September 3, 2015

Secret Summer Projects Revealed!

These summer projects have been secret (until now!) 
because I have not had time the past three
 months to even do one blog post.

I have done some fun and easy party and home decorating
projects that I hope to share better "how-to"s on
 in the future but until then here's just a look at those.

Growing Grass In Wooden Crates
One of the most inexpensive party centerpieces you can make
is real grass in a container. I have grown grass in closed 
containers before (click here for a roundup of those) but 
not a container with holes in it, like wooden crates.
Crates from a variety of craft stores were collected for the centerpieces

I helped a friend with a retirement party for her husband,
who is an avid golfer. It may be a stretch but I thought that
the grass would tie in with a golf theme for the party. 

Wooden crates are inexpensive and readily available now
in craft stores. The thought was to make the crates look like
vintage shipping containers for golf balls using the last name
of the guest of honor. 

The crates were painted with a base coat of Kilz and then
 a few different shades of white chalk paint. 
 Using the dry brush method and not covering each
layer completely eliminated the need for much sanding
for the crates to look have a sort of weathered look.

Labels for each end of the crates were created by
 composing the type on the computer and then running
 vellum paper (from scrapbook paper section of craft stores)
 through the computer. Then the vellum paper was cut to fit 
and was attached to the painted crates with Mod-Podge. 

To make the crates suitable for growing real grass, they
had to be adapted. Wide burlap ribbon was attached to the 
inside of the sides of the crates to hide the yucky-looking
 cut-to-fit black construction grade trash bags that hold in dirt.

Cut a single layer of the heavy duty  plastic bags big enough to cover the bottom and sides of the crate. 
The cut construction strength bags were held in place with thumbtacks. Sometimes they had to be hammered in. 

Two weeks before the retirement party, we planted the rye grass.

Lay the seed on thick for best results.

Since the plastic lining of the crate keeps water from coming out, be careful not to OVERwater the grass. 

Tom Kat kept the grass watered each day while I was in 
Colorado visiting my son and his family. We kept in daily
communication about the progress of the growing grass.

It's always a knot-in-my-stomach kind of decision when to
plant the grass seed for a party centerpiece. The grass looked
its best at about ten days. It got a haircut. By party time, the
center of some of the grass centerpieces were wimpy 
in the middle. No one but us probably noticed that. 

Different climates, seasons and temperatures influence how much growing time you will need

The colors in the centerpieces (green grass, white crates, 
black lettering) dictated the color theme of the party.
We used black and white chevron plastic table covering from
Hobby Lobby for the long tables. It looked thin on the roll
but was great once it was on the tables. 

Such a bargain with a coupon...only about $12 for 100 feet of tablecloth

Green cups and napkins added the pop of color at the party.

A few days before the retirement party, the hostess called me
to tell me that instead of 150 people (that we had projected
would come and therefore gave us the number of grass 
centerpieces, etc.) that 250 people had RSVP'd the party.

Yikes! More tables! More centerpieces! 
Extra tables were going to be added to the adjacent rooms
of the main seating area...too late to grow more grass. 
I asked the guest of honor for any extra golf balls he may have
to make more centerpieces with a golf theme.  Making these
extra centerpieces actually spurred another project I continued
through the rest of the summer refining (not perfected yet).

Faux Glass Etching
For quickie and inexpensive table centerpieces, we used 
clear glass vases and other things that I have in the attic. 

Clear (sort of) full sheet mailing labels from Office Depot
 and the home computer were utilized to make labels for vases
 to tie in with the retirement theme. To make the centerpiece
more substantial, we had three elements per table.

Ummm... as hard as I tried to get everything done by the 
time of the party, guests starting arriving an hour early!
Horrifying for a last-minute person like me. They offered to 
help put flowers in the vases...some did not turn out as I 
had pictured in my mind....oh well! 

(Suprisingly, one of my favorite centerpieces was one that
paper.  The clear labels were applied over the cut poster paper.)

OK...back to Faux Etched I did not like that the edges
of the clear mailing labels were visible at the retirement party.
I wondered if a border was added and lightening the text 
before it was printed on the computer, if it would look more 
like it was actually etched on the glass.

In August I got to go to a reunion of friends from college.
I am the chubby one on the far left end.

Since I am not good with keeping up with their birthdays,
I wanted to take a little gift along to give each one.
At Wal Mart I found Burt's Bees candles for only $5 each.

