Life In Photos #4

A few happenings from this past week.

LifeIn Photos#4

1. I made a cinnamon candle – the easiest DIY candle ever. Take an unscented candle of any size. Break raw cinnamon sticks to roughly the same size. Hot glue them onto the sides. Burn, and smell yummy cinnamon in your house.

2. My teabags have puns/silly sayings on them. This one cracked me up, silly as it is (click to enlarge).

3. My little miss has been SO in love with her new paints she got for Christmas! Daily painting for us.

4. Turkey burger or Krabby Patty?? You tell me!

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Making Jack

Back in December of 2012 I introduced my daughter to The Nightmare Before Christmas. She was not quite two then and while I was worried it might be a little scary for her, I thought she would love all the music and singing. I was right. She became obsessed with it. She would ask for ‘Jack’s movie’ multiple times a day (and then had many hissy fits when I did not let her watch it all day on an endless loop as she would have liked to). But we did watch it at least once a day for about three months.

So in January of 2012, since she loved it so much, I decided I would make her a Jack Skellington to play with as he was her favorite character. I wanted it to be kind of like a stuffy, but also have movable arms and legs. So I set to work.

I made this little Jack Skellington back when I still considering having a blog so luckily I took pictures along the way. However,  I was not thinking about this from a tutorial aspect, and I also had never made any type of stuffy/plushie/action figure type thing before. Ever. I was entirely winging it. I used no directions, and completely made it up as I went. So I apologize if anything I did was unclear, and if you feel like making a Jack, please feel free to adapt this and make it easier on yourself! But, here’s my little Jack project.

First off, I gathered supplies.


  • Reference of Jack
  • Black and white felt
  • Cotton batting
  • Various pipe cleaners
  • Small pieces of balsa wood
  • Hot glue gun
  • Fabric scissors
  • Black and white thread, plus a sewing needle
  • Black Sharpie
  • Fine tip paint brush and white acrylic paint (fabric paint would work as well I assume – acrylic was what I had on hand)
  • Tea (no project is complete without tea!)


I started off making a white felt ball. I did this by cutting pointed oval shapes and hand sewing them together, then filling with cotton batting to form a sphere. If you have an easier way to make a felt ball, definitely use it! Make sure you leave a hole in the bottom of the sphere to insert the neck. His eyes are just small pieces of cut black felt I hot glued on, and I drew on his nostrils and grin with the black Sharpie.

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For his neck I cut a small piece of balsa wood I had, then wrapped and hot glued it in a scrap of white felt. I wanted the wood to give it stability to hold his head up so he didn’t end up with a flopping head.


Then I inserted the stick into the hold in the bottom of his head, and sealed it shut with hot glue.


Next I made his torso. The finished torso (above) is only picture I took, but it’s not too complicated to explain. Basically I cut out two torso shaped pieces of white felt and hand sewed them together, making sure to leave a neck hole open and two arm holes open. I shoved in some cotton batting through the neck hole – Jack is skinny, but he still needs SOME shape. I didn’t worry about the stitches being visible since nearly the whole torso will be covered by the pants and clothes meaning the outside stitch won’t be at all visible. Once finished, set it aside as you won’t need the torso again for awhile. Next up I worked on the collar pieces of his suit.


I grabbed a second reference picture to use for his collar detail since in my first pic it isn’t too clear. First I cut out the shapes. Then I hand painted on the bat’s eyes,


and added the striping detail to the collar pieces using the white acrylic paint.


Next I started the pants. First I twisted two pipe cleaners together (they are much less flimsy that way and hold a better bent shape) that will serve as Jack’s legs. I made a paper template to cut out two halves of the pants.


Then I stitched them together (obviously leaving the top and ankle holes open) and flipped it inside out so the stitches don’t show and you just have a regular seam. Flipping the pants in on themselves was incredibly frustrating and time consuming. It was such a small area to work with but eventually I found a method that worked. I used a small wooden dowel and shoved some of the material in, then used tweezers to pull it through the other side. It still took some serious time, but it got the job done!


Then it came time for the pin striping. I used white acrylic paint because it’s just what I had, and hand painted on the stripes. This actually went much quicker than expected. Because of the felt, you do get some felt wisps of fabric that get stuck in the paint; I just trimmed them off with cuticle scissors once the paint was dry.


Then I threaded the pipe cleaner legs through the pants, and glued the pants and tops of pipe cleaners to the torso. Also as you can see at this point I have glued Jack’s head and neck to the torso too.


