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Monday, September 30, 2013

Zebra-fied Corkboard

Yes, even a plain, boring $10 Walmart cork board can be zebra-fied.  I think it's necessary for a 10 year old girl to be able to pin stuff up on something other than the drywall, and let's face it, a big brown rectangle isn't going to fit into the 'decor'.  And so began my shopping trip.

You will need:
*A corkboard, whatever size you want, I used a 2'x3' that I found for $9.97 at Wal-Mart.  I considered just buying cork tiles and making one myself, but honestly it was cheaper to just buy the board already in a frame.  
*A can of white or pink spray paint.  I used white, but you could do pink with zebra stripes if that's your thing.
*Black acrylic paint.
*Trim - something fuzzy, sparkly, shiny....your options are endless.
*A hot glue gun, and ya know, the glue sticks for it.
*A spoon. 

Step 1.)  Brush any loose dust and debris from the corkboard and go spray paint it.  I used an entire can of paint on this board, so if you go bigger you may want to buy two cans.  Even so, you can see that there are areas that could have been covered better, but honestly she's going to have it covered in artwork and magazine clippings within 10 minutes of me hanging it up, so I wasn't concerned about splotches.  Again, my standard warning when using spray paint, protect your area from overspray, and make sure you're in a well ventilated area.  If you start singing show-tunes five minutes in, you may need some fresh air.  Could you use white acrylic paint and a brush? Probably, but you'd want to prime it first, and ain't nobody got time for that.

See how uneven it is? The cork sucks the paint up immediately.  Luckily it doesn't need to be perfect,
you won't notice once you paint the zebra stripes on.

Step 2.)  Find a reference for your zebra stripes.  Google is wonderful thing and every time I use it I wonder how I made it through high school without it.  Find something you like and try to copy it; it's very hard to screw up zebra stripes.  Just try to keep your lines smooth and not straight, if that makes any sense.  You can create tiny little stripes or big bold stripes, it's a very personal thing.  Alternately, you can let your child draw/paint their own stripes, and if it looks weird you can blame it on them. :)  I went with a 'zebra skin' effect, and it took about 2 hours to paint it on.  I was using a good quality acrylic paint from a tube, but I honestly think a cheap craft paint would have been easier, just make sure it's gloss; a flat paint may flake off later.  My paint was too thick and had to be thinned with water, but if I added too much water it would start to run down the board.  I was completely over the whole thing by the time I was halfway done.   

Aaaaannnnd glue and twist and push,
aaaannnnd glue and twist and push...
Step 3.)  Trim it.  Seriously I stood in Wal-Mart for ten minutes with three different yarns and two spools of ribbon in the 'seat' of my cart trying to decide what I wanted to do.  There were fluffy yarns with crystals woven into them, fluffy and glittery, just fluffy, ribbon that was solid hot pink glitter, ribbon that was just pink and shiny...I had a really hard time deciding. I went with fluffy- there was 129 yards of it, so I knew I could use several strands along each side and make it nice and fuzzy.  If I had it to do over again, I would have went with the glittery ribbon, it would have been a lot easier to glue onto the edges.
I spent about 15 minutes cutting lengths of my fuzzy yarn, about 8 per edge, and then started in one corner hot gluing them on.  I didn't make one long length of glue, I did three spots on the short ends and 5 on the long ends (not counting the giant globs in the corners) and twisting the pieces of yarn so that even if one of the lengths didn't get stuck in one glue glob, it would get stuck in the next glob. (Don't you love these technical terms?)
This could be your fingers.  Don't
let this be your fingers.
Now, you're probably wondering where the spoon comes into play.  Hot glue is, well, hot.  Low-temp glue is hot, but it sets up almost immediately and you won't die if you get it on your fingers.  Not so for high-temp glue guns.   High-temp glue is like lava and stays hot for three or four minutes.  For this project a low-temp is fine, we're dropping glue then pressing in the yarn one spot at a time.  I used the back of a spoon to push the yarn pieces into the glue without burning my fingers....again.  Seriously, it hurts.  When you're done, trim your corners, and hang!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Basil Pepperoni Cheese Sticks

