Saturday, November 2, 2019

Halloween Storm-y

Supplies in hand, this year's Halloween costumes are underway. What are we supposed to be? Well, I thought it was pretty clear, but when my daughter asked if we were jellyfish, I figured we needed a thunderbolt. Yes, we are thunderclouds with lightening and rain. 

Supplies: plenty of fiberfill, umbrella hats, fairy lights with small battery included, dark tulle for lining, Mylar ribbon, and beads on a string. If you don't have a glue gun, include that on your shopping list with plenty of extra glue sticks. I bought a hot glue gun- if I had it to do again, it would be a cool temperature one. (hello burns on my fingertips) Foam core board to make some lightening bolts added after the fact.
I had plenty of help with the first cloud, Millie was most intrigued with my supplies. Not knowing how much tulle I needed, I first cut it in half and then quartered it. Since the umbrella hats were rainbow colors, I needed to camouflage it. The tulle I found was had gold glitter sparkles in the cool is that! 
Weaving and layering the strips of tulle through the spokes of the umbrella and gluing in place was pretty straight forward. 

Next step was to weave one strand of the fairy lights in the black tulle. The battery case was glued to the center post of the underside.

Flipping the umbrella over I decided to glue the fairy lights on first, to be under the cloud. The battery cases were glued at the top on either side of the white knob on top. 

Tried it on to see how it looked. You can see the lights on the underside in the black tulle and the lights on top, springing free of the glue. 

Next step was gluing the fiberfill over the lights. This fiberfill didn't come in strips or sheets but loose for packing a stuffed animal or pillow. I took small handfuls of it and glued it down, moving around the hat. If there was a gap in the fill, I would come back and either add more or glue the fill to itself.

Lights underneath

Time to glue the bead threads. I decided to glue the longest ones on the spokes of the umbrella for good spacing. Also hung strands of Mylar ribbon from the spokes and around the represent rain. Also cut a lightening bolt and glued it on the top front.

Thundercloud #1 complete

Lamps make good 'cloud stands'

Thundercloud #2 was easier to make- upstairs, away from the kitty

My craft/sewing table
Here is the underside with the battery case glued to the underside of the top. 

After trying to locate the spokes after the fiberfill was glued on the first cloud, I thought it would be easier to glue and tie on the rain streamers before the fiberfill. Also marked the front so I could get most of the rain streamers in the front and most of the lights.

Trying this one on. As Charlie is a lot taller, his rain streamers are longer. That is really the only difference between the two. You can see in the photo below I need to tuck some of the black tulle back into the hat, it shouldn't hang that long. 

Lightening bolt added........all done. We will dress in dark clothes to disappear below the clouds.

No prizes this year but lots of fun at the neighborhood party. Do you dress up for Halloween?

©Copyright 2019 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

It's Almost Halloween! Costumes, costumes, costumes.....

A number of years ago we had gone to our neighborhood Halloween party in costumes that won prizes - think it was for most creative. I shared a photo of it back in 2013 with a promise of details on how to put it together. Well, apparently I didn't follow through. As I get ready to create another costume I thought I would take a stroll down memory lane and share some of the previous costumes we have done over the years AND a 'how to' for our award winning costume. Be aware there will be lots of photos.
Nine years of costumes
And now as promised- the Martians from Sesame Street, otherwise called the Yip-Yip Monsters.

I really loved these costumes. Fun to make and not difficult. Let me say this right up front- I don't really follow patterns. Detailed directions are not my forte. I wing it quite often. I have a vision of what I want the outcome to look like and go from there. 
Luckily our local Jo-Anne fabric store was still open when I chose to make this costume. With husband in tow we went with a list :
eyes and pupils
mouths and lips
Needless to say the ladies at the fabric store were a little amused at our shopping technique. 
Body= fabric - pick whatever color flow-y fabric you like (make sure it is not see through) How much? This is where you need the person who is wearing the costume. You want it long enough to go from the knees (at least), over the head and back down to the length in the front...roughly 3-4 yards give or take. 
Eyes= Styrofoam balls big enough to have a good presence on your head. About softball size or a little smaller. Pupils were decided to be some of the leftover fabric from the mouth.
Antenna= Pipe cleaners.  Where would we be without pipe cleaners? 
Mouth and lips= The mouth needs to be thin enough to see through. The lips, or rather the working part of the formed mouth...what to use, what to use? I finally came up with a car washing sponge. 