Next I started the coat. I made two sleeves with black felt (using the same process as the pants and if you thought the pants were frustrating to turn inside out, just wait until you get to the even skinnier arms) and twisted two pipe cleaners together again to make arms. Then I made a paper coat pattern (using the oh-so professional method of visualizing how the coat would look open and sketching it out in pencil!). To make sure it would fit the Jack body I’d made, I fitted the paper template to his already made torso. Note – the bottom of Jack’s coat doesn’t end in regular coattails! I just made this to cut out the top shape and did the bottom coattails by eyeballing it.


Here are the two arms and the overcoat all cut out with the proper coattails.

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Then I cut two holes in the coat and sewed on each sleeve. The first picture is the view from the back, the second is the front view with the coat open.


For the next step (before pin striping) I wrapped the coat around Jack to see where to hot glue down his collar/jacket folds. Once those were glued, I pinstriped the coat. It’s not attached to Jack in this picture; this was just the best way to display the pin stripes.


Next I threaded his pipe cleaner arms through the sleeves, glued the arms into their torso holes, and glued his coat shut and used a teeny piece of white felt to make that middle button. I ended up painting the white felt with the white acrylic so it stood out more.

This would be the point where you would make hands. . .and I realized I don’t have any pictures of me making those. Ugh. But all you do is draw a very basic hand shape with pointy fingers on a paper template and cut out four of the templates on white felt. Then take two of them and glue them together so you have two hands (I used two layers of felt so they’d be less floppy). I made my hands with four fingers and a thumb and realized only after that Jack only has three fingers and a thumb. Whoops. Then draw on the knuckle bones with a sharpie (see the finished pictures below for a view of the hands).


Before I start the feet if you look at the top of the pic, you can see the felt hands I cut out! That’s the only picture I have with the hands!
Now onto the feet. I completely made up jacks feet. In all the reference pictures I look at you see that he has some form of pointy black boots. So I made some pointy black boots! I cut out two triangle pieces and folded the farthest corners together to make the shape you see in my hands. If you look in the below picture you see that the two corners aren’t glued together, they are open (look at the boot laying on the table). Make sure you leave those corners open (aka dab a TINY drop of hot glue in the middle of the boot area, not at the top corners)! You’ll need them when you glue the shoes to his legs.


Then I hot glued two tiny pieces of balsa wood into the base of the boot (to hold the shape). After that I cut out two more pointy oval shapes (you can see one in the right of the pic) to glue on to the front of the boot, essentially ‘closing’ the boot. Now it’s time to attach the boots to Jack’s pipe cleaner ankles, which is why you need the top part of the boot open. Insert the pipe cleaner in that open part and glue the sides shut – this hides the funny looking top part of the boot under the pants, and gives the boot more stability with the ankle inside. Lastly, glue on his collar pieces and you’re done!

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And there you have it! Your own Jack Skellington. Hilariously enough my daughter was terrified of him. She did not like the fact that a TV character was IN her real life, and she refused to touch him. I actually had so much fun making him though that I still consider it totally worth the effort! He now has a permanent home on our geeky/nerdy collectibles shelf, as you can see here in this post.

Questions, comments, concerns? I’d love to hear any and all!

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I spent $1.50 on some watercolors the other day when I was at Michaels getting myself some art supplies, and it was a darn good investment. My little miss has been absolutely loving them!


This is also a great way to continue her learning about mixing colors to make other colors. Our other method of doing that is when she has yogurt for lunch, we dye it with food coloring and practice mixing colors that way.


I also let her sprinkle some salt over her some of her paintings so she could see the effect it makes – it has become her new favorite way to paint! We’re going to use some of them as backings for some Christmas presents which I’ll reveal after the holidays.


All in all, I’m happy with that $1.50 spent!

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Homemade Paints

Since my daughter was running down to the last scrapes of paint in her jars, I decided to give some homemade paints a go. The recipe I used is this:

via Easie Peasie

It worked brilliantly!


I did exactly what the instructions said and dumped everything in the pan (I had my heat on medium/low which is 4-5 on my stove) and although the instructions didn’t say to, I did stir the whole time it was on the heat as I was afraid the cornstarch would settle and clump. So I’m stirring and stirring for probably 6 or 8 minutes, thinking Hmmmm, this really isn’t thickening at all. Then out of nowhere, this happened:


Ah, the magic of science! This was the coolest transition ever since it went from a white liquid to this awesome translucent gel in a matter of seconds. I was still stirring for all of this FYI.

