Friday, October 30, 2015

Pumpkin Party, 2015

Last weekend was my sister's annual family Pumpkin Party. It was great fun, as always. Last year's Disney theme worked out so well that we'd decided to do it again. 

See if you can guess what I made. The very first thing I did was to paint eyeballs on two identical pumpkins.



Then I trimmed paper bowls and painted them red. I poked Twisteezwire down through the top and attached a yellow craft foam flag to each. I poked several lengths of orange pipe cleaner into each pumpkin. Now can you guess?
 
Here's the big reveal! Do you recognize them?



It's Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, from Alice in Wonderland!


Do you recognize Trevor's character?



It's Heimlich, the caterpillar from A Bug's Life who loves candy corn.


As usual, everyone blew us away with their creativity. Somehow, even with both Steve and me taking pictures, we didn't get photos of most of the pumpkins. My nephew, Timothy, made a gravity-defying Rapunzel's tower that was really cool. 

Three of my sister's neighbors came over to judge our creations. They got scorecards with points for creativity, carving, and for using the theme. After the scores were totaled, there was a tie! This has never happened before in 12+ years of Pumpkin Parties. Congrats to ....

Sherri! (She's my sister's mother-in-law.) She made this gorgeous representation of the fireworks at Disneyland. Pictures can't begin to capture how cool it was. 
 
And sharing the title of winner... Dave! (my dad). He made "Mickey's Revolving Message Fun Wheel." If you look carefully, the small pumpkins spell out a message (Happy birthday Timothy). Unfortunately, I photographed it before he removed the paint cans that were supporting the main pumpkin while he was drilling it and apparently I didn't go back and take a proper photo afterward. I'm hoping some other family members did.

 
As has become tradition, we spent the last few minutes of the party discussing the theme for next year's event. The consensus was for the theme to be Holidays. I don't have an idea yet, but I'm sure something will come to me in the next 11.5 months.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

A Surprise Inside an Ice Cream Sundae

If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you know how giddy I get about creating gifts for my nephew, Timothy. When he was around 12, I stopped buying him gifts and instead came up with clever ways to give him money. I'm always trying to dream up new ideas. For his 15th birthday, I gave him this:



Look at his grin. He knows there is money hidden inside, but it's not readily apparent where it is. Allison, age 2, is licking her lips. She hasn't caught on yet that it's not actually an ice cream sundae. 



Timothy gently pulled the 'whipped cream' off the top and looked under it. Nothing. Then he gently tore it apart. A quarter! And some more! Each part of the sundae, including the 'chocolate sauce', had coins hidden inside. The straw was the big ticket item, as it had a $20 curled up inside it. 


So how did I make a money-filled faux sundae? Crayola's Model Magic!


If you're not familiar with it, you should rush out and buy some. It's lightweight, air-dry clay that is really easy to mix and shape. I've been a fan for years, though I think this is the first time I've blogged about it. I'll have to show you more of how you can use Model Magic in a future post, because it really is super cool. 

Incidentally, this post is not sponsored by Crayola, nor did I receive anything for free. I bought the Model Magic and am gushing about it since it is a great product. I'm totally open to working with Crayola and receiving free Model Magic and other Crayola products and blogging about them though. (Hint, hint, Crayola marketing team...)

Anyway, here's how I made the sundae.

Materials: Model Magic (white, green, brown, black and red), waxed paper, one bendy straw, Twisteezwire (green and brown), money

I began by mixing several packets of white with one packet of green to create a minty color. I pressed it out flat on a paper plate, then put some coins inside and gathered it into a ball. That's when I discovered that working on a paper plate is not ideal. So don't do that. Use waxed paper or a craft mat instead.

 
Continue until you have three scoops of ice cream. Mix some black and brown Model Magic to create a brown that looks like dark chocolate. Use a fingernail to pull tiny, irregular bits of clay, then roll the green scoop over the bits. They'll stick immediately. 

 
Take the remaining dark brown clay and flatten it to make freeform globs of hot fudge. There's space to embed a few coins in it.  

Use plain white Model Magic to form a ball with coins inside, then gently twist it to form the whipped cream. Press it down carefully on the waxed paper to flatten the bottom and give it a realistic look. Set it aside. 

Next, use red Model Magic to make a cherry. I didn't have any red on hand, so I used some of the brown and painted it red after it dried. I would have preferred not to have the extra dry-time, but not enough to make a special trip to the store when I had red paint and brown clay on hand. Cut a 2" piece of green Twisteezwire and a 1" piece of brown. Twist the brown tightly around one end of the green to make a cherry stem. Poke it into the clay cherry.

