Sunday, November 16, 2008


P1000839.jpg UN-dress-up-blocks picture by teljchall P1000842.jpg Dress-up-blocks Scarecrows picture by teljchall

P1000838.jpg Dress-up-blocks Ghosts picture by teljchall P1000841.jpg Dress-up-blocks Snowmen picture by teljchall

It's amazing what you can do with a few slices of 2x4 and a trip to the craft store.

I call these "Dress-up-blocks" but I'm sure the clever person who originally came up with them had a different name for them. I did one for a ladies meeting at church a few years ago and decided to make some to give away as presents this fall. When we made them before we had little stocking caps and scarves to go with the carrot noses.

I've expanded upgraded a bit from there. This group has 3 outfits each. They can be scarecrows all fall, ghosts for Halloween, and snowmen at Christmas. Back when I made my first I came up with the idea to make one eye wink, and this time added the full grin with squinched eyes look to one. All those hours doodling in class seem to have paid off. Once again I took someone's great idea and improved upon it. This practice tends to scare people away, which is sad because once you get over my creativity I can be a really nice person. Honest!

Okay, now for the directions. (Because I KNOW someone will ask.) I'm not going to step by step you through all the outfits, but I'll give you enough to get rolling.

You will need:

  • Time, lots of it, and if you are making the ghosts they dry 24 hours... so no table for 2 days kind of time.

  • A dime, in addition to the money you are spending on this.

  • 2x4, and get a nice straight, smooth one for your own sake. (splinters stink)

  • Acrylic paint: black, white, brown, orange, and CRACKLE

  • Painter's pen, black

  • Sculpey, for the noses. You can get different colors and scratch the colored paint from the list, or you can get white and paint after baking. Me? I have about... 3 lbs of white in my craft closet.

  • The little cylinder shaped wooden pegs used for joining wood. Just ask the burly guy at Lowes. You can also buy a dowel and cut pegs, if you reaaaaaalllly want to.

  • Paint brushes, toothpicks, sandpaper, hot glue & gun, table protection, tin foil

  • A nice chopsaw for cutting the wood, or use your feminine charms to get the burly guy at Home Depot to cut your wood in 8 through 12 inch blocks, or con someone's husband into doing it. Personally, I'm in love with my miter/chop saw. It's hot, way hotter than the guy at the store.

  • Drill and bit to fit the wooden pegs, and make a test hole on scrap wood, please.

  • Half of the craft store for making the outfits. I used felt AND sticky back felt, 5 different fabrics, raffia, Christmas garland, fake flowers, cheese cloth, liquid starch, yarn... whatever makes your eyes twinkle and that wicked little grin cross your face.

The process (and you thought the shopping was fun)


  • Cut up a 2x4, if you do not have a nice miter box chop saw, find someone who does. You do not want them toppling. Mine are 8-12 inches high. The shortest one is kind of hard to dress.

  • Sand away the splinters. Dust off the sawdust.

  • Paint them black, let dry.

  • Put on a coat of crackle paint, let dry.

  • Slather on a layer of white paint, the thicker the coat, the better it crackles. Do not second coat, and try to go in one direction while slathering, let dry.

  • Use a dime on paper to make a circle. That circle is the dark part of an eye, so move the dime up a bit and draw in the oval. Make a template of where you want the nose hole and eyes to go. Cut it out and transfer by tracing the holes onto the block w/ a pencil.

  • Use a paint pen to draw the eye, let dry.

  • P1000839-1.jpg Wink picture by teljchallIf you want a wink, make a curve from 7 o'clock to 3 o'clock on the oval of the eye, extend to make wrinkles.

  • Use a toothpick and white paint to make the twinkles.

  • Draw on a smile.

  • Drill the hole for the nose.

Shape out of Sculpey, and insert the peg in back. Bake according to the package directions, paint.
Snowmen can have carrots or buttons, Frosty had a button, and I’ve never seen that IRL, so I do carrots.
Carrots: shape a cone, use your fingernail to put lines like the winkles in a carrot. If in doubt, go get a carrot out.
Ghost noses: Have fun, get a little crazy; ghosts get to have humorous noses.
Scarecrow noses: I opted for brown triangles, but if an evening on google image search leaves you with another idea, I will not be offended.

Okay, so this is really the hard part, and I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to describe it all. So I’ll give you this.

