Craft-related crap, goofy tips, over-achieving designer daddy activities

Holiday Decorating Ideas: Christmas Terrarium

December 12, 2013 | By Brent Almond | DESIGNER DADDY, MY INNER MARTHA

Last year about this time I was suffering from my usual Holidays Over-commitment Burnout Lethargy (or HOBL), but was determined to muster some of that elusive Xmas Spirit and do at least one creative thing. I discovered my muse in the form of a Christmas Terrarium (yes, I realize how gay that sounds) made from all sorts of “found objects” and a bit of late-night Christmas Eve gumption.

To me, the best craft/art projects are simple and straightforward, especially when it comes to Holiday decorating ideas. If I have to learn to use a soldering gun or wear protective gear or mix any kind of potion, I haven’t got the patience. The fun for me comes from the spontaneity of pulling together unrelated items, creating something new and hopefully bringing a smile to someone’s face…even if it’s just mine.

So here’s what I used (with links of where to purchase, if available)…

  • Cake pedestal: Received as a gift ages ago — we’ve used it for actual cake maybe 2 times. But it’s gorgeous as hell and was the perfect base for my Christmassy masterpiece. I couldn’t find the same one, but Williams-Sonoma and Crate & Barrel have some nice options.
  • Miniature trees: I’ve been collecting Christmas trees for the last 15 years, but was short on the super shorties. So I hit the baking shop (cookie cutter) and toy store (model train set pine tree) to fill out my forest.
  • Paper Easter grass. Regular Easter grass was too shimmery for my taste.
  • Miniature LED lights. I snatched these up at our local hardware store even before I knew what I’d use them for. I used white, but they come in pretty much any color full-size Christmas lights do.
  • Small glass ornaments. I toyed with using white felt or something to make snow, but it just looked goofy. These kind of imply snow…or just a bunch of shiny balls. Either way, I thought it looked purty.

I know it probably looks like I just laid all this stuff on a platter and called it a day, but it did take a bit of trail-and-error (and a rum & coke or two) to get it looking magical and not monsoon-ical.

The trees are kinda flimsy, so put down lights and grass first, covering the bottom of the platter evenly. The lights come with a little battery pack, which you can hide under grass or let hang out the back. Keep the lights on while you’re arranging everything, so you don’t cover too many up. Wiggle your trees in place, pushing aside the grass and lights so they’re resting directly on the pedestal, then place the balls around to fill in the gaps. Gently put on the cover, trim off any extra grass, and voila! A Winter Wonderland Under Glass!

Helpful Hint: Wash the pedestal and cover before beginning. If you forget and get it all together, smudges will only look worse when backlit. TRUST ME, I KNOW.


Serve covered…


…or uncovered.

And for the craft-averse who thinks this is WAAAYYY too precious for your cynical sensibilities, I whipped up something silly and snarky just for you…


Okay, maybe it’s a little sacrilegious, too. Click to view detail — you know you want to.

For my Nerd Nativity™ I used a small cheese platter (again, it’s had cheese on it maybe ONCE). It didn’t work with the cover, so I hot glued a star-shaped cookie cutter to the top and put it on a red salad plate to make an even mini-er tree terrarium.



This is a great activity to do with the kids, either for putting it together or having them run all over the house looking for things to include (JJ loved dumping every last figure out of his toy box). Put them on the kitchen counter, as a Christmas dinner centerpiece or in the kids’ room as the coolest nightlight ever.

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If you try one, be sure and send me a pic and I’ll share it on the Designer Daddy Facebook Page!

Happy Crafting and Happy Holidays!


Halloween Highlights: Creepy & Creative


Halloween is quickly becoming my favorite holiday. All the decorating, crafts, food and fun of Christmas crammed into a shorter period of time and without having to log all that extra church time. PLUS COSTUMES!

We had multiple events, all of which were an opportunity to put on my Designer Daddy hat (or horn, as it were) and we had a blast! Here are a few Halloween highlights…

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The first event was the Saturday before Halloween – a fundraiser/fair at JJ’s preschool, the “TODDLER BOOOOGIE!” For this occasion, JJ went as Batman. Yes, there were multiple costumes. You were expecting different from a super-hero obsessed toddler with two gay dads?


