Sunday, August 21, 2016

Seussical Pill berry Bush - Making Progress!

When we last left our developing Pill Berry Bush, I had just assembled the basic structure and the next step was covering it with the necessary items to make it look like a fleshed out topiary tree.

As I showed in one of the pictures from the last post, I coated 4 long strips of cardboard with Great Stuff to cover the stem.  I stapled these to the trunk with a staple gun, and I covered the ball at the top with with solid green fabric.  I attached the fabric with safety pins and then I sewed it on with an upholstery needle...

I bought WAY too much fabric - I think I bought 8 yards of solid green and 10 yards of tulle.  What was I thinking?  I'm sure we'll be able to use this for something in the future, though, so it won't go to waste.  I only needed about 3 yards of each, maybe less.

After I sewed on solid fabric, I covered it with a fluffy layer of the tulle.  This took a long time, and I hate hand sewing, so I kept putting it off.  Also, I kept wasting lots of time on and that didn't help either. 

 If you are able to find flat black safety pins, you could maybe attach the fabric that way instead.  I was afraid that safety pins would be visible since they would reflect the light.  Just a thought.  

So as you can see, I still had empty strips down the trunk/stem of the tree, so it was back out to Home Depot to buy another can of Great Stuff.  You might be able to see that the Great Stuff I used for the lumpy "soil" shrunk a LOT after it dried.  I could have sprayed more in there when I finished the trunk but I thought there was a possibility that it would shrink again, so I didn't bother - it's going to get covered with fabric anyway.  

I sprayed the last can of Great Stuff into the empty spots on the trunk.  

I also bought a bunch of packages of ping pong balls from the local Dollar Tree and painted them with bright nail polish so they'd look like berries, then glued them on with the glue gun.  

Keep in mind, glue guns are usually pretty hot, and the glue will run down the sides of the ball towards your fingers.  You might want to hold the ping pong balls with some tongs.  I learned the hard way.

Next, I spray paint the trunk and cover the soil and then I'm DONE!!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Hidden in the Past - Ancestry Search

You'd have to be living under a rock to have missed all the advertisements out there lately on social media as well as television... "I used to think I was German, but then I found out I was actually Scottish... I turned in my lederhosen for a kilt."  After a while, you start to really believe that you'll sign up and those magical little Ancestry leaves will drop onto your computer screen, paving a way into your heritage like Hansel and Gretel's breadcrumbs, only they won't be devoured by birds.  I would finally be able to find out if there was an Italian Renaissance painter in my past...  I could find out if my mom's side of the family was really Pennsylvania Dutch.  I could even add in some info for my husband's side of the family so my kids would know their heritage from that side as well.  I knew it was only a matter of time before I gave in my curiousity. 

What helped this summer is that it's been hotter than hell on Long Island.  What a great time to sit, slug-like, in front of the computer and find out about my family's past?  I finally decided to give it a go.  

I signed up for my two week free trial.  I plugged in some information, and immediately got a few leaves - WOW, addicting!  So what if it was listings of my parents' address from about 20-30 years ago - with weird spellings and incorrect phone number digits - I was ONTO SOMETHING!!

I filled in everything I knew, creating a sparse tree, but a tree nevertheless. I called my parents multiple times.  I filled in information I had found on the Ellis Island website about 10 years ago.  I found out the original spellings of my grandparents' names.  I filled in my grandfather's sisters' names that I vaguely remembered (mostly because they were names that were always in the examples we used in Italian class... Pia, Estella, Maria, Josepina, Francesca) - women who, supposedly, had never come over from Italy.  If they had lived to adulthood, they most likely had entirely different names that were unknown to me.  But I found nothing on them.  NOTHING!  If I could remember their birth order, I might be able to guess the dates they were born, but I couldn't find the piece of paper that info was written on.  My parents remembered that two of them were twins, but which two??  I checked daily for leaves.  I went to sleep with weird pictures and names swirling around in my head. I woke up thinking, "let me just see if I got another leaf today..."  Nothing. 

My dad's grandmother traveled here with her 4 children in 1907.  The children were very young, and her husband was not there with her - he was already here, I guess setting up a job for himself so that his family would be take care of when he got here.  I looked at the Ellis Island record.  They came from a town called "Piano di Sorrento."  I couldn't find the passenger list listing my great grandmother, but when I was able to see a PDF file of the ACTUAL list of passengers who arrived. ON that page, she was listed.  Mariangela Iaccarino. Ah, there was another woman from Piano di Sorrento listed... Angela Iaccarino.  Her sister, maybe?  Hum.  My dad hadn't mentioned her. 

I checked the 1915 New York Census.  Living in the household, was a woman named "Angiline Eacgrina."  

"Dad, who do you think this person is?" I asked him. 

"I have no idea.  Melinda, It's lost to history" Come on, Dad, give me a break with that "it's lost to history" excuse.

I pictured an American worker, going from house to house with a clipboard, doing a census in 1915.  I pictured a woman answering the door, and trying to answer the questions she was asked in her broken English.  I said the words "Angiline Eacgrina" as if I had a thick Italian accent. Ah, the same woman from the boat, Angelina Iaccarino, whose name has been written down by a census taker who doesn't know a word of Italian, and probably can't spell very well either.