One of the joys of having children is trying to find new snacks for your child's school lunch.  This is a story about how a snack gone wrong was corrected.  
My darling son insisted that he was the only child in the whole wide world that didn't get string cheese in his lunch, so I bought some.  Upon tasting it he refused to actually eat it, and my daughter insisted that it was gross to look at and she didn't even want to touch it.  Now I of course hadn't just bought 'some',  I had bought this huge bag of mozzarella that no one wanted to eat.  Great.
Then I found a picture on Pinterest of mozzarella cheese sticks wrapped in a wonton wrapper with some pepperoni, and thought, 'Aha!'.  Unfortunately it was just the picture, there was no link to the directions or to the original blogger, so I don't even know who to credit for this fabulous idea.  I did take it a step further though, and added some fresh basil, because I was just lamenting earlier today that I have this big healthy basil plant in my flowerbed and no idea what to do with it (be prepared to see new basil recipes as I figure it out.)

What you'll need it:
Egg Roll Wrappers
Mozzarella Cheese Sticks
Fresh basil leaves.
A cup with water in it (just a little)
A pan of oil 325 -350 degrees.    

Fresh basil has a really strong flavor, so if you 'like' the taste, but don't 'love' the taste, you may want to halve even those little strips.  A little goes a long way.

Slap two more pieces of pepperoni on this side, and fold the ends in first.  You can just do three pieces if you want to pretend you're making healthier, but really....

 Flip one end over, so that it looks like an envelope and then dip your finger into your cup of water and run it along the edges of the bigger flap, so the wrapper will seal tight.

When you first start to roll it it's going to be loose and weird because you've got a lot stuffed in there, but it will tighten up as you roll.  Get a couple of them rolled up before you start dropping them into the oil so you don't get distracted and burn them.  If the oil is between 325 and 350 degrees it should be hot enough to cook but not so hot that the outside crisps up before your cheese gets gooey.  They really need to cook for about a minute and a half to get the cheese warm (cold cheese inside is...not good).  Two sticks are plenty to fill you up, and if you have some leftover marinara, by all means, dip away!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Tooth and Nail

So I've mentioned that my dad has a sawmill, and I thought I'd give him some space here.  He owns a mobile sawmill and woodcraft shop in Milton, WV, making furniture, crafts, and wooden dulcimers and psalteries. So, what is a mobile sawmill?

The log is strapped to the black metal base and the saw (seen at the other end) runs horizontally on rails down it's length, creating board lumber. 
I thought I'd post some pics of all the things he creates from that lumber.

He made this dining room table and side bench.
Dulcimers and Psalteries, he even made the bows!

Rocking chairs.

Cutting boards.

Quilt racks.
A fishing rod holder.

Bark silhouettes created from the slab of bark cut from a log while it's being squared off.

Blanket chests.

Since he has retired, he spends most of his time out in the woodshop, making all of these fabulous works of art.  He's been known to make a gun stalk or two, even caskets!  Basically, if you can dream it up, dad will find a way to build it.  If you want to see more, check out his Facebook page at Tooth  and Nail!

Dad out in the shop.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Zebra Striped Ceiling Fan

The Zebra-fied Ceiling Fan

My daughter is 10, which, in decorating terms, translates to all things hot pink and zebra striped.  Judging from the craft stores, this is a known affliction for the preteen crowd.  While I draw the line at painting black zebra stripes on the wall (I have no interest in applying three coats of primer two years from now when this fad is over), but I'm fine with some zebra-ish touches.  Bedding and curtains are easy, but what about the ceiling fan?  The one in her room is probably 10 years older than she is, and definitely looks it's age; what better candidate for some pizzazz?

I've found multiple examples of decorating ceiling fans on the internet (when I say 'the internet' read 'Pinterest'), where the blades have been covered in fabric or paper.  I considered going that route, but I'm imagining little folds and creases on the top of the blade, which is only going to make it harder for me to dust without ripping the fabric/paper down.  I could probably cut it to the exact size of the blade and trim any edges without folding them over the top, but let's face it, I'm too lazy for that.  Lucky for me the blades are already white, and I already have black paint, so I think you can see where I'm going with this.

First and foremost, it had to come down.  Be warned, I dropped every single screw that held the fan blades on.  Every last one, sooooo... before we could get started we had an impromptu screw hunt.  Then it needed cleaned.  Ummm....yeah.  The fan housing probably hasn't been disassembled since it was first put up, and a family of dust bunnies had moved in... and then multiplied.  I used plain white vinegar, but rubbing alcohol or some type of degreasing cleaner could also have been used.  Don't use a dusting spray, it has wax in it and the paint won't stick later.  Remove the brackets from the fan blades, the screw heads are on the back, or what is normally the top of the blade.  There should be a screw or two holding the cover to the fan motor, and once you have the blades off this is really easy to take off.

