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Creative Casey's Blog

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Whimsical Acrylic Painting for Art Show

I completely forgot about the faculty/staff annual art exhibit and for the past 2 years I've participated in it. So here I was with less than 2 weeks to figure out what I wanted to create and submit into the show. I actually narrowed it down to only 1 weekend this past weekend as work was about to get crazy including a weekend conference out of state.

I took a co-worker and couple of 40% off coupons to Michaels Craft store on a lunch break last week and with my co-workers help I purchased two 12"x24" canvasses for a total of 15 dollars.  This was a bit pricey for me but hey when your working on a time crunch sometimes you gotta pay the price.

I thought I'd create a couple of mixed media paintings using owls as a main focus. This was because my sister likes owls and I thought she may want the paintings to hang in her house when they were completed. (I Facetimed her when they were completed and asked but while she liked them they weren't "her colors".)  I went on the internet and searched mixed media owl images and came across this woman's blog called Sweet Repeats (actually I may have misspoke- I may have found her by looking up owl images on Pinterest and a painting came up and provided a link to her blog).  I really enjoyed looking at her artwork, style and technique in general.  I saw that she even offered a course/workshop on how to create whimsical owls. After researching the net for some inspiration I got down on the floor (literally) with newspapers, paint and canvasses to start to create.

I ended up creating my own backgrounds on the canvasses by layering a few different shades of paint after first applying one color to each background. I used different materials around the house to create different textures and patterns, including a pick/comb, an old credit card, the paper holders around coffee cups from a cafe hot cocoa purchase, a body wash luffa sponge, a couple of paint rollers, and stamps.  This was a fun process. I must say that a blow dryer that I got just for craft purposes was the best investment and idea ever! Up until a year and a half ago for some reason I never thought to use a blow dryer when layering paints. I have no idea why since I'm soooo impatient. Any how the blow dryer (which was purchased at a thrift store for $4) came in very handy since I made so many layers.  The first canvas was easy to get to a place where I was satisfied with the background. The second canvas not so much. There's probably about 20 different layers on it until I got to a point where I was satisfied with it. I then referenced different images of owls and created one on each canvas. I put a tree and flowers on one and a moon, stars and branch on the other. I drew the images on with pencil charcoal lightly then repeated when I had firmed up my image. I watered down the paint colors and proceeded to paint the image and followed up with another layer of charcoal outline.

Overall I created both paintings in about 6 hours. Oh my let's just say I was sore from sitting on the floor that long even with an occasional break. Boy must be a sign of how old I'm getting.  I was really pleased with the outcome as I focused on not being perfect and just had fun experimenting with layers and colors. It came together well and the charcoal pencil was an added dimension that was different and brought interest to the pieces.

 It ended up being worth the pain as my co-workers response to the paintings were very positive and when I turned them in to the exhibit coordinator she and another woman commented on how great they were. A couple of people even mentioned how they would like them hanging in their homes. To bad we can't sell are artwork at the exhibit!  Now I'll have to decide what I'll do with them!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Inexpensive Home Decorating/ Tree Quilt

The other day I went to Savers; looking for a mini crock pot and a lamp shade but didn't luck out on my search. However; I did randomly find this awesome pillow and it set off a train reaction.  A big problem was that I loved the pillow but there was no matching pillows or decor of the colors at my house. I then happened across two matching pillow cases of an odd greenish yellow shade. Normally I would saw "gross puke" but they seemed to bring out that matching color on the main pillow and they had a vintage appeal to them.

So I picked up the one pillow and the two pillow cases. Then decided I needed a new quilt as I had determined that I could use the pillows to redecorate in my attic/family room. The blanket I had in the room was adequate but a little worn.  While strolling the bedding section I came across this fruit punch colored fabric. They actually had a section of loose extra fabric material at Savers which I was surprised to find. This color while I'd normally stay away from went with another color in the main pillow. I then strolled the sheet section and found a Martha Stewart grey/blue flat sheet. I decided on purchasing both and some how making a quilt out of them.  The main pillow was 2.99, set of two pillow cases 1.99, flat sheet 4.99, and fruit punch fabric 3.99 + I received an additional 25% off the entire purchase (because it was a Monday and that is their Monday deal). So I got everything for about 10.50 plus tax. Plus it turns out the pillow cases were Crate & Barrel. Great deal!

I had found this Tree quilt on Pinterest and while I will honestly admit I somehow didn't get the "tree part" until after finishing the quilt, what I did notice was the way it looked and the sewing technique.  Here's the Pinterest link;  I went to look for a tutorial but that link just led to another picture of a different tree quilt that looked pretty much the same.  I became inspired and set out to use the sewing technique to create but my own design.

