Monthly Archives: October 2009

How to make a prize-winning scarecrow

Scarecrows: Flower Girl and Ring Bear for Frakenstein and His Bride.
Our Scarecrows: Flower Girl and Ring Bearer for Frankenstein and His Bride.

A few years ago our local newspaper sponsored a scarecrow contest each Halloween in our city. In 2005 my sister and I decided to enter and we won Grand Prize. Here’s how we did it.

Be sure to look at other scarecrows I’ve made for more inspiration.

Start with a theme: In looking at old dress-up clothes my kids had, I saw I had a beautiful flower girl dress my daughter had worn when she was 3 and a little tux my son had worn when he was 1.

It is  easiest to start with one or two great fashion items you already have.  If you do not have any old clothes you like, then search through a couple thrift stores: you will see lots of ideas: old bikinis; prom dresses, suits, nightgowns, soccer uniforms, scout uniforms.  You should look for items you can build a whole scene around.

So pretty in her custom gown. Frankenstein's flower girl.
So pretty in her custom gown. Frankenstein's flower girl.

Make your scarecrows: Take an old pillow and tape it to a hanger with duct tape. Then add a sturdy stick or pole. You can stick the pole in an old umbrella stand, a big pot filled with sand or attach to a saw horse. Hang the outfit over the hanger and then add straw, corn stalk or raffia to make the legs and arms. Heads can be scary Halloween masks or skulls you attach to the top of the hanger.

Isn't he handsome in his little tuxedo? Ring bearer for Frankenstein.
So handsome in his tux. The ring bearer.

Add detail: Look for hats, gloves, scarves, purses, suspenders, jewelery and other accessories that complete the outfit. The details are what gives the scarecrow the WOW factor. Our flower girl has real leather gloves, a hat trimmed in black lace, and a flower basket adorned with a bat. Our ring bearer has suspenders, a cummerbund and a custom-made pillow.

Our flower girl wears gloves and carries a basket of purple flowers.
Our flower girl wears gloves and carries a basket of purple flowers.
Our ring bearer carries a black satin pillow trimmed in black lace. The ring is attached with purple ribbon.

Add Scary: Pick up some creepy bugs and spiders at the dollar store. Use a glue gun or a needle and thread to attach them to the clothes and accessories. My flower girl, for example, has bugs spiders and little rats crawling all over her dress and hat. The boy has lots of spiders.

The wedding trellis is topped by a gorgeous bat.
The wedding trellis is topped by a gorgeous bat.

Build the Scene: These scarecrows are cool, but they might not win a prize on their own. You need few props to set the scene. I used a garden trellis decorated with black and purple netting, purple spider webs, and black flowers to give the feel of a wedding alter.

Yummy enough to eat! Frakenstein's custom cake.
Yummy enough to eat! Click to view larger.
I added the photo of Frakenstein and his bride to a cake topper from a dollar store.

I threw some black material over a small table so we could add a cake and champagne glasses.  The cake is a hat box beautifully painted by my sister.  I got a cheap cake topper and added the heart of Frankenstein and his bride. I used a glue gun to add bats to some plastic wine glasses.

A large spider serves as boutonniere for the ring bearer.
A white hat is trimmed in black lace and spiders on the flower girl.
The back of the scarecrow scene.
The back of the scarecrow scene.
I added a couple crows and a skeleton hanging out on the back of the saw horse as a little joke.
We added a sign explaining the scene.
We added a sign explaining the scene.
The artists with their winning scarecrow design
The artists with their winning scarecrow design

Let me know if you like my scarecrows. We won a couple other years as well with other designs. I’ll try to post those soon. Happy Halloween!

View my squidoo lens on making scarecrows.

I love these black crows from Amazon.

Find great papercraft ideas for Halloween in this book.

Amazon’s Halloween store has tons of great ideas for Halloween!

