November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

From Our Family to Yours
Pilgrim Couple by Gaia Robinette
Thanks to artist Gaia Robinette for this image!

Wishing everyone an abundant and blessed Thanksgiving!

November 20, 2014

Autumn Yard Sale

Another Sunrise
Another Sunrise

Teddy Bears to Tea Pots... and Everything in Between

I know that I have begun more than one post on this blog with a sunrise photo taken just outside my door, and here is another one. However, the morning of our recent yard sale dawned so very beautifully that it was impossible to resist snapping a shot of it as I hastened to get ready for the big event. Since this was before the November time change, and the sale began at 8 a.m., I was literally out before daylight moving items out of the garage and on to the wide expanse of our driveway. Though we have a large garage, I determined that it would be better if the sale itself were outdoors. That way I didn't have to worry about over eager customers exploring Larry's tool shelves or bottle-necking in a cramped area.


I decided to have a sale several months earlier than it actually occurred. Though I had a fair amount of stuff, it wasn't really enough to warrant an individual sale. I checked in with the family, and several of them wanted to participate. Things were sort of on hold for awhile, giving everyone time to go through things and decide what they wanted to sell. And, this being Florida, waiting for the worst of the summer heat to abate. I attended a few sales during the summer, but not many. Having sweat roll off in sheets beneath a merciless sun on someone's driveway is no pastime for the less than dedicated bargain hunter. The lead time was a good thing for me. It gave me the chance to get to the cleaning and organizing of items for the sale. In my view, preparation is crucial to a successful yard sale.

Getting Ready for a Yard Sale

I did a bit of research, using Pinterest, as I so often do, to find blogs and websites with useful information. My search yielded all sorts of valuable advice and great tips for making the sale a success. I just wanted to pass along what I found particularly useful, and what I learned from this sale.

Yard Sale
As I have already said—Prepare. Have your items clean, sorted and priced beforehand. My daughters who were joining in this sale brought their stuff over several weeks before, so we had a good idea of what we were dealing with.

I placed an ad in a local paper and we also advertised on Craigslist and Garage Sale Finder (I found this neat site on a Pinterest Board). Since one daughter had a lot of baby items, we noted that in the advertisements. I also went to the bank and got a stack of $1 and $5 bills. I figured it was better to have more than I needed than to run short. A surprising number of people do not carry small bills, especially since many get their cash from ATMs. More than one blog I looked at emphasized the need for bright, eye catching signs, and since we are in a rural area, I purchased several sheets of florescent poster board. My youngest daughter did the lettering and arrows. The success of our signs was brought home on sale day when numerous people inquired about a sale nearby. I had seen their signs when I put up my own. They were small, cream colored with lettering impossible to read from a moving vehicle. 
 
Yard Sale Day
I had everything ready to go on the morning of the sale. We had several tables and some benches to put merchandise on. We had quite a bit of clothing, and I really did not look for it to sell well. However, I did know from experience that it was much more likely to be sold from a rack. I had one small one, but that was not nearly enough space. A bit of invention on my Better Half' s part provided us with ample room to display clothing. He hung a wire shelving unit from the garage door tracks, and it made a splendid clothing rack. As it turned out, clothing sold much better than I anticipated. I posted a sign on the wall with prices of standard items such as sweaters, tops and slacks, etc. Specialty clothing was individually marked with prices, and we attempted to make certain sizes were marked or easy to locate.


Sale Tables
I had several autumn themed vinyl table cloths which were great for sprucing up and tying together the tables.  We tried to group like items together— large baby furniture, toys and the like lined the edge of the driveway. One table had housewares, with glasses, dishes, etc. at one end and linens at the other. A small table held shelves, wall art and accent pieces, and another collectible teddy bears.
Teddy Bear Table
We did not have room to place all items on the table, so some were displayed beneath. Note that we were careful to keep walk ways clear though, so no one would trip. Other items were displayed initially on blankets spread out on the driveway or in cardboard boxes. Many of these were then moved onto tables as space cleared, keeping everything as neat and organized as possible. One other note, again on a tip I gleaned from exploring other bloggers experiences, was to put out a Free sign. I placed items such as non-functioning small appliances and technology, broken or otherwise damaged goods on a blanket next to the gate. I made a prominent (flourescent) sign stating that these items were non-working etc. and slated for disposal. Every item I put out disappeared. ( I wish I had cleaned out some more stuff from the barn. Live and Learn.)

Overflow items
We scheduled our sale for a Friday and Saturday, closing up at 2 pm each day. I think the closing time was appropriate, as we saw a drop off of customers after lunch time both days. Surprisingly, Friday was far the better day both in volume and money made. We had more casual lookers on Saturday, but many of them were more passing the time than actually serious shoppers.

