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.



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 down 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!

Friday, October 17, 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.

Our red barn~

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Scarily Sweet Sugar Skulls

Maria's after school cooking class did something not quite edible, but totally kitchen-fun... they made sugar skulls, in the Dia De Los Muertos tradition. I should add "Easy" to this post title: "Scarily Sweet and Easy to Make Sugar Skulls!" Dawn shared the recipe, as well as the online shop where she gets her molds and supplies. I've already ordered the medium mold. The directions are emphatic about two points: You cannot do this on a rainy or humid day, and you want a good quality meringue powder. Dawn brought out a ginormo bowl, opened a five pound bag of granulated sugar, added a 1/4 cup of the meringue powder, and only three tablespoons of water. Easy. Then, bare hands went into the bowl and she mixed it all up. It feels like damp sand. I love the texture. Then it's like filling sandcastle molds at the beach... just pack in the sugar, pressing firmly, leveling the sugar. Have a plate, or cardboard square ready, and place it over the open top of the mold, and flip, so you can steadily raise the mold off the sugar skull. I was surprised at how quickly this all came together, and how easily it held. We brought ours home to dry, and after 24 hours they already feel hard.

Dozens of skulls were already molded, dried, and ready for the students to decorate. I'm sure you can make up your own royal icing, and color it to suit your artistic whims, but if you are looking for instant gratification grab those grocery store icing tubes, with the fun decorator tips and get busy decorating your skull! After the handling, and all those dense globs of dye, no one here is tempted to eat these... eew! There was foil paper for the eyes, and for a rectangle on the forehead, where, traditionally, a deceased loved one's name can be inscribed in icing. As Rosie noted, the students jumped in with wild eagerness to decorate their first skulls, but when that initial burst of enthusiasm subsided and when they were on to their second, or third skull, they settled into patient and fantastic creativity. We saw some cleverly decorated skulls, and some very thickly iced skulls, too. It was all good fun. Properly stored, Dawn says they will last for years... hers is that gorgeous one at the top.

Though my own heritage is Mexican, Dia De Los Muertos is not a tradition we celebrated in our family. For me, these sugar skulls are a craft, and I add a reverent nod for the respect it is meant to symbolize, the remembrances of loved ones who have died. The history of Dia De Los Muertos is fascinating... the marriage of cultures, faiths, and art. Now that we have dabbled in this art... maybe in the spring we can try our hand at decorating sugar eggs!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Five Good Things

The Moon, October 7, 2014.

The full moon this month felt exceptionally beautiful. It was bright, and silvery, and really stirred my soul. Early the next morning, I caught some of the lunar eclipse, too. The eclipse was beautiful, but I think seeing the moon rise, the night before, was my favorite. Now, I am eagerly anticipating the October 23 solar eclipse... ten days away! Be sure you are prepared, either by purchasing viewers, or making some safe viewing devises yourself... has some helpful links and suggestions.
Hopefully the cool, grey weather I have been so wishful and eager for, won't finally arrive and interfere with us getting a full view of the eclipse!

Good Things...

1. The house is as messy as ever, because we are getting so much done! It's frustrating, but a reality... sometimes things get a bit crazier, before they get better. But repairs, improvements, and projects are making steady progress.

2. Our new washer plays a pretty little tune when the cycle is through: "Die Forelle," Franz Schubert. Poor little trout. The tune is pretty, but the lyrics are actually rather disturbing, and this amuses us to no end, so that's good, too.

3. I've been invited to tea, and in the same email was shown great, comforting, sympathy. Ha, I just saw it... "tea and sympathy!" I tell you, it can make a world of difference to my heart and soul when someone says, I understand!

4. Pumpkin dog treats, the ones from Trader Joe's, are a huge hit in the Little Free Library. Maria refilled the jar, again, yesterday.

5. It's foggy. Right now, it's cool, dark, and foggy. It feels so good!

Happy Monday... I suppose we all wish it were still the weekend, but I hope this will be a good day for you~

Sunday, October 12, 2014

What's New At The Little Free Library

Never mind the books in the Little Free Library {there are many!} Today we are talking about the treats in the Little Free Library. If you haven't been to a Trader Joe's in recent days you may not know that they are featuring Pumpkin Flavored Everything! Maria and I brought home a box of Pumpkin Flavored Dog Treats for the neighborhood pups. Now, with the classic milk bones, our canine neighbors can enjoy a seasonal pumpkin biscuit. We also strung some LED lights, which look lovely and bright on these dusky fall evenings. I still want to raise some funds so we can buy a bench. My big hope is to host a craft and bake sale, with an interactive activity. {The only things standing in my way are energy and gumption... oh, dear, it may never come together, in that case! Do you ever feel like you're getting nowhere??} That's it. That's my Little Free Library update. I hope you are enjoying your weekend.