Monday, October 22, 2012

Halloween 2012: Circus!

Hi there!  I have LOTS of fun Halloween stuff to post, and I hope you all enjoy it.

The pictures aren't in any particular order because I am still not very good at this whole blogging thing, so this may seem a little scattered.  Aaaaanyway, the theme this year was Circus/carnival, and I had alot of fun with this one.  I tried to go a little vintage, and included a 'cabinet of curiosities', 'kinda like a freak show corner.

 That was alot of fun... filling the jars with yucky things, and having a place for all my miss-matched Halloween stuff.  We played a guessing game for the candy you see there, and whoever guessed the closest the the actual number won the candy jar.  We had some great guessing... or maybe I'm just really bad at it, so everyones guessing seems very accurate.

 This is me, working on the food.  I was a tattooed lady, and Doug was a tattooed man.  It was alot of fun, and I learned that fake tattoos come off with clear scotch tape... WAY easier than scrubbing with mineral oil. 
I made home-made corndogs for dinner and fried them fresh (thank you Lisa for the fryer!).  They were SO SO good.  I think everyone really enjoyed them.  Also had people bring a lot of typical circus fare.... Pretzels, taffy, popcorn, doughnuts, candied nuts, peanuts, apples... it was all really really tasty.
 I spent some time on a directional sign... it wasn't specifically Circus, but I spent so much time on it I didn't want to limit it to one year.  Which will seem silly when you see the things I DID do for just this one year... *sigh*.
Anyway, my awesome mom cut the vinyl for the names, and I painted the backgrounds.  They are made of particle board that I cut using my circular saw, and the stand I made from scraps around the garage.  Not bad, hu?  I also tend to collect miss matched lanterns, and found a good use for them.  I like the turnout!  Doug is afraid it'll be vandalized or stolen off the front porch, but I figure it's too heavy and awkward to try to get away with it... but I guess we'll see!
 We ended up not really using the props for photos, but it was fun to display them anyway.  I used black cardstock to make and cutout props to hold up for photos, and found this really cool sign online (and now I don't remember where, sorry!).  It fit perfectly with the theme, and I had fun putting that together. 
 We played doughnuts on a string, and I laugh every time I see this pictures.  We only played two rounds, not everyone was up for snarfing a doughnut, but these guys were, and it was too funny to watch, we all cheered for them by the end. 

 Ok, so like I said, I did end up doing something crazy for just a one time use, and here they are.  I made photo board cut-outs for the pictures this year.  Just used particle board and painted it using acrylic.  Was WAY harder than I had anticipated, and very messy, but I think they turned out great!  Really added to the ambiance, and everyone seemed to like them. 
 I used my jig saw to cut out the faces, and let me tell you, I was SO scared I was gonna totally ruin them.  Luckily, that part was easier than anticipated, and they came out smoothly. 
And here is my awesome dad, winning the first round of doughnut on a string.  I wanted to show a play-by-play, I just love the faces he made. 
Anyway, I really enjoyed this year's party, I think it was one of the better ones by far.  
So any good ideas for next year?  I'm leaning towards Zombies...

Friday, March 2, 2012

Butterfly Effect

So a friend of mine has just adopted a sweet baby girl they named Millicent Jane.  I don't have a picture of her (sorry), but I have some not-as-cute-as-her pictures of the cupcakes I've made for the shower. 
I saw this post on one of my FAVORITE blogs:
Please keep in mind hers are professional quality, and mine are not.... I did this all with ziplock bags and a fork.
Anyway, They ended up looking fantastic, and I wanted to show you all how I did it.