Supplies and Safety Pins

 First dilemma was the correct placement of the eyeballs and how to keep the top of the head on the top of your head. Solution was to safety pin a baseball cap, worn backwards, to the costume material. Once the material was set on your body, longer length in the front by about a foot or so, secure the baseball cap with safety pins. Eye placement is tricky if you are trying this on your own as you can't see through the fabric. I placed my husband's eyeballs and he did mine. We chose to place the eyeballs almost on the crown of our heads. Mark the fabric accordingly. Also mark where the mouth will be. I used tape.

Inside view of baseball cap

 Cut the mouth opening after removing the costume. Always go smaller than you think is needed as you can cut more. Remember you will need to see through the mouth fabric, so cut the mouth high enough on your face so your eyes are in the mouth opening.
 Measure the black fabric with the cut portion of the body piece. Assemble and sew in place. 

 Here comes in the car wash sponge. It was large enough to be able to control the mouth and lightweight enough to not weigh down the front of the costume when not holding it. Cut in half- half for each costume. The rounded edge goes against the inside of the bottom lip.
                                                  I used fabric glue to secure the sponges in place. 

Next was gluing the Styrofoam balls and the twisted pipe cleaners for antenna. I needed to use multiple pipe cleaners twisted together to give them the heft to stay upright. It was good to glue the pipe cleaners close to the eyeballs, helping to hold them straight.  Also multiple safety pins come in handy.

 Adjust accordingly. I added the pupils to the eyeballs last. I wanted them to be facing in the right direction. To assess placement I used two camera tripods to hold up the costumes and instantly had a dining room full of personality. As with other Muppet puppets, once the eyes are complete they have so much life, so much personality.

To wear the costumes, pin the sides closed in one or two places. With hands inside the costume you can move the sponge up and down to open and close the mouth.

This costume was lots of fun to make and wear. No one knew it was us!  Give this one a try; be bold, be brave and just wing it!

©Copyright 2019 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Christmas in May and then July, Sort of...

I can't remember where or when I stumbled across a blog post about making Christmas ornaments using dried flowers and leaves from the garden, but I saved it. It was time to give it a try. I like doing  projects, especially if it is tied to the garden. Giving credit due- here is the link to the post- 

The dough takes three ingredients
1 cup baking soda
1/2 cup corn starch
3/4 cup warm water

Simply mix the dry ingredients together in a saucepan, add water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Once the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan, it is time to take off the heat. After it cools a little bit gently knead the dough to get it to its doughy consistency.

Roll it out and use a cookie cutter to make your shaped ornament.  Use a pencil or straw to make a hole for your ribbon hanger. Bake at 200 F for about an hour, until dry or leave to dry overnight (high humidity areas would be better to oven bake)

Sounds easy doesn't it? Okay, time for a few lessons learned:
  • Sprinkle corn starch on the counter top before kneading
  • Roll it out to quite thin. How thin? About 1/8th of an inch thick.
  • Use a sharp edged cookie cutter- I used a drinking glass, didn't give a real clean cut.
  • Don't bake on parchment paper, it seems to hold moisture.

In May I went into the garden looking for items to use to make the ornaments. Newly emerged leaves on my Japanese maples were great! I especially like the red ones. I also had some small violets blooming then, so I plucked some blooms and leaves from them. I knew the leaves and flowers had to be small enough to fit on the ornament, so small was best. Bringing my harvest in, I carefully set them between two sheets of parchment paper. Weighing them down with a number of hardbound books, they sat on our dining room table for a few days. After a few days I checked on them, nice and dry! I moved the dried pressed leaves and blooms upstairs, where they could remain until it was time to make the dough and apply them. One of my daughters and son in laws come to stay for the majority of July, so I waited to do the rest with her.