Other craft posts:
How to Make a Yoga Mat Tote Bag
How to Make a Tassel
How to Make Bookmarks from a Photo
How to Make Designer Baby Burp Cloths Using Ribbon

Lego Stars Wars The Visual Dictionary Book Review

Just Out: A Must-Have Book for Every Star Wars Lego Fan!

This book is sure to become a collector’s item . . . and it comes with a special mini-figure!

Just out in time for the holidays is a new visual dictionary of Star Wars Lego. My son’s room is filled with Star Wars Legos sets, and he is going to love this book when he unwraps it.  The book has lush photos of all the Star Wars sets and mini-figures.

I got mine at the Lego Store the day it came out and was very impressed. The store had promotional games and even people dressed up in top-notch clone trooper costumes. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a Lego Store nearby, but it also at bookstores, and Amazon. If you know a kid who loves Star Wars Legos, get this book and get your holiday shopping done early. The book is reasonably priced as well.

The book comes with a cool mini figure. The mini figure and the book itself are bound to become collector’s items.

Product Description
In true DK style, LEGO® Star Wars ™: The Visual Dictionary elucidates, illuminates, and
excites even the most discerning LEGO Group, Star Wars™, and minifigure fans around the
world.. Darth Vader, Boba Fett, Yoda, Luke Skywalker, and more are brought to life with
dozens of little-known facts and hundreds of photos, as are accessories, vehicles, weapons,
and even the Death Star! Learn about the history, manufacture, and construction of the
minifigures of the Star Wars galaxy, and come away a LEGO® Jedi Master.

Product Details

* Reading level: Ages 4-8
* Hardcover: 96 pages
* Publisher: DK Publishing (October 5, 2009)
* Language: English
* ISBN-10: 0756655293
* ISBN-13: 978-0756655297
* Product Dimensions: 11.9 x 10 x 0.9 inches

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning book, Love it!, October 7, 2009
Very nice hardback book with lots of stunning pictures of what else? Star Wars Legos!

We are big fans of Legos in general and this book did not disappoint. It came with a bonus Luke Skywalker mini-figure. As with all DK books, you get great pictures, thorough descriptions, and just a generally enjoyable book to collect or read.

I bought 2 copies of this book, one to read, and one to collect.

The only thing that bothered me a (very tiny) little bit was how the Luke Skywalker mini-fig was packaged. At first glance it looks like a much thicker book, but about half of the thickness is a spacer placed inside the book to make room for the mini-fig, so it lays flush with the front cover. I posted some pictures on the main item page if you want to see what I mean. Nothing that I would knock a star off for though.

Overall, we are VERY happy with this book. Great price for a quality book that will not disappoint young and old!

4.0 out of 5 stars Great for Lego Star Wars Fans and Collectors, October 7, 2009
By Wendy Woudstra “” (Ontario, Canada) –
My son adores Lego, and the Star Wars sets in particular. When this book arrived in our mailbox, he was gone for hours, hiding in his room poring over all the sets he has, the sets he wants, the sets he missed out on, the evolution of the various mini-figures, everything else included in this volume. While this book would NOT be appreciated by someone who isn’t a die-hard fan of the LEGO series, for those who collect, play with, and love the sets, it’s a great book at a great price.

The only problem with the book is that it will be out of date as soon as next season’s Lego Star Wars sets are announced.

On a final note, I didn’t realize when I ordered that it also came with a unique minifig, which is already selling on Ebay for more than the discounted price of the book.

Related post: Darth Maul Picking His Nose

Volleyball Designs at Zazzle

Creativezazz opened a Zazzle shop with tons of volleyball designs on gifts such as t-shirts, water bottles, coffe mugs and more. I now have shops at Printfection, Cafepress and Zazzle.  The designs are the same, but each store offers a range of merchandize, and each has its own specials.  So now you can shop to get exactly what you want at the best deal.

buy unique gifts at Zazzle

Check Zazzle twitter for latest coupon codes.