Yes, I had dandelion fuzz, it happens.
I did have to make a trip to the store to get some hot pink spray paint, because that isn't something I normally keep lying around the house. I didn't scuff it or sand it, I just cleaned it up and sprayed it with a can of 'Watermelon' Indoor/Outdoor Gloss Krylon.  Pay attention to the can, I prefer a gloss because I like the shine, and it will make cleaning it easier.  Satins or mattes are great as long as you never touch them, the smallest fingerprint will show up in glaring relief.  If you're going to spray paint, make sure you use newspaper or a drop cloth, that the temperature outside is within range of the recommendation on the side of the can (not too hot, not too cold), and that it's not particularly windy.  You don't want your neighbor's brand new car to have a lovely hot pink overspray (they won't like that a bit).  Also, if it's windy, you have a really good chance of getting dandelion fuzz, gnats, or other unwanted outside elements stuck in your paint, this will probably still happen to some degree if you're outside, but you can pick it out and spray over it, the paint will level back out.  If you've never spray painted anything before, don't be intimidated.  Just remember the rule, 'don't stop'.  Don't let go of the trigger while you're still spraying at your target, sweep past it before let off.  If you spray too much in one spot the paint will run, so keep the can moving.  Krylon dries pretty fast, so within 10 minutes you can flip everything over and go at it from another side.  And if you have to respray it, say, if you happen to drop the cover on your head while you're trying to put it up, and it falls to the floor and rolls around a little bit, you're only going to be a few minutes behind schedule.

I painted the blades while the cover and brackets were drying.
The blades were easy.  Zebra stripes aren't rocket science; if you drip some paint - oh look, that stripe goes over here now to cover that up.  I painted the stripes pretty large because I wanted it to be bold, and a smaller pattern would have been too busy.  I recommend laying the blades side by side while you're painting, to make sure your stripes are all the same size.  I did have to do a second coat of the black paint, because the white on the blades was a gloss, and the brush strokes were pretty evident.

Once your paint is dry, and hopefully you haven't lost all your screws, you get to put it all back together again.  Put the brackets back on the blades, and remember to put the cover back on first. (You don't want to spend 5 minutes putting the blades back on to have to take them back off to get the cover on.)  Truthfully, this was the hardest part. If my daughter didn't have a bunk bed so she was able to hold the blades while I screwed them back in, I would have required my husband to assist on another ladder.  As it was, I had her hold the blade I was attaching, and my son gathering the screws I kept dropping.  It was an act worthy of a three ring circus, but all told, this entire project only took about an hour.

Shotgun Shell Wreath

The Shotgun Shell Wreath

Wreath #1

What you will need:

* 12” straw wreath form                                 
* Approximately 200 used shotgun shells
* Floral wire – 24-28 gauge (I used 24)         
* Wire cutters
* Hot Glue Gun                                             
* Ribbon, raffia and fall garland or picks for filler
* Stencil burner, or wood burning tool with pointy tip, or dremel

I found a shotgun shell wreath on Pinterest, and showed it to my dad, a hunter of many years, who agreed that it was a cute idea.  He then surprised me by saying, “I have four boxes of used shotgun shells that I was getting ready to throw out, you want them?”  To which I replied, “Sure, what the heck.”

I took home two boxes of shells, stopping at A.C. Moore along the way to pick up some straw wreaths, some fall garland, burlap ribbon, ya know, the things I figured I might possibly need.  When I got home with my new acquisitions, I settled down on the couch with a dog or two and my laptop, thinking that I would click on the picture I had pinned to look up the directions on how to make this wreath, as per usual. 

File not found.

