Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Everything right turns out wrong

As promised, here is what didn't work.
Let's start with these pretty easy and cheap flowers.

It is pool noodle with a chip tray glued on. I had pool noodles, the trays were at Dollar Tree. I was going to nail this for a mere $1 per flower. The problem was how to make them stand. Pinterest calls for toilet plungers. I wanted larger clusters of these. I didn't have a dozen plungers, nor was I going to buy them. I did have a large supply of foam board that could be cut and repainted.
Lesson 1: Spray paint (or spray anything really) eats foam board. Like acid, eats it. Bubbles up. Dissolves.
Lesson 2: You can use low temp hot glue on pool noodles or foam board, but not if you are attaching them to each other. It melts the material and has nothing to bond to.
Lesson 3: Super glues also eats foam

What worked: I filled the grooves made by the glue that eats with liquid nails, I placed toothpicks in the bottom of the noodles to have an anchor while the liquid nails dried, and I stuck a wooden rod down the middle of the noodles for more support. Even with that, they are shakey and 2 ended up just being propped in corners because even with all that they still fell.

The tree stump was another get internet idea. Take a 5 gallon bucket, cover it with spray insulation foam, and paint it brown. Instant stump.

More like instant pile of elephant poop.
The fix: I carved down some of the more bubbly and swirly parts, made some crepe paper flowers on floral wire, added a butterfly, and baked some tiny clay mushrooms on toothpicks that would stick into the foam. The tiny mushrooms are probably my favorite thing and will be coming home with me. I also placed in on some fake grass I found, which also helped.

The palm trees are the one that almost broke me. They were actually a zero cost project. The church had a large stack of paper bags that no one needed. The trunks are made from pool noodles and those sacks with the bottoms cut off  and smushed down. The cut bottoms went to the snack staff who used them as little trail mix trays. The leaves were bulletin board paper we already had with bamboo skewers as support, glued to spray can lids that would fit onto the noodles. The problems started again with the base and getting them to stand. Glue and foam board just don't mix. I had to use a heated cutting tool for foam to dig a trench for a tube to set into. Then the noodles would set into the tubes, and the cap with leaves onto the top. Fishing line would make it all stand.
 The plan was for each backdrop to have an 8 foot double noodle palm and a 6 foot palm on either side. That is 8 total.  When I started putting them up I realized that the backdrop supports were the same height as the trees and offered no support for the tall trees. There was a period in there where I just sat down and stared at it all, seeing my whole plan crash and burn because the large trees would not work no matter what I tried.

In the end, I transferred bags onto some cardboard carpet rolls we had in storage. Those could stand in the base unsupported. My short trees were now the tall one and my tall ones got cannibalized for random other spots, such as by the piano waterfall in the chapel.

The flowers:
For these I actually bought a kit at Michael's. The kit had four, which I used as templates to make the others. The kit came with pre-cut pieces and lots of sticky tape. Foolproof! Yeah, after 24 hours the provided sticky tape un-stickyed and the flowers popped apart like a jack-in-the-box. I remade them with glue dots. Same result. Regular double stick tape. No luck. Actual glue. Nope. 

What worked: I stapled each petal together, then stapled the petals to each other and the base as much as I could. For the spots I couldn't staple, I used red tape. If you aren't familiar with red tape, it is a crafter's ultimate double sided, serious stick, tape. It made my titanium coated, sticky resistant scissors gummy. Hardcore.
To hang them, I was taking no chances. On the backside I used a small hole punch to make a hole that I reinforced with tape, and then strung twine through it so that I could tie it to the railing upstairs. The key to them staying has been hanging them where no one could touch them.

The backdrop was my sure thing. LifeWay makes pretty backdrops to suit the theme. I agreed to take this on because I was just dressing up the backdrop. Easy peezy. Except, the backdrop was smaller than I thought it would be. I don't know why I didn't measure it out before we put it up so I would know, but I didn't. When we set it up it in the large worship center it was dwarfed. Lucky for me our church has a closet of flower arrangements which included some that were just greenery. I grabbed every one I could find and then filled them with the most tropical blossoms I could find at Dollar Tree. The effect was perfect. It all came together so well.

