Category Archives: Crafts and Projects

Happy Halloween!

Not since Coca-Cola standardized the color of Santa’s suit to red has another entity done a better job with color branding than the Susan G. Komen Foundation.  The color pink is raising money for breast cancer above and beyond ribbons.  I have pink pens, tools and measuring cups; and this year for Halloween, I bought a pink pumpkin.

With such a pretty color to work with, I went with a smaller, simplified version of Southern Living’s “Pretty Pumpkin” for carving.

Now, we wait for trick-or-treaters…


There goes the letterbox…

My Shave Avenue letterbox is missing.  But unlike several other letterboxes that have disappeared leaving me with questions of, Was it an animal? Park staff? An unscrupulous letterboxer collecting hand-carved stamps?, there’s no mystery left to solve in this case.  It rode away with the train it was planted on.  While sad for my fellow letterboxers, I’m happy for the Alta Vista neighborhood residents who have been trying for a year and a half to get the old boxcars removed.

The Snowman of Liberty

It may never snow in Sarasota, but there’s always a snowman to cheer me up.  He lives on Arlington Street and is as festive as Frosty but so much more versatile.  Last time I posted his photo, he was covered in shamrocks and drinking a beer for St. Patrick’s Day.

Today, he’s dressed in drag as the Statue of Liberty.  Underneath the dress are two more logs carved from a palm tree.  The ends of each log were tapered with a chainsaw to make them look more rounded like snowballs.  Very clever and easy to do if you have the skills.  People carve tikis with chainsaws; a snowman would be a cinch.  Me, on the other hand, I’ll stay away from the chainsaw, keep all my fingers, and wait to see what this one will be wearing for Halloween.

Turn a Dead Tree into a Bottle Tree

If, like the rest of the world, I had a Pinterest account set up yet, this is what I’d pin:I walk by this bottle tree almost every day, so it’s been pinned in my mind since the day it went up about a month ago.  But where do you find an iron tree?  I’ve been waiting to see the owners to ask, and then last week, I saw a photo of blue glass bottles stuck on a real tree–but not on Pinterest, on Secrets of a Seed Scatterer–and it came to me…the Cassia tree!It was pronounced dead a few months ago, but to remove it requires pulling up lava rock and figuring out what to replace it with…so glad I didn’t bother.  Instead I snipped the twigs away and placed my bottles.It definitely needs more colors and more bottles, but it’s a nice start to a much-needed makeover.  Now who wants to drink some wine with me?

Shade Avenue Letterbox

My bike route to the office is a straight shot down Shade Avenue, so at this point I pretty much know every house, tree, dog, mailbox, and pebble along the way.  But there’s one thing in particular that kept catching my eye and peaking my curiosity – an old train parked just North of Novus Street by the Alta Vista neighborhood sign.     A dash of fear only intensified my curiosity.  I kept wanting to stop but was worried it may be a homeless camp.  After finally getting up the nerve, I was back on my bike the second I spotted an open door.

It was too creepy to be there alone even in daylight…although I do partially blame the Investigation Discovery channel for my immediately thinking I could be murdered in one of those boxcars.  Tune in; you’ll see what I mean.  But paranoia aside, I wasn’t completely off-base to bug John for two weeks to ride over there with me.

The signs were there, but we didn’t see anyone…just an old train covered in rust and graffiti.

The train has been stored in this spot for over a year now, and even though the Seminole Gulf Railway has assured residents they have security patrolling the area, the surrounding neighbors don’t seem as inspired or pleased by the old boxcars as I’ve been these past few weeks.

Thoughts of the old train combined with HBO playing Water for Elephants over the weekend led to a letterbox.  Looking for a play on the movie’s title, I googled Sarasota elephant and came up with an image of a water skiing elephant from the movie, Honky Tonk Freeway.  Parts of the film were shot in Sarasota in 1980, but it wasn’t anything this town hadn’t seen before.

Sunny, a 1,300-pound Ringling Brothers elephant, was the first elephant to water ski in 1956.  The 200-pound skis were made in Sarasota, and the shows were also performed here at a long-closed tourist attraction, Sunshine Springs and Gardens.       I found Quick Point Preserve through letterboxing, and that’s exactly why I love it so much: it takes you places you may not have gone or even known about otherwise.  And carving stamps is fun too; it’s a very easy craft project – no artistic talent necessary.

For this stamp, I traced a smaller version of the photo off my laptop.  The laptop acted like a light box under the paper making it easy to trace.  I made a few small adjustments to simplify the carving like changing the shape of the boat, and when the pencil tracing was finished, I transferred it onto the rubber by placing it face-down and rubbing the back of the paper with a penny.  Once the drawing was transferred to the rubber, I carved in and around the pencil lines to create the stamp.

Now, clearly this letterbox comes with a disclaimer – be aware of your surroundings; don’t visit at night; and use the buddy system when searching – but it’s a fun hunt; I haven’t planted the letterbox far from Shade Avenue; and Payne Park is right around the corner if you want to extend your outing.  So go for it; here is your final clue:

And there’s a hitchhiker waiting for the first visitor.  Happy letterboxing!

UPDATE: The train left the station! No more letterbox…sorry.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

We spent the day with family and friends at someone else’s house…and that may be what I’m most thankful for this year – no cooking, no cleaning and no dishes.  All I had to be responsible for was fruit.  I can’t remember a recent Thanksgiving morning when I’ve had so much free time on my hands; the proof is in the fruit.If all I had to bring was fruit, then I was bringing FRUIT!  Some boring fruit salad would just not do, and as I proudly set my gigantic fruit art down on the table, my teenage niece says, “God, you always have to show off.”  Add an eye-roll and here’s the face to go with that comment.