Something I saw mentioned on more than one blog, and that I will pass along here, is to have an ice chest of at least water to sell to thirsty shoppers. I had a variety of soft drinks also, and it went over very well.  I sold water for 75 cents and drinks for a $1. I wouldn't have a sale without it again. I actually sold drinks to a number of people who were not even purchasing items from the sale.

There you have it. Sale done. Garage and house cleaner and less cluttered, and I made a couple of hundred dollars in the process. Altogether, we netted about $700 for the two days. Not a fortune, but satisfying. If you are planning a sale—good luck. I hope I have helped.

November 10, 2014

(Ice) Queen for a Day...

My Ice Princess

The Making of an Icicle Tiara

I promised in my All-Hallows Aftermath post to provide some more information on the construction of the crown or tiara that I made for my costume this year. When we started out on our search for suitable party gear at the second-hand and thrift shops in the area a couple of months ago, I really had no idea what I was looking for. Our theme, as I mentioned in a previous post, was a Princess Party. It originally came about after my oldest granddaughter's remark one day while we were out Thrifting, that we needed an excuse to dress up in some of the fabulous formal wear that one so often finds, for literally a fraction of its original cost, at these shops. When it was time to start planning the Halloween Barn Party, that conversation sprang back to mind— we added tiaras, crowns and/or jewels to the mix— and we had a theme. Sorry guys. We will try to come up with something more unisex next year.

Winter Queen's Bling
  I was becoming discouraged,  having determined that if I wanted to be a witch, or revisit last year's darkly Gothic look there would be no problem. Black dresses were omnipresent. And when I found something that might do in some other color, it was invariably either the wrong size, or more than this tight-wad was willing to pay for a Halloween Costume.  Finally, one daughter mentioned having found "the Dress" waiting for her in a shop at the other end of town.

My youngest daughter, Gaia and I, took a ride at first opportunity, down to that group of thrift stores we had not visited in months. It was kismet, perhaps, as we both found dresses that day, not at the same shop but at two that are just a few blocks apart. Mine was the silver-gray with icy glitter accents that provides a background for some of these photos, and hers was an oriental style tunic or mini. Now we were getting somewhere.

Ice Faerie Queen Crown
The color and style of my dress made me think of winter and ice. I had already done a bit of searching on Pinterest and found a selection of crowns and tiaras. I immediately knew what I wanted— I just was not sure how to go about creating it.  After searching online for icicles and crystals that would fit the bill, I finally stumbled across the Factory Direct Craft web site.  As always, cost is a big factor with me, and I not only found the supplies I was looking for, but at far more reasonable prices and shipping than other sources I came across. I ordered two sizes of the acrylic twisted and swirled iridescent icicles, and a package of beautiful crystal look garland. Within a few days, I was ready to go...

Since I already had other supplies on hand (being the craftaholic magpie that I am), I will provide a list of everything that I used in the crown construction. I already had two or three metal headbands, the kind with the teeth. You could use something else, but I do not know of another type that would provide enough stability as a base. They do carry them at Factory Direct Craft, but only in black as far as I can tell. I used a silver-toned one, but it will be mostly covered when the project is completed. I am certain they are available—a quick Google search yielded a couple of sources for under $9.00, but not at suppliers I have used or can recommend. So, here is the supply list for the tiara/crown I made.

  •  1 Jewelry Designer Metal Headband (with teeth)
  • 1 Package 4" iridescent icicle ornaments (15 in package, I used 14 of them)
  • 1 Package 5" clear acrylic icicle ornaments (6 in package, I used 5)
  • 1 package Silver iridescent Diamond Twist Garland  (I used about 28")
  • A roll of 24 gauge silver craft wire
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks
The only other tools you really need are scissors and a pair of wire cutters.

Tiara Supplies and tools
If (probably when) I make another similar crown, I will try some different approaches. I was not really sure how this one would come out, and not thinking ahead to tutorial, so I only took a few pictures. However, the assembly is pretty straightforward, so I will explain as well as I can.

My first step was to lay out a pattern of sorts. I seldom sketch things out, but I know that some people like to. I ended up with a design that sort of rose and fell, giving it some symmetry without being too structured. If you need to know, my pattern was, from left to right, as follows:
3- 4" icicles, 1-5" icicle, 2-4" icicles, 1-5" icicle, 2-4" icicles, 1-5" icicle, 2-4" icicles, 1-5" icicle, 2-4" icicles, 1-5" icicle, 3- 4" icicles. (a total of 19 icicles)
Having removed the hanging ties included on the icicle ornaments, I cut a long piece of wire (about 2 to 3 feet) and began wiring the icicles into place. Be certain that the icicles are facing away from the metal teeth of your headband base. Begin where the teeth start, and wrap the wire once or twice around the band between each new icicle.