 I did a bing search of butterfly clip art until I found a simple shape I liked.  I messed with it a little in Powerpoint (love that program) and printed off a stencil. 
 Using wax paper over the outline, I piped melted chocolate onto pieces of wax paper, 
 I had melted the color I wanted to use (pink for the picture) in a double boiler, and used a spoon to dollop/drip a small amount into each wing section. 
 Using a tooth pick I spread out the colored chocolate to the edges of the wings.
 Here I actually closed off the wing outline on the inside as opposed to leaving the wing 'open' if you will as I did above.  I prefer the fully closed outline to the 'open' one.
 Then I used another toothpick to swirl the two chocolates together.  It became easily muddled, so I had to be careful that I didn't just make a muddy-looking mess.
 Then I sprinkled small white nonparleils (yes, that is how you spell nonparleil) onto the outside edges of the wings.  I learned the hard way that this all needs to be done before the chocolate starts to harden at all... So I could only do about 6 at a time just for safety's sake.
 I Then also made a bunch of antennae with my remaining brown chocolate. 
 So... Then came assembly.  I had done wings in purple, pink and orange, and I made matching buttercream frostings for each.  I used a star tipped nozzle on my ziploc bags for a little more fancy texture, but there were a ton of was to go with this.  If you're good at frosting you could even make a  flower for each, and green leaves around the edges, or just use white for all of it... *shrug*.
Anyway, I used two chocolate chips laid flat-side-in to help prop up the wings (bottom cupcake).  Then I placed the wings in at an angle (3rd row).  Finally I put the body on (2nd row) and the antennae (top cupcake).  I had some extra chocolate after doing the wings and antennae, so I messed around with some body shapes.  In the original post, the blogger used chocolate frosting for the body... I just didn't want to waste the chocolate, so I figured I'd get creative.
 So here is another angle of the assembly so you can see how the chips are placed better.  They really were necessary, without them the wings 'wilted' quickly.
 And here are the finished cakes.  I'm SO excited to display them on a few cake stands... tee hee hee...
 BTW, I invested in a cupcake-carrier.  I figured I make cupcakes often enough and have to jimmy-rig some sort of transportation system that ends up failing more often than not, so it was worth the money.  Plus it was on clearance :)
Jasper just about had a conniption when I told him he couldn't have one... but he got PLENTY of frosting off the beater I let him have. 
 So there you go.  It was alot of work, and frustrating for a perfectionist like me when I don't have the skill or the supplies and tools to make it look like it does in my head, but I am still pretty pleased!  Hope she likes them!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Giveaway and a plug... I'm shameless...

Hello all 4 of you who read this blog :)
My sister is featuring my art on her blog and holding a give-away for a custom piece.  I'd love it if you'd head over there and check it out, and maybe even win something!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Yo-Ho Mateys Away

I need to do a little baby-boy-bragging.  I haven't posted in forever, and I have a stockpile of cute pics of my boys and need to share.  So here we go :)
 Finn got a new swing, and here he is trying it out.  He liked it... I think... and Jasper loved that his brother could now 'swing-a-me'. 
 Here is your typical Jasper.  Bumps, bruises, scrapes, messy hair, dirty shirt and big smile.  Love that kid.
 I have to say it.... Could he be ANY cuter?
 Jasper has this habit of climbing on our clean cloths pile we put on our bed after they come out of the dryer.  Don't get me wrong, I totally get it.  They smell good, they're warm, but I have NO chance of waking him up to put it away.  Gee, what a bummer, I guess I'll have to wait to do the laundry...
Oh, don't worry, I briefly scanned the picture for unmentionables.  There aren't any :)
 Ok, ok, one more time.  Seriously now, could he be any cuter?
 I just realized that Jasper is wearing the exact same outfit as he is in the previous swinging picture.  I assure you, this is a totally different day.  In fact, you can see this is before I put up the baby swing... there's the other bar and handles hanging next to him.  At least I'm consistent?
 Whenever I'm taking pictures of my art, Jasper says 'picture-a-me?'.  Here is one such picture.  Just woke up and in his jammies... I love it.
 Another bath picture.  Putting aside that Jasper is posing like a model, these are my two squeaky clean boys.  Finn REALLY has to have that toothbrush in his hand when he's in the bath.  Jasper took it once and Finn freaked out.  Like really had a huge melt-down.  So now I have 2 toothbrushes in the bathtub.  One for Finn, and one for J. 
Here's my pirate king, fast asleep in the car.  I know the picture is blurry, but he's just recently become very interested in pirates, and was wearing this hat when he fell asleep and I had to share.

