Grandpa’s Creativity vs Nature

“Why hire someone if we can do it ourselves?” My Grandparents asked my Mom and I. For years my Grandpa has been rebelling against the thought of hiring someone to chase away various animals or even to move their furniture to the loft (My Grandparents, both several years over seventy, decided to defy gravity by using ropes to lift the furniture themselves!)

Grandpa has been engaged in a creative war against the pests found near my Grandparent’s lake house for years. When Carpenter bees drilled holes in his car shed and their house, Grandpa created plugs out of wood scraps in his shop and dragged out his ladder to fill each one. Grandpa staged what he called a “bird roasting” when a Heron moved to the attic of their boat slip. The Heron dropped ginormous white presents all over their dock until Grandpa decided that he had had enough. Heron-one, Grandpa-zero. He hooked up several wires and configured them to make random annoying noises throughout the night. Grandpa-one, heron-one. Heron proceeded to ignore the noises through several nights and Grandpa observed that his other attempts had little affect. Grandpa went back to his shop and with my Grandma’s help (she is an excellent seamstress) he made a scarecrow from a few scraps and hung it in hopes that the wind would blow and it would scare the heron away. Grandpa-two, heron-two. The next day my Grandpa found the scarecrow on the deck covered with an extra large, white, sticky present from the Heron. Grandpa never saw the Heron again.

Grandpa said the most challenged project he ever attempted against nature was creating “caps” for several large bulbs that help guide the pathway from their house to the lake. The light globes had been gradually cracked from acorns falling on their skulls for years on end. Grandpa realized that the globes where rarely made now and were $69 a piece. He decided to try to patch them. Grandpa said he searched his shop for an appropriate patch and tried carpet, but could not find anything that was just right. He finally tried the old inner tube of one of his tires and discovered that it would stretch over the top. He then created a stand out of some old scraps of wood so that he could comfortably work on his globes. He painted it with stuff dry and put chorckin (?) stretched over with four wires so that there would be no wrinkles in the final product. Finally he painted his finished product white and sprayed a water repellant sealant over top. Every holiday when we gather as a family I look down at the globes and it is impossible to tell which ones have hats and which do not.

Grandpa loved to fish, but he also enjoyed the restful atmosphere. One day he decided to create a “fish catcher” so that he could take a nap while the fish where flung into a pile beside him. To my knowledge he is the only one I have ever known to invent such a contraption. This was also more efficient because he could have three fish rods in the water instead of just one. He demonstrated his technique with the fish catcher in our front yard. First he showed what it was like to cast the rod into the water by casting it into our little green bush. He showed me how he had spring loaded the rod and reel so a trigger would respond and catch the fish once the line was taunt and fling the fish into a pile beside him. I stood to near to the green bush- and it was a close call, but I thankfully escaped the fish’s fate.

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My Grandpa: the Original Dumpster Diver

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“I’m a lock picker, I’ve been in jail and I’m a minister” my grandfather told a shocked congregation. Grandpa is the most down to earth creative person that I have ever met. His hands are scarred and blistered from years of taking some else’s scraps and molding life into them once again. He is the original dumpster diver gleaning materials, for everything from a “dog” or firewood holder made from old railroad tracks to a set of home made lock picks from scraps from the RJ Reynolds dumpster. Today he uses random scraps found in his garage to complete his various projects ranging from beautiful jewelry boxes to hats made from stretched tires to protects his lanterns from the vicious acorns. ( I have realized my tendency to collect craft supplies in my ever bloated craft box is very much like his Aladdin’s cave like garage filled with neat piles of tools and leftovers that will one day come in handy.)

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Grandpa said he began using recycled objects and transforming them into something new when he was nineteen and newly married to my Grandma. He discovered that he “liked to make things, to change things” when he scavenged enough wood from the old bench that three or four of his brothers and sisters used to crowd around their old breakfast table to make a oak top for his new kitchen table. Grandpa searched his parent’s old log shed to find the wood that he chiseled into four legs. He used the leftovers to make my Grandma a nightstand. ” I don’t know how I put that thing together like I did with a rip saw, a draw knife and a plane,” he said. Grandpa and his brother Bill created several other pieces of furniture from scraps including a beautiful china cabinet and two gun cabinets. Grandpa also transformed Granny Allen’s (my great-great grandma’s) 150+ year old wash stand into a beautiful cabinet with oak he gathered from the RJ Reynold’s dumpster.

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Grandpa’s favorite repurposed creation is a set of two little anvils that once were a part of the Winston Salem Trolley tracks that he melded to become the perfect size for a set of matching bookends. He also enjoyed creating several WW2 model airplanes made from pine boards that he whittled with a pocket knife. He spent hours whittling the detail work on the stars and emblems on the planes and outlining the cockpit. Grandma said that sometimes Grandpa starts a project because “he was bored and sees something a decides to try it.” This is how Grandpa started whittling little easter baskets for the family out of walnuts and how they ended up with a personalized “dog” that holds their logs in the fireplace with two beautiful engraved monograms and their own set of fireplace tools.