Roll up paper money and push it into the straw, leaving enough sticking out so that it can easily be removed.

 
Let all the pieces air-dry at least one day. The larger ice cream scoops and the whipped cream will take much longer to dry than the chocolate sauce. Here are all the components of my sundae (including the not-yet-painted cherry).


When all the pieces are dry, layer them in a glass sundae jar. The gift is ready!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Crazy Sock Day

It's Red Ribbon Week here in the United States. Red Ribbon Week is an annual event to teach kids how important it is to stay drug-free. 


Trevor's school celebrates each year with a week of spirit days. Monday was Crazy Sock Day. Trevor planned to wear one white athletic sock and one black dress sock (the only types of socks he currently owns). That didn't seem very crazy to me, so I suggested we make our own crazy socks for him to wear. 

When we went to Trevor's cousin's soccer game last weekend, I brought along two of Trevor's white socks and a bunch of pens so that we could make crazy socks during halftime. I'd meant to grab the Sharpies, so I was surprised when we got to the soccer field and I had Prismacolor art markers in my tote instead of Sharpies. Oops. 

I put the socks on a clipboard on my lap where Trevor and I could both reach them. I made colorful polka dots on one sock while Trevor put stripes on the other.

 
It hardly took any time at all to finish. The Prismacolors worked just as well as Sharpies would have. 


Trevor got a lot of compliments on his homemade crazy socks. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Magazine Scavenger Hunt

Some of the best kids' crafts are those that use materials you already have on hand. For example, old magazines. And you know how I love a scavenger hunt! Magazine + scavenger hunt + art project = fun!!

Materials: kid-friendly magazine, white paper, scissors and glue. (Letter stickers or a pen to write letters are optional.) 



For my scavenger hunt, I used Food Network Magazine. Others, like Birds and Blooms, Taste of Home, and Family Fun, are also excellent choices with beautiful photography. While they are not specifically FOR children, I know that there are no objectionable ads or articles that might be in other seemingly-innocuous magazines. I learned that the hard way many years ago when someone donated a pile of perfectly innocent-looking magazines to my classroom that had PG-13 rated advice columns, articles and ads. Sigh.

Anyway, the goal of the project is to find a picture of one item for each letter from A to Z. As you find it, tear it out and set it aside. Then, cut each item neatly and arrange it on the white paper to make a collage. 



I didn't glue anything down until I'd found all 26 items. You can see some differences between the work-in-progress above and the one below. 



When I'd found all the items, I glued them in place. Can you identify each item from A to Z?

 
Here they are with their letter stickers in place. That makes it a bit easier. 

 
Check your answers! You should have found: apples, bread, corn, donut, egg, float, grapes, hamburger, ice cream, jalapeño, kiwi, lime, mushroom, nacho, orange, popcorn, quinoa, ribs, salad, Triscuits, unsweetened chocolate (a little creative license there), vinegar, watermelon, xtra-virgin olive oil (more creative license), yogurt, and zucchini. 

Give it a try!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Glue-Resist Spiderweb

The inspiration for today's project came from this gorgeous watercolor by Kirsten Bailey. She used a masking liquid and watercolors for her spiderweb art. I used completely different materials. Can you guess what they are?



Materials #1 and 2 are watercolor paper and white glue. Use the glue to draw a freehand spiderweb pattern on the paper. Let the glue dry overnight.

 
Use a cotton ball to apply chalk over the dried glue. I used two blues and a purple.



Cut a spider silhouette from black cardstock and glue it on the web. That's all there is to it!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Sympathy Cards

I had to make sympathy cards this week. For obvious reasons, they are my least favorite types of cards. I don't know why, but I almost always pull out stamps when making sympathy cards. This time, I designed a card with pale grey butterflies on a cream background, surrounding a black sentiment. I used the same stamp set and a similar technique as on this card, but the results are completely different. 



Spending the time to fussy cut all those butterflies was actually very therapeutic. I'm not able to attend the memorial service, so it gave me a chance to reflect and honor someone who will be dearly missed by many. 

 
I think part of the reason why I don't have a stockpile of sympathy cards is that making them is a way of focusing on that person's life and all the loved ones left behind. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Bunny in a Box

Cats are famous for sitting in boxes, but rabbits love boxes too. If there's a box around, regardless of the size, you can pretty much guarantee Trouble will be in it. One of my all-time favorite photos of Trouble is the one of him squeezed into an empty Kleenex box. He naps in his pear box and plays in his digging box (which formerly held copy paper and currently holds an old phone book for him to shred). Whenever we empty a box, we put it out for Trouble. Within minutes, he's in it.