Batman’s still figuring out the fit of his new costume.


Paintin’ Punkins

October 10, 2013 | By Brent Almond | MY INNER MARTHA

Maybe you’re tired of seeing all the cool and creative ways to decorate for Halloween. I know I am — but only because I won’t have the time or energy to do any of them. Don’t get me wrong — I love Halloween for it’s wonderful mish-mash of adorable and terrifying. And I had grand plans for our family costumes this year. Papa and I skipped dressing up last year, so I wanted to make the extra effort to do it all together, while JJ still wants to be seen in public with us. There are only so many of those years left. But on our trip to Target to get JJ’s initial costume request, they didn’t have his size. So he wore me down asked politely, and we got something different. Back to the drawing board for Papa and me…

My Halloween mojo had been dealt a mighty blow. Yet JJ was helpful putting out our gargantuan pumpkin collection, and even assisted in picking out real pumpkins at the local nursery a couple weeks ago. We were getting back on track to the true Trick-or-Treating Spirit.

And then the other day, out of the blue, he asked, “Daddy, can we paint punkins?”

Quicker than you could say “I’d better take advantage of this before he starts asking me to play basketball or fix a car” we were down in the basement, rummaging through Craft Mountain, hauling supplies upstairs, and embarking on our little project.

I’ll tell you up front — these aren’t the most creative pumpkin painting or decorating ideas out there. I didn’t consult Pinterest or click through a slide show on iVillage or pick up Martha’s latest mag. I had to grab this opportunity by its ornery horns and make do while JJ was in a crafty mood!


We set up in the kitchen, covered the table with newspaper, got out all our (acrylic) paints, brushes, cups of water, paper towels for cleanup, paper plates for mixing colors, and turned our shirts inside out and backwards. These little pumpkins and gourds you can get from any supermarket or nursery are a great size for toddler hands. And the painting part is great because no cutlery is involved.


DIY Clown Costume (OMG I Love Preschool!)

September 13, 2013 | By Brent Almond | DESIGNER DADDY, MY INNER MARTHA

It was JJ’s second week of preschool, and while reviewing the calendar for the next week I noticed something that made my heart skip a beat. “TUESDAY: DRESS UP AS A CLOWN DAY.”

I had known it was going to be Circus Week all week (OMG, how fun is preschool?!?), with visits from clowns, balloon animals, and a tumble on the Tumble Bus, but somehow I’d missed this little detail. Thus, on the eve of Dress Up As A Clown Day, it became Daddy’s Making a Homemade Clown Suit the Night Before…Day, er… Night… something.

As soon as JJ was in bed, I morphed into full-on Designer Daddy mode. I giddily sent out a tweet, void of my frequent sarcasm: “Making a clown suit for Circus Day at preschool tomorrow. Now THIS is what I signed up for!”

I dragged all my bags and boxes of unused crafts out of the basement (organized craft supplies are for wimps and people with their own talk shows), grabbed a Diet Coke, shut my office door and set to work.

I know you’re probably here for the cute pics of JJ as a clown (we’ll get to them), but I thought I’d first share my “process,” in the off-chance any of you ever need to whip up an emergency clown suit.

It’s kind of a step-by-step, except without the easy-to-follow part. I was making it up as I went along…



STEP 1: Dump all your crafts onto your desk.
Okay, this isn’t ALL my craft stuff, but is a bunch of what I thought might come in handy.

Materials used:

  • Glue gun (Essential adhesive extraordinaire. Works for pretty much anything but Styrofoam)
  • Elmer’s glue (the old standby)
  • Big-ass buttons
  • Pom-poms
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Foam paper (my new favorite craft thing)
  • Clown nose (duh)
  • Clothes that already look kinda like clown clothes (Stripes, polka dots, plaids — the more garishly colorful, the better. C’mon, you know what clowns look like.)


