Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Crafty Hours

Paper chains. I still remember the glorious feeling of I can do it, when I learned how to make paper chains. The satisfaction of that success has never really left me, and I think it has become even nicer every time I teach one of my children that long strips of paper glued in loops can be linked together to form a long and lovely decoration!

One year when the boys and I were making Advent chains, with twenty five rings counting the days until Christmas, I added something extra to my loops. On the inside of each loop I wrote a message or activity. Each loop was numbered, and each corresponded with the days on my calendar, so I could anticipate what they were going to reveal. Every morning William, Alex, or Max took a turn tearing off a loop and reading the new message. Some I kept very simple, and some matched up with extra special things we had planned in advance. So each day they could anticipate a fun holiday themed happening, such as...

Bake cookies
Drive by holiday lights
Sing carols
Read by a roaring fire
Watch a holiday movie
Decorate the tree
Take a starry evening walk
Make hot cocoa
Sleep beside the Christmas tree
Look for snow
Visit family
Wrap gifts
Make Christmas cards

Maria learned how to make paper chains a few years ago. But I have not made a Christmas activity Advent chain in a long time. She would love it if I did...hmmmm.

She has already made a bunch of chains this week. She is her own motivator when it comes to coloring, gluing, cutting, creating, crafting. I saw her trying to make a template with another piece of paper, so she could get nice, straight strips of paper. It occurred to me that she is ready for real tools. She has mastered scissors already, so I brought out my quilter's straight edge and the paper cutter.

Perfect timing. She has the patience and the interest, and most importantly a healthy respect for good tools. She was impressed with how easy it was to measure her paper, get the straight lines she was seeking, and especially how ingeniously the paper cutter works. I am glad she learned the hard way first. I think learning basic skills sets a strong foundation for gaining new skills, and it adds to the appreciation as well.

Tape on the nose... that is a game she started when she was one year old. We have played it often, happily. The tape dangles from the end of your nose, and when you blow it, the tape flaps and dances. Simple pleasures.

While Maria built her blue and pink paper chain, I got started on something inspired by me wanting to give a nod to Victorian-SteamPunked holidays, with old-fashioned and handmade decorations. What is more old-fashioned and handmade than paper chains? And what, in our modern commercial lives, is more SteamPunked than Trader Joe's?

I got hold of one of their fabulous little circulars, printed on recycled paper, with soy-based inks. I read it, admired the wit and charm, noted the whimsical ephemera, and illustrations, and then I cut it to pieces.

Really. I did not hold back.
And from one Fearless Flyer I had all the old fashioned-SteamPunked paper chain making strips I needed. I used those fun scissors that give a little Victorian flair with a crinkled edge.

And a neat part is how the images and phrases, from Trader Joe's Thanksgiving edition of the Fearless Flyer, is full of seasonal and yummy words and graphics. I kept seeing Allspice, Pumpkin, Roast, Poet, Cornbread, Green Beans, Cranberry, Mulling Spices, and also Family, Friends, Thanks, Harvest, Natural, Sparkling... I love words. Words are a picture, they conjure sights, sounds, emotions, sentiments. My chain was linking together a chain of happy holiday sights and sounds, and fragrances too.

Maria and I spent some happy hours crafting together. Measuring and counting, discussing our hopes, and our plans. Getting glue on our finger tips, laughing.

About those elves... last year I learned that an aunt in Tennessee loves and collects elves. I found these two at a garage sale. I wonder if she would like to add them to her shelf? I've had fun thinking how she might enjoy these funny little guys.

His Pinkness

Maria made this comfy bed for Ferris. The pillow. The bumbie. She scooped him up from one nap spot and placed him in the basket nest. And he stayed.

He stayed, because when he isn't a ferocious beasty attack cat, he is a furry-purry muffin of love.

Hello, furry-purry muffin of love.
Ferris also goes by...
and Lover Boy*

*June 16, 2011
In the interest of avoiding inappropriate traffic, we are henceforth recalling our dear kitty as Luuuuver Boy.

We so deeply miss our Ferris Kitty.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Tiny Village

I met a blogger, who knows a blogger who I know!

Dang it. I didn't want to blurt it out like that.

But if you don't like wordy posts, then you can stop here, maybe glance at the pictures. Do leave a comment please. Thank you. Have a nice day!