Wiring the Tiara
The tiara will remain quite wobbly and hard to keep straight during this process, but all you really need to do is make certain they are all lined up in same direction and evenly spaced. After all of the icicles are wired into place, trim and secure any remaining wire. (If you need more wire as you work, just secure end of last piece and start a new one by wrapping it securely around the band. Just be sure any wire ends are tucked in neatly and on the side of crown away from your head. No one wants a wire sticking in them.) 

You will need  something to support the crown when your start hot gluing. I just used a small box I had handy. Since it is a little unstable at this point, I recommend, hot gluing 4 or 5 icicles into place, then setting them on your support to cool and harden before moving on to the next group. That gives you a chance to make certain that the icicles stay properly oriented as you work.

Hot gluing the Tiara
 When all of the icicles are hot glued into place and cool, the crown may still seem a bit wobbly, but when you wire the garland into place, you can wrap the wire around the base of the icicle as well as the metal headband, and that will firm it all up nicely.

 Since the garland I choose was fairly thin, I cut a piece long enough to be double across the face of the headband, covering both the band and the glued base of the icicles. Just for fun, I let about 3" of garland dangle to one side.  Start the garland at the same place as you began the icicles, where the teeth start on the headband. It is 12" or 13" across the base of the crown, so cut your length accordingly. I used about 28".

Tiara Detail
As before, cut 2 or 3 feet of wire (whatever you are comfortable working with). I simply wired the garland tightly to the base, using the opportunity to strengthen any icicles on the crown that needed it. Add more wire as needed. Secure your wire end and trim.

You've just made a crown worthy of any Ice Queen or other Cool Character you can dream up.


Ice Queen
Mab, the Queen of Winter Faerie
I really enjoyed coming up with a way to make my idea of a crown work, and want to try some other themes, such as Mermaid Princess or Woodland Faery in the future. The possibilities are endless. Since my costume was modeled after Mab, the Queen of Winter Faerie in Jim Butcher's Dresden Files books, I also made jewelry to complete the ensemble.

Harry Dresden Locket
While I initially contemplated using the icicle theme for earrings and necklace, my inability to locate some smaller icicle ornaments that matched those in my crown led me to explore other possibilities. The locket on my necklace is simply a dollar store ornament with a clip art picture of the character Harry Dresden who is the Winter Faery Queen's Knight in these tales. I used an assortment of clear glass and some large iridescent white acrylic beads that I had to complete it.

My Snowflake earrings were nothing more than two lightweight Christmas ornaments I put on earring wires. It was all easy and fun.

  Now, whenever I get to feeling Queenly, I can just whip out my crown and play the part. (I know the party had a Princess Theme, but since I am either mother or grandmother to most of the other Princesses present at this event, I decided it was perfectly within my rights to be Queen.)

I will close this post today with just a couple of observations about the Princess  Mentality that has become so pervasive in our culture. After an epoch of being the oppressed gender, of being chattels, servants and often having little more to say on their own behalves than slaves, it is perhaps understandable that in a more egalitarian age, Girls and Women want to feel special, to be more than just ordinary. However, It worries me to see the Great Divide between sexes widening again. I am not telling women to be like men, but I am suggesting that they tread carefully through the minefield of their hard-won equal rights. If you are going to be a Princess, be a Self-Rescuing One. Blessings to All...

Halloween Costume 2014-- Ice Queen

November 4, 2014

Aftermath— Another All-Hallows is History

Halloween Party Invitation

October got away from me...

Yeah— it is true that I am always complaining about Time, and about the fact that it leaves me standing dazed in its wake. Of late, I have considered the possibility that it just might have glitched in the opposite direction, that time may have slowed down a mite. Whether that's so or not, October was just so busy, so filled with activity, that slower or not, the time has passed me by. Yes, I had planned at least one more post, and hopefully two, before the advent of Dia de los Muertos, and our All-Hallows Barn Party, but that just did not happen. 

I need to be doing about twenty other things today, but I also need to learn to pace myself, to quit running on overload and live a more mindful, present life. I take on too much. Nobody does it to me. I have no one to blame but myself. I bite off a bit more than I can chew, to use an old southern euphemism. I know this about myself, and for a long time I have been utterly unable to do anything about it. I guess I want it all, but I have neither the energy, time or the drive, and perhaps not the right, to have it.

Making Sandwiches for party
Food Prep-- I found out last year that simple equals good party fare.
 I worked very hard on this party, and I think that there is no real reason to feel anything but good about it. I will, if Spirit or God is willing, do it again next year. However, the advent of a major cold front on the morning of my party; a chill, gusty wind and temperatures twenty five or more degrees cooler than the day before, dampened my spirits considerably.  I know that compared to the harsh weather suffered by those further north, our plummet into the forties would seem mild, but this is Florida—the weather has been warm and lovely for most of the last two weeks—and today will be much the same. Seemingly, two days of cold, unseasonable weather just dropped in to make a drafty barn seem downright uncomfortable.