First I cut the back fabric then the flat sheet (which ended up being the top of the quilt) with the later being slightly smaller.  I had extra of the fruit punch fabric and decided to make circles and then found an old work out t-shirt and cut circles out of that. I layered the two different patterned circles and sewed them together on the machine. I laid them out randomly on the fitted sheet, pinned them on and then using the machine sewed them on. Then I pinned along the entire frame of the quilt making sure both front and back were together. Here came the tedious but fun part.  I started with the right side of the quilt and using the machine started sewing vertically starting from top to bottom. I purposely weaved left and right for the look I wanted. I then did this about every 1/2" to 1" width apart. I did this across the entire quilt until I finished. You will need 2 spools of thread. I decided to use yellow for contrast on the front and grey on the back. I went to turn over the edges and machine sew the edging; however after a couple of attempts this did not work because the backing material was more elastic rather than cotton so it caused unevenness and bunching. I ended up pinning the edging and hand stitching it.

All in all this quilt took about 7 hours from start to finish. My suggestions for others trying this quilt for the first time would be to 1. not choose elastic fabric (like I did) and 2. to not make it as big as mine was (which was about the size of a twin quilt)- I would recommend 1/2 to 3/4 of the size I made as a starter. Those vertical lines were a killer because it was so long. It hurt my elbows and arms by the time I was finished because the fabric was heavy to hold up and feed through. This was a really fun, fairly easy, inexpensive and creative redecorating project. Most of all I'm excited to try another quilt like this in the future using a different material and pattern that I design.

Here's the idea from Pinterest.

Here's the front and back of the pillow that piqued my interest and started this project whirling in my head.

Here's one of the two pillow cases after washing them. I used the pillows in the background that were the old pillows and were flattening a bit and stuffed 2 in each pillow case.

Pillow case stuffed with recycled older pillows.

Flat sheet and fabric after washing.

Little circles I sewed together.

Laid out the two fabrics and cut to fit.

Sewed vertical weaving lines through the entire quilt 1" apart.

Finished quilt with edging hand stitched.

It's hard to see all of the lines but this close up is the best i could do. Forgot to rotate so picture it vertically.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Quirky Monster Tree

So what do you do when your bored and want to procrastinate doing the things you need to do? Perhaps, if your like me you create a Monster Tree.  I know it's a bit lame but I purchased an itsy bisty potted pine tree for Christmas this year. Pretty much because it was a lot of work to set up an actual tree for only me to enjoy.  I also thought this went with being more "green" because I'm not participating in killing a tree but instead I'm supporting the growth of a tree....that's if I can keep it alive until spring when I can transplanted onto my parents land.  The problem became what would I do with it after Christmas- just leave it sitting around in my house. BORING! Then I thought I would decorate it for different holidays like Valentine's Day, Saint Patty's Day or by seasons (winter and spring).  Since I don't really support or recognize Valentine's Day (I choose to let everyone I love know any day of the year not just on a hallmark greeting card day) I opted out of that idea. And winter was out because I don't really like winter other than celebrating Christmas and New Year's.

Some how the idea of creating little monsters out of random objects popped into my brain one night and I woke up and ran with it.  I created 6 little monsters so far for the tree. Of course I realized by the end that they weren't really scary just more funny and quirky. Hey...monsters don't always have to be scary!  I originally wanted to use a baking clay but the challenge for this project was creating monsters that wouldn't be to heavy for the itsy bitsy tree to hold. I ended up using all found objects and materials that were around my house. In addition to the 6 monsters I created a monster for the top of the tree and garland.

I was trying to figure out what kind of garland I wanted when I remember my grandmother teaching my sister and I how to crochet when we were little and would sleep over at her house. I never was able to catch on about how to create additional rows after the first so I would just make one really long strand/row and I would bring it home announcing to my mom that it would be our garland for our Christmas tree that year.  For sentimental reasons (my grandmother is dying of cancer as I write this) I pulled out a crochet needle and some yarn and tried to remember if I could crochet. To my surprise I immediately could and went on to create my one strand/row of garland to add to my Monster Tree! Maybe someday I'll take a YouTube tutorial and finally figure out how to make more than one row.

So if anyone is bored and wants to create a monster and send it my way for my tree I'm more than happy to accept some quirky monsters...