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To set the record straight my Grandpa was never a master thief, although he could have been. At RJ Reynolds he was known as a man who could figure out how to break into any lock using the tools that he had fashioned out of scraps that he found in the dumpster. At “the time I was in the machine shop supply department and I would sit and attempt to unlock locks while waiting.” This came in handy when one day RJ Reynolds found themselves locked out of a very important safe filled with silver dollars. A man crossed the street and asked grandpa if he would attempt to unlock the safe even though it was supposedly an “unlock able security lock.” Grandpa took a small bit of metal and blackened it and put it in the key hole and rubbed it a little. He worked on potential fits for hours until on his last try the safe popped open. He was later asked by a member of his congregation, “Kermit, what where you before you became a minister?”

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Like the lock picks, Grandpa has made or refurbished many of the tools that he uses for his projects. He is also constantly updating his tools with new parts and brightly colored paint. One day he was sharpening a lawn mower’s blades and pain began to plague his knees. The next day he covered a cushion with plastic and attached it to four runners so he could comfortably work on his “lawn mower stool” without knee pain and without spending a dime. He made an anvil to sharpen his tools from scraps from the railroad. He also used the anvil to crack his walnuts and hickory nuts. In order to repair his infamous lantern bulbs with “caps” he created a tool to hold the lantern bulbs in place. True ingenuity is seeing a problem and working to fix it no matter the obstacles. Grandpa faces what most people would say is impossible with stride and is happy to search a dumpster or the back of his garage to find or create whatever tools he deems necessary.

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John Denver Makes an Excellent Bowl

My dad used to believe that he was John Denver. He had the hat, guitar and glasses which naturally made Dad believe that they where twins of the same ilk. Once in Colorado, strangers even stopped Dad to ask if he was the famous star. My Dad loved to grab his guitar and sing “Sunshine on my Shoulders”-which he did on repeat for the first eighteen years of my life.  Naturally, Dad has an extensive record collection which showcases his favorite tunes, but he has not had a record player for many years. His lonely records have accumulated several layers of dust as the world has raced on with eight tracks, cassettes, CDs and eventually iTunes.

I realized after a little research that a scratched John Denver record would make an excellent bowl.

To begin transforming your (or your dad’s/grandfather’s/ Goodwill’s) old, scratched records into nifty bowls heat your oven to 200 degrees.

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Now turn your Pandora station to John Denver and take a moment to go outside to enjoy the spring flowers or if you are in an apartment open your window for a whiff of the great outdoors. John Denver always makes me feel like taking a minute for an escape to the outdoors that seem to brim with opportunity.

Now grab a bowl and a flat pan and place your record of choice on top of the bowl.

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Carefully place the bowl, record and pan into the oven. Make sure that the oven is not to hot or that you heat the record for too long! The record should be heated for 5-10 minutes and it should be malleable, but not melted when it leaves your oven. Remember, if you dislike the shape of your bowl you can always reshape it!

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Take your record out of the oven and place it quickly on your stove top.

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Now it is time for a bit of quick creative energy. Once your old record leaves the oven, you do not have long before it hardens into its new shape. I tried originally to use my oven mitts to mold the record, but I decided it was easier to use my hands (I did not even get burned!) I recommend drawing some ideas or brainstorming while your record is heating so that you are prepared to mold as soon as your masterpiece leaves the oven.

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The first bowl I molded to have a larger base with star shaped points. I created this star points by pinching folds into the old record with my thumb and finger.

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My second bowl I decided to have a smaller base with a more square like body type. I accomplish this by quickly forming the bowl with my hands against my stomach and pinching four more severe folds in the record with my hands instead of the tinier folds that I did with my fingers for the first bowl.

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Enjoy this ageless craft that will help you make your favorite old tunes sing with life again as they hold everything from your cuties to your games.

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Revamp your Spring Break Shades

Spring is in the air, despite the fact that we got ANOTHER snow day this week. The grey skies have been an emoji for the campus mood. Students have been marooned in the library for weeks, red eyed and despairing as we have conquered exams and projects. Our white horse has finally arrived (cue the Lord of the Rings track as Gandolf rides to the rescue on his white steed). Spring Break has come.

The recipe for a solid Spring Break is friends+food+sun+vacation= a good time. This project will encourage you to feel the warmth of the sun’s rays and relax with friends away from the dull hum of your computer monotonously reloading your biology notes. Dig around in your drawer to find those $5 gas station sunglasses that you got on your last road trip and have kept because, frankly, you are a hoarder. Grab a friend and Mod Podge, a bowl, a paper towel, a bit of water, a piece of scrapbook paper, scissors and your sunglasses. I recommend matching your piece of scrapbook paper to the mood of your spring break-roadtrip, beach getaway, cruise, urban escape-have fun!

