Thursday, October 30, 2014

T'was The Day Before Halloween...

And all through the house the creatures were stirring!

We have 45 sugar skulls. We have new seat covers. We have a baldric, a scabbard, and sword, a May Chang dress, britches, and a waistcoat. We have... a lot more to do before Halloween! It's kind of scary, actually. As for celebrating Dia De Los Muertos, which I feebly tried to rationalize... I offer this amusing example of how impossible it is to satisfy everyone's holiday-religious-non-denomenational sensibilities: From The New Yorker, "Dear Mountain Room Parents."

As for us, I say cheers for the foolhardy, the creative types, the makers and DIY diehards! It's all hands on deck and full STEAM ahead, with joyous abandon! We shall prevail.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Gnomes Are In Their Garden






The gnomes I made last September have been hibernating in a box. Not quite forgotten, but definitely undisturbed. When I saw a tabletop greenhouse at Ikea I couldn't resist adding it to our cart, because I knew it was an ideal spot to bring out our gnomes. With some moss, foam for filling in most of the base, and two live ferns, we were ready to build a garden home. The ferns are in their pots, and lots of moss makes the whole scene look lush and full. We dotted the garden with our paper clay mushrooms, which are built on sewing pins, so they can stick into the foam. Then, the gnomes moved in. They seem quite happy. We put them on the shelf at the bottom of the stairs.

I made a mailbox, too. It began as a miniature dog house (Michael's craft store) and I added a post and base, painted it our Beloved Blue, and gave it a painted address on the front. Those were my first mitered cuts! I was positively glowing with the success, when Maria declared that we would need a Little Free Library, too. Right she was, so we modified one more dog house, and now our new Little Free Library is open for sharing! Katherine, and her bookcase home are upstairs, but the gnomes keep the mailbox and library beside their garden. Deer have begun to gather there, too. And the smiling lady I made in 7th grade. Oh! And one more visitor frequents the spot! Mister Foo!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Five Good Things







That was a good weekend. Between cleaning streaks, many errands, and loads of laundry, I got to play quite a bit. Alex and Max are nearly finished painting the barn. It's Barn Red, almost. Don't ask me how I know, but it seems like when you get to the last details of painting everything takes more time, and gets harder, to the point where it *ahem* can drag on for quite some time. Yeah, but please, don't ask me how I know this. William has been battling the elements and materials to find a way to finish his scabbard, and last night, almost near another catastrophe, he hit upon a solution, and is probably only hours away from having a finished sword and scabbard. Plus! We finished the 18th century waistcoat! I can hardly describe the relief. Fourteen buttons, loads of hand sewing, and just all the customizing and troubleshooting. Totally worthwhile, I admit. I cannot wait to share pictures! He looks amazing in it. Geoff is finishing the wood recovery and leak issues of the deck, and that is probably tedious/frustrating work, but he took time out to do some fun and creative tinkering when Paul M Paul the Bearded One came over... it was great seeing them put their heads together over a welding project. {Random facts... We know a lot of Paul's, and I just realized we know two Paul M's.} I cleared the rose bed, and put in some flowers, started a scarf, made a friday dinner that fed us all weekend, and started another mushroom housing development. Also, I am in the middle of creating Maria's Halloween costume... yes, there is a pattern, but it's too small, and bears very little resemblance to the desired result... May Chang. Once again, I am altering and modifying, and bewildered. Fortunately, Master Foo, muse and amuser, is on hand to lend a paw. There was so much more... sewing lessons, Zombie shows, homework. Now, here we are, Monday, again. And still more to get done, but I have this pleasant feeling, this lovely impression that it really was a good weekend.

Good Things...

1. Last week we enjoyed Animal Misfits. And this week we were engrossed in a new Nature episode, A Murder of Crows! After chickens, these brilliant birds may be my favorites.

2. My iPhone. I just love this thing... it's handy, clever, useful, convenient, and good.

3. Cool nights. After weeks and weeks of enduring heat, complaining about unseasonal weather, we have weather I can embrace. I love it.