Setting Up for Barn Party
Setting up the Barn for the Party!
 Still, on the whole it was a blast. Our Princess theme made for an interesting night. Dazzling dresses and shining tiaras were everywhere, though, as the night wore on, more often than not sensible jackets and sweaters somewhat altered the look of the ensembles. Some wore long underwear beneath shimmering satin. Several of us had on leggings or tights, and at least one wore sweatpants beneath her formal attire. My two youngest granddaughters and I were most suited, perhaps, to both the theme and the weather. Like many other little girls, they were dressed as the Princesses Elsa and Anna from Frozen. I am more of a book person, so my character turned out to be Mab, faerie queen of winter from Jim Butcher's Dresden Files. Yes, it is true that I am a Fangirl, though at my age using the word girl is completely facetious.

Princesses Etc.
Princesses, Etcetera
Aside from a great number of princesses, we had Kristoff (also from Frozen, and dad to one of the little princesses), a witch, a motorcycle outlaw, a Duck Dynasty patriarch, Captain America and a Gladiator (Only a Real Man could pull off wearing a skirt on a night that cold.) and his Lady. It was lovely and fun, and the Costume Contest, even broken down into several categories, was hotly divided.

Small Fry
A scavenger hunt led the kids on a wild cavort around the well-lit yard. The cold did little to slow them down. Since I lacked the time to come up with anything myself, I used a hunt I found on the internet (http://www.scavenger-hunt-fun.com/halloween-clue-hunt.html). While I thought it was great, at least one of the kids thought it was too easy. Hmmm we'll get him next year. We got much use out of the picture wall that Gaia and I concocted out of a sheet, cardboard and cardstock, a lot of glitter, and an old chair I spray painted gold on a whim. Last year, my daughter designated the back wall of the barn the picture wall,  posing all of the costumed guests in front of it for photographs.  Inspired by a recent post on Free People Blog  we decided to create our own backdrop. It is certainly an idea we will use again next year.

Midway through the evening, the wind, after having gusted strongly from the north all day, finally died down enough that we could use the fire-pit. I had already abandoned my plans of roasting hot dogs and marshmallows, but it was a lovely fire and attracted a group of hardier party attendees. The crock-pot of chili I made for the party was a great success. My crock pot is a six or seven quart one, and there was less than a bowlful left at the end of the evening. There was also a great deal of other food, including much spooky fare especially for Halloween.
All-Hallows 2014 Collage
All-Hallows 2014 Collage
I made the Sugar Skull cake and the ghost cookies (using an upside down tulip cookie cutter) and my daughter Gaia, who is much better at such things, decorated them. Our family includes quite a number of pinners, so it is not surprising that other fare at the party included such things as hot dogs wrapped as mummys, alcohol soaked gummy bears, jello worms and radish eyeballs, a huge jug of fruity sangria, and (drum-roll please) what was undoubtedly the most popular halloween edible this year
Halloween Spooky Spider Deviled Egg  |  Delicious as it Looks
http://www.deliciousasitlooks.com/2013/10/halloween-spooky-spider-deviled-eggs.html
We had no less than four plates of these little beauties! It was quite amazing, and a testament to the power of these images we find on Pinterest.  Anyone who saw the post I did last year on our All-Hallows Barn Party will know that I relied heavily on Pinterest for food inspiration. From mummy rice krispy treats to witches fingers cookies, I used several ideas. While I still used ideas I found on Pinterest and other sites this year, I learned from last year's party that I needed to simplify food preparation. Since I knew that everyone would contribute, that we would have ever so much more than could be consumed, I devoted more of my energy to other areas of preparation. I learn something new with each occasion I host, and hopefully incorporate what I have discerned. I have also had to come to terms with the fact that I can not control the weather or many other factors, and I really need to learn to roll with it.  

Icicle Tiara
Several of us made our own crowns and tiaras to go with our party costumes. They were all beautiful and inventive. I wish that I had a photograph that would do justice to my oldest granddaughter's flower festooned antlers (she was our only Deer Princess ;). Mine, in tribute to my wintry theme was an icicle crown. I was delighted with how it came out and had planned on doing a tutorial style post on its construction. Since time got away from me, I will try to get that delayed post done soon, so that it is available for anyone who wants to undertake this project in the future. It was fun and comparatively easy, and the results were quite gratifying. Look for this project soon.


Jack-o-Lantern



In closing this post today, I want to wish everyone a belated Happy All-Hallows. We have closed the door on one seasonal rite of passage, and now will undoubtedly rush our way through the blur of Holidays that mark the closing months of another year. 

I would like to thank everyone who attended my second annual barn party, and everyone who brought goodies and contributed to the fun. And, in spite of my misgivings over the weather, it was a great deal of fun. 

Until next time...

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