the dye mixture to completely cover the dreads and that they are completely wet before placing them into the oven.  Place the dreads into the oven and let them “bake” until the liquid in the bath is clear.

If the color isn’t quite right (like it was in this photo), you can always dye the dreads again  in a new dye bath:



These are completely the wrong color. But never fear, they can be fixed!

As with any other type of dyeing, start with a lighter color until you get the hang of it, because you can always go darker if you need to.  Removing the dye once it has been set is probably possible, but I wasn’t able to find a method that removed all of it..

Coming up next:  How to attach your dreads to the wig and add the accessories.


Wool Roving can be found at:


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Great Mother’s Day Gift Idea: Sweet Art “Gallery”


I saw something a lot like this while browsing through our local Target. I thought it was cute, but then I saw the price tag. $20? For some clothespins, a few painted wooden shapes and a ribbon? I don’t think so. I knew I could make something even better and for a whole lot less. Plus, it makes a super easy, cute gift for Mother’s Day!

Create an easy Mother's Day present

About $6-$8

Wooden Animal/Plant Shapes
2 Cup Hooks

Step 1:
Paint or stain wooden shapes as desired. Let dry. You can add as much or as little detail to your animal or plant shapes. It’s entirely up to you! I opted for a simpler design, as my 8 year old daughter, E., was helping with this project.

painted shapes

Fast and easy Mother's Day gift idea

Step 2:
Once your shapes are completely dry, turn them over and glue a clothespin to the back. Let dry.

Glue clothespin to back of painted shape

Step 3:
Select an area of wall for your display. Measure desired area. Attach cup hooks to wall at opposite ends of your measurement. Cut ribbon 6 inches longer than your measurement. Tie ends of ribbon tightly to each cup hook.
Using your new decorated “clips”, hang your art work from the ribbon.

I’ll add the pictures of the finished project once it goes up on my mother’s wall. Thanks for looking!

Just Like “Thin Mints”, Only Gluten Free


For this recipe, you will need to use a good quality peppermint flavoring oil.  I like to use LorAnn’s.   Please note that peppermint extract will not work for this recipe.  Also, the use of parchment paper is absolutely essential.  Don’t skip it!


  • 1 cup White Rice Flour
  • 1/2 cup Potato Starch
  • 1/4 cup Tapioca Flour
  • ¾ cup Sugar
  • ½ cup plus 1 Tbsp. Cocoa Powder
  • ¾ Tsp. Baking Powder
  • ½ Tsp. Baking Soda
  • 6 Tbsp. Salted Butter
  • 1 Large Egg
  • 1 Egg Yolk
  • 1 Dram Lorann’s Peppermint Oil (about 1 Tsp.)
  • 1-2 Tbsp Cold Water (as needed)
  • 2-2 1/2 Pounds of Chocolate Candy Coating (If you wish, you can use a mixture of bittersweet and semi-sweet chocolate instead, but in my experience, it makes the cookies entirely too rich.)

Beat sugar and butter at high speed until uniform. Reduce mixer speed to low, add the whole egg, yolk and peppermint oil. Add cocoa powder, beating until it is thoroughly mixed. Next, add the baking soda and baking powder, then the rice flour. Mix well. Add the tapioca flour and potato starch. At this point, you may want to scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula if mixture isn’t combining well. Depending upon the size of the eggs you used, your mixture may appear dry and crumbly . If it is dry and the dough isn’t sticking together as it should, add 1 Tablespoon of cold water to the dough. Mix thoroughly on low speed. If your dough is still dry, you can add another Tablespoon of water, but this time, add only one teaspoon at a time until it becomes soft and pliable.

Transfer the mixture to a tightly covered container or resealable plastic bag. Refrigerate the dough overnight.

Preheat oven to about 325°.  Cover your work surface with a light dusting of cornstarch. Divide your dough into two halves, place one half back into bag and refrigerate again.  Working quickly and using your hands, shape the other half of your dough into a disc shape.  Place on work surface and dust the top with a bit more cornstarch.  Roll out the dough to about 1/8” thickness.  Using a 2″ round cookie cutter, cut out circles and place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet about 1/4” apart (these cookies spread out a bit in the oven, so its important that they don’t touch each other).

As you work with this dough, it tends to get warm quickly and becomes much more difficult to roll and cut out shapes, so place any scraps into your bag in the refrigerator and then start again with the second half of your cookie dough. Repeat this process until you have used up all of the dough.

Place the cookies in the preheated oven and bake for about 9 minutes.

While your cookies are cooling, prepare a double boiler and place your chocolate candy coating into the pot over medium-high heat.  Once the coating is completely melted (smooth, with no lumps), remove it from the heat. Don’t worry, you don’t need to buy any special tools to coat your cookies, a fork works just fine!  Drop one cookie at a time into chocolate,  top side down. With your fork, turn the cookie over once or twice to coat completely. Lift cookie, shake gently to remove excess coating, then scrape the bottom against lip of the melting pot. Place each cookie onto a parchment paper covered baking sheet. Let sit at room temperature until coating sets, usually about one to two hours.

