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Horton has a Head

elephant headHalloween is upon us, and that means it’s time to get the kids’ costumes ready. Maybe some of you are struggling with how to create the perfect costume that can’t be bought in stores. Maybe you need to make a full-headed mask or a large prop. Perhaps I can help. What you need is papier mache–but not the drippy, tedious kind you did in school. What you need is DIY papier mache clay.

Let’s back up a couple months to when a friend volunteered me to make a giant Horton the elephant head for a Dr. Seuss show our daughters’ dance studio was performing. The head had to be really big–large enough that it would look appropriate on a two-person elephant. One of the instructors suggested that I use papier mache and chicken wire, but the thought of cutting and sculpting chicken wire really didn’t appeal to me. I saw no way to get around the papier mache, though.

papier ballSo I went to Five Below and bought a few different inflatable balls. I blew them up and decided that a small exercise ball was the way to go. But then I started the papier mache process. If you ever did this in school, you probably remember tearing up strips of newspaper, dipping them in a mixture of flour and water (or something like that) and layering it on. That works fine for something small, but I quickly realized it was going to take FOREVER to make a head as large and as sturdy as I needed, especially since you’re supposed to let the layers dry completely before adding more.

In desperation, I turned to the internet for help. That’s when I discovered the site Ultimate Paper Mache and a recipe for do-it-yourself papier mache clay. (This woman makes adorable papier mache animals—I might need to take that up as a new hobby.)

It’s really simple to make. You just need a roll of toilet paper, 1/2 cup of flour, 3/4 cup of all-purpose glue, and 1 cup of joint compound. (The recipe also calls for linseed or mineral oil, but the site says it’s optional so I didn’t use it.) You take the toilet paper off the roll and soak it in warm water, then squeeze it out. You should end up with 1 1/4 cups of toilet paper pulp. If you have more, just discard it. I used a Costco roll that gave me about double that, so I doubled the other ingredients, too, and made a jumbo batch. Tear the pulp up into 1-inch-ish pieces, add the other ingredients, and mix (I used a hand mixer). When you’re done, you’ll have a mixture the consistency of cookie dough or very thick canned frosting.

big headIt spreads like frosting, too. I used my hands to glump some onto my existing layer of newspapers on the exercise ball, then used a frosting spreader to spread it out. Here’s the beautiful thing about the clay: Because it’s so light and airy, you can spread it up to 1/4″ thick. Do you know how long it would take to properly apply an equal amount of newspapers??? FOREVER.

The nature of the clay also makes it really easy to attach other parts. Just make sure those are made of light-weight things, too. I used a cut-up-and-repositioned heart-shaped styrofoam wreath to form the tops of Horton’s ears, and some taped up newspaper to make the IMG_0380trunk. To attach them, I set them in place over my existing (dried) clay, then just used more clay to hold the base of each appendage in place. I let the base dry before I finished covering the rest of the ears and trunk, just so they wouldn’t get too heavy and fall off before everything was dry.

I wound up needing several batches of clay to finish the elephant head. That included two layers plus the clay I needed to join other parts. You can keep the unused clay in the fridge, so that was handy for times when I needed a break or had to wait for things to dry. (Leave at least 24 hours for drying between layers.)

naked elephantThis stuff dries HARD, too. I needed to cut around the opening a little, so it wasn’t so rough, and also needed to cut a mouth opening so the person inside could see out. My husband had to use a jig saw, and it was a bit terrifying, but luckily he knew what he was doing. 

I added some fabric, a little yarn, lots of paint, and a pink poofy thing, and then my elephant head was done. For as big and solid as it is, it was remarkably light. I tried the head on several times and wore it around the house a bit (because I thought it was funny) and didn’t get uncomfortable despite the size.

horton on stageThe clay would be fantastic for making lots of different Halloween masks or costume accessories. Heck, why not make some pumpkins to decorate your house, or a cauldron for candy? It’s not Halloween-rleated, but one of the commenters on that site’s blog was making toadstools for preschoolers to sit on. How cute would that be?

If you want your items to last, you’ll want to shellack them. Even though they dry rock-solid, they’re still mainly paper and flour. Those can break down over time, and bugs sometimes eat stuff like that. Yuck. It’s also important to note that the clay is supposed to go over a form, just like regular papier mache. It’s not intended to be used like modeling clay, although I suppose if you model in 1/4″ layers, it could work.

So go grab yourself some toilet paper and joint compound, and whip up something cool! 

Outgrown

Do you get sad when your child outgrows a carseat?  Maybe they are moving on from rear-facing to forward-facing and you lament about the reduction in safety?  Perhaps the carseat was a sentimental favorite?  Or maybe you’re happy because you’ve always hated the fashion on the carseator were looking for an excuse to buy something new?