So once it was all thickened, I gathered these supplies for the coloring process:


I just added in the new paint to the old paint jars, and the little container and spoon were for mixing each color (cleaning in between each color is super easy – just rinse with hot water and it melts away).


After mixing up all the colors and loading them into the jars it was time to paint of course!

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She loved them! In all honesty they don’t make the best brush paints (they are labeled as finger paints after all) simply because when they are spread too thin they tend to turn clear. But my miss still loved them, and it cost me all of about 50 cents (if that) to make. Much better than driving to the store and paying $10 for a new set of Crayola paints if you ask me! And although this wasn’t a great activity for a two and a half year old to help make (let’s see, hot burner and food coloring – ugh) she did great! She understood she couldn’t touch but she did enjoy passing me the paint bottles to fill and picking which color of paint to make next. Bonus: It further reinforced her learning of color mixing!

While we’re on the subject of kid art, I was curious what you all use for your kids to paint on? I tend to use cardboard recycling as it’s something we always have around the house, and it’s free. Plus, the cardboard is thick enough that it doesn’t bend too much if my little one piles on the paint. And did I mention it’s FREE? The white pieces in the above images are actually inserts in between the cans of catfood we buy!



Cereal boxes (and snack boxes) never make it to recycling – I always cut them up for her to paint on! Do any of you have free around the house art supplies you like to use?

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Home Redo: Part 1

Despite me being rather creative and art inclined, I am an absolute disaster when it comes to interior design/home decoration. I think my main problem is that I like many different things from many different styles of decor, and end up with a mish-mashed wreck of design, as opposed to a nice cohesive look. I can never narrow down just one theme; I always want to mix and match. And while some people can flawlessly get away with that, I am most certainly NOT one of those people. So as usual, to get started, I’ve made lists. And there will certainly be more.


Our long term project is the living room. The color it’s painted was absolutely not my choice (a dark burgundy/maroon; it came with the apartment) and while I do like it because it’s unique and a nice color, it’s too much for the whole room and I want a change. It has been five years of this color and I’m done! As for furniture, nothing in our living room matches. When we first moved in together we were both quite tight on money so furnishing became way more about budget than looks. We have almost every kind of wood finish you can imagine from white pines to cherry to cedar. Needless to say, it needs some serious cohesion. So I’m REALLY going to try and stick to a nice simplistic color scheme, and we’ll go from there. This year, we’re really only focusing on the painting. We’re saving purchasing furniture and whatnot ’til after the holidays, mainly to accommodate our (rather modest) budget.

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Some photo shelves, with the aforementioned burgundy/maroon paint I can no longer stand.

As for decor, I bounced back and forth for awhile on whether I wanted the sole focus to be family, or incorporate other things as well. My hubs and I are rather geeky – we both enjoy a lot of video games, TV shows, and board games that are generally considered a bit geekish, but it’s a big part of who we are and one of the big things we share together. Both of us enjoy collecting things having to do with our fandoms, and we’ve amassed a decent amount of items I like having on display. Since the living room is where both the TV, computer, and our game systems are it’s also an appropriate place for them. So after discussing it with the Mr. we both decided we want to keep that stuff in the living room, along with the family oriented things (photos, etc.). Now the big question. . .can I find a balance successfully??? Let’s hope so. . .

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Some of our nerdy collectibles. Note the shelves do not match the shelves in the previous picture. . .like I said think all the woods in our living room are different colors!

This years big project will be our daughter’s room. She will be three in December, and her room hasn’t been updated since she was born! It’s definitely time to turn her nursery into a ‘big girl’ room. We’re getting her a twin bed and ditching the crib. She’s been using it as a toddler bed (aka no sides) since she was about 20 months old, but it’s time for a real big girl bed now! Her walls are going to be white (already bought the paint even). For me and my lack of decorating skills, I find it easier to have neutral walls to decorate around. Plus as she starts getting her own tastes, we won’t have to repaint the room when she’s ready to pick out her own decor. Her current room is pictured below.

Toddler converted crib. She sleeps on the big teddy – got him for Christmas and she absolutely loves him! She has named him ‘Big Bear’ and has to sleep on him.

Play area – dolls, toys, blocks, etc

And her reading area.

I’ve ordered her an awesome custom quilt from D. Rix Creations – I can not WAIT to get it in a couple months! I always wanted my child to grow up with a special blanket that was made just for them, and Danielle does absolutely beautiful work. Plus, it’s supporting an indie biz which, as you know, I love to do! A lot of her wall decor is going to come from indie shops too.

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Fabric for her new quilt – I just love it!