The Snuggles Project

I decided for my January donation/charity project to knit some blankets for cats and dogs who are living in shelters. Online I found this charity called; The Snuggles Project.  One of the main goals of this project is to to provide a security blanket to animals who may be in a animal shelter and frightened. The blanket helps provide a calming effect for the animal and can also be a transitional object for the animal when it is adopted and adjusting to a new home environment.

I asked around work for anyone who may have some extra yarn they would be willing to donate for this project. Our wonderful nurse Chris provided me with a entire bag full of soft luxurious yarn she had left over from a quilting project. I am very appreciative to her for donating the material!  I was able to create eight small snuggle blankets. They took maybe an hour each to create and I did most of them on my lunch break or while watching Christmas movies. I tested out how well animals may receive the blankets by making one for my parents dog whom they adopted just about one year ago from a shelter. As you can see from her picture she has embraced the snuggle blanket.  I believe whole heartedly in adoption of any kind. Seeing this wonderful loving dog when I visit my parents just confirms my beliefs.  She doesn't even bark (at all) which is my kind of dog! My family has lovingly nicknamed her "Fatty Patty" because the vet says she overweight. The only problem with this nickname is that my mother's name is also Patricia and is often called Patty! Thankfully my mother isn't overweight and shouldn't get a complex hearing us saying "Fatty Patty" all of the time. ;)

I looked on the Snuggles Project site to find out where to donate the blankets to. As it turns out there are many shelters in my own area that have signed on to accept snuggles. I wanted to donate them to the Verona Street Animal Shelter;  downtown because I know they don't have as much funding resources as Lollypop Farms, but they weren't on the list as accepting the blankets. In the end I've decided to donate them to Lollypop Farms as they receive and shelter a ton of animals and I'm sure could always use the blankets. Check out their site at; and don't forget adoption benefits everyone! I may even inquire into if they have any hedgehogs up for adoption when I drop the blankets off this week.

"Fatty Patty" sleeping.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Adventures

1.  I purchased a Groupon for Indoor Rock Climbing a couple of months ago. I eventually found a partner in crime that was willing to try it out with me. My friend Marcy and I went for the first time to Rock Ventures;  For $12 each we received all necessary equipment and were taught how to climb including the commands (which I think I've forgotten half of them already-oops).

What we didn't know is that we would each be given a 15 min. lesson on how to belay. Then we would be considered certified and would be able to off on our own in the building and rock climb. I had brought my camera expecting us to take pictures of each other climbing but this did not happen as the person not climbing was the belayer and no way was that person going to take pictures while they held your life in their hands (literally).

Anyway, this required a lot of trust in each other and we did pretty good. I was pleasantly surprised at by my own strength (I mean I know I'm Wonder Woman but I did things I didn't think I would be able to).  I climbed to the top of 3-4 different rock walls that were different levels of difficulty. I scaled walls that jutted out requiring me to leap up with only one hand secured in a spot and I didn't fall. Perhaps most importantly though is that I didn't drop or injure my friend while be the belayer! We both appreciated that!

2. While at the South Carolina zoo;, over Christmas they had a couple of critters out that you could could touch. While my nephew bee lined it to the snake (yuck!) while I headed toward the baby hedgehog. I've seen very cute pictures on Pinterest of hedgehogs but have never seen one in person.  Boy they are really cute and small. The one I handled was called Pins and it's sibling that wasn't present was called Needles. (get it- pins and needles/hedgehogs- hee,hee).

Anyone know anything about hedgehogs? Can you purchase them as pets? I was thinking this might be an actual commitment I can make to having a pet. I know they are nocturnal so I wouldn't have to worry about a pet being lonely since I work a lot. I know their poo looks like rabbit poo so I think I can handle that. Not sure what they live in though (cage of some sort), or what they eat or where you can even buy one or anything else about them. Hmmm...this may require more investing.

Here's the pic I keep seeing posted on Pinterest.

Here's the one I saw at the zoo.

3.  A couple of friends and I got together and went to a Nighthawks game which is the professional lacrosse team for our city. You can check them out at;  I'm embarrassed to say but I've never been to a lacrosse game before, so that is why I decided to go. It's even worse because I work at a college that has both Men's and Women's lacrosse teams. Shhhh...don't tell anyone.  

Anyway this was an interesting outing. It was held at the large Blue Cross Arena and it was jam packed. It was right before Christmas and was a preseason game so all tickets were free. You could donate a new toy that would go to children in need to help them have a brighter holiday so I did. The game was actually pretty exciting to watch. It was fast paced and you really had to follow it. This was a 3 hour experience...was getting a little tired toward the end, but it did go into an exciting overtime.  My one complaint was that by the last half hour I started to get a headache that only got worse due to loud game horn constantly blowing, people shouting and cheering, feet stomping, sport horns blowing by spectators and believe it or not cow bells! It was sensory overloaded. Never the less I would check out a game again in the future should the opportunity arise.