A Google search showed me other style options, but no directions.  Some looked like the one I had pinned, some were just hot glued straight to the wreath, and others had white Christmas lights shoved down into the shells to make a lighted wreath, which was cute, but more complicated than what I had in mind.  I saw that people were selling them on Etsy, but I figured they would be unwilling to spill all of their secrets so that I could make it myself.  So, I’m creative, I can figure this out…surely.
I knew I wanted the shells to hang, which would require making holes in the end, but how?  I spent a week with this problem simmering in the back of my mind, pulling it out occasionally to stir.  I considered using a drill, but figured that in order to prevent drilling through any body parts I would have to put each shell in the vice, which we have in the garage, but I didn’t want to stand out there for hours putting shells in one by one and drilling through them.  This is absolutely an option, albeit a slow one.
  Then I remembered that I had bought a stencil burner years ago when I was convinced that I should start airbrushing motorcycle helmets (don't ask).  It had never been used, but luckily, I remembered where I had stashed it.  Did it work? Like butter.
An hour later, I had a box of shells with a hole in either side.  I used the crimped line to make sure I was making all the holes the same distance from the top of the shell.  If you don't have a stencil burner you could surely use a wood burning tool, as long as you don't mind if it gets melted plastic on it.  A dremel or drill would work too, but may be more labor intensive.

The Devil's Shrink Wrap.
If you've never worked with a straw wreath, let me give you some advice - you're going to make a mess.  Like, a huge mess.  Little pieces of hay are going to fall all over the place, and I don't know if this is true for all brands of straw wreath, but for the two I purchased, the very act of getting them unwrapped was a 2-3 minute process.  The straw is wrapped in fishing line, so don't think you're going to take a knife to the plastic wrap and just pull out a wreath.  The plastic wrap was wrapped, and wrapped, and wrapped again, so I was frustrated before I even began to build the wreath.  To add insult to injury, the ends of the fishing line weren't actually tied together, so I had to do that myself and dab a little hot glue on them to make sure it held.

It's this easy.
For this, my first wreath, I cut a length of wire long enough to go around the outside edge of the wreath, plus a few inches for slack and to be able to twist it together, and started stringing up shells.  If you have children that you trust not to poke their eye out with floral wire, I suggest delegating this task.  It took about 50 shells for the outside edge, and I left a gap at the top because I knew I was going to tie a big burlap ribbon around the top and didn’t want shells in the way.

I took a piece of raffia and tied the wire down in about 5 places around the wreath, in an effort to keep it in place.  It didn’t work, but that was the thought process.  I did a total of 4 loops of shells, tying them on with raffia and pushing the wire into the top of the wreath after I twisted the ends together.  Then I picked it up and everything went berserk.  It looked fabulous lying on the table, but gravity wasn’t as kind when I hung it up.  After a few moments of rearranging the shells that were sticking out in all directions, it looked better, but there were several empty spots.  I filled those in with some fall garland and a glue gun, tied my ribbon to the top, and stuck a bow on it.
The problem with this wreath, is that it weighs about 3 pounds., and all that weight on the wires made them pull forward, so all of my fancy tying with raffia did virtually nothing.  I went back with an 8 inch length of floral wire, and wrapped it around each of the four wires holding the shells in six different places around the wreath.  This tightened up the wires and helped to keep them evenly spaced, and seems to have fixed the issue.

Wreath #2

What you will need:

* 12” straw wreath form                                         
* Approximately 126 used shotgun shells
* Floral wire – 24-28 gauge (I used 24)                
* Wire cutters
* Hot Glue Gun                                                       
* Ribbon, raffia and fall garland or picks for filler
* A clay pigeon
* Stencil burner, or wood burning tool with pointy tip, or dremel

So you’ll notice that the…ummm…ingredients…are almost the same, this version just requires less shells.

Instead of making long loops, this time I opted to wrap them around the short way.  For the size wreath I used, it took 9 shells to go from the inside to the outside and still be flat on the back, so your results may vary.  I used about 10-12" of wire for each string, because I like to have a little extra instead of it being too short to twist.  I started at the bottom, well, I picked a spot to start and that became the bottom, and made 7 rows of shells, making sure the bottom of the shells overlapped the top of the row beneath it.  I found it easier to lay the wreath 'face-down' and push the string of shells under it, then tie from the back, making sure the first and last shell matched up with the ones below it. Once the wreath was completed, I pushed the extra wire back into the wreath to keep it from shifting.

I considered doing this overlapping pattern all the way around in just one direction, but figured I should play nice with gravity and let them all hang down.  So I started on the other side and made more rows up the other side.  When I got to the top, I realized I had room for another row both directions, so I added more shells.  This still left a gap at both the top and the bottom, but it also left room for the ribbon needed to hang it up, and the clay pigeon at the bottom, so it all worked out in the end.

See! Hay everywhere.