4. New pants for Max! At last I've found pants that Max feels comfortable wearing. This has been a two year quest, and it made me so happy to see the look of relief and pleasure he wore when he tried them on and found these comfortable, good looking pants fit his needs.

5. We are going to watch Meet Me In St Louis next Saturday night. This represents all kinds of goodness... it may rain on Saturday, it may be cold, Tootie Smith is a hoot, and watching this family favorite is one of the many annual holiday traditions we enjoy. I'm so excited about these prospects.

Halloween is nearly here. Oh, gosh. We are looking forward to all the friends and fun coming with that day. But there's so much to do! Are you ready? Ready for the new week, ready for next weekend? Anything good you'd like to share? Happy Monday, friends.

Friday, October 24, 2014

{this moment}

A single photo, capturing a moment from the week.
A special moment. A moment I want to remember.

:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments, for all to find and see.

Bambi, with English homework, while Alex prepares for a calculus midterm.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Our Fine October Weather



It's not raining. Not like at my mom and dad's place, raining day, and night, on the Oregon coast. We aren't sitting in the dark, waiting out a Nor'easter! Stay safe, friends. But this morning, I pulled the quilt up to my chin, and saw that it was a lovely fifty-seven degrees Fahrenheit. Lovely, and cool-ish. Our days are still hovering around the mid-seventies, which is hardly seasonal, but as I was describing to Delia, we got so accustomed to temperatures in the eighties, nineties, even... now the these "cooler" days are just fine, thank you very much. I say "fine" in a relieved, and resigned way. I dread the prospect of a dry winter, which I have seen forecasted for California. I dread more drought, heat, wind, even the simple lack of interesting weather. Granted, I cannot say I covet anything as interesting as they are enduring in Maine, or Massachusetts.

This morning our lawn was bedazzled in dew, and it was cool enough to hold the droplets in place. As the sun rose, and every drop of water was backlit, the yard looked as though it were sealed in a light frost. It was beautiful. A worthy illusion of autumn, of interesting weather. And with William's tombstones set up for Halloween... the effect was marvelous. It is cooler than before, and we have these soothing coastal mornings. It's fine... fine for gardening, fine for walks, fine for painting, fine for our busy October days.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Miniature and Make Believe

Small, tiny, little, and wee. We are making miniatures. Maria and I have become so enamored of the hobby that I decided to add a new label to our side bar. Miniatures will include our Make Believe play with small dolls, tiny figures, little dishes, and wee projects. The label is new to Chickenblog, but the obsession with small things has been with me since I was Maria's age. I still have the tiny dishes, pottery, a knife, scissors, some dolls, even an iron, from visits to Olvera Street, the mercados in Guadalajara, Esquintla, Puebla. Small toys were not only affordable, but easy to keep while traveling, moving, living in small homes. Miniatures are adorable, and have always captivated my imagination. I like them for the challenges in imagination... how to make something small and realistic? I like them for the make-believe appeal... a manageable space, where we can enjoy enacting a story, creating a world all our own. I am feeling a contentment and delight about finally unleashing my mini-obsession!

Last month I saw a picture on Pinterest of a tiny door set near the floor of a home, and it was arranged to look as though a Borrower, or maybe Stuart Little, might at any time come out, grab the morning paper, and greet the new day with a friendly, good morning! Kate's Creative Space calls them Fairy Doors. I didn't want this to be another cute thing to Pin. I wanted to jump in and play! Ironically, I haven't actually added a fairy door to our home, but Maria has had two mini making classes, and she and I have combed our home and craft stores for 1/12 scale delights! And we've been making. We love to tinker, play, and make... and miniatures have inspired all kinds of rethinking, and imagination in our making skills. We are using paper clay, and making breads, rolls, cupcakes, and vegetables. I've made a mop, a feather duster, a pencil set, and chalk, with wood and paints. It's a lot of fun seeing what can be made from a toothpick, or a bit of fabric and thread. We splurged on some little dish sets, and an ironing board, sewing machine, and gardening tools, and fortunately many of these minis can be found second-hand.