My son has been mainly riding in boosters for some time.   He’s over 9 years old and is now over 4 feet, 7 inches tall and nearly 80 pounds.  He’s just about to outgrow the tallest combination seat on the market in 5-point harness mode, the Britax Frontier 90 (or Pinnacle 90).  His days as a CarseatBlog model are numbered.  I am sad, but he sure is happy!

frontier90outgrown

5-point Harness at 9 years old. Britax Frontier 90 (cover lifted at shoulders to show harness straps)

Happy Child Passenger Safety Week!

RibbonSeptember 14-20 is National Child Passenger Safety Week. We at CarseatBlog would like to thank technicians, car seat manufacturers, safety advocates, and parents for everything they do to keep kids safe in the car.

If you need your car seat checked, many organizations are holding events on Seat Check Saturday (September 20) or throughout the week. This is also a good time to share safety information with friends and family.

  • Keep children rear-facing until at least 2 years old.
  • Keep children in a harnessed seat until they fit properly in a booster seat and are mature enough to sit properly in the belt (usually a minimum of 5 years old).
  • Keep children in booster seats until they fit properly in an adult seatbelt. The seatbelt should sit low on the hips, touching the thighs. The shoulder belt should cross the middle of the shoulder, and the child’s knees should bend at the edge of the seat when s/he is sitting all the way back.
  • Children should ride in the back seat until at least 13 years old.
  • Wear your seatbelt, and put down the phone while driving. Kids learn from the adults around them.

Resources to find a local event or fitting station:

Safe Kids USA

NHTSA

2014 ABC Expo Update: What’s New from Cybex

We have a few updates from Cybex, including a look at their new infant seat, the Cloud Q, which was the Best in Show winner at last night’s JPMA Awards–the third year in a row Cybex has won.

Cybex Cloud Q  Cloud Q color selections  Cloud Q JPMA Award

What at makes the Cloud Q unique in the American market is that it reclines, much like the Kiddy infant seat we previewed at last year’s ABC Show, but has yet to materialize.

Basically, as an infant seat it looks nearly identical to the Aton Q. But pop the seat out of the base, pull a handle at the back, and push down…and the seat reclines fully flat. You can do this with the baby in the seat, and can recline/un-recline it while it’s in a compatible stroller. (It can install in the stroller frame facing toward or away from the parent.)

Cloud Q True Blue  Cloud Q Hawaii

Not to worry: safeguards make it impossible to use the seat in the car while fully reclined. There’s no way to snap it into the base that way, and the beltpath on the seat (for baseless installs) closes while it’s reclined, making it so the seatbelt can’t be inserted.

Cybex Cloud on Priam Cloud Air Q on Priam

Here’s a demonstration:

Other changes that make the Cloud Q different from the Aton Q are a 11 positions on the harness height adjustment (vs 8 on the Aton Q), 5 panels on the canopy (vs 4), and a handle that’s a bit sleeker. We also measured the chest clip at about .5 inch smaller.

The prototype weighs 12.6 lbs, which is heavier than many other seats, but keep in mind that the recline feature is bound to add some weight.

There are also some new fashions, including for the Aton 2.

Aton 2 new colors

Attention, Canada! Canadian certification is in the works for Cybex infant seats and will be of “highest priority” as soon as the ABC Show is over.

Next up is the Cybex Solution M-Fix booster. This is similar to the existing Q-Fix, but includes three main changes.

First, the headrest recline on the M-Fix adjusts with a lever. On the Q-Fix, you had to pull up on the headrest and kind of wiggle it into place. Second, the height adjustment is different. On the Q-Fix, the head and torso support move up and down together. On the M-Fix, the torso portion stays in place while the head support moves up and down. Third, the LSP side-impact protection on the M-Fix consists of bolsters that pop out at the touch of a button, verses the fixed outer pillows on the Q-Fix.

Here are some comparison photos of M-Fix and Q-Fix:

Q-Fix vs. M-Fix front view  Cybex M-Fix vs Q-Fix side view  Cybex M-Fix vs Q-Fix side head  Cybex M-Fix vs Q-Fix

The Q-Fix is also getting a slight change. The new model will be called the Solution Q2-Fix and will have bolsters constructed of a different material.

In strollers, Cybex is introducing the Agis M-Air 3 and 4 (depending on how many wheels it has). The stroller has an adjustable-height handle and adjustable-height canopy (so taller and smaller kids can be equally protected). There’s a large basket, one-foot brake, and a one-handed pull-up fold. It will accommodate kids to 50 or 55 lbs.

 

Cybex Agis M-Air 3

Not car-seat-related, but there is a new line of baby gates by Regal-Lager-owned Qdos. The Crystal series is clear, while the Spectrum series comes in several colors to better match specific decor.

Qdos clear   Qdos colored