Related posts:

Best gifts for a volleyball coach

Volleyball shirt with numbers on the back

Best names for a volleyball team

Volleyball t-shirts and more (Printfection)

Volleyball t-shirts, water bottles and more (Cafepress)

My Dad 1919-2009

Growing up on the family farm in Stronghurst, Illinois, circa 1920.

My dad, mom and me with my two kids around 2000.
My dad, mom and me with my two kids around 2000.

Remembering William Kenneth Peasley

My dad made it to 90. Born in 1919, he grew up during the depression on a farm in Illinois with three brothers and a sister. But waking up early to milk cows before school and driving a tractor in the corn field in humid Midwest heat was not his thing. He knew he wanted out.

The four Peasley boys grew up on a family farm in the depression.

He wanted to be a pilot when he grew up. As a kid, he built elaborate box kites. Once he made a kite so big he had to attach a rope to a saddle and ride a horse to get it in the air. I’m not sure how he got the money or time off from chores to do it, but he did take flying lessons. One of the high points of his life was his first solo flight. He had a Coke when the plane landed safely and it tasted great.

The acrobat wind-up toy was too precious to let have ken have it . . . he would take it apeart to try to figure it out.

As a boy he loved taking apart things . . . clocks, farm equipment, his mother’s sewing machine . . . and putting them back to see how they worked. The kids did not play with store-bought toys. But once an uncle sent presents from a store in California. Ken’s was an early wind-up toy made in Japan with a celluloid acrobat baby that did flips on a swing. His mother kept it from him fearful he’d take it apart.

The family lived on a farm out in the middle of nowhere, but Ken was determined to go to college. He was proud of his University of Illinois degree in mechanical engineering. His dream was to live in California. If he wasn’t going to fly a plane, he could help build them. He came out and got a job with Douglas Aircraft.

High school senior portrait. At 50th anniverary party we took turns writing funny captions.
High school senior portrait. At 50th anniverary party we took turns writing funny captions.
"I'm an engineer and proud of it," ken would say. he had a pencil in his pocket and loved his slide rule.
"I'm an engineer and proud of it!" Ken would say. He had a pencil in his pocket and loved his slide rule.

After service in World War II he decided to be his own boss. He founded Engineering Plastics Company in Pasadena, which later moved to Huntington Beach. He had great respect and admiration for the craftsmen who worked for him designing and building parts for aircraft, computer, medical instrument and other industries. Big financial success eluded him, but the company was his passion for more than three decades.

Among the items in a chest labeled "emotional" were payroll checks and his first plastic samples chips from 1949.

During World War II Ken was stationed in New York and lived in a big house with other bachelors in a group called The Squires.  They had a maid and a butler and Ken was chairman of the social club.

Squires card, 1946.
Squires card, 1946.
The Squires lived in a big house in New Jersey. Pictures how that Ken was quite the ladies' man.
Pictures show that Ken was quite the ladies man.
Ken, center, with friends.
Ken, center, with friends.

As a bachelor in Los Angeles, Ken lived with several friends in a big house in the Valley with a grand piano, a pool, and horses out back. It was party central. The first time my mom visited it was July and the Christmas tree was still up. He loved to go spear fishing and abalone hunting with friends. He did not marry until 35, an old age back then. He took up snow skiing, and later our best family vacation was a trip to Mammoth where he taught us how to ski.

A camera buff all his life, Ken left us negatives, slides, prints and digital files as well as old camera equipment.
A camera buff all his life, Ken left us negatives, slides, prints and digital files as well as old camera equipment.
My wedding 1997.
With camera, my wedding 1992.

One of his passions from an early age was photography. He was not that great at it, but we forgave him because he gave his little brother his first camera, and helped get Uncle Don started in his 60-plus year career in photography. He bought me my first SLR when I was 17. He dove into digital photography when he was in his 80s. I am not sure what we are going to do with 75 years worth of slides, negatives, prints, and digital files . . . let alone a suitcase full of old camera equipment.