Then on the 1920 survey, Angelina Iaccarino is gone. By the way, the names of my grandmother and great aunts and uncle were spelled differently every time I ran across them.  My grandmother went from Ersilia at 4 years old to Elsey at 11, and then Elsie at 16. Uncle Pat went from Pasquale on the passenger list in 1907, to Patry at 13, to Patsy at 18 and then to Pasquale at 27.  If you think this doesn't make difference in your searching, think again!  

I found Angelina Iaccarino when I decided that she must have gotten married between the 1915 census and the 1920.  I searched "marriages" in New York City in that time frame and I came up with what seemed to be a good match.  A woman named Angelina Iaccarino married a man named Nicolo Ceglio on May 12, 1917.  Then that couple showed up on the 1920 census, but I had dismissed this record before because this Angelina was too young.  Upon my second viewing, this time of the PDF file itself and not just the ancestry citation, I saw that the husband's occupation was "Pianos" (whatever that means).  I remembered that my great grandfather's job on the first census I had found for him was also listed as "pianos."  He later went on to own a butcher store. Could this couple have met through my great grandfather, her brother-in-law? Could she have lied about her age to be more appealing to a prospective suitor? I noticed that on on the 1930 census, this same Angelina and Nicolo couple had suddenly aged differently - now instead of on year younger than him, she was 3 years older. 

I mentioned this information to my dad.  Oh yeah, Iaccarino, yeah, I think that's my grandmother's maiden name.  Yeah, I think she had a sister here, but we called her Stazie, but Stazie just means "aunt" in Italian.  (It does?) My dad remembered her always dressed in black, with a big gold cross on her neck. He said her husband died first, but now I was starting to believe that his memory was faulty on those long gone details.  My dad is still sharp as a tack, but I could picture him as a child not really paying much attention to this stuff.  By the 1940 census, Nicolo was a widower. What happened to Angelina?   That night I dreamed of Ceglios, passenger ships, small Italian towns and another unknown relative of my grandfather's named Livarata (or was it Liberata? Or Liberato? ah, the joys of early 20th century spelling!

I don't know how anyone finds any records from another country, but I haven't given up hope quite yet.  I have a 2000 page PDF file of handwritten birth records from Abruzzo that I have to search through - written in Italian in handwriting that has lots of loops and flourishes.  

So, if I haven't finished my Seussical pill berry bush quite yet, at least you know why. 

And if anyone has some searching hints to share, I'd really appreciate them!! 


Saturday, August 6, 2016

Seussical - Pillberry Bush Project

I've signed up to work on this coming school year's middle school play and I'm excited!  The play is Seussical Jr. and there are a lot of large props.  I figured I'd get a head start with some of the props during the summer and get things rolling.  The first prop I'm making is the Pillberry bush, which is most often pictured as a topiary tree in a pot with large red berries on it.

Here are the supplies I gathered to create this prop:

1 large plastic flower pot (approx. 24" in diameter) purchased from Lowes for about 14.99
2 cans of Great Stuff spray foam insulation - about 3.99 each
5 yards of green cotton fabric and about 8 yards of green tulle - about 35.00 from Joann's
4 packages of ping pong balls from Dollar Tree - 4.00

Things I had at home, or we had leftover at school:
a thin, flat plank I removed from a pallet
Wood screws
2 old bricks
4 long, narrow pieces of cardboard (to cover the topiary's trunk)
a piece of wire fencing, and a similar sized piece of deer netting
a 5 foot long 1x2 (at least, i think it's a 1x2)
a large ball of wire - a leftover planet from the the Interplant Janet scene in Schoolhouse Rock (see posts from 2012)

This was my plan of attack:
I made a template for two different sized tapered pieces I would screw into the 1x2 so that it would stand upright inside the flower pot.  I used the pallet wood for this, and my husband was nice enough to cut it to size for me.  I then arranged the pieces in the pot, held them together with my hand, removed them from the pot and screwed them together.

Then I did the same thing with the second, large set of pieces, attaching them perpendicular to the first set so that the 1x2 wouldn't wobble from side to side.  For good measure, I used a level to make sure the 1x2 wasn't tilted.  Good thinking, eh?

I plopped the bricks in the bottom of the pot to weight it down so it won't tip over when completed.  

Next I attached my wire ball into the 1x2.  It already had a hole in on end, so I slid it right into place and hammered a few staple nails in the top to hold it in place. Yeah, I wasn't very good at that part...

I secured the bottom with 2 zip ties.

For the "soil" around the tree, I cut the wire fencing in a circle shape, trimming and squishing the wire so it fit in the pot to sit on top of the upper pieces of wood.  I added the deer netting on top of that, so when I sprayed it with the insulation, it wouldn't fall through the large holes. 

I wanted to use as little Great Stuff as possible since you CAN'T save half a can of that stuff - the nozzle gets gummed up so you MUST use it all at once.  I wanted to cover the trunk of my tree in great stuff, so I cut 4 pieces of cardboard the right sizes and prepped them for a coating of Great Stuff. 