Thanks for reading my braggy rant.  Loves,

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Music from another room

Hello Lindsay's readers! I recently worked on a very cool project that Lindsay asked me to guest post about, and I'm so excited to be doing this! I have to begin with a few disclaimers though.... *My pictures are nowhere NEAR as nice as Lindsay's (or any other blogger's for that matter)*
*No working, salvageable piano was harmed in the making of this post (this is especially important to me since I am a pianist and would never purposely dismember a working instrument)*
*I can't spell*
So, now that that's out of the way, we can begin! I began this project on accident... I was actively looking for a used piano to call my own, and we have this fantastic local website here where I live for just such used listings as I was looking for. I found a beautiful old piano for free, and was fully planning on restoring it to working order...
I somehow got the beast home (seriously, it weighed probably upwards of 800 lbs. Funny side note, it took 2 adult men, 7 teenage boys, and 2 women to lift this monster into the back of my dad's truck... no kidding) and upon closer inspection realized the soundboard (what the strings are attached to and where the sound resonates) was cracked in several places, and while the basic mechanics where all in tact, it wasn't worth the time, effort and money it would take to restore it.
Sooo.... I decided to use the keyboard and platform to make a shelf for my house!

I love the antiqued look this piano has, so I decided not to stain it or paint it, but just to leave the natural wearing. I took it apart piece by piece, and was able to get everything I needed and discovered much about the piano along the way... And left behind the shell, if you will. The picture below is an in-the-process picture of taking it apart. I set the keys on top of the piano with some of the misc. pieces, so it's a little jumbled looking, but that is the inside of an upright grand everyone!
(Another funny story... The screws that were holding the piano together had been in there for over 100 years, and were so rusted and fitted into place that I actually bent a screwdriver trying to turn them out.)

Once I had the keyboard off, I took off all of the keys (88 in case you were wondering) and began cleaning. This poor guy had been stored in a barn for upwards of 15 years, and had been sorely abused by its previous owners. It was COVERED in spider webs and dirt, and underneath all of that was a lot of crayon, scratches and carvings.
*I shake my fist in the air at injustice*
Ultimately, I was able to get it looking reasonable again.

What you see above is the keyboard base after the keys are off... each of the 88 keys uses two of those pins you see. That green felt circles there are originally to keep the keys protected against landing on bare wood and chipping or denting as you played, but I used those and a strip of green felt from the back to prop up the keys... When they aren't attached to the hammers (the felt things that smack the strings and make sound) anymore, they fall forward and can't be seen from the front, so I re-purposed some material there.

I used my dad's circular saw to cut down the base board right behind that second row of pins, taking off about 7 inches or so. You can see in that same picture some lone pieces of silver hardware in the very back... Those are gone too :)

I also have to give a shout out to my good friend Jill... She let me borrow her husband's miter saw. *drool*. This one even has a draw on it!
One day... One day I tell you... I will OWN all of these tools!

I used the miter saw to being the hair-cutting process of the keys. Each of the keys (after being scrubbed and sanded) was trimmed down to a size that would be manageable on my wall. You can see below how I cut the keys... those five on the right are un-cut and pretty darn long.

So with all the pieces cleaned and cut, I put the keyboard back together.

Below is a view from the back side of the piece, since I'm sure you all wanted to know how the back of a piano's keyboard looked... But be impressed readers! This is something you'll never see again!
The keyboard cover is 'up', and the final top piece isn't on yet, but I wanted to show off my nice even cuts using equipment way above my pay grade. And I wanted you all to admire my beautiful plastic counters.

Here is the logo on the key cover... It was luckily still very much intact, and I was so pleased that it could be appreciated.

I was able to use all the original hardware to reassemble it which made me happy, and below is the final product on my wall!
Don't ask how it got up there... I just about killed myself doing it. But it is mounted to the wall on 3 large wrought iron brackets which are screwed into studs. And let me tell you, these studs are super studly... I ended up breaking off my drill bit into the last hole. I couldn't get the leverage I needed, so I had to stand on a chair to put my weight into the drill, and torqued the bit and broke it off.
Ugh. The story of my life.

Anyway, I'm absolutely in love with it. It took ALOT of time, and a lot of dirty work, but I love the way it looks, and the style it brings into my house.

So there you go. Thanks again to Lindsay for letting me post! I really enjoyed doing this project... I don't usually do things quite so involved, but I couldn't let this piano be scrapped, and I love the end result!