Yield: 40-50 cookies.  Cookies will keep for about a week in a sealed container at room temperature, and longer if refrigerated.

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Gluten Free Beignet Recipe


My daughter, E., has wanted to try beignets since we saw them in the movie ‘The Princess and the Frog’. We made a few batches, but then they were taken off the menu when we went gluten free.

After a E. made a recent request for beignets, I made up a gluten-free recipe that works AND tastes delicious.

E.’s Gluten Free Beignets with Honey Glaze

2 3/4 cups White Rice Flour
3/4 cups Potato Starch
1/4 cup Tapioca Flour
1/2 cup Warm Water (or Milk, if you prefer)
2 tsp. Vanilla
3 Tbsp. Room Temperature Butter
4 Tbsp. Sugar
1 Tbsp. Yeast
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1/4 tsp. salt (optional)
2 Eggs
Oil for frying

Honey Glaze:
3/4 cup Powdered Sugar
3 Tbsp. Honey
1-2 Tbsp. Milk (or Water)
1/8 tsp. Finely Grated Orange Zest
pinch of Salt (optional)
Additional powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

Make the dough ahead of time. In order to roll out the dough, you must refrigerate it for at least 8 hours.

For the Beignets:
In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water or milk (about 5 minutes).

In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar, vanilla and butter. Beat at medium-high speed until mixture is light and fluffy. Add yeast and water (or milk) and mix until uniform. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add salt (if desired) and baking powder. Mix in rice flour, potato starch and tapioca flour. Mix until dough is uniform and begins to stick together.

Place dough into a resealable plastic bag or a lidded container (dough will rise somewhat in the refrigerator, so make sure there is some extra room in your container). Refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

Prepare the glaze:
In a medium bowl, combine powdered sugar, salt (optional), honey and orange zest. Add water (or milk) a Tablespoon at a time. Beat until smooth. The consistency should be thin enough to drop from the spoon in a ribbon. If it is still too thick, add more liquid one teaspoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.

Before you begin rolling out the dough, put about 2″ of oil into a thick-bottomed frying pan. Preheat the oil to about 350 degrees.

Roll out dough on surface dusted with cornstarch. Cut dough into 2″x2″ squares. Place one square at a time into the preheated oil. The dough will sink to the bottom and then rise up to the top on its own. Quickly spoon hot oil over the top of the beignet after it rises to the top. This will cause the beignet to “puff up”. Cook each beignet for about 1 minute on each side. place onto a wire rack or paper towel to drain.

Place the slightly cooled beignet into bowl of glaze. Spoon glaze over the top, lift out and place onto another wire rack to dry. Just before serving beignets, dust with additional powdered sugar, if desired.

Glazed Beignets

Glazed beignets awaiting powdered sugar.

Serve immediately.

Sugared Beignets

Beignets after dusting with sugar.

Edit: This is an original recipe. Please do not repost without permission. Thanks!

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New Camera, Computer, Router and Catching Up


We’ve had a busy year, and I can hardly believe it’s almost over.  First, my camera finally gave out, and I lost many pictures, including ones of my son’s awesome Lego Star Wars party.   That was pretty darned depressing.  I lost an entire series of “how-to” photos.  Then, my computer and modem got fried when we had a power surge.  I have had that computer for years, and apparently never backed it up (I know, I know!), so I lost even more pictures.

I bought myself a shiny new camera as a birthday/Christmas gift, so I hope to be posting new blogs soon.

I have so many things I want to share, but in order to do that I’ll have to re-do a lot of projects so I can take new pictures.

I’ve already started on nexr year’s constume for J.  I’m making a Jack Sparrow costume out of muslin (which I will dye to match Jack’s costume colors).  I made my own frock coat pattern from a photograph, and it actually worked!

I even made the dreadlocks out of wool and attached them to a plain brown wig.

We also made Jack Sparrow’s compass out of milk jugs and other assorted plastic bottles.

E. Would also like me to tell you that we made a fairy dollhouse out of silk flowers, craft sticks and a plastic cake container, and of course fairies for the house made out of yarn,  craft wire, pipe cleaners, silk flowers and wooden beads.  It was a perfect rainy-day craft, and she still plays with them more than any of her other toys.

I’ll post all of these and more after the holiday…and hopefully the pictures will be better than the yucky ones from my camera phone!


Things I Love: Shescrafty10 on Etsy!


