Tuesday, October 30, 2018

'Puff Party Prep: A Drunk Suit Of Armor & Our DIY Fireplace

John and I have so many party projects going over here it's laughable, but I thought you guys might like a few updates! (In case you're new here or missed it: we're throwing a Hufflepuff Slumber Party this year for Christmas. :D)

First there's this guy:

I stumbled across this suit of armor on Craig's List a month or two ago, and the very next day John and I drove three towns over to buy it. Someone had (badly) spray-painted it gold, and it's pretty banged up, but c'mon. IT'S A SUIT OF ARMOR.

First I spray-painted it back to silver:

Then, my favorite crafty thing ever: AGING.

I painted on a heavy coat of brown-black craft paint, then quickly wiped it off again. As I went along I also stippled on a few "rust" spots with bright orange and burgundy paint.

Here's the top half done:
And a full body Before-and-After:

We plan to tuck a wireless speaker inside the helmet, so our armor can drunkenly sing Christmas carols and perhaps recommend a few items on the buffet, since he'll be stationed near the dining room. We've already tested the speaker, and the echo inside the metal helmet is A++.


We're hoping to make a few magical plant specimens for our Hufflepuff Common Room. This one's still in process, but it's the beginnings of a Mimbulus Mimbletonia: 
 John used an assortment of foam balls held in place with toothpicks and small wooden dowels to make the structure. After that he covered the whole thing in spray foam, but that did NOT go as planned. (FOAM EXPLOSION, lol)

John was ready to chuck the whole thing, but I'm trying to save it. First I've carved off most of the foam:

 And next I'll be covering it in clay - once I decide which kind will crack the least amount. Stay tuned!


We have three or four big additions this year that I am SUPER excited about, and one of those is our very own Escape Room. (AWWW YEEEEAH.) So instead of giving out a house-wide Scavenger Hunt with riddles, we'll have small groups of 2-3 people go into a back office and solve a series of puzzles to unlock their prize. 

I am ridiculously pumped about this, and John and I've had so many ideas it's been hard to narrow it down to just 5 or 6 things. (Time is an issue; we need each group to finish in under 15 minutes or we'll be here all night, ha.) We're already building some fun contraptions, like my first ever hot glue wand:

I can see why people get hooked on making these: so fun!

It's not "just" a hot glue wand, of course; there's a little extra magic hidden inside. I'm hoping to do a tutorial for you guys soon to show you what it does, plus I'll share a few tips I figured out for getting the hot glue to cooperate.

Here's one of John's pet projects: a magical lock box that only opens when you arrange a certain items in a specific order:

I was hugely skeptical of John's design for this, but you guys, IT WORKS. Now it's my favorite part of the whole room. (I'll be curious to see how many of you can figure it out from this picture!)

We're still decorating the box, but here it is all sealed up:
John made this completely from scratch, using some spare trim wood he found in the garage.


In the shopping department (because every party requires SHOPPING, amirite?), we've been having a blast thrifting. I think I'll put a Pixie Puff in this little wooden cage:

And how perfect are these $1.50 tapestry pillow shams?

Talk about Hufflepuff Common Room material: it's more golden IRL, and it's a pear tree! Plants AND Christmasy. SCORE.


I'll end with the biggest/most impressive thing we've built so far, which is very nearly done: our enormous (fake) Common Room fireplace. This thing will reach clear to the ceiling and dominate the whole room.

John started with a 2X4 frame clad in thin Masonite:

This is just the base; there are three pieces total. John even used 2X4s for the trim pieces, which saved money *and* looks nice and hefty.

Testing the fit. You can see how the three pieces stack here - sliding right over our existing furniture and wall shelf! Plus our remotes still work through the cubby hole in the bottom, so we can watch TV even with it all in place. 

Next we covered the whole thing in a custom mix of flexible plaster, paint, and sand texture:

John spread this on with his hands, then I followed with a dry brush to smooth it out.

I sketched & cut out a shield from insulation and craft foam:

 Which we hot-glued to the top, then plastered over:

Once the plaster coat dried we base-coated the whole thing and applied a light glaze for aging:

And finally, after about a week's work, here it is installed!

There are still several finishing touches to add: a grate/screen to hide the area under the TV, fire logs, a little more grunge with heavy soot stains, and in that cubby underneath we'll have an interior cover that hopefully will look like a big stack of extra firewood.

Obviously we'll also have garland on the mantel, House stockings, and two members of the Frog Choir on their pillows flanking the fire. Obviously.

 As I'm sure you've guessed, we'll be using some of the same tricks we did last year for our Drowsy Goblin painting, so a few surprise guests can pop in through the Floo Network. We've done just a few tests so far, but here's an early one to give you a VERY general idea of how the fire will look:

Ignore the pillows, ha. We just used them to hide the bottom of the TV for now.

 I've managed to keep my cool while typing all this, but you guys, I AM SO EXCITED.

John and I keep laughing over how utterly ridiculous this all is - the lengths we're going to for a party - but really it's more than that. Every night we're trying new crafty things, experimenting with resin and paints and foam, and half the time they're utter fails, but it's fun to try. I'm trying pattern-making for the first time ever, and we discovered a homemade puffy paint that dries to a squishy foam-like consistency - which won't work at all for what we need, but dang it's cool. We sit and have brainstorming jam sessions, and we talk and argue and laugh and generally freak out together over all the stuff we still want to do.

It's amazing how many creative muscles kick in once you take on a giant project like this, and I love having the built-in excuse to make silly things. (Tiny badgers flying on broomsticks? DONE AND DONE.)