So, I have been very inspired and delighted by the tiny paper houses made for Christmas villages. Many of them are vintage, and have a sweet handcrafted charm, and there are new ones, and many creative people share templates and tips for making them. I saw some very sweet ones the other day, and I thought: It would be more meaningful and personal to make some myself.

I mean really, how hard could it be? Cardboard. Glue. Glitter. A little measuring. A little cutting. Stuff.

I Googled "Paper Christmas Houses" and showed Alex the best examples of what I wanted to make. The best examples were at 32˚North, a treasure trove web store. That's their charming cottage, with paned windows and the Gothic arched door.

"You need good details, like those gold trims, and the tiny trees," Alex suggested.

We clicked and clicked and clicked through the amazing inventory of dresdens, and millenery, gazing at the barn and church, the lighthouse, and little houses. Many of the supplies are from Germany, England... faraway places. I worried that placing an order would be slow. I was getting anxious to make my putz house right away!

Then to my amusement and delight, I discover that the online store is based here! in So Cal. After thinking on such a global scale, it now felt like we are practically neighbors! My amusement and delight compound.

I admire my gumption. Just saying. 'Cause you know, it's not like there aren't forty-two other things I should be doing, it's not like I don't have other hobbies (embroidery, quilting, crochet, chicken farming etc...) Not to mention housework. Seriously: Do not mention "housework."

Blithely unaware of the skills I lack, contentedly ignoring laundry and vet appointments, I jumped right in to putz construction 101.


With every cut and measurement, with every projection of what is really involved... my tiny village vision got smaller and smaller and smaller. It's not just the planning, and the patience it takes to configure all the parts, it's the time. It must take lots and lots of uninterrupted time. Uninterrupted Time = Priceless Commodity.

I already had Maria by my side eager to get her hands on the utility knife... she had a village vision too! Actually, with some mica, a little glitter, and pretty paper trim, I think her house would be lovely.

I left my bit of cardboard putz progress on the dining table, and went back to study the possibilities at 32˚ North, to reignite my so-called gumption. I had so many questions, so much curiosity... all of it began to erode my shyer nature. Still impressed with their close proximity, I picked up the phone and made the call. I am so glad that I did.

Amanda was patient answering my questions, sharing my amusement about our close proximity. She remained calm, in spite of my st@lker-like enthusiasm. After my shyness wears off, I can display tendencies of "aggressive friendliness," or so I have been told.

She mentioned her blog as a possible resource for tutorials, and of course I immediately dialed in the URL, and then my amusement and delight were doubly compounded... she was linked to familiar bloggers, to favorite sites, to my dear friend the "Pink Purl" herself, Tracy! (Naturally Tracy would be the one to teach me about World Kindness Day.) It turns out that Amanda and Tracy are friends too.

Geoff took one look at the little putz houses, and he knew. "You should just buy one!" He understands the time and skill that go in to making things, especially beautiful things.

Well. Even though he is absolutely correct, I couldn't help ordering a few trims and dresdens from Amanda's Etsy Shop. All of those beautiful treasures were irresistible. And maybe, with help from her tutorials, and the hope of finding twelve hours of uninterrupted time, I might make something to get my little village going... maybe a chicken coop! And if you think you might like to get crafty, Amanda also sells project kits. I think I should have started with a kit. I just can't seem to let go of the fantasy of making an entire village of paper houses! My delusions are so amusing to me. And also, I am impressed that I could resist inserting "It's a small world after all" somewhere in this post. Oops. Until now.

*Thank you Amanda!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lately, Newsy Stuff From Around Here

No Cake Wrecks here. In the mood for a very good doughnut? I was indulging a wish for a friend, and Aiden, (he's the baker, man,) recommended the cinnamon twist. He sees it all, so I knew I could rely on his suggestion. Thanks, and remember to tell 'em mark it with a B!

I wonder if thinking my camera is fatigued is like a self-fulfilling prophesy? Of the one hundred and sixty-one photographs I have taken this week, there are only a few that sort of inspire me to share them... somewhat reluctantly. So, is it the camera, or am I simply not trying hard enough?

Here is Temple. Named for Temple Grandin, a favorite scientist here at the Bird House. Unfortunately, our Temple is not a womanly chicken-hen, but a manly he-chicken, and a cocky one too. He drew the shortest straw this week, and I finally summoned the courage to take him on a country drive.