This layout makes me smile. Silly rabbit.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Microwave Popcorn Halloween Characters

I've had popcorn on my mind recently. October is National Popcorn Poppin' Month, which means I've been busy over at Fun Family Crafts finding and featuring the very best of the many popcorn crafts and activities. It is also the end of the Cub Scouts' popcorn selling season. Of course, nobody had to twist my arm to support our Scout by buying some popcorn! This year, we tried the microwave kettle corn for the first time. It's darn good! The box has 18 packages in it, so I *might* have snuck some of the packages out of the box and into the craft room to transform into Halloween critters and characters.


They are so quick and easy to make that it wouldn't take much time at all to decorate all 18 packages.

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Spider

Wrap a package of microwave popcorn with a piece of black cardstock. Cut four pipe cleaners in half and bend them to form eight legs. Glue the legs to the inside of the cardstock. Glue large googly eyes in place. To make the web, wrap embroidery floss or yarn around a circular shape. Add a fly made of black and white cardstock.




Skull

Wrap a package of microwave popcorn with a piece of white cardstock. Cut eyes, nose and a mouth from black cardstock and glue into place. Cut small rectangles from white cardstock to use as teeth and glue them in place. 




Mummy

Wrap a package of microwave popcorn with a piece of white cardstock. Tape one end of a piece of gauze or cheesecloth to the cardstock. Wrap it around the popcorn, overlapping each layer slightly. Tuck the end in. Separate the cheesecloth slightly where the eyes belong, then glue large googly eyes in place.

 

Jack o' Lantern

Wrap a package of microwave popcorn with a piece of orange cardstock. Cut black cardstock to make eyes, a nose and a mouth. Cut green cardstock to make a stem. Glue all the pieces in place.

 

Frankenstein

To see how I made the Frankenstein, head over to Fun Family Crafts where I'm sharing the tutorial. While you're there, check out the hundreds of other Halloween crafts we have!



I love Halloween!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Happy 5th Birthday, Trouble!

Trouble turned five last week. That morning, Trevor announced that his new favorite number is five. It was four before that and three the previous year. He is confident that his favorite number will always be Trouble's age. He adores that rabbit. We do, too.

For Trouble's previous birthdays, we've made a variety of rabbit-safe treats following other people's recipes. This time, Trevor and I decided to make up our own recipe. After four years with Trouble, we have a good idea of which foods are rabbit-safe, which should be given in moderation, and which should never be given.  

 
We started by mashing half of a very-ripe banana. Then we added about 2 T. of ground up pellets, some hay dust and small bits from the bottom of the hay container, about 1 tsp. of dried peach and pineapple chopped into tiny bits, and a tiny dash of cinnamon. 



After it was thoroughly combined, we formed the dough into six cookies and baked them at 200° for about 20 minutes, flipping them once.
 
You can bake them longer to allow more time to dry out if you prefer, but we wanted them soft and moist. We're storing them in the refrigerator since they aren't fully dried. Here's a finished bunny cookie:



So how did the birthday boy like them? I'd say he was a fan.


Trouble is a medium-sized rabbit (six pounds), so he can have one of these cookies a day. Smaller rabbits should have less, obviously. And this takes the place of other treats for the day.

Happy birthday, Trouble!

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Diverse Offerings from My Creative Life

When I first decided to start my own blog back in early 2011, I wanted to come up with a name that would accurately reflect what exactly I do as a creative person. I was imagining a blog that would primarily be about my scrapbooking, with the occasional kids' craft or themed party thrown in. And cards, of course, and maybe some homemade gifts. Oh, and the recipes I make up. Halloween costumes. Decorated cakes. Piñatas! It became apparent that I needed a name that would encompass ALL of my creative life. And thus, the title was born.

From the beginning, My Creative Life has been about all the various things I do that I consider to be creative. But a lot has changed since early 2011, and I feel like my blog has become even more diverse than I originally intended. For example, I didn't anticipate sharing the creative things I've done as a Cub Scout leader, as I didn't have any idea back then that I'd ever even be a Cub Scout leader! I didn't plan to share Trevor's creativity in the form of his school projects, but he reflects the creative atmosphere in which we've raised him, so it's a natural fit for the blog. I think so, anyway. I certainly didn't expect to be blogging about rabbits, as I didn't know then that we'd be adopting Trouble.

A Twinkee narwhal? No way to predict that!


A "knitting kit" for my then-13 year old nephew? Couldn't have guessed.


