Maslow's Modern Dino Birthday Party

When it came time to plan for Maslow’s third birthday party, the theme was obvious—DINOSAURS! Since before Christmas, the kid has done nothing but play, read, watch, and DREAM about dinosaurs (I literally wake up to hear him roaring in his sleep)! I knew I wanted to do a brightly colored, modern spin on the theme.

Foam insulation letters with wrapping paper and The Flair Exchange custom tissue garland in Aqua, Lime, Navy, Coral, and Blush

Foam insulation letters with wrapping paper and The Flair Exchange custom tissue garland in Aqua, Lime, Navy, Coral, and Blush

Invitations always come first, so I have to consider how I’ll be decorating when I’m putting them together. I usually just use Photoshop and have fun pulling inspiration from all the cool invitation ideas on Pinterest.

My husband, Jeff, recently built a CNC router in our basement and was dying to do some creative making on his new machine. We decided to do large dinosaur skeleton cut-outs of a T-rex, Brachiosaurus, and Triceratops out of plywood as well as his name and the number 3 out of foam insulation board. I painted the words dark gray and used spray adhesive to apply a polka dot wrapping paper from Hobby Lobby on the front.

The easiest way for me to develop a color palette is to head to the craft store and shop for paper. From there, I was able to take the paper to Lowe’s and purchase paint samples that were custom mixed to match. I used that paint for all the wood dinosaurs we cut and I have a Silhouette Cameo machine that I use to cut all my paper crafts including the dinosaur and circle garlands. I reused the leaf garlands from his first birthday party over the dining table and around the doorways.

Now, let me tell you about a gem of a connection I have—my cousin, Sarah, owns an online party boutique called The Flair Exchange that makes amazing tissue garlands and hand-cut confetti, among other things. Do yourself a favor and go buy some RIGHT THIS MINUTE. I had so much fun going to her studio and picking out the colors for our custom garlands and confetti. And the cool thing is—YOU can have custom garlands and confetti too OR you can choose from one of her already stunning color palettes! I bought some of those huge clear balloons and stuffed them with TFE confetti and they added such a fun pop of color!

Something fun I decided to do this year was to make custom dinner plates with Maslow’s name. I ordered Shindigz photo plates and just uploaded the design I put together in photoshop as my “photo”. This was such a fun way to personalize the food table!

Since Maslow was turning 3, he was the perfect age to help with some of the fun crafts. We make dinosaur “fossils” by stamping his toy dinosaurs into play-doh so I thought it would be a fun activity for us to make fossil cookies by doing the same thing with sugar cookie dough! He loved it!

For the cake, I planned to use gel food coloring to color the fondant but I came across the BEST find that saved me so much time! Michael’s sells these little tubs of Sweetshop fondant that were literally the EXACT colors I needed for the letters and dots on the cake. Then I mixed Wilton’s candy melts to get the colors I needed for the cake pops.

I knew I wanted to do a balloon garland over our kitchen island, but I had a terrible time finding the balloon colors I needed. I finally came across Balloons Online and found the perfect balloons in colors Aquamarine, Neon Orange, Pastel Pink, and Navy. I ended up ordering the green balloons on Amazon since their Neon Green was out of stock.

One thing I did this year, and will continue year-after-year, is to wait until Maslow goes to bed the night before his party to put up the decorations. It was a lot to do in one night, but seeing him come downstairs the morning of his party was like Christmas! It was such a fun surprise and his “NOOOO WAYYYYY!” left me giddy.

Since the very first time we discussed a dinosaur theme for Maslow’s party, Jeff really wanted to make a “Maslowzoic Park” sign for the front porch. This was 100% his project and I think he did an AWESOME job!

Maslow going down the slide on his big day!

Maslow going down the slide on his big day!

Modern Playhouse

Each year for Christmas I like to do a special project for my son. At almost 3 years old, these projects are mostly for my own gratification. I thoroughly enjoy creating carefully crafted and personalized gifts for my little guy and this year’s project was a labor of love.

My son loves animals and he engages in a lot of imaginative play. I wanted to give him a toy that allowed him to have a “home” for his animals as well as dinosaurs, people, cars, and whatever else he may be interested in down the road. After looking at several similar products on Etsy, I couldn’t quite settle on one that I loved and I had the thought that always gets me into these projects—”I can make that!”


I drew inspiration from several other modular playhouses online and once I finalized the file, I found a local company, Indy Laser Designs, to cut the pieces. I used Sketchup which is a free online software (though I have purchased the professional version for my architecture work) that allowed me to not only create the 2D cut lines, but also allowed me to extrude each piece and fit them together in three dimensions to make sure they were going to work—super helpful!


The best thing about cutting with a laser is that there is virtually no waste. You can see above how I was able to use the pieces cut from the center of the door openings and reattach them with hinges to create the double doors. This took a little bit of planning up front to make sure I divided the center piece in half to create the two doors and to make sure the pieces weren’t discarded as waste.


I decided to go ahead and glue some of the pieces together. For a toddler, it seemed to be overkill to have to assemble the stairs and fences. The fact that the rest of the pieces are interchangeable and can be reconfigured in an endless number of solutions is my favorite part. Not only does the playhouse allow for imaginative play, it allows for him to enjoy the building aspect as well, similar to Legos or building blocks.