Felt hat:
Brim: Take a sheet of sticky felt, cut it in half across the width. Center a 2x4 chunk and trace. Cut a shape like this >-< in side the rectangle. Then peel off the paper everywhere else but inside the rectangle and place another layer of felt on the adhesive side. Open up the rectangle and cut it out on the non-sticky side leaving the papered tabs only. Then flip them through so the paper faces the outside.
Top: Cut a rectangle for the top part of the hat. Put it around the head, make it a little loose, then fold the top in and glue felt to felt so it looks like a cap.
Finish: When dry remove thye cap and then take the paper off the tabs on the brim. Stick them to the inside of the top of the hat. If needed add a little glue or stitch. Add a ribbon.

Ghosts: Liquid fabric starch and cheese cloth. Just make the shape you want out of aluminum foil as kind of a hat on your block, put a layer of foil over it all to protect your painting, cover w/ soaked cheesecloth, let dry. It’s easier than it looks.
Good luck!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween 2008

We had our trunk-or-treat last night with the kids, and a little festival inside.

This year was a little tricky. We started planning our costumes in July, and I made the kids give my their final orders in mid-September. I was going as a Satyr (or Faun, if you prefer the later Roman word) so the girls wanted to be something similar. They finally settled on half unicorn half human, to go with my half goat half human costume.
My son said he wanted to be a robot. Specifically, a broken robot, who's head has come off, with a spring coming out where the head was, and big silver arms. He wanted the head to be his candy bucket... something about having people put candy in his head appealed to him, lol. He's so brilliant.

(Quick note, please excuse my oldest daughter's expression. She fell asleep in the car on the way over and this was as close to a smile as she was getting. She is usually the best behaved little girl, while her sister is the wild one. One would never know it by the pictures, lol.)

P1000852.jpg Unicorn Girl Front picture by teljchall P1000853.jpg Unicorn Girl Back picture by teljchall
P1000847.jpg Broken Robot picture by teljchall
P1000848.jpg Unicorn Girl picture by teljchall
P1000856.jpg Satyr picture by teljchall
The hardest part, by far was my hooves. They were kind of like high heels with out the heel. I made them out of the fiberglass material used to make casts then built the rest around them. I just slip my foot in and they fit like a glove. After an hour or so my feet hurt like crazy, but it was worth it.
Here are some pics of my hooves, and on one I shaded in about where my foot sits so you can see how I built this hoof around it. The shoe extends out to the back and to the front too. There is a balance point in the middle just behind the ball of my foot that gave me a little stability.
footinhoof.jpg Foot in hoof picture by teljchall P1000876.jpg Hoof, inside picture by teljchall

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Leprechan and Faries

We take Halloween seriously at my house. Not that we are into scarey stuff, because I really don't even like horror films, I just like having once a year that I can make pure fantasy come to life.
We begin discussing costumes in the spring, my plans for this year a positively wicked, and I can't wait to have them done... but this post is to brag about the past.
DDs wanted to be ballerina fairy princesses, which in translation means "Go crazy with pink, and make sure I have a tutu, wings, and a crown." I'm not hot on pink, but I let them pick, they will come around to my pov on pink someday, I'm sure.
DS wanted to be something just as magical, so we discussed Leprechans and he agreed that a mischvious little person was a perfect fit for him. I wonder why? lol

So I started with my concept drawings.
Halloween Concept drawings

Then on Halloween we were a complete sucess!

Hey my wing is crooked

My little Leprechan

Two Ballerina Fairy Princesses

They knew I would have good tricks, so they gave me treats

All I said was ti-ti-tree and they gave me CANDY!

It itches Mom, can we change now?

Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater

Can I just say that fake, carve-able pumpkins are the best invention of the last few years? Seriously, no more getting all glum that Halloween is over and my masterpiece is moldy and has to be thrown away!

I wasn't sure how well the fake pumpkins would work, I like to have translucent areas on my pumpkins where the pulp remains and the skin is removed. So I did a test pumpkin. This is how it turned out.

Craft Pumpkin Contest Submission

To say I was encouraged by my success is an understatement, I sat and stared at it for an hour, lol.

So the next chance I got, I took out my dremel and made my traditional tribute to Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater on a tall pumpkin, this time for keeps!



I spent hours on it, hours. The grass, the pattern in his sweater, the flowers, the folds in the curtains, her pregnant belly, and the kitty in the window, they were all worth it, because I get to take it out year after year!

Note: If you are even thinking about doing this you MUST have swimming goggles, a face mask for breathing, ear plugs, and an easy to clean room. The Styrofoam dust is painful in the eyes and lungs, and gets EVERYWHERE. The pumpkin SCREAMS the entire time you are carving it. Very Halloween appropriate, but hard on the ears. The sections that are cut out should be cut out with a drill bit in the dremel, then use the carving tools to do the shallow groves and patterns.