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For some reason this week I have been really into Dub Step, but I have decided that the appropriate Pandora station for this project should begin with “Brown Eyed Girl.” Impromptu dancing is strongly encouraged. Get your Spring Break groove on. Pour some of the Mod Podge glue in your bowl and add your little bit of water to make it a soupy mixture. Also fun fact that my housemate Hannah discovered if you were on a deserted island you could actually eat Mod Podge-it is not toxic! Take small strips of your scrapbook paper and cut them up into rectangles that will fit around the two legs your sunglasses-perhaps 1/4 of an inch across. Then dip the first piece into your soupy mixture. Channel your inner third grader as your remember what it was like to make all of those amazing paper mache projects when you were certain your destiny was to become a famous artist.1900074_10151906254226786_1080992937_n

Take the gluey piece of scrapbook paper and wrap it around one of the legs of your glasses. Start closest to the lenses and work your way to the end. I recommend folding it tightly around the glasses so that you do not end up with unwanted space at the end. Wrap the pieces so that they are reinforced by overlapping the flaps in a sort of woven structure.

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This process ended up being more tricky than I had anticipated. I suggest that you are very generous with the amount of Mod Podge that you use and really coat each layer with more Mod Podge. Slather it on as you would nutella on a sandwich. Make sure the paper is damp enough to really be molded around the groves of the sunglasses. Patch sections if the paper does not look to be holding up well initially. I actually began this project attempting to use the cute fabric in the first picture, but abandoned the fabric due to fraying. Always remember not to be married to your first idea because you never known what inspiration might walk through your front door while you have been staring out the window. Once you have finished the first side of wrapping your glasses continue with the other and then coat both sides with more Mod Podge (it acts as a sealing agent). Then let them dry.

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While you are waiting for your sunglasses to dry check out this youtube video. It had a great impact on the way that I view life.

Now enjoy your sunglasses! If you are going to a tropical destination take them to the beach. If you are going home take cute picture of your cat wearing them. I will be taking mine to the nation’s capitol for spring break 2014. Be safe and enjoy your time with friends! SPRING BREAK 2014 has ARRIVED!

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Light bulb rebirthed as retro vase

When you enter the twenty somethings a crazy sort of lacy white mist begins to float in the air. Your friends begin to obsess about the difference between sea foam and turquoise, daises versus roses and where their magical story will begin. Wedding Season runs strong from your early twenties until your thirties. I found my inspiration for this project last year when I was helping a friend brainstorm for her wedding. We ran across a delightful center piece that had lightbulbs adorning delicate trees branches and inspiration poured over me. I had never thought about repurposing items that are so often ignored, but provide daily beautiful energy to our lives.

This project will help you take something old and transform it into something new.

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The first step is to gather all of your materials. I recommend an old grocery bag, a pair of thorlo socks (or preferably work gloves if you have them), a pair of pliers, a miniature screwdriver, a coat hanger from your closet, a tape measure (check a sewing box) and an old light bulb. If you are prone to misplacing things as I am and as your love for crafts grow I recommend creating your own craft box. It can have whatever sassy personality you wish depending on the various leftovers and tools that you store inside. There is no right or wrong thing to put in your craft box because you never know when it might come in handy!

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Take the pliers and remove the gold shiny circle at the top of the light bulb.

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Use your small screwdriver with occasional help from the pliers to break the top part of the inside portion of your light bulb.

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Now comes the tricky part. I believe the best solution is to make some piping hot tea and turn your Pandora to Pretty Lights. Continue to work on clearing the center part of the inside of the light bulb. Around this time I slightly regretted not having work gloves, however my thorlo socks made it through and I did not have to make a side trek to the emergency room. Be very cautious when you are cleaning this up and use your plastic bag to store all of the extra glass pieces.

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Next, grab your coat hanger. Cut off the looped part and straighten it out with pliers or if you are extremely strong your hands. Then take your trustie Sharpie marker and your tape measure and mark five equal sections on your coat hanger. Mine happened to be a little under every 5 inches.

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Now take your first three points and bend at each point to make your triangle base.

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Then use your next two points to make the up and down and sideways support. Then find a circular item around your house that is similarly shaped to the top of your lightbulb. I tried my Sharpie and when it failed to help me for the first time in its life I moved on to thread.

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Once you have adjusted this to your liking screw in your light bulb. If you are a bit shaky about the snug fit, then bend the wire once more until it fits as it would in your favorite lamp. This bulb and the wire should be like inseparable middle school BFFs. If you are still hesitant then put in a bit of hot glue for extra support.