As we collected, made, and found objects we added them to a pretty box. And as the box began to fill, we realized that as much fun as it was to bring out our toys and play with them, we were really looking forward to furnishing a little home. Maria and I found a tall book case, with six shelves... or, floors. Each floor will be a room in the house, including two for the barn and stable. For weeks we've had our dishes, animals, crates, books, and ironing board sorted on the shelfs. It looked like moving-in day! We chose our Penny Wooden Doll, to be the home's primary resident. And Maria named her Katherine, Kit. We rounded up farm animals, and Maria brought out a pencil and paper, and gave everyone names... like Radagast, the friendly billy goat, and his companion Gandalf the Grey bunny. Maria likes to have Kit check all the animals before bedtime, she goes down two floors, with her St Bernard, Lucerne, to make sure her little farm is safe for the night. Then Kit is tucked into her doll quilt bed, with her knitting on her nightstand, and Sherlock Holmes to read before she sleeps.




This weekend Maria and I found some long abandoned, old wood furniture pieces. Some were broken, at the bottom of a very deep box of wood blocks, another was in the garage, in a heap of sawdust. They were in pretty sorry shape, but we were instantly sure of one thing: These could be perfect for Kit's home! William gave me a sandpaper lesson. To clean and smooth the pine pieces we started with a 120 grit... a bit rough, good for evening out the surfaces, and clearing out splinters. Next we applied a 150 grit, and this helped to smooth the wood. The next sanding phase we went at with 400 grit, and this one was especially good at getting the wood as polished as possible, so that we can try a painting technique that will make the wood pass for steel. We will try making the oven and stove look like an old powered coated steel, white with red trim, I think. Wish me luck! We spent a long while sanding, scrubbing, and dusting. Cotton swabs make great dusters, and toothpicks were great for detailing. We felt so excited about our find, especially seeing them look better and better.

Before~

After~

Maria and I decided on a blue kitchen, and mixed our own paint to get Beloved Blue. We combined a grey and a bright blue satin finish acrylics from the craft store. We both enjoyed painting the pieces, while discussing details we might add, and how soon before we could put things away in the little house. Maria gets these sweet ideas... like having a pastry bag with icing in it for the cupcakes I made, or making cotton candy! We are starting to talk about lighting options, making circuits, using LEDs. William wants to help us plan other furniture and cut forms with our small mill. Maria has already sketched some good ideas for a hutch. She is learning about scale. Our little make believe place is one inch high for every twelve inches in our everyday lives. She pointed out that this makes Kit a very tall woman, at six inches high! We agreed to not get too fastidious about the scale, or too strictly adhere to historic continuity... a make believe world should be enjoyable, after all. We are inspired by many things, like Tasha Tudor, Stuart Little, The Borrowers, and The Secret World of Arrietty. Even our own Candle Light tradition has been a source of inspiration.

Would you like to see our make believe home, and some things we've been making?




Baked and decorated, mini cupcakes... they're small even on a small scale! These are just paper clay, paint, and tiny pieces of glitter. Did you notice the pastry bag, for decorating? This was Maria's idea. It's waxed paper with an extrusion of paper clay, painted to match the cupcakes.

A bamboo skewer cut to 4", sanded to make the end rounded. I painted it. I cut cotton string, sewed the strands to a piece of muslin then glued that around the end of the mop handle!


The very appetizing caramel apples Maria made! Her teacher taught the class how to use Fimo clay. We still don't know what material they used for the nuts! It looks so good... it's making me nuts trying to figure it out!

I cut a corner of white paper and rolled it into a small cone, and then I pulled a bit of wool roving into a puff of cotton candy. Using just a dab of white glue, I wrapped the fairy floss around the paper cone. {Fairy floss... Is that the most romantic name for spun sugar??}

These were made with paper clay... then dusted with pastel chalks, and finally sealed in gloss. I made the bread knife, too! The blade is cut from the serrated strip of an empty aluminum foil box. I cut and painted a small piece of balsa wood, and made a space in one end to slide the blade into. I secured the blade with both a drop of glue, and a strip of aluminum backed duct tape.

Hamburgers and hot dogs... more experimenting with the paper clay.

Radagast, who is a "very friendly and kindly goat," and his dearest companion, Gandalf the Grey.