I'd post full tutorials, but the honest truth is that I am just not that good. When people ask me how I did it or what is holding something together I tell them it is prayer. This wasn't me alone. It wasn't even just me with the people who helped. This is way outside me and my skills. This was God. The things I needed were always there. From the carpet rolls, to a can of black spray paint, to fake grass strips in just the right size. When things fell apart, I prayed over them, and a new way presented often with better things to go with it. When I wanted to give up on something, encouragement came. And, when I was certain that it was going to be a disaster, it came together better than I could have imagined. It was too much to brush off as anything else other than God's guiding hand for me. Some might question why I'd post about what went wrong because no one would know if I didn't tell on myself. The way I see it, if I didn't tell, people would give me all the credit when the real glory belongs to God. 

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Wrong turned out right

I knew that I needed to post pictures of how the VBS decorations turned out, but I felt like the pictures made it look all perfect and brilliant, which is really only half the story. Through this I learned several ways not to make palm trees, that Pinterest pictures can be kind of evil, and that the LifeWay idea book may have very good intentions, but is extremely unrealistic without a design team and a large budget. In the end, I am rather glad I didn't have the team and budget. Instead, I had  a couple of awesome friends who would take an hour or two here and there to cut stuff, hand me things, and listen to me talk out my plans. I got to rummage through every storage closet and supply room in our church finding things I could re-purpose. It was like a crafting treasure hunt.
Okay, pretty first.
Our church divided our VBS into two parts. The elementary aged children start the day in our main sanctuary and the preschool starts in our chapel. The church purchased a backdrop panel for each one, and I was tasked with dressing them up and building off the backdrop.
This is the chapel. It is actually a very old church that the rest of the church grew around. I love the chapel.

To get to it you go through a small hallway. I lined one side with vines made of plastic tablecloths, tissue paper butterflies, and small crepe paper flowers.

The other side has a bulletin board, which I covered with a themed mapped.

One the way out of the chapel you pass a piano that we didn't want little fingers playing on. It became a waterfall. Nix had a brilliant idea to use one of the failed palms as a rock pool border.

One of the other ideas that worked well was the signs I made. These were part of an old VBS project where another brave soul with more talent than me had painted foam board to look like wood. I trimmed down pieces, touched up the paint, and then painted the middle with chalkboard paint. After this year I realized that the more reusable I can make things, the better. I made a bunch of these things and put them all over the place. This also has reused yard sticks for the post.

Now for the big one. This is also where we do pick up and where the family night program will be. Everyone sees it and I wanted it to be magical.

Main stage

 Waterfall complete with tree house and rope bridge.

The large painted animals are again reused from the aforementioned talent that came before me.  I just gave the frogs a fresh coat of paint in more jungley colors.
I really love how the vines and large flowers turned out. The flowers were not a pinterest idea, so that made them different from any of the flowers in the classrooms. They were hung all along the balcony. I made a dozen flowers in total.

I had some extra palm leaves (because I can't do math during summer vacation) and this garland I saw in the Oriental Trading Catalog. I knew I'd use it, I just didn't know where until it came in. It fit perfectly in the foyer on the half wall upstairs. It was one of the things I didn't plan but worked (as opposed to the things I did plan that didn't work)

Okay, That's the pretty. Later I will give you the ugly of it all. I didn't want to taint this image of lovely by pulling back the curtain just yet.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Not pleased with myself

If you are on my Facebook page or have been within 10 feet of me this month, you probably know two major things about me. 1. I have been busy to the point of exhaustion  2. I was put in charge of the large area decorations for my church's Vacation Bible School. You know these things because I have not exactly been handling them with peaceful grace. It has been more like with loud grumblings. Why? Because I have stress and control issues. I don't like being in charge because things go wrong, and in order to handle the idea that things go wrong, I make plans to compensate until I am literally sick with worry. Rocky called me out on it a couple weeks ago. He asked the hard question, "Why don't you trust yourself?" The ugly answer is because these things rarely turn out good enough to please me.

Galatians 1:10 Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.


I am a servant of Christ. He put this before me, and He will see me through it. Not only can I do what He needs me to do, but I can also do it joyfully. I don't need to be pleased with the finished product because it is not for me. It is for God and for the children who come into our church that week. If an old lady in the church doesn't like how it looks, if the pastor had something different in mind, or if (and much more likely) it isn't up to the impossible standard I set for myself, then the world will not end. If I do the best I can for God and to light up the imagination of the children, then the real standard has been met.
So, if you see me the next couple of weeks and I am grumbling or frazzled looking, do me a favor and ask me, "Are you remembering who needs to be pleased?"