Like many people who grew up in the depression, my dad hated to throw out anything that might still have a use. My poor mother never parked a car in her garage her whole married life. Once when I was about 14, I was invited to play tennis with a group. The wooden racket he got out of the garage looked different from the rackets the others had. After a few hits, the ball smashed right through the strings! Turns out it was his 40-year-old college racket strung with the original cat gut that had rotted.

Resin on reading glasses

Our whole family was often mortified by his early “recycling.” If a pair of shoes wore out, he would fix them with big globs of resin. Now they were “work” shoes. But sometimes he wore them out of the house, which was especially painful if we had to accompany him on an errand in upscale Newport Beach. Resin was used to fix anything, even eyeglasses.

About three years ago we invited my dad to the ice rink so he could see my daughter figure skate. He rummaged around in the garage and found his skates from the 1930s, leather worn and blades rusty. He showed them to her coach. At 87 he was sorely disappointed he was too frail to put them on for a spin.

In my dad’s garage right now is a pile of WWII-era aircraft parts. He bought them in the 1950s to build machines for his manufacturing business. A couple years ago he spent hours cleaning the parts, taking photos, and entering descriptions into the computer so he could sell them on eBay. He moved slowly, could not see well, and could not lift much, so this was a huge effort for my parents. He did sell one item and the buyer was ecstatic that he found the exact part he needed in perfect condition.

Exercise, adventure and fun.

People always ask those who live to an old age the secret to longevity. My dad found balance in body, mind, and spirit. He was no buff athlete. But each day he exercised. When we lived in a house with a pool, he swam at 5:30 every morning with a loud “whoop!’ as he hit the water. When we moved, he rode a bike every night wearing reflectors and using a headlight. In his 80s, when congestive heart failure made his breathing too labored to swim and his balance too off to ride, he took to walking. A couple years ago walking was too much. It bummed him out.

My dad had a natural curiosity and wanted to learn about everything. An early enthusiast of computers, he went from punch cards to C/PM to MS-DOS to Windows XP. A couple years ago he bought a slide scanner. His eyesight was poor, and it took many long hours on the phone to India, but he figured it out. He recently told my mom what he really needed was a Blackberry.

Ken kept up on world affairs, subscribing to several news magazines and watching the MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour, 60 Minutes and Charlie Rose religiously. He was a registered Republic, but often voted Democratic and loved to engage in thoughtful discussion on current events. Even though he was not musical himself, he loved opera music and played it in his garage where he tinkered on projects nights and weekends.

Ken took my brother to get a bird, and came home with a monkey.

He had a sense of fun and was willing to try new things. When my bother was 8 or 9 my dad took him to the pet store to get a bird. My mom was surprised when they came home with a monkey! My dad built a big atrium in the backyard so the little squirrel monkey had a home as good as any zoo.

Perhaps most important, my dad kept a positive attitude, even when times were tough. The motto he invoked when we started complaining was: “Come on, let’s make a fun thing out of it.”

As kids our bedtime stories were farm memories. Squirting warm milk right at a barn cat. Hiding eggs under leaves on the seat of a tractor. Favorite horses Fred and Mabel and how they liked being together. Sleeping on the floor in the kitchen by the wood stove with his dog. As much as Ken wanted to escape, he loved talking about the farm and taking us back to visit. He retained many of his childhood sensibilities. He always knew the price of corn.

Mom and Dad at my sister's wedding 2002.
Mom and Dad at my sister's wedding.

My dad valued my mom’s support. She stood by him for 54 years, many of them financially tough. She worked the early shift at the hospital for 30 years and then came home to do housework. But she took time to listen to him, and he appreciated her. He always said he was the luckiest man to have married a pretty nurse 12 years younger.

My dad was 79 when he underwent quintuple bypass surgery in 1998. My mom had retired a couple years before. She helped him recover, and he did have a few years when he was stronger. But then congestive heart failure took its toll, and she took on a second “career” as his personal nurse.