LOL!  Thanksgiving is about family, and OMG I’m turning into my father.  Leave it to a teenager to point it out.  Although I don’t think either of us are show-offs per say…over-the-top on occasion?  Yep.

It a weird thing when you realize you are the person you’ve been making fun of.  I was just goofing on him today with my sister because he’s walking now.  To a normal person, this would consist of simply walking more.  But to my father, he has to plan his whole day around his walks because each one has to be two hours long.  He bought a new iPod, that I know of only because he forced my little brother to load it, but I’m betting there are more shiny, new things strapped to him too – a pedometer perhaps, at the very least, new sneakers.  And his iTunes bill probably cost more than my phone bill last month.

But here I sit, the mocking woman who couldn’t just bring fruit salad.  My house is littered with the evidence of past gung-ho efforts – reams of scrapbook paper, pounds of soap, shards of tile, the list goes on.  Oh well, one more thing to be thankful for today – the ability to laugh at myself.

And if you’d like to make a fruit bouquet yourself, it’s actually not as difficult or ostentatious as my niece would have you believe.  It’s all in the tools – cookie cutters and skewers.  I cookie cut all the pieces before assembling the bouquet and kept popping the fruit in and out of the fridge to keep the pieces cool and fresh.
The base is a half a watermelon, fruit kept in tact to hold the skewers in place.  As long as you cut your fruit slices thin enough to clear your cookie cutters, this is an easy project with some show-off, wow factor.  Yes, Mary, you will be seeing this fruit bouquet again.

Potatoes Aren’t Just for Mashing

The ingredients for ceviche were a bonus; yesterday’s goal ingredient that we could not and would not leave the farmers market without were organic potatoes…not for cooking, for science class.Cooper’s hypothesis: If I introduce fertilizer and pesticides to a potato, then it will produce more phosphoric acid therefore increasing the voltages.  The YouTube video that sparked his interest: How to Make a Potato Battery.His hypothesis was wrong; the voltages were about the same regardless of organic versus non-organic, but anything that requires a knife and voltage is a fun project for a 13 year-old boy.  And by the end of the weekend he had transformed the potato batteries into potato targets.He made a slingshot out of a stick, clothespin, duct tape, ruler, hollowed-out pen, and piece of elastic.  The arrow is a skewer with a nail duct taped to the top.  The gadget works so well that he was slinging the skewers into our back fence and they were sticking in the wood!

It was in the news recently that many of the techies in Silicon Valley send their children to a Waldorf school that doesn’t use computers and even discourages their use at home because they stifle creativity and intelligence.  The potatoes and slingshot have me believing.

Cooper has suffered a series of unfortunate events lately.  First his computer blew, literally, it was smoking.  Second, our cable company made a change that requires a new box we haven’t picked up yet, so he’s down on channels.  Third, he came home with a terrible report card and got his tablet taken away.  His situation is now what I grew up with – basic cable…boohoo.  But on the sympathetic side, in teenage wasteland today, no Facebook equals desert island.  I can’t wait to see what the upcoming five-day holiday weekend will bring…hopefully nothing sharper or faster than flying nails.

Apple Bouquet

We celebrated my sister’s birthday tonight; and about an hour before dinner, I was feeling inspired.  Over the summer, I saw a magazine article that featured a watermelon centerpiece.  The melon was cut in half and again on the bottom, so it stood straight up.  Gerber daisies were stuck into the pink flesh.  The fluid and sugar in the watermelon feed the daisies to keep the arrangement fresh.

Ubermommy’s gift was Linda Watson’s book, Wildly Affordable Organic.  But when there’s a chance to bring flowers, I do.  So what better vase to accompany that particular book than an organic apple?  I thought it might require some fiddling or possibly carving but not so if you have a skewer on hand.  Poke some holes, and the stems will slide right in.  Then pop it in the fridge until you need it.  Easy, quick, fun, quirky – to all my friends, there are apple bouquets in your future.

5-minute Craft Project: Porterweed Wreath

Life gets busy, but it should never be so busy that you can’t stop for five minutes to make something look pretty.  It just feels good.  Today after work, I combined my two loves-gardening and crafts-to make our front door a little more appealing. The grapevine wreath was in the closet completely bare, and the porterweed had once again tripled in size.  That girl needed a haircut.  Porterweed plants bloom in spikes.  Tiny purple flowers open in a cluster along tall textured stems.  The rope-like stems are easy to weave in and out of the grapevine, and the only other step is to hang it.  Even as the flowers dry, the wreath still looks nice.  But even if it only lasts until morning, who cares?  It only took five minutes to put together.      

Terra Cotta Craft Therapy

The results of my retail therapy turned craft therapy…

Projects like this validate my hoarding tendencies when it comes to crafts.  Anything else goes to Goodwill or the trash, but every little trinket or button gets shoved into a box somewhere.  It started with mosaics, the first of my major craft obsessions.  I realized that with a bottle of Goop and a box of grout, almost anything could be broken and put back together again, better and cooler than ever.

My mother and sister disagreed with me on this point for a while – my mother when I smashed her wedding dishes from Ireland, and my sister when I tiled over a frame she gave me.  Before you flip about my mother’s dishes, she’s been divorced from my father since 1978.  Trust me when I say there was no sentiment lost by the head of my hammer.  It was only because they were expensive in 1967, but I broke them 40 years later.  I think she got her money’s worth.

And I got mine out of these pots.  They turned into a bit of a never-ending project…in a good way.  I just kept adding little things here and there – coke caps, tiles, beads, bits of old jewelry.  Since the girl in the napkins is headless, I contemplated decoupaging my face on her but went with a watch face instead.  Then there were a few napkin scraps left over, so I found a third terra cotta pot to decorate.  There was nothing pressing beyond those pots.  It was exactly what I needed; therapy accomplished.