I’ll also be painting/making some decor for her too. I think we’re sticking with lavender as the main accent color of the room. Basically I’m basing it all around the quilt colors. So I’d like to make her some wall art that brings those colors out. The plan is to have the walls done in advance, but everything else will be a surprise. The night before her third birthday party she’s going to have a sleep over at Mimi’s house, and when she gets home she’ll have a whole new room! There will certainly be more posts about the room makeovers as I keep going. . .expect lots of ranting and raving about disasters I will undoubtedly run into!

Any advice for redoing rooms, especially for a beginner with terrible design skills?? I’d take any and all.

Until next time,
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Homemade Chalk Paint

Ready to paint!

Chalk paint was our latest outdoor activity. My daughter just loves it! She likes sidewalk chalk very much, and the idea of being able to paint with it was quite an exciting prospect for her. We got our recipe from here via All Things Simple.
And it is definitely super simple! All you need is:

1 cup water
1 cup cornstarch
Food coloring

Mix the water and cornstarch together until fully mixed, then pour into whatever container you are using to hold the paint. Like the original post, I used a six count muffin tray. Also, I nabbed a 6 pack of small foam brushes from Hobby Lobby for a DOLLAR! I was pretty thrilled with that one! Once your paint is poured into the containers, add in the food coloring and stir thoroughly. I used a decent amount of food coloring (probably 5-6 drops per muffin cup which is a ton for such a small amount) but it makes the colors so vibrant when they dry!

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  My little focused painter.

While you’re painting with it, the colors seem a bit dull. But once it dries they brighten up and get that vibrant chalk feel! Also, if you let it sit for a bit, the cornstarch will start to separate, so make sure you re-stir your colors if the paint has been sitting for a little bit. And lastly, I discovered that using 3/4 cup each of water and cornstarch fills the muffin tin perfectly with no leftovers. Have fun!

Had to stop and pick a flower!

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My Open Sketchbook

I wanted to use this post to display some of my own artwork (old and new!), and give you a little insight to me and my art. Lately I’ve been hard at work on commissions for people, as well as some personal portraits of my own. I figured I’d give a little rundown on my history with drawing.

I began drawing when I was 11. I was a rather geeky 11 year old (who turned out to be a rather geeky adult). At that age I was obsessed with Pokemon, Zelda, and especially Sailor Moon. My best friend was really into drawing Pokemon, and I’d always liked drawing, so I started drawing some Sailor Moon characters (my personal favorite – Sailor Venus. She’s still my fave!).

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The Legend of Zelda: Windwaker fanart circa 2003.

Looking back ay my old drawings cracks me up. No sense of proportion, bold outlines – classic stuff. But hey, gotta start somewhere! Sometime during my freshman year in high school I made the switch from drawing anime to drawing more realistic people. I think what prompted me was the Lord of the Rings movies. Me and my buds were heavily into LoTR. Posters covered my walls, I had the action figures. And somewhere along the lines I started drawing my favorite cast members (usually Elijah Wood; he was definitely my celeb crush back then). That progressed to a real enjoyment drawing and capturing people’s expressions in portraits, and I just kept going!

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Elijah Wood, drawn 2003.          Khal Drogo, drawn 2013.
Ten years makes a difference it seems!

I went to art college for one year, and it was amazing. To sum up, I made the decision not to go back for all the wrong reasons, but it all turned out okay in the end. I love the life I have now, and wouldn’t change it for a thing. When my hubby and I decided we wanted a baby, I was just getting back into the swing of art again after taking a rather long hiatus from it after college. While pregnant, I did keep drawing, but close to the end of my pregnancy I stopped completely. Becoming a mom consumed me for the first year of my daughter’s life. And it wasn’t in a bad way. I just couldn’t get enough of my beautiful little girl; I didn’t want to miss a single thing she did, any expression on her face, any sound she made. I drank in every aspect of her. But around her first birthday I began to get restless. Eventually, I realized I needed more than just ‘being a mom’. I needed my own hobbies and activities back. And art was always such a big part of me. So I began drawing again, and haven’t stopped since. I’ve only recently begun sharing my art online again, and opened up commissions. I’m confident enough with my skill again that I’m proud to share it, as opposed to wanting to hide it! FYI, if you’re interested in a commission, check out my Facebook page, Pencil & Paper, or email me at

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A just for fun drawing of one of my friends and her son. The second was a piece just for fun too, but the woman loved it so much she bought it from me!