Lettuce and carrots, like the bread and hamburger, made of paper clay, then painted with acrylics.

Kit with Lucerne, writing letters, before she reads.

Like Maria, Kit has Sir Conan Doyle's works at her bedside.

The pencils might be one of our favorite effects... they're toothpicks, cut to size, sanded a bit, then painted. Maria became quite masterful at making these.

{A funny thing... I made a some pencils before sharing the project with Maria, but then I lost them. I had them wrapped in a small cloth, and I found the empty cloth on my desk. Max walked by and exclaimed! "That's where those came from??! At school I found little pencils in my briefcase, and I had no idea where they came from, then I started writing with one, and it worked, too." Just enough of the paint at the tip was able to make a few marks on the paper.}

We love the Make in Make-Believe~

Monday, October 20, 2014

Five Good Things



It was Red Ribbon Week at school, and though Maria kept forgetting to wear red, she did put her heart and creativity into her poster. "Healthy Me ~ Way to Be" was the theme, and Maria illustrated a girl surrounded by good ideas and suggestions for living a healthy life. She drew a border with books, gardens, play activities, and community building suggestions, like sharing from your garden, and cycling. I like the pictures at the bottom, of the girl reading, and Maria's message, "Reading is good for you! So many books to read! Read a book! Big, and small, funny and spooky... read it all!" I love that these ideas were her own, and that they are a reflection of her school's message... it's not just rhetoric from the week's theme, but the genuine spirit and message our school and community honors and supports in classes, and special programs, throughout the year. We feel fortunate to be here, that Maria can go to to a school with such a healthy vision for its students and community.

Good Things...

1. We have {finally} chosen our house paint color! The important thing is that it has a pretty name, too. We committed with the first five gallon bucket of "Arrowhead Lake." It's blue. And it's bluetiful!

2. It took us 10 months to decide on a house color, and only moments to unanimously agree to paint the barn red!

3. Paul, Janece, and Amira came over with Mediterranean food... and we feasted on the delicious food, and happy company.

4. We watched the Nature episode, "Animal Misfits," which was wonderful. Mudskippers are hilarious and deeply odd, and I want to save the kakapo!

5. Seam rippers. It's not good how often I need this tool, but thank goodness for seam rippers!

Thinking about Maria's poster, I feel inspired to enjoy a nice walk today, to spruce up our Little Free Library, and maybe get around to tending our veggie garden, too. Happy Monday, friends. I hope there are good things awaiting you this week~

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Playing House

Last year Maria and I discovered paper clay, and we made mushrooms, and houses, and wee gnomes, and gave little ornaments to friends. It's a simple craft, and gratifying, too. Saturday, while Maria was in her class in miniature making {Oh, yeah! Awesome stuff happening there!} I sat outside with our box of paper clay making supplies, and kept myself busy fiddling with the clay. We hadn't done anything with it since December, but it all came back to me, and I rolled out a tiny collection of capped mushrooms. Then a bitty house, or two.

Mushrooms. Houses. What if... Mushroom Houses?

Still small enough to be built on a sewing pin, but bigger than the mini mushrooms, I built a fungi with a door and chimney, and basically fell in love with the whole concept, and so I made three more! With this paper clay, the larger the pieces are the more challenging it is to keep the clay from cracking, and maybe I should be playing with other clays (FIMO?) but this stuff is so affordable and I love that I can paint it, too. It helped to use a small paint brush, dabbing it in water, and gentle brushing the clay so it would stay pliable and smooth. Also, pieces that split after drying repair quite nicely with a dab of Elmer's glue.

Have you ordered your Paperclay, yet?

After they dried through, and this took a bit longer with the larger pieces, I brought out the acrylic craft paints. Now, I wish I'd made more Mushroom Houses, because this is too much fun!

Two coats of red, one coat of grey, and dabs of bark brown. The spots go on with the end of a flat headed toothpick. Spot. Spot. Spot. Later I will slip a little bit of white wool into the chimney... it will look as if a cozy fire must be burning inside!

I'm not very good at getting uniform shapes, so the houses are folksy little nooks. Charming cottages, with character.

And the Mushroom Homes... well, they have a lot of charm and character, too!