So yeah, we're not playing Overwatch much these days, and it's a lot of stress and silliness for a party. But life is short, we're having a blast, and I get to share all the things I learn with you guys.


Anyway, I hope you liked seeing what we're up to over here! With the fireplace nearly done we're ready to move on to our *next* big build, so stay tuned for updates on that... assuming it works. ::nervous grin::


Now let's announce this month's art winners:

The winner of Edward Scissorhands is Allyson Wajda
The winner of Beaker & Honeydew is Crystal Pauley
And my wild card winner is Piper P.!

Congrats, you three, and please e-mail me your mailing addresses!


  1. This is all SO FUN. I love it! Thanks for all the photos!

  2. These are my favorite posts of the entire year! You're making so many people happy. Please keep sharing!

  3. I think fastmacfa might work for your plant project. Make it drier than you think you need and add water as needed though - and a little goes quite a ways!

  4. You are amazing and inspirational - and finding your happy in a world like we have to live in now is no small feat. (This is why I'm dressing up as the 13th Doctor tomorrow. Happiness is fleeting!)

  5. If you haven't tried it already, top coat the hot glue wands with frosted glass spray. It takes away any stickiness from paint, hardens the hot glue to almost a molded plastic texture and gives a nice additional layer of distressing.

    Everything looks great . . . I can't wait to show my 14yo potter head the finished projects.

  6. I've never considered myself a crafting type, but I've been reading this blog for at least four years, and I think you're the reason that I suddenly felt confident enough to make my own Halloween costume both last year (a cactus) and this year (a jellyfish). Thank you for doing what you do and putting your joy out into the world.

  7. This is going to be the best party ever! I can't wait to read all about it once it's here!!!

  8. I love it! And had to refresh my Potter memory with frequent forays into the fandom wiki. It is so fun to see what you are coming up with.

  9. I think my dh both loves and hates you for inspiring me to bigger and better party projects, as he is more and more getting looped in! ;-p We're not as handy as John, but we've made some cool smaller projects that are coming along quite nicely, and we really are having fun. We really do have you both to thank for our favorite project, and can't wait to send you some pics!

  10. Ohhhhhmygosh that is all so amazing, and the fireplace is AHMAZING and epic and so so cool! :D

  11. This is so cool! I love looking at your projects and your HP CDC Christmas party is my favorite every year! And I'm a hufflepuff so I'm super excited to see it all done!

  12. I love watching your crafty escapades. Last night I got a bit excited for Halloween and crafted a makeshift suitcase out of an Amazon box, vinyl and some extra cardboard for my kiddo's Newt Scamander costume for tonight. Keep creating and inspiring!

  13. Thanks so much for sharing all the pictures. I LOVE how much detail y'all go to for your parties. It's not just for a one-night party -- it's all the fun leading up to it!

  14. COOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL! So cool. I love it all!


  15. You guys amaze me! Everything is awesome!

  16. So very awesome - I need to do a fraction of this for Halloween and Christmas when we're not focused on trying to sell/buy a house! and OMG - so excited to win the Edward print!!! You guys really are the best!

  17. Very impressive crafting with the mantle! I need you guys to help me design a real one, my fireplace has been naked for 3 yrs. That was a project design i could never design on! You always blow me away with your creativity, its so inspiring!
    Just an idea for next years Christmas party... what about a Yule Ball like the one that took place during the triwizard tournament? Everyone could do a glam version of the wizard/witch costume. Like a Harry Potter prom ��

  18. The lock box, is it some kind of light-activated mechanism and you have to arrange filters in a particular way to get it to unlock?

  19. Hi! Re: Mimbulus, have you considered papier mache? No cracks, comes with texture, cheap, sticks to anything as long as it's sticking to itself, etc

  20. I like that you post potential fails, such as the Mimbulus Mimbletonia. Not all crafts go as planned, and we learn a lot from our mistakes! Thank you for posting all these great progress photos & letting us live vicariously through your Puff'Life :D

  21. A suit of armor!!! Man, that's so cool. I'm glad it found a good home with you guys!

  22. I came over here today because the NEWS and whatnot is always too much right now and I needed a happy place to be. I'm so glad you're around. I needed you guys and your awesome geekiness today. Thanks for being you.

  23. Looks great! Living in an apartment, I've been thinking about doing something similar to hang my stockings on for Christmas. :)

    Also, thanks for picking me for the wild card! Yey!

    --Piper P from Washington State

  24. I love everything about this post. Everything!

  25. Curious, are you also going to put the Thestral out in the back yard again? Like putting everything together from last year? Everything looks awesome. That fireplace though, can't wait to see it all finished!!

  26. I so undestand your excitement!! I just finished and tested on friend my very first escape game!! On the theme of Alice in wonderland, 4 room, 6 peoples, 1 hours. Even if one of the riddles was skipped, it was so much fun!! Good luck and good fun to you!

  27. Jen, I admire so much the enthusiasm, creativity, and care you and John put into every single project you do-- and especially these epic events you put together! Wow. It is so inspiring. Even more inspiring is the way you work together and come up with results that are all the better for your collaboration. I absolutely love to work on projects with my husband, and even though we don't do it as much as I'd like, it is always a wonderful time with him. Our big project almost every year is our family costume (I try to make it into cosplay as often as I can...), and I hope that we get to continue this tradition for at least a few more years. Once our kids start refusing to coordinate with us (nooooooooo!) we're going to have to start coming up with more projects to do together ;-)
    All this to say-- I LOVE seeing your projects!!!


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