One aspect I didn’t think about was the uneven burning on the edges of the plywood. I knew all along I wanted to preserve the natural look of the Baltic Birch, but the darkened edges irritated me. I decided to paint the edges fun colors which takes the final project up a huge notch for me. I decided on the color scheme prior to seeing what colors were actually available in craft paint. I came up really disappointed after my first stop, but before deciding to purchase wall paint samples from Lowe’s, I stopped by Michael’s to see if they had a better selection. These Martha Stewart paint colors were a lifesaver! They were exactly what I was looking for and I plan to use the same color scheme for his birthday party (STAY TUNED)! I finished off each piece with a coat of matte polycrylic spray.


I think presentation is important too, so I wanted to be sure Maslow was set up on Christmas morning with some accessories for his new toy. I found these adorable bendy dolls from Haba and bought some additional Terra farm animals to go with our collection of Terra and Schleich wild animals.


I had so much fun with this project and the best part is seeing Maslow play with it. I hope this project has many many years of play in its future!


Maslow's Christmas Quilt

You can tell it’s December in our house because my sewing machine becomes a permanent fixture on our dining room table. I love the holidays, and I use this time of year as an excuse to do a lot of crafting. This is a project I actually started last year, but only just finished in time for the holidays this year. I wanted to make a quilt for my son Maslow to use during the Christmas season each year. The challenge, of course, was to create something that he could use for years to come and could become part of our holiday traditions.


I found this awesome pattern for a minimal tree quilt and used a mixture of solids and patterned fabrics in varying shades of green, blue, and burgundy. The background is a light gray-blue and I quilted wavy lines to give it a cold-blustery feel. The cotton batting made it bunch up just perfectly out of it’s first wash.

My sewing machine also does embroidery, so I added his name in a raw edge applique.

I love the way the quilt turned out and it has been a festive addition to Maslow’s room during the Christmas season!


Our big Christmas DIY


My son, Maslow, LOVES to help in the kitchen. He loves to get out the pots and pans. He loves to sort through kitchen utensils and gadgets and pull everything out of the cabinets so when I started brainstorming ideas for Christmas I knew he would light up at the sight of his very own kitchen. 

My quest for the perfect kitchen began in early December and just a few days later I was at IKEA an hour before closing  hunting down the Duktig play kitchen. This project started like most of my projects--once I got the idea in my head it was GO TIME. Once I got started, I couldn't stop. I worked right up until Christmas Eve when I got to set the stage for Christmas morning. That feeling is pure magic. Of all my roles--wife, mom, architect, interior designer, creator--being SANTA is at the top of my list! 

Aside from having the "remodeled" IKEA kitchen my husband made a refrigerator and I got to make all the accessories. I knew I wanted Maslow to have some food to play with, but I wasn't a huge fan of the plastic stuff. Also, I didn't just want him to have whole loaves of bread or whole carrots and pears--I wanted him to have ingredients! I wanted him to be able to create and mix and experiment. I started pinteresting and what I found was the most beautiful felt play food. Lightbulb. I can make that! There began my obsession with making ALLLLL the play food I could imagine and there began hours upon hours of sitting at the sewing machine until the wee hours of the morning. 

Some of my favorite store-bought accessories are:

A few of my favorite aspects of the project were:

  • The faux marble treatment I did on the countertop. I found a great tutorial here.
  • The chalkboard backsplash
  • Personalized food labels printed on label paper on our home printer
  • The reversible personalized apron I stitched up with some manly fabrics and leather nametag

I absolutely loved this project. In fact, I was a little sad when Christmas rolled around and I was "done", but seeing the look on Maslow's face when he saw his kitchen on Christmas morning was the best feeling. He loves it. 


First Blog Post--First Quilt

Every Memorial weekend, we take a camping trip with my family. Though this year wasn't my son's first camping trip (we took him last year at only 8 weeks old), this year seemed like it was the real deal. I was putting the pressure on myself to make it something special!

Rewind to a few weeks before when I started following @suzyquilts on instagram. I'd never had a desire to quilt before, but THESE....they were AMAZING! Now the pressure was really on! I started daydreaming about a McQuinn family quilt; one we would take to all of our family trips and special occasions. I started imagining some undetermined number of McQuinn children cuddled up under the "adventure quilt" as we cram in an RV and roadtrip out west. I imagined Maslow (our 16 month-old son) and our future children as preteens fighting over a spot on the tattered and worn quilt watching the Fourth of July fireworks with their little friends. At that very moment, I decided I NEEDED to learn how to quilt. And I NEEDED for it to be done for our Memorial weekend camping trip. This was Tuesday--we were leaving for the trip on Friday. 

I ventured down to the local quilt shop, Crimson Tate, and told them about my idea. I know they thought I was crazy, but they were so supportive and guided me through choosing my fabrics and the quantities I needed. They were so fantastic and I left on cloud 9 and ready to take on my biggest craft challenge yet!

By Friday afternoon when my husband got home from work I had the front of the quilt done and though it wasn't completely finished, it could at least make the trip with us. Over the next few months, I'd spend a little time here and there working to get it finished and as we took a few small summer weekend trips we'd take it along. On the Fourth of July, Maslow, my husband, and I sat on the adventure quilt and watched the fireworks over downtown Indianapolis and Maslow wiped his sticky mac 'n' cheese fingers on it--THIS was exactly what I had imagined. 

Now, two months later, the quilt is finally finished and I've been adding patches for all the adventures we take as a family. It is SO FAR from perfection, yet it is somehow PERFECT. It is crooked. The seams don't align. The backing is too small. It is definitely not as large as I had in mind. It STILL has mac 'n' cheese on it. But, it is everything I hoped for and I can't wait to take the McQuinn Family Adventure Quilt on many many more adventures!