Recently, my son J. had his 9th birthday and he wanted a Lego Star Wars party theme (A separate post will be coming soon!).  He wanted to make gummy candy, chocolate Star Wars mini figures for the top of the cupcakes and crayons.  I thought I could make my own silicone lego molds, but when I added the price of materials plus shipping I found it just wasn’t cost effective.  I started looking around for pre-made molds, and in what can only be described as a stroke of sheer luck, I stumbled upon the Etsy shop of one Shescrafty10 (aka Julie).

Thanks to my stubborn “I can make it myself” attitude, I only had a week and  three days to make the cupcake toppers and all of the party favors.  I wrote a message to Julie, begging her to ship the molds as soon as possible.  She completely exceeded my expectations, and although I didn’t make my order until the afternoon of Friday, July 8, I received the package on Monday, July 11!  I had plenty of time to make everything with a full day to spare.  Thank you, Julie.  I couldn’t have done it without you!

A Guitar Hero Theme Birthday Cake


I made this birthday cake for a friend’s son.  This two tier chocolate cake was covered in American buttercream, then Satin Ice black fondant (Vanilla flavored).  The decorations were hand painted gumpaste (also Satin Ice brand) and the “notes” were made of fondant.  I really can’t say enough good things about Satin Ice.  It is great to work with, has a pleasant flavor, and held up to a 45 minute car ride beautifully.  I’m done using Wilton products, which are so far below the quality of Satin Ice.  Never again!

The "Rock Meter"

The "Rock Meter" in progress.

Guitar Hero "notes"

Guitar Hero "notes" waiting to be added to the cake.


"Rock Meter" and "star power" decorations

"Rock Meter" and "Star Power" cake decorations

Painting a tattoo-inspired gumpaste decoration.

Painting a tattoo-inspired gumpaste decoration.

Finished "rock and roll tattoo" decoration...

Finished "rock and roll tattoo" decoration...

After setup and phone took horrible, blurry pictures.

After setup and phone took horrible, blurry pictures.

Another blurry decoration.  Meh.

Another blurry decoration. Meh.


There should have been a gumpaste ribbon around the bottom tier painted to look like the frets in the game, but it fell and broke thanks to a surprise gust of wind as I was loading the cake in the car for  transport to the party.  I was just so  happy the cake was only dented and not completely ruined, I hardly noticed it was missing.  Live and learn, I suppose!

E.’s Castle Loft Bed


The Land of Nod

E.’s room is small…about 7′ by 7.5′, to be exact. In fact, the person we bought our house from used E.’s room as a walk-in closet.  I don’t have any “before” pictures of her room, but suffice it to say that her space was cramped.  Her bed was against one wall and took up about half of the room.  The rest of the space was dominated by toy storage bins and a Tinker Bell play kitchen.  That left very little room for anything else.  After awhile, it became clear that this system (to be honest, it was really more of a complete lack of system) really wasn’t working.

Some serious brainstorming sessions later, I decided that a loft bed would let us create more usable space because E.’s play space could be underneath the bed.  I looked at lots and lots of different kinds of loft beds.  E. wanted a castle loft bed, but the price tag on it was in the $2,000 dollar range, and would take up more than half of her room.  Needless to say, that was way outside of the range of possibility.

I went to look at a loft bed that was for sale locally, but it seemed to be very flimsy and the sides were way too low.  Also, it was pretty much just a frame, and wouldn’t hide the toys (translation: mess) underneath it.  I began thinking that maybe I could build something that was between the ultra fancy castle and the plain loft bed…and most importantly would fit our small budget of $275.00.

After some planning, I came up with a design that had a castle facade, complete with a working door.  I bought four 4’x8′ sheets of  1/4″ plywood for a cost of about $40, two 8′ long untreated 4×4 posts, which cost $18 for both.  The mattress frame is made of about 6 2×4’s, for a total of $12.  The 2×4’s are not seen from the outside, so I opted to go for a lower grade lumber that was about half the price of the high quality stuff.    I cut the 8′ 4×4 posts in half, so that each one was about 4′ tall.  Using 3 1/2″ lag screws, I attached my 2×4 mattress frame to the wall,  then I used 4″ screws ($16.00) to attach the frame to the 4×4 posts.  A sheet of 3/4″ mdf plywood (about $20.00) was then laid on top of the mattress frame.  I attached the plywood to the mattress frame with 2″ wood screws for increased stability.

The two pieces of plywood that made up the front of the castle facade were cut down to 6′ and then trimmed the sides to fit the length of the mattress frame.  Since I wanted the castle to have a working door, I drew an arched door shape onto the two facade pieces that would make up the front of the castle.  I carefully cut these out with a scroll saw, because I intended use them to create the door. I also cut out a gothic window on either side of the door.

From another sheet of the 1/4″ plywood, I cut a 6’x2′ strip and another 6’x2′.3″ strip for a castellated parapet at the top of the facade.  I used  some of the leftover plywood from the front parapet to create frames for the two windows in the front, a partial castle wall and parapet at the foot of the bed where E. would climb up a ladder into the bed.