The World of Legos

My nephew asked for and received numerous sets of legos for Christmas.  From Star Wars to Vampire Castles we built and built and built during my visit.  My brother-in-law with minimal assistance from my 5 y/o nephew built the Vampire Castle. It was 1,000 pieces and took him most of Christmas Day. While watching him put it together I thought, "No way would I be able to do that nor would I want to".

The following day I found myself on the living room floor putting together a 300 piece Star Wars set on the request of my nephew. Help from him equaled 0.  I found he enjoyed the final product more so than putting it together. Who can blame him, don't we all!  As it turned out I quickly became addicted to building these lego creations. Perhaps it was because as a girl we never received or played with legos unless we were around boys who had legos or perhaps because it spoke to the part of my brain that likes structure, creativity and organization so following the steps from the 100 page manual was right up my alley. Either way I found myself fascinated with the process and little parts that when put together correctly created catapults, secret compartments, swinging doors and so much more.

I think I put three different sets together and by the last one my nephew had become really adept at looking at the directions, helping me find the pieces and putting it together. He did half of an entire spaceship all by himself!

I think I missed my calling. Isn't there a job somewhere were someone has to try and read the manuals and put the legos together (a tester of some sort before they go on the market)? How do I get this job?  :)

This is the Vampire Castle my brother-in-law built.

**I made one more Star Wars spaceship thing the last night of my visit but didn't take any pics. 

Always wanted to join a book club?

I've wanted to join a book club for a while but when I started looking into finding a group to join it seemed like you needed to be part of an already existing inner circle. Many friends or aquantanices that I knew were in book clubs said their groups were part of a long standing club of friends or women they knew. When I said I was interested in joining a group only one was willing to invite me into the inner circle but did mention that I may not feel comfortable because everyone else had known each other for a really long time. search continued you.  I found some book clubs at the library but most met during the work day. Plus who wants to meet at a library!

In late April while searching on the internet for book clubs in my area I came across MeetUp groups. I ended up joining this Social Readers group and have had a great time. We meet once a month and choose from a group of books each month on what we will read next.  The positives of this group is that I'm meeting a lot of interesting people and the more you go the more you get to know those of us who go regularly. In addition, I'm reading books I've never heard about and/or would never have thought to read. This specific group is fun because it's laid back and non-judgmental so we all feel comfortable simply stating "I hated the book because _____" while someone else will say "I really enjoyed the book because _______".

So if you are looking to join a book club check out MeetUp groups in your area. Or start your own MeetUp book club group. Here's the link to the one I'm a part of;

And here's a list of the books we've read since I've joined along with my own star rating (up to 5 stars) for what it's worth.

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos  ***
The God's of Gotham by Lindsay Faye  ****
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn *
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail by Cheryl Strayed  ***
Bloodline by James Rollins *****
The Fault of Our Stars by John Green *****
The Necklace by Cheryl Jarvis **
The Paris Wife by Paula Mclain ***
The Favored Daughter by Fawzia Koofi *****
Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick *****

DIY Reupholstered Old Wooden Vanity Seat

I received this old wooden vanity bench when my grandmother was placed in an assisted living home. I remember when she had it reupholstered years and years ago. While it looked nice I never liked the pattern and color of the material. I reupholstered it when I got it and it stayed like that for about 7-8 years. I decided to change my desk chair out from an old piano chair (with no cushioning) to this bench but I needed a change on the fabric as it didn't go with the new space.

I purchased this awesome fabric at Craft Bits & Pieces for $3 and wasn't sure what I was going to do with it so I just kept it around. I pulled it out and decided it would work well for this project.  The steps are pretty easy on a project like this.

1. Unscrew the seat portion from the base.
2. Take off old upholstery. I left the main fabric on because it's sturdy and adds cushioning.
3. Measure your new fabric and fold around the seat onto the back leaving at least 1" extra on each side.
4. Use a heavy duty staple gun and staple one side. Do the opposite side and pull tight. Repeat on shorter sides. Make sure fabric is pulled tight.
5. Screw the seat and base back together.
6. Enjoy!

Total time from start to finish: 10 min.

My first reupholster job.

The original seat to the bench pulled apart from base to begin.

Tools needed. Plus a pair of scissors and your new fabric.

Finished product. Please ignore the messy desk. Needs a cleaning.