Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Raise the Roof

I built a barn.  I know, who knew that I knew how to hold a hammer, let alone use a hammer effectively in any way other than rendering nails useless.  My barn required no real tools and the sole purpose of said barn was to entertain Bean for her farm-themed birthday party.  The barn was constructed from a repurposed pottery barn stool box and our last remaining moving box.  Normally, I write a blog post about what Bean's been up to or more accurately what I'm doing with Bean.  Today, I thought I'd share something that people (the internet) might actually find useful (assuming of course that you consider constructing a barn out of a cardboard box pertinent to your life).

So you are probably wondering why a barn?  Well, nothing screams Barnyard Bash like a giant red cardboard box barn in your yard.  And I loved playing in boxes as a child.  Maybe my parents were cheap or maybe they just wanted to foster imagination (I highly doubt that this was there intended goal or for that matter that they ever had a conversation about parenting style).  I just remember looking forward to when appliances broke because then I knew we'd be getting a giant box with that refrigeration or dishwasher which also meant that I'd be getting a new clubhouse, dollhouse or detective office.  I watched a lot of Charlie's Angels as a kid.  And every gumshoe detective needs an office.

My point is this, when I saw the boxes that our bar stools were delivered in, my immediate thought was, "these would be perfect for a play barn."  And so the idea formed, and once an idea forms in my brain, you really can't get out it out.  On a very rainy day, when there was nothing much else to do, I put my idea to cardboard with an exacto-knife, pen, ruler, paint and a glue gun.  Yeah that's right no pencils here (I couldn't find a pencil and anyway, I'm sure that in addition to crossword puzzles, Confucius also designed his cardboard boxes with a pen).

Working like Michelangelo and his marble, the barn revealed itself to me in the cardboard.  In full disclosure, let me say that despite a career as a professional chef, I'm terrible at following directions for crafts or putting furniture together.  That said, my steps are a rough outline of the project with some helpful hints and pictures.

 This is the box and the Bean.  The box was slightly worn/damaged.  The areas that were ripped would become the windows.
 Step 1:  Frame out your barn or playhouse or whatever you are making your cardboard box into.  I started by taking a yardstick and measuring the dimensions of my cardboard box.  Because the front part had a big gash in it, that I decided, would become the swinging barn door.

I measured the width, and found the midpoint.  I then traced a vertical line down center of the box.  This would serve as a guide for both the roof and the door.

HINT:  Don't forget to use a ruler.  I used a yardstick which was perfect for the size of this barn.  You can't eyeball a straight line, well at least I can't.

Step 2:  Outline the roof.  I wanted to make a gabled barn roof, so to do that I measured the height of the roof barn, found the halfway point and then found the midpoint and traced a horizontal line across barn.  Then I eyeballed the angle (maybe about 110 degrees?  Where or where was my compass?) and traced another line down to the bottom line of roof.

After I was satisfied with the drawn dimensions of the roof, I took my razor and started cutting. I used an exact-knife instead of scissor because I knew my hand would get tired of the scissor motion.  The razor took about two times to get through the cardboard, but also made very clean straight lines (something I'm certain that I wouldn't be able to do with a pair of scissors).  Then, repeat on the other side of the box for the other side of roof.

HINT: Always cut away from you and please make sure that kids/pets/husbands stay out of your way, but also close enough in the event you cut yourself and can't crawl to your cell phone to dial 911.
 Step 3:  I traced the trim on door using the the yardstick's dimensions.   I also traced the big "X" on the barn using the yardstick.  Then I  cut the door out.
 Step 4:  Trace your window.  Again, I used the window as a way to rid my barn of its unseemly shipping gashes.  I also used the yardstick again to trace a template for the windows' decorative trim.
 I set the window about 3/4 up from bottom.

Step 5:  Cut out your windows.

Almost there.  Next I took a piece of cardboard and measured it to hang just slightly over for the roof.

 Step 6:  The paint job.  I used water-based tempera paint.  I'm not going to lie, this took multiple coats. I did a total of three coats, allowing each coat to dry before slapping on another.

HINT:  There were shipping labels and marks on the box that I couldn't cover up with multiple coats of paint.  For these, I cut out squares, painted them black with a white "X" on them and they then became part of the overall barn design.

Step 7:  Paint window boxes.  Our original shipping box had these perfect little window boxed shaped boxes that were used to secure out stools during shipping.  They screamed window boxes to me and so I painted then green and got some cheap flowers to stick in them.

Step 8:  Hot glue the whole thing together.  First glue roof on.  I glued one long piece of cardboard across peaks to help secure the roof to act a support beam.  Perhaps I missed my calling as an architect?While that dried, I bent the roof in the appropriate spots so that I would not be bending cardboard and gluing at the same time.  Then I glued the cardboard roof to the my main support beam.  After this dried, I glued each side, pressing roof to barn as I worked.  A second set of hands would have been very useful at this point since it took me a couple of times with my hot glue gun.

Next,  I glued the window boxes on each side under the windows.  And finally, for the piece de resistance, I glued on pinwheel on the top of the roof to look like  a silly weather vane.

Step 9:  Go play!  Or really, let your child play in it.  Sadly, it's too small for me.

After the barn was built, I focused on our menu.  Having been to enough kids' parties where adults and kids are fed pizza and coke, I wanted to create a fram-themed menu for adult and toddler alike.  Barns got me thinking of going down south (not sure why) so then I started to think about traditional southern foods: mac and cheese (the good kind, not from a box), cornbread, fried chicken, coconut cake.  Thankfully, my husband talked me out of frying chicken for 25 people.  We settled instead on smoked chicken and pulled pork, corn flapjacks (kids will always eat a pancake), the aforementioned mac and cheese, green bean salad with shallot vinaigrette and a roasted beet salad and oranges with goat cheese and a toasted fennel seed dressing.  I also had appetizers of curried deviled eggs and pimento cheese ham toasts.  This menu, by the way could have also been right out of 1965.

Dessert consisted of a towering four-layer coconut cake, which was without question the best cake I've ever made (and I've made a lot of cakes), chocolate chip cookies, apricot-oatmeal squares and cupcakes.  All in all, the party and the barn were a success.  More importantly, Bean  still happily plays in her barn.  

1 comment:

  1. I have no words for how impressed I am with this endeavor!! Bean is so lucky to have a mom so creative, crafty, and a coconut cake maker too! Great job!!!