Fast forward to July- we made the dough, rolled out the dough, cut the dough into ornament shape and dried them. It was time to gather the pressed leaves and Modge Podge, some brushes (sponge or bristle) and begin. Well, I knew I had brushes, SOMEWHERE. After looking in every spot they might have been, we let necessity be the Mother of Invention. I had some leftover foam from covering some chairs. That and a pair of scissors, voila, we had our 'brushes'. 

Directions tell you to paint a layer of Modge Podge on the ornament, arrange the pressed leaves/blooms on the ornament, then paint more Modge Podge over the surface, covering the leaf/bloom well.  Make sure not to cover your hole for the string/ribbon. Various flowers and leaves make a nice assortment. Like I said, the red Japanese maple leaves look great, they held their color well. I used some Hydrangea blooms, their color faded a bit but they are really nice too. I had a pair of tweezers to use to move the fragile dried leaves.  **On a side note- don't leave pressed/dried items on the table overnight....a roving kitten in the middle of the night will play havoc with your project.**

Red Japanese maple 
Viola walterii 'Silver Edge'

Green Japanese maple 
Here they all are, drying. It is milky looking when the Modge Podge is first applied, it does dry clear.  I bought the matte finish. You can experiment with whatever finishes you like. One of the sources I used also sprinkled silver glitter on the white dough. The world is your oyster, do what you think looks great.

Drying on the dryer overnight

The nice part of this project is you can collect and dry items from the garden all year long. Once dried they keep well. I think I will buy some metallic cord to use instead of the ribbon, but this is what I had on hand today. This was a fun quick project to do and like I said above, there are some lessons learned. The biggest is in the rolling thickness. If you have guide bands that slip on your rolling pin for rolling thickness, use them. I might try using a couple thick rubber bands on the rolling pin. Some of the ornaments cracked while drying- the Modge Podge and leaves hid those flaws a bit.
Would I do this with kids? I don't think so, there is a need for fine motor skills and an easy hand in painting the Modge Podge over the dried items. If you do this project, let me know how it worked for you. You can share photos on The Queen of Seaford Facebook page. Have fun!

©Copyright 2019 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Another River Running Through My Yard

We all know that gardens are always in flux. Some plants survive, some thrive to the point of taking over and sometimes you just want to change things up. Last year we looked at our front yard and decided that buying sod every year was expensive and labor intensive to install on a regular basis. What's a gardener to do? (we all know---you make a new garden bed!) The wet winters and dogs running over wet grass made the lawn thin and excessively needy.

I had big plans, make a giant mulch bed in the front yard. I haven't measured the size of the area we were looking at making a new garden....let's just say it is a large area. Maybe I will go and measure it one of these days. 

We left a mower sized width of grass along the driveway and between the gardens. In the center of this new, massive garden is a Little Gem Magnolia with daylilies around it. Once the plan was hatched, mulch was needed. Lots of mulch. We had ten yards of mulch delivered.

Because we had some grass and a lot of weeds the plan was put cardboard or newspaper under the mulch as a weed block. Before you jump all over me, I have since read information from the Garden Professors about not using anything under mulch. Their recommendation is to just have a good layer of mulch (inches deep) and it will smother/block the weeds. Good information, just after the fact. 

Moving forward we used tons of cardboard, mountains of newspaper and still ran out. We had help with the mulch from our kids who came to visit last July. With their help the mountain of mulch was spread. Hallelujah!

Liebling was a great help
 Fast forward to this year. I planted three Japanese maples last fall-one Red Dragon, a Butterfly, and Green Viridis. Also added three Hydrangea quercifolia 'Little Honey' and a Cryptomeria globosa 'Nana'. Found a few abelia in the garden that needed moved- think they might be Abelia grandiflora 'Rose Creek'- so what better place to move them than this huge new space?