While I was planning this part of the project, I stumbled across an email I had largely ignored from Ikea.  They had the most perfect toy storage item that could also double as stairs!  I splurged and bought it as well as a pack of shelves, 6 coordinating toy storage bins, which you can see here and here.  For $89.00, I turned what would have been wasted space (just a plain ladder) into usable storage space.  It is a little bit wider than the bed, but it only stands out a few inches from the front of the castle, and it isn’t really noticeable.

E. wanted a gold castle, but I wasn’t sure about having so much metallic paint in such a small room.  As a compromise, I chose shades of yellow.  First, I painted all of the pieces except the mattress frame and a creamy yellow/white  base color.  Next, I used a dark golden yellow to paint the outlines of stones, giving the impression of mortar lines.  Using a sea sponge, I patted on some medium yellow to give some depth to the “stones”.  Then, I used a stiff bristle paint brush to dipped in a mixture of clear glaze, burnt sienna and burnt umber acrylic artists colours, and also used the glaze to define the left and bottom edge of each stone.  Lastly, I used the light base color to define the top and right edges of each stone.

After the pieces were thoroughly dried, I attached the two large facade pieces to the 4×4 posts and mattress frame with screws.  I added two 4′ long supports made from 2″x2″ lumber on either side of the doorway.

Once the facade was up, all that was left to do was make the door…which was probably the most time consuming part of the entire project.  I opted to use liquid nails instead of screws because the frame pieces were thin, made of 1″/2″ lumber.  I made a 1/2″ wide curve (drawn to match the curve at the top of the door) out of a piece of scrap lumber I had left over from an entertainment center I built.  I cut two vertical supports (one for each side of the door) and a horizontal support for the bottom of the door.  At the top of the vertical support, and at the two bottom ends of the curved one, I drilled a 1/4″ hole.  I filled the holes with liquid nails and inserted a small dowel in the vertical pieces, joining them with the curved piece (which had its ends coated with glue).  The bottom horizontal support was attached with glue only.  I clamped the pieces together and let them sit for about 24 hours to dry.  Next, I glued the two facade pieces I cut out to make the hole for the door to my now-dry and cured frame.  These were also clamped together and left to cure for another 24 hours.  After all of the glue was dry, I sanded the door to remove any rough edges (there were a lot, because I bought a lower grade of lumber).

E. wanted her castle to have a red door, so I painted it with a coat of red enamel.  The enamel was very thin, and some of the wood grain was visible underneath. It was quite nice looking, so rather than give it a second coat, I chose to paint faux boards in line with the wood grain.  I wanted big, intricate iron hinges on the door, so I went online and looked for pictures of  antique hinges.  When I found a unique looking pair of hinges for sale on Ebay, I copied the picture, enlarged it, cut it out and used it as a template.  I taped it to the front of the door and traced around it, making three faux hinges on the door.  I painted them black, using gray and white as accent colors to make them stand out.  I also painted a large iron ring “handle” on the opposite side of the door.  After all of the painting was done, I painted the entire door with about three coats of clear gloss enamel.  When at last the clear coat was dry, I attached the door to the castle facade with three black cabinet hinges.

E. also wants roses painted on the castle, but so far, I have only had time to paint on the leaves and vines.  Here are some pictures of her new room (sadly, there are only two of the room as a work in progress)!

Work in Progress

E.'s bed in progress!


Front of the castle

Painted front of the castle, waiting for the door to dry.

castle loft bed stairs

The loft bed stairs...still waiting for the door to dry.

Someday, I’ll get around to painting the stairs to match the rest of the bed.

Stairs to the loft bed

Stairs to the loft bed

Red Castle Door

Finally the castle door is in place! I also seem to have been holding the camera at a weird angle...

castle door

The door! Again!

The foot of the loft bed

The foot of the bed.


I had to show her bedding, it's so cute!

there is a pea!

The details in it are fabulous. There is a pea!

...and a frog prince!

...and a frog prince!

the lamp in E's room

Which matches the lamp in E's room!

More storage

The storage bins under the stairs. It's so nice to finally have a place for everything!

Plenty of room

The Tinker Bell kitchen in its new home under the bed. E. has enough room to play with it now.

Toy bins

And her old toy storage bins fit. It's a miracle!

There is plenty of space to play under the bed, and the rest of the room (usually) stays clean:

Tidy, tidy!

Tidy, tidy!

looking down

A view from the top, looking down.

 The best part of all is that E. loves it!

The best part of all is that E. loves it!

For the final cost, we came in just slightly under budget at $231.00…and that includes the $89.00 storage system from Ikea.  Awesome!   Of course, the fact that E. enjoys it makes it absolutely priceless!


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