My dad was almost 80 when he first became a grandfather. He is holding my daughter, Shea, at 1 month.
My dad was almost 80 when he first became a grandfather. He is holding my daughter, Shea, at 1 month.

When he had his surgery, my daughter was an infant. I recall him looking at his first grandchild and wistfully imagining her enjoying the beach as he had. “I can just picture her with long blond hair wearing a bikini on the beach!” he said. It hit me then that he might not live to see that day. She is 11 now, and her brother is 9. They are sad about grampy’s death. But he did get to live long enough to watch them grow . . . to see them learn to ride a bike, ice skate, play baseball, play piano and swim in the ocean.

Last year, at 89, my dad made a toy airplane with my son. It scared me to death when his shaky hands whittled the propeller with a pocketknife. As he and my son, then 8, took turns whittling, I did not know which one made me more nervous. I could hardly watch when my dad took his walker to go out to the garage to use the power saw! As a heart patient, he was on blood thinner and I was freaking that it was gonna be pretty ugly out there if he had an accident.

My dad was 89 and my son 8 when they made this toy plane together.

We treasure the little plane on a string they made together, especially after I found a long list of projects he had wanted to do with the kids, most of them undone. Another project underway when he died was refurbishing a small motor he built in college in 1938. He fumbled on it out in the garage in recent months, but his 90-year-old eyes could hardly see the small parts. He wanted to teach my son how engines work. Our lives are so busy it was hard to make time, and when we did visit, grandpa tired so easily he could not work for long.

I found this project list on my dad's desk after he passed.
Ken and Shirey were married for 54 years.
Ken and Shirley were married for 54 years.

My mom took care of my dad at home until the last three weeks of his life when did not have the strength to get out of bed and into a wheelchair on his own. He was trying to do physical therapy at a skilled nursing facility to get stronger, but had to be admitted to the hospital. My mom was with him in the ER and then his room all day. She finally went home, but a few hours later they called her and said to come. His blood pressure was way down. As soon as she held his hand and told him she was there, his eyes grew big. He recognized her. She was there now, so he could die.

My sister and I arrived an hour later. I was disappointed I could not show him the cards my kids had made. Shea’s note said “I love you” a half dozen times. The front of Colman’s card was a drawing of the plane they had made together with the string forming a heart. My dad looked peaceful. I put the cards on the table next to his bed anyway.

Ken with his grandkids, Christmas 2007, age 88.
Ken with his grandkids, Christmas 2007, age 88.

One of my fondest memories of my dad was the time I spent with him one summer fixing up my old 1964 Volvo. I was home from college. The side passenger door had been smashed in. My car was green, but I had to get an old red door from a junkyard and it was tied on with rope.

Ken heped me fix up my old Volvo 544 one summer.
Ken loved fixing things and got a kick out of helping me fix up my 1964 Volvo 544 one summer.
We worked on my car for days on end that summer soaking up the sun.
We worked on my car for days on end that summer soaking up the sun.

We took the car to Santa Ana to have a few dents pulled out, but then we spent days doing the Bondo job ourselves. Then we sanded the car, got a new headliner, got the bumpers re-chromed and got a cream paint job. We took our time, soaked up the California rays, and shared stories while we worked.  My car looked pretty sharp when we were done.

My car was transformed from a junker to a cool classic.
My car was transformed from a junker to a cool classic.

Growing up at times I wished my dad was more successful or sophisticated. But there are many qualities I admire in him, and sometimes I wish I was more like him. I’m glad my kids are old enough that they will remember him. My dad led a full life with few regrets. He made it to 90! As a veteran who reached that milestone, he received a birthday card from the White House. We were prepared for him to die, but it still it takes a bit to make sense of it all. I spent the weekend helping my mom sort through unbelievable amounts of stuff in his office and the garage. As I help her in the coming months I’m sure I will be sorting through things in my heart as well.

William Kenneth Peasley
July 6, 1919 – September 18, 2009