Christmas Stockings, Thora Style

Well, to tell you the truth my mom made these once.... well kind of. Like any idea I'm not happy until I've made it my own. Apparently this tendency is really social suicide, as people don't like their ideas improved upon, but I'm more into "I love you anyway" kind of friends.
So that said, this is how I do Christmas stockings. They are relatively simple, for the artistically inclined, they just require a little patience and love.

Our Family Stockings 06

This is the set for my family. I blanket stitched around the edge, but honestly it was a huge hassle getting the hook though the felt. If you do this, find a punch of some kind to make little holes to crochet through.

One of my best friends, mother of six, re-married a few years ago. The lucky, and terrific, guy had three kids of his own, so that made eleven people to make into a family. My only thought for helping from 14 hours away was to make them a set of stockings to include everyone. I even made some blank ones for the ones I was sure would be added by two people so in love, and it's a good thing I did because #10 is crawling and #11 is on the way. If they go past 12 I get to make a whole new set!


Obviously I'm getting better, lol. I am rather proud of the way the mom's hair came out. I got to see them all recently though and was dismayed at the way they have all grown up so much from the pictures I made these from. It makes me want to start anew, to do credit to the wonderful and good-looking kids they are.
BTW, this project is very affordable if you do the shopping for it the day or so AFTER Christmas, then you have all year to get it done, but you will have gotten the stockings at 75% off!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

My back saving bag.

P1000537.jpg picture by teljchall

I have a bad back, for several reasons I won't bore you with, but it has been a cause of much invention in the past, and has recently contributed to the most remarkable little bag.
You see, we are headed to a rather famous, rather expensive, rather large theme park with the kiddos this summer. The thought of lugging around all the necessary items while pushing "Little Miss I'm The Baby of the Family" around in a stroller was not a pleasant thought. I am not one of those huge stroller fans either. I had a huge double stroller back in the day, and hated it. You can't steer it, you can barely push it, and good luck going into a store with it! My stroller of choice is the cheap umbrella stroller, it folds up super small to fit in almost any space, is light, and only fits one kid so I only have to push ONE KID.

The trouble is, they don't hold anything. You can get a mesh bag for the back, which rips, spills, lets bottles tip over... yeah what a pain. The mesh bags are also as open to rain as they are to seeing. It was obvious to me I needed something better.

So I designed and made this bag. There are 5 special pockets on the outside for water bottles, three similar pockets inside for sunscreen (I am a red-head you know.) Other things provisioned for are sunglasses, lip sunscreen or balm, papers, ponchos, wipes, changes of bottoms for the little ones, and a purse sized first aid kit. They outside is vinyl, for those sudden southern showers, and the inside is a sturdy fabric to preclude ripping at the seams. It's pretty cute too, don't you think?

P1000538.jpg picture by teljchall P1000541.jpg picture by teljchall P1000537.jpg picture by teljchall

P1000540.jpg picture by teljchall

The Desectration of Encyclopedias

I'm evil. I just destroyed a set of encyclopedias to make boxes to hide my husband's "stuff". The worst part is, now I'm blogging about it, but that's just because people are asking me how to do it. Yes, you read that right, I'm promoting the desecration of old books! I'm sorry Daddy, do you still love me? I SWEAR they had been molding in that thrift store for years... I know because I've been planning this for years... does that make me a bad person?

So if you now hate me on principle, I understand. I committed the crime and will have to live with the consequences. If you don't hate me though... well, here are instructions for your own act of desecration. Please read and understand before starting, I'd hate for any books to go to waste.

Step 1: find the perfect books to destroy. Thrift stores THROW AWAY encyclopedias, so you may have to ask your local one if they have any in the back, or if they have a call list for a set to be saved for you. Tell them you don't even care if it's an incomplete set... they will look at you weird, but hey... they won't forget you! Be sure that they are big enough to hide whatever it is you are hiding. So if it's dvd cases, get ones that are tall enough to hide the cases, etc.

Step 2: Examine the set, open them up and bend the covers back (feeeeel the guilt. You may hear the voice of your first grade teacher echoing in your head, "That is NOT the way you are supposed to treat a book!") If the spine comes away from the bound pages, this set is perfect. If the cover is attached to the binding... it may still be usable... but the spine taken off will be weak, I bet you can pick out the spines like this in my first picture, they are wrinkled. Those are the "year books" that went with my set and weren't bound the same way. IF the pages fall out of the book you just abused THAT set is DESTINED for you, ask the clerk, she will agree.

Step 3: Once you have the books home, clear out the kids. Seriously, some of this a kid can do, some of this can harm a kid, and some of this a kid can really mess up by breathing on it. This is an evening job, or a kids are at school job, or a kids are locked in their rooms until Christmas job. It is not a nap time, I've got a few hours before dinner job.