On a side note, this has also given me an excuse to learn to makes these awesome 11 inch paper flowers. I love them, but could never justify making them until now. 

Tuesday, May 05, 2015


You know that feeling when you step out of Walmart and you can't for the life of you remember where you parked? You just wander to where you usually park hoping to hear the car beep when you hit your lock button on the key fob. Then you remember that you parked by the other door, so you trek across the whole lot only to see that everyone in town who has a car the same make and color as you has come to Walmart today. If you are my kind of crazy, you next get a fleeting thought that maybe someone stole it, and when the police come to help you, and ask when the last time you remember seeing your car, you will have to say, "Just before I left the house". Right before that fear takes hold is usually when I find it, and hope no one saw me wandering around the parking lot, because heaven forbid a stranger see me act crazy. I save that kind of behavior for friends and family.
In church, you hear often that we need to focus more on God. I just had trouble focusing on a very large vehicle, and you want me to try and focus on the unseen? That, my friends, is a whole different kind of wandering. One of my favorite lines from Lord of the Rings is when Gandolf says, "Not all who wander are lost." I know Tolkien meant it differently, but I am so thankful for how it also applies within Christianity. 

In Matthew 18:12-14 the Bible says that when we wander from God, He drops everything to bring us back as a shepherd would a lost lamb. Verse 14 says, "In the same way, your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish." How great is that! If we get distracted and don't remember how to get back, God will be there yelling at us "Hey! Over here!!!" Sometimes he may even send a friend to walk you over. It is such a comfort to know that even when I wander, I'm not lost to God.
Now, if we could only get Walmart to have valet parking, 

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Reading Lesson

This past week I was gently challenged to make an intentional effort to focus some of my writing on God, and to do so in a public way. I often do write down things that God has laid on my heart or a new (to me) insight, but rarely do I publish it to the blog. The question of "Why not?" was asked. My answer was a list of doubt filled questions. Who would want to read it? Who am I to tell people this stuff? What do I know in comparison to the others who are more qualified and better practiced in expressing things in a God honoring way? I'm nothing special.
This is me ignoring all of that.

"Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My father will love them, and we will come to them, and make our home with them."
John 14:23

I have spent a great deal of time not enjoying reading. Being dyslexic makes it a chore at times. Books assigned to read in school were awful. (Red Badge of Courage in 10th grade, really?) Trying to read the classic King James two column reference Bible was a nightmare. Page distractions, hyphenated words, and that awkward column down the middle filled with some sort of reference code designed to keep people like me from ever figuring it out (not really, but it feels that way at times)  

In my late 20''s I realized that my kid's reading level was about to pass my own, and I needed to be able to read what she was reading. This time it clicked, and I got hooked on a good read.

Some positive peer pressure shamed me into picking up Pride and Prejudice. It took me FOREVER to get through. The language was almost foreign. It stretched me like nothing had before. I had to watch the BBC series to really get some some of it. I was crazy proud when I finished. About a year later, I decided to read it again, and this time it took me less than a week to read it, and I caught so much more than before. I was use to the rhythm of it and had a lot less to look up. I picked it up again recently because I needed a familiar and beautiful read to quiet my busy mind. It went from being the biggest reading struggle of my life to being comfort food.
My biggest shame as a constantly failing person who wants to follow Christ is that I have not read through the Bible. Sure, I've hit most of it. I know all the highlights, and I've studied through several of the books, but I don't read it like I should at all.  Not even close. I still struggle. The begets are where my dreams of this feat usually die. It dawned on me that it is because I have never challenged myself to get through it like all the classic novels I have been pushing through these last few years.
The first time through will be hard. The second time through will be eye opening. The third time will make God's word home. I've been a Christian the vast majority of my life, but this is the first time I am excited by the idea of reading the entire Bible. It took me a full year to make it through one of Tolkien's works, so I'm afraid to set a timeline for me to finish this. Let's just say that when I do, you'll hear about it. Not out of pride for myself, but out of pride for what God will have seen me through.