I made name labels on full-sheet clear shipping
 label paper ahead of the trip, let each girl pick a scent, 
and then added the name label to each girl's selected candle.
1. Composed labels with PicMonkey "design" option, 
made background transparent, utilized the overlay
feature for borders and the text feature for names

2. Printed the design on clear shipping label and cut out
the names close to the border

3. Took backing off of label and applied to opposite 
side of candle from the original label

4. Inexpensive personalized little gift

At a baby shower I was co-hosting, I used the same clear
mailing label and computer technique to add personalization
to some vases. I used the sides of the Dollar Tree tall 
square vases as the "border" for the faux glass etching. wet hands smudged off some of the
 "Caroline" text on the label on the smaller vase.

When Baby Caroline was actually born on August 28th
 I took a replacement vase with a new and improved 
faux etched glass vase to the hospital for her. 
The shipping labels are about $1.50 each so I tried to get as many labels on the sheet as possible.

1. Compose labels on computer and print out on 
"clear" full sheet shipping labels (from office supply).

2. Cut out name (close to edging as possible)
from printed shipping label. 

3. Take backing off of trimmed shipping label
and press onto glass vase smoothing out any wrinkles

4. Place flowers in embellished vase. Label is
not water-proof...don't get water on it. 
Caroline...Isn't she lovely...Isn't she beautiful!?

An advantage of these faux etched glass labels is that they
can be placed on vases, etc. for a party but then peeled 
off so the vases can be used again for another occasions.

DIY Striped Table Runners
Another project that I did for Caroline's baby shower was 
table runners to go over the restaurant's table cloths to try to
bring out more of our color scheme which was pink and green.

You can use this same technique to make runners in 
the colors of your choice to go with your party's theme.

White burlap was used for these was very 
inexpensive...$3 per yard...three yards were used to make
two runners so they were about $4.50 each before adding
cost for craft paint and masking tape (which was very little).

1. Cut material the size you want. These runners are about
9 feet long and 22 inches wide before ironing and hemming.

2. Press masking (or painter's) tape along the edge of where
you want the stripes to be. Measuring is recommended.

3. Use acrylic or craft paint to paint the stripes between the
taped lines. Get most of the paint off of the brush before
painting so that it will not "bleed" under the tape.

4. Take the tape off to reveal your stripes. 

Testing the runner out at my house before the baby shower. 

At the actual baby shower we made a change in plans and
used both runners end-to-end on the pushed together tables.
In hindsight I wish I had taken time to rearrange the restaurant's table cloths
so we would have all the same pattern underneath the runner.

Groups of three vases were placed along the runner.

To see more details on how to make table runners, click on "Table Runners Add Pizazz".

Using both the runners on the eating table left the cupcake
table with only the restaurant's black tablecloth :(  .

I was so happy that I had purchased the paper flower-looking
cupcake holders at Michael's. They made my fairly ordinary
cupcakes look extra special. I recommend them. 

Summer Home Decorations
For the last three summers I have done lots of summer
decorating but this year I had to scale that back.

The dining room got some of my favorite summer items.
The urn holds a collection of DIY starfish, Dollar Tree plastic
starfish and seahorses painted white and some real starfish too.

Artificial candles that come on automatically in the evening
sit in apothecary jars on a base of collected seashells.

The antique hutch dresser that I finally got up enough nerve
to paint a few summers ago holds DIY seafans, DIY coral,
seashells and all kinds of starfish. 

The frame above the buffet holds a reproduction antique
 scientific seashell print. The print was attached to foam core
with spray adhesive so it does not need glass over it (which
to me sometimes has annoying glare).

The faux buoys were found on the clearance aisle in 
Hobby Lobby and repainted with DIY chalk paint.
The amber fishing floats also came from Hobby Lobby.

The kitchen got minimal summer decorating too.
Mostly just summer sayings on DIY chalkboards.
R.W.E. stands for Ralph Waldo Emerson...I ran out of room to write that long name. 

I don't know who wrote this quote...sorry.
This upcycled frame has been the center of attention on the
kitchen table this summer surrounded by frogs and orchids.

These glorious orchids have been blooming like crazy for
over a month. They were only $10 each at the grocery store.

The leaves on this orchid plant are healthy looking. 
While we are waiting for it to bloom again, I stuck a 
stem of artificial orchid flowers in the dirt and tied it
onto the original stem to brighten this kitchen corner.

A Summer-into-Fall project is repainting one of our bedrooms.
We are empty nesters and that room rarely has anyone 
sleeping in it although we do have a sleeper sofa in there.
I'm planning on putting a gallery of pieces on the wall above the sofa...some of those pieces are pictured.

I'm tired of the gold/green/red combo and want to go with
the fresher color combo of red and turquoise. I had a hard 
time deciding on the right color (not my strong suit).