Step 4: Divest the pages from the cover. Open up, slide one blade of the scissors between the bound pages and the spine, and cut through ONLY the paper that connects the cover to the pages. If you have the glued on spine kind, carefully rip along the crease then peel away the fabric from the paper it is glued to.

Step 5: Recycle the pages... or use them to wallpaper a room... or glue them to a table and then paint polyurethane all over them so your kids can learn from something other than the cereal box during breakfast. (I told you I was evil.)

Step 6:Figure out how many spines to a cover. The easiest boxes are the ones that are one cover width wide. If the spines don't nicely cover the cover, you may need to trim the cover down with a utility knife so they fit with no gaps. Spare covers make good cutting mats, so you don't cut your table.

Step 7: Remove the covers from the spines, but not all of them. On each box you will need a front cover with spine still on and a back cover with spine still on. These go at the right and left sides of the box, so the still attached covers make the sides of the box. Their spines are still glued to the front of the box, but still being attached to the sides makes a pretty transition, like a book has. When gluing the sides on be sure to glue the cover edges together at the corner so the hard parts meet, not soft to hard. That way the box is stronger. Once you have the two sides glued on then fill the middle with just spines. (see my lovely drawing below)

When cutting the covers off, cut through the fabric of the cover about 1/2 to an inch away from the spine and peel. This way you have more to glue under.

  • When gluing, glue the spare cover on the sides of the spine, not the back sides of the spine. Folded under like that they look more like the original books (may they rest in peace.)

Hot glue works best, household glues take to long to dry and packing tape will degrade in a few years and flake away.

Step 8: Cut bottom and back. Decide if you want a full back or partial back. Loose items like game controllers need a full back, games and dvd cases can have only a short back. Take a spare cover, you now have plenty to choose from, and lay it on the table, take another cover and mark 1/8 inch short of the width of the cover along the length. So you have now drawn a line on one cover that makes a rectangle next to a square. The square is your box bottom. The rectangle can be scrap or a partial back. If it's scrap, cut it off, throw it out. If it's your partial back cut with your knife only about half way through the cover's depth and then bend it to a right angle with the board, less gluing! (See back on second and third pics for partial back.) If you want a full back grab a spare cover to glue in.

Step 9: Lay your box spines down. Let the sides (covers) lay to the side. Take your bottom and glue the edge to the very bottom edge of the center section. Then run a bead of glue up one side, bring the cover up, then repeat with the other. Last, squeeze a bead in on each side of back. (If you have a full back, do the bottom corner on back edge of bottom, press on top, glue up sides.)

Step 10: Examine spine side. Unless you are some freakishly super human forward thinker you are now noticing that you have a Q spine next to your B spine. Now everyone will think your encyclopedia's out of order and try to fix them. Then they will all find out you are a book slayer! OH NOOOOO!!!

Fear not fair maiden! Enlist the help of your non-acetone nail polish remover! Get your q-tips, and the nail polish remover. Dip the q-tip in the vile smelling stuff and rub the letters on your spines right off. (Old one-of-a-kind-doll maker trick. It works for barbie eyes and tattoos. And yes, barbies come with tattoos these days...) Now look at the spines on your box, too new looking? One worn more than the rest? Well distress (actual theatre term there) the other spines to the desired aged look by rubbing a remover loaded cotton ball all over the spines. I caution you though, that nail polish remover is strong stuff and will start to take off the color of the spine, so think obscure more than remove for the letters, most of the time a small dent in the shape of the B or Q will remain anyway.

You are done! Now, go put them on the shelves.

If you want to do these for gifts, try to find several different sets and use one of each spine on each box. Just keep in mind the heights need to be similar, and to use the shortest cover to glue in the middle. Oh and be careful who you give them to... you will have to account for having destroyed those books, lol.

Really tall and wide encyclopedias can be used to hold back issues of magazines. For that you could do a two spine box. If you have more back issue magazines than that... what's in them is likely out of syle!

Those with nice handwriting may want to get gold or silver pens and make up titles for the spines to fill in where the old titles have been removed. You could make it fit what you want to put in the box, pretend to be a classy literature affectionado, write naughty things in other languages, what ever floats your boat!

Most of all, enjoy!

Oh and you may want to concider NOT destroying one of those sets of encyclopedias, just in case we have an EMP event that takes out google. Or if anyone calls you on destroying the other set you can say, "But I have a real set, too! The thrift store was going to throw them away! So I took BOTH! I SAVED them!"