My drawing style doesn’t really follow a specific technique. Unless ‘winging it’ counts as a style, in which case that’s mine. I usually start with the facial features (eyes mainly, but sometime the nose first) and sometimes I start with something else entirely! When it comes to shading, I usually do things pretty routinely (click below image.)

Ian WIPS montage

I usually follow that pattern, but not always. Hair used to be the bane of my existence in the drawing world. It overwhelmed me. So many strands, so much movement; I didn’t know where to begin. Now, I have completely embraced hair. I’ve stopped looking at it as a whole, and started viewing it like a face – something to break down into individual pieces and draw. When I draw hair it takes on more of a graphical quality than an ultra realistic one, but I like it. It’s nice to now enjoy something I used to loathe – such an accomplished feeling!

Hair like this would have crushed me a couple years ago. Now, it’s a challenge that I love finishing!

Nowadays I use drawing as a way to relax, but also as a way to challenge myself. Those sound conflicting, but they mesh together well. When I just want to chill and lose myself in art, I’ll grab some tea and work on a piece that isn’t too hard for me. But when I want a challenge I’ll purposely select a reference picture with something I know I’ll find difficult – a clothing texture perhaps, or a difficult pose. It all depends on my mood. Lately, for my personal pieces, I’ve been really picky about references that have expressions I really want to capture. I also think I want to start working more on full body poses instead of just head and shoulders ‘bust’ type portraits.

Why people portraits? I just find the human face fascinating. As different as people are, I find when I’m drawing so many things become similar. The curve of an eye, or lips. The subtleties between each person is what makes them unique – I love to try and capture that. And I love the lines of the face. Profile shots are one of my absolute favorite; the continuous curving line from the top of the forehead all the way down to the neck is just beautiful.

In my spare time I like to oil paint. I’m incredibly slow at it, but I love it!

Some more Legend of Zelda fanart. I started this piece back in 2012, and every few months do a little more work on it. Lately I’ve had no time for painting!

My hubs requested this piece – she’s a character from a game called League of Legends. I haven’t touched it in months. . .I should really get on that!

If you’re an artist, what medium do you favor? And if you’re not as into art, what do you do to unwind, or challenge yourself?

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Art: Toddler Edition

I am one of those crazy mums who saves all her child’s artwork. And I mean ALL. From her first scribble, to her finger paints, to her sticker collages. I have every single one. In handy, digital form! Yes, I save every single image she’s ever made – by scanning it into the computer and having it as a digital file. It’s such a space saver. I have a wooden portfolio in which I’ve put some of my favorite pieces she’s done, but for the most part they get scanned and tossed.

Ellie's Art - My Faves

Some of my favorites from January through May.

At first, my little miss was upset about losing her art – she happened to catch me one day throwing away a fistful of her drawings & paintings and began screaming “No, Mommy!! Not trash!!” I could feel each heart string snap, I’m telling you. But I pushed down the guilt and explained to her that I had scanned her drawings on to the computer so we could look at them any time she wanted. She was thrilled! Now she likes to take her art and ‘put it in the computer’ as she has dubbed the process. Which brings me to the point of this post: The Toddler Art Gallery.


June was a busy art month!

Even back when I was pregnant, I knew that our little one would be doing art projects. I love arts and crafts, and really wanted to incorporate them into my little one’s life. I also knew that I would want to have a place to display them, at least temporarily. So shortly after her first birthday, I made her her own gallery in the playroom. It keeps the fridge less cluttered, and gives her more of sense that it’s hers, I think. Every time she finishes a picture she immediately says “Let’s hang it in my gallery!”. Ah, my heart sighs with happiness every time.

I made this image to hang above it.


The quote image was actually part of a magazine ad, for a print company I think? Anyway, I trimmed off the company logo/info parts, backed it with some scrapbook paper, and put it in a frame to hang on the wall. Simple, and FREE! Eventually, I’d like to decorate the clothespins with washi tape, but given all my other projects, that’s pretty low on the priority list! The gallery itself is just bakers twine strung between thumbtacks. Again with the simple and free factor. Two of my favorite things for a project!

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Her first ever nature collage! I really liked this project. We used white contact paper (sticky side up) so she could just stick on all her treasures.

I take everything down on the first of the month and scan it in, so she gets a fresh clean gallery to fill. I can’t wait until she’s old enough to start trying to draw real ‘things’ and telling me stories about them. It’ll be so much fun to look at them hung all together!

What art related things to you like to do with your little ones?

And since we’re on the topic of art, I just wanted to remind you to visit my Pure Inspiration page! I’ve added quite a few more gorgeous works of art since launch day – go take a look!