Another project for that room will be stenciling fabric
to make curtains.

My husband is even letting me paint his wooden 
bookcases in that room white! 

Hopefully I will finish that room soon and not keep it a 
secret for as long as I have my summer projects!

May 24, 2015

A Fine Feathered Living Room

At this time of year where I live, we see all types of birds
hatching and nurturing their little babies. It is so fun to watch
them grow. One mama cardinal made a nest outside our
window recently, laid her eggs and now is busy all day
feeding the little hatchlings.
Can you see the tufts of feathers on their heads? They look like little Muppets. 

All the aviary activity around here made me want to get my
collection of nests and (not real) birds out of the attic again.
It has been four years since I made a vignette with them.
It was one of my first blog posts.
It is called Springtime Nesting .
Click on above highlighted link to take you to that blog post.

I've also added more bird-related items since that time
to my stash in the attic. As I was getting everything out
and placing it in the living room, I ended up making a few
more things to add to the bird/feather theme going on. 

Here's one of the living room in it's feathered finery...

...and the console on the other side.
The console was a flea market find that my husband and I refinished.

Let's start the close-up tour there.

The birds (all greenish but not matched perfectly) are nesting
on top of repainted clearance-aisle Hobby Lobby candlesticks.

They are sitting in front of framed chicken wire that is 
easy to change out seasonally.

Sometimes the framed chicken wire has lots of items on
it but I kept it pretty simple this time around with feather
garlands* and a Bible verse printed out on burlap*.

(Some folks like to see how things in the photos are made
and some don't. At the end of the post, I have more 
details about how some of the items in the living room
were done...they will be marked with an asterisk*.
If you only want to see the living room and not the
details, you can click away before the end of the post.)

The focal point of the room is the mantle and bookcases.
The log slices in the fireplace box aren't real. To see how they are made click .DIY Wood Slices.

The mantle arrangement is centered around a print

In keeping with the "painting's" green and white look, vases
and florals in the same tones were added to the mantle. 

A trick that I like to use to make the artificial flowers seem
more real is to use real greenery. To keep the greenery fresh
 for the longest time possible, you need to use wet floral foam.*

Did you notice the birds on the urn? I've had those urns
for years. They were a great but dark color. 
I finally decided to paint them* for this mantle vignette.

I'm happy to see my green ceramic bird pair again.
I had almost forgotten about them. 

The lounge chair got a feather-embellished pillow* and
the bookcases had bird-related items added also. 

On the very top shelf is one of the tops to the urns on 
the mantle. I did have some (not real) birds in the cages but they 
looked sad all caged up so I opened the doors and let them free.

Next to the double bookcases is the sofa area.

A collection of $1 wooden birdhouses (some older, some new)
were painted with acrylic paints and placed on a wood and
wire tiered tray from World Market to sit on the coffee table.

The sofa has bird/feather themed pillows*.

On the linen-covered side table sits our tiny collection of 
magnifying glasses and a trio of birds. 

Thanks so much for taking time to tour my fine feathered
living room! Probably should'a/could'a/would'a been 
earlier in the Spring but that is my life at this point. 
Honestly, I probably will let my Summer shells, sea fans,
starfish, etc. take a break this summer and I'll enjoy the birds.

Here are some behind the scene details if you care to see...

Actually all of the pillows in the room turned out to be
double-sided. I found out that if a turned a Christmas
pillow around, I could put strips of feathers on it, a
needlepoint pillow can display a feather garland on the
back and a newly made pillow can have two faces. 

Having hoarder tendencies, I could not resist these packs
of feathers attached to bias tape that were marked down
 to $1 each (who knows how many years ago). 
 Yeah! I finally get to use them.  Don't tell that
 the pillow says "Noel" in sequins on the other side. 

The strips were easy to hand stitch onto the pillow in
a grid design. 

The larger pillows on the sofa took more time.
A yard and a half of fabric that has been waiting for years to
be made into a pillow came out of the attic to be the base
for a bird-themed stencil design pillow. 

Already had the 22" pillow form and used a scrap left
over from the linen cover on the side table to stencil.
Pictured also above is more of the feathers on bias strip but I decided not to use it on this pillow. 

The stencil of birds was fairly small. By replicating it and
turning it over (after cleaning and drying it well), I was
able to design a pattern to make the linen center of the 
pillow interesting. 

The foam spouncers that I bought were a little hard to work
with on the small stencil. I ended up just using a small
 regular paint brush for the stenciling.

To keep the original intent I had bought the botanical fabric
for, I decided on one of the plants to feature for one side
of the pillow. I went on and cut that out of the fabric.