I covered my work area in plastic and got some disposable gloves, then I sprayed the inside of the flower pot so that the bricks don't move, then the 4 pieces of cardboard for the trunk of the topiary, then the top wire/netting layer to make the soil.

Here is the result:

Next post:  putting on the finishing touches - fabric, "berries" and "soil."

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Boats, Boat-Talk and More Boats

This spring, we bought a small boat.  We have a bunch of friends who are boaters, and we've gone on boating days with them many times, and had a great time, but my feeling is that after a day in the sun (especially when lots of sand is involved) there comes a time when you just want to go home.  And take a shower.  And get the sand out of your...  Well, you know what I mean. 

So we bought this boat, and did a few things to it, but apparently not enough things because the engine got fried on our first trip out. Luckily, we were only about a 1/2 mile from the dock.  We limped back in and my poor husband has been looking for a replacement engine we can afford for the last month or so. (key word: afford)  He talks incessantly about engines and expects me to keep them all straight in my head.  I try to retain this info, but what I'm left with is basically, "Evinrude, .blah, blah, blah 20" shaft, blah, blah blah, Yamaha, blah, blah, fiberglass flooring, blah, blah, blah."  

For the last few weeks, we weren't finding ANYTHING but some of the marinas we've been to are quite picturesque, like the one in the picture above.  Now, suddenly it's a becoming a buyer's market again, since the boating season will be pretty much over once school starts up again in about 4 weeks. I'll miss the pretty scenes, but the boat-talk... not so much. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Pallet Problems...

If you constantly peruse Pinterest the way I do, you've seen loads of posts about making wonderful crafts by recycling pallets... bookshelves, headboards, signage, garden fencing, furniture... you NAME it - if you have pallets the world is your oyster!   I rarely read through the details of such articles, I just pin the pictures I like for "future reference," and go on living my blissfully ignorant life.

Now, here I am at the beginning of August, wanting to start a project for the next play I'm working on (more on that in another post) and short on money to lay out for supplies.  I thought of every crafter's hero, the pallet.

What the Pinterest posts don't usually mention is GETTING a pallet in the first place, and then taking it apart.  I frequently see them lying around in piles in places where I'd have to ask for them, "uh, excuse me, can I have that pallet in the back? Uh, yeah, for free? And can I pick through the pile so I can get a good one?"  Yeah, I'm not so good at that. Then then I've seen some that clearly look like they're waiting to be picked up as trash - which means I would just be recycling, right?  Right? But I can't pick up a pallet by myself, and my kids (who are now definitely old enough to help me with this problem) hate garbage picking (I know this because I've asked them) and my husband never misses a chance to tell me that I have too much crap!

I recently noticed that my parents had what looked to be an unused pallet in their yard.  (this crap collecting tendency is inherited, I think), "mom, are you gonna use that pallet? No?  Great, can I have it?  Thanks!  Sure, I can take it apart, no problem!"

So I get the aforementioned pallet home (and it is a LARGE one) and I go grab a hammer, thinking this is all I'll need to deconstruct it.  Yeah, right.

This pallet had landscaping stones on it, so it was made really well, but perhaps ALL pallets are made really well.  All I know is that my hammer wasn't doing SHIT by itself.  I was using the claw end to try and separate the boards, which were cracking under the stress.  I found a chisel in the garage...

Ah, that was a bit of an improvement.  I hammered the chisel between the two boards and then used it as a lever to separate the boards a bit hoping to pop up the nails far enough so I could grab them with the claw end of the hammer.  I also turned the whole pallet over and tried hammering the loose board away from its support piece...

It was slow going.  Separate the boards, turn the pallet back over, hammer the board back down and get the nail to stick up enough to do this:

I had some success, but what a lot of work!  It's been in the 90s here and it's also humid as hell.  I was sweating like a pig! (Do pigs sweat?  Who came up with that stupid analogy anyway?) I used a pair of pliers to give me more leverage with the claw of the hammer.

I got a few nails out and then this happened...

CRAP!  The heads of the nails started bending and then breaking right off.  It didn't happen once or twice, but at least 5 times.  Damn.  Back to the garage where I found this GEM of a tool.

LOCKING PLIERS!  I had heard my husband taking about them, but I had never used them before.  They were pretty easy to figure out. You loosen or tighten the screw at the end of one handle so that you can get a good grip on the item you want to hold.  Press tightly and... they are MAGIC!!  They might just be the next addition to my own personal toolbox.  See the picture above?  Notice I was not even TOUCHING the locking pliers? Anyway, I locked on the pliers, put the claw of the hammer under them and pried up - nails came out like a dream.  

What you must consider, however, is that there are DOZENS of nails in a pallet.  Dozens. I worked for about an hour or two and I got 3 boards free and clean of nails.  

So the lesson of today is:

And maybe spring for your own pair so they're not covered in grease. 

Can anyone out there recommend a fabulous tool?  I'd love to hear about it!

I've been lax about blogging for lots of reasons.  The time off did make me realize though, that I've missed it.  In the mean time, don't you just love the ocean? Be back soon.  Promise. :-)