I brought a birdbath home from my Mom's house. In front of the birdbath I planted some Agastache 'Blue Boa', Coreopsis 'Mercury Rising', Stokesia laevis (Stokes Aster) and other plants for pollinators. The maples were doing well, the flowers were thriving but there was a problem with the garden...........WASHOUT. Some Liriope and an Amaryllis were added to try and slow the water flow. They didn't. 

With every rain we had a trail of mulch running downhill through the grass. Not happy. I had scooped/raked up mulch multiple times. Something needed to be done. You see some rocks in the photo above. I didn't grab a before photo but the mulch was still in the grass so it is a good example. The rocks that I have had leftover from other projects are all in the lower part of the yard. Our property is on a good slope. Moving enough rocks was going to be a lot of work just hauling them up the last part of the hill.
My great plan was that my lovely assistant (daughter Rachel) and I would load up the rocks into the cart that attaches to the lawn tractor. My husband just needed to drive the tractor to the bottom of the yard, wait for us to fill the cart, then drive the tractor back up to the front yard. 

Me mud splattered
Rachel muddy from rock hauling
 Well, the yard was wet, the lower the yard, the wetter the yard. We pushed and pushed the tractor to get it moving and got sprayed with lots and lots of mud. Yay. Plan B was to take the tractor through the woods in our wooded lot where we had a path cut. Well, that only worked part way. We got my garden wagon and the wheelbarrow and moved three or four loads each out of the cart until the lawn tractor could make it up the rest of the way. Spreading the rocks went pretty well. Making the new dry creek bed curve gently through the garden, following the washout area, was not as hard as bringing the rocks uphill!

View from the top of the hill
We are due to get more rain sometime in the next few days. Cross your fingers!  I want the "river" to be slowed and the water diverted as to not move the mulch. 

View from the bottom of the hill
 Speaking of mulch, that's the next project...more mulch. We are battling nut sedge and Bermuda grass popping up in the garden, especially where the mulch had gotten washed out or thinned. Weed control is an ongoing challenge.

©Copyright 2019 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Why Fling? Reflections from Denver

After having come home from the latest Garden Bloggers Fling I have been trying to sort out the best way to share this wonderful experience. Do I share garden by garden? Do I do an overview of the whole experience? Do I pick styles of gardens? Favorite blooms? Sometimes it is overwhelming to wrap your head around the Fling, it is so packed with gardens, it is hard to process all that you saw.

Some might ask what the heck is a Garden Bloggers Fling. Fair question. A Garden Bloggers Fling is a gathering of 80+ garden bloggers from all across the States, Canada, and a few from the UK. We are hosted by a fellow garden blogger team in their city and tour private and public gardens. The time of year is dependent on the location. Last year was Texas, we went early, in May. This year we went to Denver and it was mid-June.

What draws me to come back year after year? The bloggers! We gather into buses. The conversations fly... catching up with each other, making new friends, what gardens did you like best, and everything else under the sun!

Meals are another opportunity to chat.
Lunch at Denver Botanic Garden

Lunch at Boulder's Dushanbe Teahouse in the rose garden 
Dinner in town 

After of course, when we are dog tired but aren't ready for the night to end, we gather in the hotel-
Downstairs in the bar lobby area

Upstairs on the 27th floor restaurant with a view of the sunset and city
Sunset over Denver
Our farewells are full of hugs and promises to come to next year's Fling. Breakfast out before we go our separate ways is peppered with lots of laughs.
I cherish the bloggers I have gotten to know over the years. There are no strangers, only friends you don't know yet. Want to be a part of this group? Do you write a garden blog? Is it older than six months? Have you posted in the last year at least once? All guidelines are here. Come and commune with your people, your tribe, your kindred spirits.
More posts in the upcoming weeks from Denver's Fling. I leave you with one of the many gorgeous views of the mountains.

©Copyright 2019 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.