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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Retiring a Legend

When you think of retirement parties, what comes to mind?
I bet it isn’t  “BASEBALL!”  
Well, that is exactly what we did, we thought “baseball”.

A co-worker recently retired who had 40 years – yes, 4-0 years – with the company.   He is a hard-working man, who still plays recreational baseball in a senior league.   It only made sense that his party had a baseball theme.   Besides, I like a challenge and when it came to googling “retirement party baseball theme”, not much popped up. (pun intended)

Since we were having the dinner party at Old Greenbrier Restaurant, we wouldn’t be able to go all out on decorations, so we kept it simple with table “centerpieces” made up of a box of Cracker Jacks and a fake bag of peanuts.    On each table we had paper and pen for the guests to write a note to the honoree.

Our guest list was quite varied with a handful of current employees and several retirees who had not seen each other in a very long time.   Name tags were in order and easy to make using  I used the 2x4 shipping label and put a simple graphic of a ticket stub on one side and added the event details.  I printed them and put them on a clipboard.   As people arrived, I wrote their names on the tag. 
For our main table, we had a bucket of baseballs for all of his “teammates” to sign.  (If you choose to use this idea, use ballpoint pens instead of the fine tip Sharpies.  They worked okay, but didn’t dry as quickly as I would have liked.)    I used a photo holder and added a couple of quick signs for "Autographs please!"

This was sitting next to a “baseball card” poster that one of our co-workers made with a photo of him batting with a standing ovation crowd in the background.   He even added statistics on the back.

On the dessert table, we had two buckets, one for collecting money for the honoree  and one for collecting notes and cards.  I re-worded "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" for the sign on this one.

For dessert, we opted for cupcakes from Peggy Ann Bakery, and I made cupcake toppers using Powerpoint and my Silhouette Cameo.   I found some photo clipart that I liked of baseball stuff and using the Picture Tools in Powerpoint, I cropped them to circles and then added the text.   Using the Print and Cut feature of the Cameo I was able to knock out 60 in no time flat.   

We didn’t have anything planned as far as speakers or anything like that, but there is the tradition of giving advice, well wishes, and storytelling at retirement parties.   Off the cuff, we played “pass the bat” and whoever had the bat could speak.     

We even had one person, who couldn’t make it, email me a couple of stories to read to the group.  It was a hit!  (pun intended)

After all of the speeches, we got everyone outside for a group photo and few last goodbyes.   

Simple yet fun. With never-ending hushpuppies. The way retirement ought to be.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Trash to Treasure - Ladder Back Chair Gets New Life

A couple of weeks ago, I was out doing a bit of junkin’ on a Saturday morning and ran across this little treasure:

When I bought it, the lady asked if I was going to make it into a planter.  That idea had crossed my mind, because I like container plants, but it quickly became my backup plan.   I decided that I would put a new bottom in it, and it wasn’t going to cost me anything but my time.
Growing up, my Granny had a few of these straight back / ladder back chairs.   I can remember sitting in them and leaning back against the wall, trying to balance just so.  She must have had them a long time, because I don’t remember them ever having cane bottoms.   She used old nylons in a basket weave pattern to make the seats.   So, I thought, if she could use old nylons, surely there were other materials that could be used as well. 
I did a bit of googling to confirm that my first plan had been used before – old tshirts.   We had recently replaced several of the hub’s undershirts, and the bag of old shirts had not made it to the trash can yet.  Normally I would not have wanted to use white (or dingy white) for this type of project, but with the paint job on the chair, I thought I would give it a try.
First job was to finish dismantling the chair bottom.  That took about 15 minutes.
Next, I cut up the tshirts.  I laid them flat on a craft table and using a rotary cutter, I trimmed the hem off of the shirt.   Then I put a yardstick on the shirt and used it as a guide for cutting the strips. Actually they are still loops at this point.    

I had plenty of shirts, so there was no reason to cut strips past the sleeves.  Plus, that length may have been a bit short.  I probably cut 30-40 loops.  I do recommend using a self-healing cutting board instead of a table.
Measure the chair bottom width and double it.  That is what length strip you will need.   For instance, if the seat bottom is 18” at its widest point, then the strips will need to be 36” long.   Depending on the size of tshirt, you may be able to get two strips from each loop.  Remember that tshirt material will stretch and curl when you pull it tight.
Wrap the strip around one side and pull tight to the other side and tie a knot.  Leave the extra length so that each one can be tied to the one next to it at the end of the project.
Continue wrapping and tying until the bottom is covered completely.  I used 38 strips. The second photo shows where I pulled the knots toward the bottom so that both sides are smooth.


The next step is the weaving.  I used a plastic ruler with a hole in one end as a shuttle.  I wrapped the strip around the front round and then pulled it tight, stuck both ends through the hole in the ruler, and weaved it between the other strips.  Pay close attention for the first few runs, so that you get UNDER both pieces and not BETWEEN.  Remember to alternate the over/under pattern on each run.   When it is pulled through to the back, tie it tight, but don’t tie it in a knot yet. Here is what my first four looked like.

  As you weave, it will become tighter and you will be weaving in a not-so-straight line and then have to scoot it over each time to get it in a straight line, or as straight as possible.  For the last two or three, I couldn’t use the ruler because there was not room for it.  I just tied the strip in a knot and fed it up and down by hand.  Occasionally I had to use the eraser end of a wooden pencil to push it through or make the hole more obvious. 
Once all of the strips had been weaved through, then I went back and pulled those good and tight and tied a knot at the back for each strip. 
Next I tied the strips to each other, side to side.

Then I trimmed the ends to neaten things up a bit.

And the last step was weight testing.
Although the cat, myself, and the hubs tried it successfully,  I think we all know who is going to claim this chair for himself.