Creative Father’s Day Gifts for the Creative (and not-so-creative) Dad


Still at a loss about what to get Dear Old Dad for Father’s Day? Yes it’s the thought that counts, but Dad can recognize a cliched gift when he sees one — especially if he’s the creative or handy type. So forget the grill, take back the tie, hide the hammock… here are three great books to get your favorite father’s creative juices flowing. Or at the very least something to read on the can.

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DJ Cheetos in Da House

May 10, 2013 | By Brent Almond | DADDY DJ, DESIGNER DADDY, MY INNER MARTHA

It’s been a while since I’ve gotten full-on, down-and-dirty, non-work-related crafty. But when I heard about this contest being held by Life of Dad, wherein you had to create art from Cheetos, my interest was peaked. When I found out the winner received an all-expenses paid trip to Dad 2.0 Summit (the King of all Dad Blogging conferences) I got my CHEESE ON.

A dad what-now conference? You see, I had a lot of fun the first year or so of Designer Daddy. Alas, then my energy/interest/well of ideas started to dry up. Serendipitously, I got hooked up with a group of Dad Bloggers on Facebook, and energy/interest/ideas were renewed and energized. Yes, it’s sometimes a time-waster (What on the internet isn’t? Except for this site, natch.) and obviously a sounding board for blogging ideas. Yet the group has also been an online drum circle, bar crawl and bitch session rolled into one.

All that to say, it would be awesome to attend Dad 2.0 Summit next year, to meet some of these men in person and get even more psyched about writing, networking, parenting, and all-around man-bonding. Plus Cheetos!

Here’s my Cheetos Mix-Ups offering…


Click to amplify

My creative process: I thought about “Mix-Ups” and that led to “mixing it up” which led to drinking a cocktail, which then led to an old school, party time DJ MIX TABLE! And yes, those are crushed Cheetos (the puffy variety) as the “background.”

Eggceptional Easter Craftiness

April 12, 2012 | By Brent Almond | DESIGNER DADDY, MY INNER MARTHA

I had originally planned to make a more traditional Easter bunny for JJ using a real, blown-out egg. I’ve done these in the past, and while not as fancy as Martha’s, still turned out pretty nice. Yet on further thought, I decided putting a hollowed out eggshell in the hands of a 2 year old would just be a craft disaster waiting to happen.

But then I saw some over-sized plastic eggs, thought of JJ’s obsession with love of superheroes, and a new idea was hatched. I had intended to make something from all six eggs in the set I bought, but alas only finished one. Still, I’m proud to present… Aquabunny Egg!

Aquabunny chats tubside with the other plastic creatures of the deep.

I was really happy with how it turned out, but upon even further thought, decided to wait and give it to JJ next year, as it’s still pretty delicate for his grabby hands. Plus it looks awfully cool on the shelf with the rest of my Aquaman stuff. Or maybe I’ll mass produce them and sell them on Etsy… any takers?

Aquabunny keeps watch from his perch atop the soap dish.

And in case you’re curious…
plastic egg (I paired a green bottom with an orange top)
foam sheets cut out to create the ears, feet and “A” symbol
pompoms for the nose and tail
googly eyes (for the eyes, duh)
dental floss for the whiskers.

After trying Elmer’s and Krazy, found hot glue to be the most effective in holding all these disparate textures together.

If you make your own, feel free to hop on over and post it to the Designer Daddy Facebook page, or email a pic to me via the blog.

Pre-DD: Nutcracker… Sweet!

December 23, 2011 | By Brent Almond | DESIGNER DADDY, MY INNER MARTHA

In addition to parlaying my last name (Almond) into my business name (Design Nut), I’ve had a long and storied past with another famous nut…

My nutcracker connection (not to be confused with my Rainbow Connection) dates back to 3rd grade, when I was cast as the narrator of our class production of The Nutcracker Suite. I remember spending some serious time practicing the pronunciation of “Tchaikovsky,” and then being crestfallen when I came down with the chickenpox. Fortunately I was still able to perform my narratorial duties from the side of the stage, far away from the other kids. The show must go on, even in elementary school.