Two more sides of the pillows were cut out to attach the
stenciled linen to. As long as they were big enough, the
design that the linen would be stitched to would not matter.

A small hem was ironed around the edge of the stenciled linen.
Then it was pinned in the center of  one of the
 "unimportant" panels of the pillow and sewn close to the edge. 

Right sides of the pillow were pinned together and joined with
about 1/2" seam, leaving a fairly large opening in the 
bottom of the pillow to insert the pillow form. 

The bottom of the pillow was hand stitched closed after 
the pillow form was inserted. I didn't worry too much about
making the stitches small since I may take the form out
sometime during the year and use it for another season. 

Here is the bird side of the pillow...

...and the botanical side of the pillow to use another time. 

The back of a needle pointed pillow became the base
for a garland of feathers.

The garland was made from twine and a feather boa 
purchased back in 2004 (never used but has fallen apart).
These look like fancy chicken feathers to me.
If you don't happen to have a falling-apart feather boa, you can buy feathers at the craft stores. 

Feathers were glued one by one onto the twine.
It was much quicker than I thought it was going to be. 

The four skimpier feather garlands were used on the
chicken wire frame display. The thicker garland (feathers
 glued closer together) was used on the pillow. 

After the glue dried and the feathers were secure, the twine
holding the feathers was stitched onto the pillow back.

A few more feathers were added to cover the worst stitches.
Another piece of twine was tied into a bow on each end of 
the twine to give it a finishing touch. A stitch was also
needed on the bow to keep it from drooping. 

The feather garland could easily be cut off if needed. 

The other four garlands were tied in a similar manner on
the chicken wire.

Feathers were also glued onto small clothespins to 
attach the Bible verses to the chicken wire. 

There are plenty on tutorials about how to print on burlap
from your home computer. I have not tried them. I did
see this pack of pre-prepared burlap pieces ready to 
run through a computer at Walmart. The sheets were 
only $1 each (3 in a pack) so I gave them a try. 

I designed printables in PicMonkey to use.
The sheets were very easy to use and turned out great.

Here are the printables if you want to print either of
these Bibles verses on the paper of your choice.
If you need help in knowing how to download
and print these, click on this blog post...

Changing the color of the bird urns took longer than 
I thought it would. I like these urns just like they are
from the store (maybe Kirklands? many moons ago).

The problem was that I tend to not use dark colors in
the Spring and Summer and I tend to not use birds
in the Fall and Winter so the urns were seldom used. 
I think the other top is somewhere in the attic. 

To paint the urns I used two colors of  "Americana Chalky
Finish" paint available at crafts stores. The first coat was
"Everlasting" white. 

The second coat was the tan color (didn't have a name on it).

To make all the the pretty details on the urns stand out more,
I also added some "diluted" dark wax when the painted dried.

To me, the dark wax on its own it too dark (especially on
light pieces) so I now use a ratio of about 1/4 dark wax
to 3/4 clear wax. It is still dark but it is easier to work with.
Just mash the two waxes together with a plastic fork.

To get the wax into all of the tiny crevices, I used an old
paint brush to put the wax on. Then I wiped it down with 
a white soft rag to remove some of the wax. 

Because I used real greenery with fake flowers, I needed to 
put soaked floral foam for fresh flowers in the containers.

Because the urns were pretty deep, I put a saucer down inside
of them to hold up the foam and not have to use so much.
One brick of foam was cut up to use for five little vases
and another one was split for the urns. It is very easy to cut.

If you keep the foam wet, you will probably only need to 
replace the real greenery once a week. 

One place that I used floral foam for dried or silk flowers
is to help secure a twig for birds to perch on. 

A piece of foam was cut to fit inside a pot holding up a
skinny chicken wire cage. Then a twig was inserted into
 the foam. The birds were wired onto the twig
 (they come with wires on their bottoms or feet) 
and the cage was carefully wiggled down over them. 

The birds on the twig are for some reason called
"mushroom birds". I googled to find out why they are called
that but I did not find a good explanation. The are usually
available in the floral section of craft stores. 

Another place that I used mushroom birds was in a 
row of nests on a bookcase shelf. 

Some of the nests that I had were so flat and skimpy that
I stacked them up to make them look better. Some
feathers were also added to hide the stacking up trick.

Back at the end of Fall, World Market marked these nests
way down to clear them out. I started to pull the slightly
Fall-ish ferns off of them but then I decided not to.

They also got a skimpy nest added to their center to 
elevate the birds I used in them a little more.

Wow! If you stayed till the end of this post, you are a 
trooper! Have a wonderful Memorial Day!

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