If you also struggle with the usual format the Bible is printed in, you may want to look into this one. The ESV Reader Bible. It is written like any other book. No more red letters, breaks in lines every fourth word, or tiny distracting number everywhere. I'm sure it makes a terrible study Bible, but for straight reading, it may just be brilliant. It is on back order now so I must not be the only one who thought so.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

10 Things NOT to Donate

I spent the day helping set up for a garage sale to benefit my church's mission projects. For the most part, the items donated by church members were great. They were clean, in working order, and from this decade (mostly). However, there was another stack. This stack came from one county over where a school had attempted a similar sale only to have it rained out. They generously offered to let us have everything. It is while going through these things that I realized even though you should not look a gift horse in the mouth, if said horse has colic and a really bad limp, I think it is fair to question the motives of the giver.
With that I give you 10 things that you really should never donate

10. Home decor from a different century. I promise that no one is sitting around wishing they could find blue and mauve country kitchen valances. 
9. The free flip flops they give you when you have a pedicure
8. Well loved stuffed animals. As cute as they may have been new, at some point they become gross and creepy and need to go away
7. Clothes with holes. If you would throw it out, so would we
6. Clothes with stains, unintended paint splotches, and especially something that looks like your grandmother might have been buried in it. Please refer back to the second part of number 7.
5. Anything with duct tape holding it together. I kid you not, there was a hedge trimmer duct taped to a painter's poll. Your red neck inventions, no matter how genius, do not need to be donated.
4. A poorly framed picture of a dead cat (RIP Fluffers 1985-2005 you had a good run)
3. Anything and everything that might be considered a ladies unmentionable. 
2. Used men's underwear. This goes along with the last one, but I felt it needed it's own line to reinforce that nothing that has touched your bare behind needs to go to charity. EVER.     

The number 1 thing you should never ever under any circumstances put into a bag you are donating to charity is....

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go shower and possible get my shots updated. 

PS: If you live in my town, come see the sale tomorrow. We threw out all the scary things and ended up with a lot of cool things. 8 to 3 Friday and Saturday at 1220 Laurelwood Trail, 30041
All of it goes to help our mission churches.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

You're a Wizard JD

It's not everyday that your young man turns eleven. That day came last month. Thanks to pinterest and a stash of parchment paper, I planned to make JD a Hogwarts acceptance letter for his birthday. It turned out pretty sweet. I applied the same basic style to make party invitations. For favors I made these easy snitches from this tutorial on Epbot.

Next, I wanted to make wands. I stumbled onto these bamboo chopsticks and decided that with a little bit of clay and paint could turn them into wands. The ones I found were much like these on Amazon.
This turned out to be so easy and awesome that I had to share a DIY post.
Cut off a chunk of clay and roll it into a ball warming it up with your hands to make it easier to shape into a handle.

Instead of wraping it around the chopstick, push the ball down on top shaping it downward. This will prevent fussing with smoothing a seam.

Now have fun with it. I twisted some, added subtle lines, a bold swirl, I even pressed tulle into one to form a snake like pattern. Use your imagination and any random thing you think might look good. You can redo it as many times as you want until you bake it.
I had a set of metal letter stamps, and used them to put JD's name on his to make it extra special. I couldn't resist making one  for myself as well.

Per the clay instructions, I baked them for a half hour at 275. When they cooled, I used a chocolatey brown to paint the whole thing. It took two coats to cover. At that stage they looked much like tootise rolls (or poop, depending on who you asked).
After the brown dried, I applied a layer of black paint, and then used a papertowel to wipe most of it off before the paint dried. The black paint settles into all those texture marks you made before and really brings out the details to make them look more like carved wood.
I used a short flower vase with marbles in the bottom as an easy place to let them dry. Plus, it looked cool. 

For an extra magical touch I used a little of this copper paste stuff that I had on hand. I used a paper towel to buff on just a tad, and only on the handle, to give it an slight shimmer.
The last step is to use a clear satin sealer to help the layers of paint all stay intact. 
The only hard part about all this was waiting on coats to dry. 

If you are feeling adventurous, Epbot has an expanded version of this, only her wands light up.
Extra tips:
Thin irregular lines that are not deep give the handle a more realistic wood look. 
Before you put it in the oven, grip the handle for a second. Careful not to do it too tight or you'll leave finger prints. You want it just enough to make it fit in your hand. Slight dimples where your thumb or forefinger might rest. It gives it an added feeling of it fitting to you.