If I run across another one of these treasures, I will definitely try some different colors next time to make the weaving go a bit faster. And I might be tempted to cut the strips a bit wider and use thicker material than undershirts.  All in all, I consider it a successful attempt!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

My Punny Valentine - College Care Package

Our congregation has a program where families can adopt a college student for the school year.  We are asked to encourage them throughout the year with prayers, cards, care packages, messages on social media--generally whatever we are comfortable with.

We adopted a young man whom we have known for a long time who is a senior.  With Valentine's Day approaching, I thought we could send him a little care package, ya know, "show the love". :)
When I started looking for valentine ideas for guys, all I seemed to find were gifts and cards for a boyfriend or hubby.  That was just a little too romantic for what we were aiming for, and anything funny seemed inappropriate as well.  I also wanted to send some practical items along with some of his favorites and of course, something silly.

As is tradition now at our house, valentines must be punny.
So, I did some googling, and walked through a store or two, and came up with the following list of punny phrases and items.
Using my Silhouette Cameo, I cut out hearts and hand-wrote the notes on each one.  Maybe when I have more time and experience, I will do this with the print and cut features of the Cameo, but I kinda like the handwritten part.

You have been o-fish-ally heart-attacked! (Goldfish) 
We wheelie like you! (Hot Wheels in school colors)
You are all write in our book! (pen)
You are looking sharp! (Sharpies)
For nacho average guy (Doritos)
Yoda best! (Yoda)
You da balm! (Carmex lip balm)
We think you are Extra special! (Extra gum)
We love any raisin to be punny! (yogurt covered raisins)
We hope that in Subway we made you laugh!  (Subway gift card)

Our niece stayed with us the night after I shipped this box, so I "heart-attacked" her as well, since she loves puns.  She was also headed out on a youth retreat for the weekend, and I knew she would NEED a candy supply.   Unfortunately, I did not get a photo of the candy that I left on her bed, so you will have to use your imagination:

Lemon tell you something....(Box of Lemonheads)
You are beary special and.....(Haribou gummy bears)
You are o-fish-ally our favorite valentine!  (Swedish Fish)

I hope that you have had a happy Valentine's Day doing whatever you love!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

House Divided Baby Shower

Every once in a great while I have these creative spurts and I just HAVE to do a project.  A baby shower for a dear friend put me into one of those spurts.   I was part of a wonderful crew of people who all have different and awesome talents, and we just work well together.   Since the mommy-to-be is a huge sports fan and she is one half of an  "Alabama House Divided", we chose to do a football theme for the shower.  Plus, it was unintentionally planned for Super Bowl Sunday.
(In case you don't live in the South, or watch college football, and don't know what an Alabama House Divided is, that is where one spouse is an Alabama fan and one spouse is an Auburn fan.   Hard to believe, but those couples DO exist.)

So, my task was to come up with the invitations that were being mailed.  After a quick (ha!) perusal of Pinterest,  I came up with these designs.  I created them using Powerpoint and Google Images.

 I loved the fact that they looked like real tickets and that I could do two on one piece of cardstock.   They were roughly 4.5" x 6.5", so they fit perfectly in a business-sized envelope.   We sealed them with these "Special Delivery" stickers that I made up on


While I was perusing Pinterest, I saw a pin for a football shaped baby blanket.  The instructions looked easy enough, so I decided to give it a shot.  Click here for the instructions.   I did change a few things. 
First, I used a different material for the back; I chose a blue/brown dot snuggle flannel from Joann's.  Note: Pay attention to the widths of your material or you get to make a second trip to Joann's!  Yes, voice of experience.

Second, I added a layer of quilt batting.  So, when I was ready to cut the back and batting, I layered it top to bottom : brown, blue, batting and pinned. Remember-pretty sides together.  Be sure you have the space to do the pinning; I did mine on the floor since I didn't feel like cleaning off the dining room table.  Which means I had feline assistance until I threw him out of the room.

 Third, being an engineer and a football fan, I changed the laces configuration to make it true to life with one long center lace and eight short laces.  (I did refrain from making them to scale though)  This change was almost my undoing, but I finally figured out that I should sew on the long lace first, and then sew on the short laces.   The long lace was 1.5" wide and 15" long.  The short laces were 1" wide and 4.5" long spaced one inch apart.  
This was the first time that I had ever sewn using minky (the brown material), so it was bit of a struggle to get it to stay put with the white fleece.  Once I got the hang of it, I was able to knock it out in no time.   For an experienced seamstress, this would probably take less than a couple of hours to do.  
I am NOT an experienced seamstress.

One of the tasks I chose was to acquire corsages for the mommy-to-be and the grandmas-to-be.   I had an idea of what I wanted, so I contacted a friend who owns Rabbit’s Nest Florist and shared with her some photos I found on Etsy.   I was looking for something reminiscent of homecoming corsages, but without the big ol’ mum in your face, plus we needed to incorporate all of the school colors.   She came up with these, which we all just loved!

I had absolutely nothing to do with these, but wanted to share the awesome creativity of my friends.
Goal post made from PVC pipe and fittings on the gift table

Goal post on the food table on opposite side of room

Diaper cakes on the mantel with baby bottles in referee coozies anchoring the balloons

"Thank you for taking time out to celebrate our all-star!" with Starbursts and diaper cakes

The guest "book" - football shaped wooden plaque

We decided to stick with quantities of a few shower standards that were also considered tailgating goodies.   

Since the format was afternoon come-n-go, we chose to go with the following:
Punch chosen by the mommy-to-be
Pigs in blanket
Veggie tray
Meat and cheese tray
Fruit tray
Nuts and mints
Football shaped mints
and the star of the food table, the cake!

If you are planning a House Divided shower, I hope that we have been able to give you some ideas!