Fast-forward a couple of decades to my first year in business for myself. I was hired by the Kennedy Center to do some illustrations for children’s products being sold in conjunction with that year’s performance of The Nutcracker. Graphics of the Nutcracker Prince, Clara and the Rat King were printed on tee shirts, caps and tote bags, and garnered several design awards, including inclusion in Print’s 2003 Regional Design Annual.

Subsequently, I turned the illustration of the Nutcracker into my holiday card, carrying the theme even further into the nifty client gift shown above.

That same year we started collecting Nutcrackers (beginning with some of the leftover client gifts) to display during the holidays. We now own a couple dozen, including a set of Nutcracker-themed matryoshka dolls, a pair purchased on a trip to Germany, and a 3-foot tall patriotic Santa nutcracker won in a raffle.

Then last year I was again cast in a rendition of the famous ballet. Our chorus’ production was entitled “Men in Tights: A Pink Nutcracker” and starred Clarence instead of Clara, and yours truly as the Sugar Plum Fairy. It was pretty much the most fun I’ve ever had on stage, except for almost twisting my ankle in my measly 1-inch heels. Big props to you ladies — I don’t know how you do it. And yes, those are cupcakes on my shoes.

Advent In An Hour: Dec 22


Some of the most fun I’ve had over the last 10 years — both professionally and personally — has been designing my own Holiday cards. They’ve allowed me complete creative freedom, as well as the challenge of creating something to both promote my business and send personal greetings. Maybe someday I’ll show them all off here…

However, this was the first year I sent an e-card for my business in addition to a printed personal card. And with all of the bad news the postal service is getting lately, I hope I didn’t contribute to their demise too much.

I was very pleased with my inaugural e-card, as well as one I did for one of my clients. I felt like I was the director of a mini movie – coordinating the colors, shapes, motion and music to form a quick, yet engaging online card.

While the e-cards were a blast to make, I doubt I’ll ever stop designing and sending printed cards altogether. In addition to being a creative outlet for me, it’s a way to feel more personally connected with the recipients.

It’s so easy nowadays to “connect” with someone anywhere in the world, whether it’s with a call, email, text, tweet, post, like or poke. So the process of choosing/creating a card, writing a message (at least sign the inside… unsigned Christmas cards are as impersonal as any e-card, if not more), putting it in an envelope, addressing and stamping it, then putting it in the mail seems over-the-top in comparison. It becomes more than a chore or a tradition, but a true gesture.

Getting crafty with Christmas cards

December 22, 2011 | By Brent Almond | MY INNER MARTHA, SCRAPBOOKING

I’ll admit right up front that I don’t know if I came up with this idea or if I got it from Martha. But I’ve been doing it for the last seven or eight years, so let’s just say I invented it… cool?

The problem: how to display your Holiday cards in a fun and festive manner that doesn’t clutter up your already immaculately decorated home. Most design magazines and sites offer solutions for this, but they only look good if you get about 5 cards.

The solution: Door Decor!

Supplies needed:
- 2″ wide ribbon, 25-28 feet long
- thumbtacks or staple gun
- jingle bells or non-breakable ornaments (4)
- paper clips

1. To measure how much you’ll need, roll the ribbon up one side and down the other of the door you plan to use. Allow for a few extra inches at each end to attach the bell or ornament.
2. Tie bell or ornament to each end of the ribbon — this helps weigh the ribbon down until it’s covered in cards.
3. Drape ribbon over the door and tack or staple on top of door.
4. Attach cards to ribbon with paper clips. There are a huge variety of paper clips these days: round, star shaped, colored. But plain old silver works just fine, too.

I used to put bells at the bottom, which made for a nice jingle every time we opened or closed the door. But with a sleeping baby toddler nearby we replaced them with quieter (but more sparkly!) snowflake ornaments.

I’d recommend a door that doesn’t get a ton of use (so not the front door). We used the one to our upstairs, which stays closed when JJ’s awake and open when he’s in bed. So we put the cards with photos of kids and animals on the side he sees more often.

Feel free to share any card-displaying ideas you’ve found helpful!