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Now the fun part! Be as creative as you desire. I added water and dyed it tantalizing green.The real reason that I went with this look is because I met the sweetest lady in Food Lion today who reminded me of my grandmother and we looked through a plethora of food coloring until we decided on a set that she said “looked hip and was the Food Lion brand so it will be cheaper!”

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I hope that you enjoyed your journey as you transformed a light bulb into a chic retro vase. Always remember that while the final product is beautiful, it is the crafting journey that makes the difference in your life. I hope you had a chance to experience the energy of creativity today!

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Transforming a Pint-sized Sweater into Mittens

I found a miniature grandpa sweater at the PTA for two dollars. It had been carefully knitted with green and white yarn and had a fancy trim. I wondered who spent loving hours pouring over those little stitches knitting future memories in one by one. I imagined a grandmother sitting by a roaring fire trying to guess the name her daughter was thinking for her cute, little grandson who was due any day. Now that grandson has children of his own and the lovingly knit sweater first found a home in a keepsake box, then the attic, the garage and finally a donation pile.

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I decided that I could not desert the pint-sized grandpa sweater because I was already forming an attachment to him (warning: you might start collecting WAY to many things reading my blog). Also side note I anthropomorphize everything- so by “him” I mean the little green and white sweater pictured above. I decided to repurpose the sweater to help build new memories. You likewise can select your own special sweater from the back of your closet or local thrift shop. I also recommend trying to imagine your sweater’s personal story because it can make the repurposing process even more fun!

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Before beginning this crafting portion I recommend heating up some water for tea and turning on inspirational music. I personally recommend the Celtic Fiddle Festival station on Pandora. Grab a pair of scissors, some pins and optionally a piece of paper. First, either trace your hand on a piece of paper and cut it out to use as a pattern or trace your hand directly on the sweater turned inside out. If you are going the pattern route pin the pattern to the sweater and proceed to cut it out. If you traced your hand directly then cut out your future mittens.

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Turn your future mittens inside out and use the pins to piece them together. Now, sew a seam around the edge of the mittens. I recommend using thread that matches the dominate color in the sweater turned mittens. As you are sewing, take care to leave a bit of a border so that your mittens will not have holes in them! I think that it can be fun to do a bit of hand-stitching, but if you have a sewing machine this will also suffice, but forewarning knitted material can be a bit difficult to work with initially.  If you have never sewn before I believe that this tutorial is a quick and easy way to get you up and running!

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If you tend to lose things and want to repurpose to the infinity then repurpose your scraps from this project to serve as a string to attach the mittens to one another.

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Enjoy your mittens and brag a little about how you transformed something old into something new :).

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Repurpose your Recycling bins

Imagine life as a recycling bin. Your days are spent being piled with tired, perhaps slightly odorous refuse. You are vastly under appreciated and are thrown out to the road once a week by your family instead of being nicely wheeled down like your brother- the trash can. Life as a blue plastic rectangle can be tough. Prior to our Snowpacolypse I had always ignored my recycling bin. He was there when me or my housemates needed to dump something in him, but it had always been a one sided relationship. This changed the night that “Frozen” let it go- out of the theatre and onto our Chapel Hill driveway. My housemates and I ran around outside in glee and wanted to go sledding, but no sleds could be found (although our neighbors tried baking sheets). It was then that our blue rectangular bin found the spotlight for the first time. Me and one of my housemates hopped in the bins and decided to slide down our very steep and icy driveway and magic happened. We not only flew down our driveway, but down part of the next hill as well! We spent the next two hours sliding down our driveway in our make shift sleds having as Meredith Corn put it, “one of the best memories from college.” Who would have thought that a repurposed recycling bin could have been so impactful? Next time you are looking to make a memory look around your house for an object you typically ignore. You never know what you might find or on what adventure it may lead you.

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The Prologue

Second semester senior year is the emotional version of that antique rickety roller coaster at the fair that groans with every turn until it nearly catapults you from its aged wooden tracks. Bittersweet is an understatement. We go from celebrating finally getting Duke tickets to crying on our best friend’s shoulder about how we will never find a job in this cruel world. We waltz around the campus with a confident air that finally no one could ever mistake us as first years and celebrate by skipping class and trying to squeeze the life out of every second we have left at UNC.  We say our official goodbye to the old well, campus organizations and wonderful friends and hello to a new job, new city and a new life. This next year in my life will be a unique marriage of the old and the new. I want to celebrate, mourn, dance, jump, balk wide-eyed and experience this unique union by celebrating and investigating other transitions, unique pairings and transformations in partnership with their roots and history. I want to understand “ordinary” objects, recipes, thoughts and people in brand new ways. Join me on this journey if you have ever experienced a transition or simply wish to unleash a little smidgen of imagination to reach into the far corner of your personal attic to an old wooden sea chest (or the back corner of your closet between your rain boots and dust bunnies) to things that you quite forgot existed, but be warned-do not get to attached because they will serve as an anchor for some new creation, idea or existence.

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