Pinewood Derby cars? I'd barely even heard of that back in early 2011.


A six-course meal with each course featuring potatoes? Definitely out of place on a scrapbooking blog.


In fact, what I'd originally conceived as a scrapbooking blog only features scrapbooking about 10% of the time. And the other 90% is all over the place. In other words, it spans my entire creative life, not just the papercrafting portion.

Most of the blogs I read are far more focused than mine. I read scrapbooking blogs, kids' craft blogs, food blogs, cake decorating blogs, rabbit blogs, and Cub Scout blogs. Mine is all of those. It's reflected in my audience. I don't have all that many people who read every single one of my posts because, frankly, who but my closest friends and family could possibly care about such a diverse set of interests? (And most of them are just being polite.) But there are a lot of people (about 20,000 a month) who find some of my topics interesting enough to check out.

I wonder if I'd have better readership if my blog were more focused. The house rabbit people who stumble across my blog probably don't care about Cub Scout meetings. The person who needs an Angry Birds piñata most likely doesn't care about scrapbook pages featuring gardening. I guess it doesn't really matter, because I like sharing a wide variety of topics and I'm not going to stop.

You may be wondering what prompted this topic. It's a combination of things. I'm bringing on someone to help with monetizing the blog (more on this later) and am starting the process of designing a new logo, header, and business cards. In the process, I've been going over the analytics with a fine-tooth comb and identifying what is working (and what isn't) about my blog as it stands.

That, and Trevor and I made up our own recipe for bunny cookies today, featuring ingredients such as ground up pellets, hay dust, and mushy banana. (What did I say about my blog being all over the place?) I'll share the recipe tomorrow.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Frank Spork

I'm not sure why, but we've collected a number of black sporks recently. We get takeout soup in sourdough bread bowls from Boudin as often as Steve and Trevor will let me, which ends up being once every two months or so. I could eat it every meal of every day. Anyway, I think that might be the source of the sporks. I've been tucking them in the back of the silverware drawer. I probably should put them directly into the craft room, because when I got a spoon out for cereal this morning, my brain saw the spork and immediately envisioned this: 



Well, not immediately. Apparently my brain thought Frankenstein is quite thin and dapper, as my first draft looked like this:



I wasn't sure if Frank was supposed to have green hands or not, so I avoided the problem by putting his hands behind his back. That, along with the wide 1970's lapel, just isn't quite right. But it makes me laugh.

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Here's how to make the more monster-like, non-dapper version of Frank Spork.

Materials: black spork, tape, gesso, green paint, googly eyes, black Sharpie, scissors, black cardstock, grey cardstock, green cardstock, craft glue, glue dots

1. Tape off the tines of the spork so that they remain black. Put a thin coat of gesso onto the face area of the spork. I used my finger and it was dry by the time I'd washed my hands. Paint the face green.

2. While the face is drying, make the clothes. Cut the grey cardstock into a rectangle for the shirt and into two tiny bolts. Then cut a long rectangle, double the length of the spork handle. Cut a deep V for the jacket, then fold the paper in half. 

3. Cut pants and lapels from black cardstock. The ones pictured below are from my original Dapper Frank. For the improved version, I just layered a wider suit jacket (with smaller lapels) on top of the existing one.



4. Cut hands (green) and feet (black). Glue everything in place using craft glue. Add a few glue dots along the surface of the spork handle to help hold it in place while it dries. 

5. Draw a mouth with Sharpie. 

Now you have your own Frank Spork! And now I'm craving soup in a sourdough bread bowl again...

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Pie Crust Calzone

I like to cook and bake. For a long time, I would have said that my specialty was breadbaking (note to self to blog that portion of Memory Lane, which I still haven't done), but now I'd say my specialty is combining random leftovers from the fridge to make a quick and tasty dinner. I do that pretty often.

I had some leftover pie crust, but not enough for a 2-crust pot pie or similar entree, so I decided to make a calzone. They're usually made with pizza dough, not pie crust, but there's no reason it wouldn't be delicious, right? Right. I spread some leftover spaghetti sauce on the pie crust, dug around in the refrigerator and freezer and came up with a single slice of cooked bacon, one slice of ham, a bit of leftover pineapple. I diced everything and put it on the half of the pie crust, along with shredded mozarella, shredded parmesan, and some basil from our garden.


I moistened the edges of the dough, folded the empty side over the full size, and crimped the edges. I cut three slits in the top, then baked it at 425° for about 20 minutes.


When the calzone is lightly browned, remove it from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes. Slice along the slits and serve!


The verdict? Delicious!