It broke my heart. A little bit. I did try to work with him, to be his pal, but he kept escalating the rumbles, with children, with the other chickens, with me! Even our dear neighbors, who love and respect all creatures great and feathered, decided he might not be a healthy addition to their flock. They chose wisely. It is hard to be a farmer, a soft-hearted suburban farmer. On the way over to the feed store-happy farm, Temple was silent and still. He slumped on the bottom of the cage, with his mop top drooped down from his prone body, and I thought he's dead! I had to pull over. Check his pulse. He was so forlorn and dejected. So. Yeah, I was crying and driving, and I left the feed store crying too.

Zelda would like to say, "Good riddance, and why didn't you take the other two knuckle-heads with you?"

Zoltar is a small and affectionate knuckle-headed rooster, and if he can calm down now that his rival is gone, then I will be happy to keep him here.

Tesla, is as big as Temple, but far less capable of being a menacing rooster, because of his special situation. Have I mentioned Tesla's "special situation?" Nikola Tesla is a Polish rooster, and he has chicken scoliosis. His spine is twisted, so badly that he looks as though his head is on the far end of his right shoulder. He can not look up, which makes drinking and eating a challenge. It's hard being a soft-hearted suburban farmer, and I know he would not last long on a real farm. He seems happy enough here, and though his condition may be his eventual undoing, until I see him suffering, he will have our compassionate affection.

So, Zelda, you Silkie princess, for now, your companions are Lady Betty Orpington, Lady Puff of Henness, Zoltar il Magnifico, and Tesla the Defender.

Trudy is gone. I have avoided this sad update for some time. There was no sign of distress, no indication of illness. She was simply on the floor of the shark cage, and gone. There was only one way to tell Princess Trudy from her sister, Zelda: Trudy was the only one that would come to me when I called the chicas. Trudy and I were friends. It may have had something to do with her learning that I shared caterpillars, but she and Betty were the only ones that came when called by name. So, yes, more crying there. We had a lovely funeral, October 30th. On bed of rose petals we laid sweet Trudy to rest.

Other News...

Maria is still on the mend. Last night was not good. She had the green light to return to school, but now I worry that the long day has been too much. Today, we are home, so I will monitor her closely, and hope that she continues to heal.

Funny note: She came home with two inches of homework, and was elated. Elated! She proudly announced her homework situation to all, and smiled broadly. Diligently and happily, she has been tracing, cutting, gluing, coloring her way through every blessed page.<------------------Not a gene, habit, or attitude she inherited from her momma.

Alex invited Team Paradox, our favorite robotics team ever, over for a little float construction session. The holiday parade is coming up and the Paradoxians have plans! I hope everyone is ready for robotics, for FIRST, for Kick-off (only 58 days away!), for all it takes to be spirited and to inspire math, science, and engineering!

Oh... just noticed the time. Gee. I am a slow typist. Other news will have to wait. Time to greet the brand new day, away from the computer. If you have a moment, share your news... what's going on?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Rollin' With My Homies

Apparently this is all it takes to pimp my ride. I got my LED lights trimming the windshield and I am ready to roll. Geoff saw me taking my accoutrements out to the car, and he grinned, "I'm surprised it took you so long." Hey, blinking lights are one thing, wait until I add trim. He's gonna be jealous!

In other news...

My camera is on probation. Really it is just one phase in my ultimate plan to eventually break down and buy a new camera. It's a process. Geoff has been on board for more than a year: "Get yourself a camera." But I am a wishy-washy, frugal, cheap, hesitant, indecisive, flip-flopping, practical kind of consumer... with the possible exception of fabric buying, which I have done with reckless abandon.

So, the probation thing is where I look at one more batch of disappointing images taken with my Panasonic, and fully embrace the reality that this camera has simply succumbed to photo fatigue. Would forty thousand images do that to a camera, wear it out? Actually, that count would not include the images I deleted, so it may be a lot more. A lot. More.

It really helps me to justify why I should be buying a new camera.
Come to think of it, I like to belabor my thought processes, and justify, and rationalize all purchases over fifty cents. It's who I am.

The camera can take good pictures. But it frequently, often, commonly takes not so great pictures. Putting aside, for the moment, that the fault may be with the amateur photographer who lost the instruction manual in a move, I think it is fair to say that this camera has always been a pain to use. And even the few skills I have employed don't seem to be doing any good these days.

This winter I am embarking on a daring and brave venture, arranged by my very own daring, adventurous and generous mother, Delia. I am enrolled in a photography seminar-class-thingy! I am going to try and learn my f-stop from a short stop. I am going to learn the differences between aperture, apparatus and apple cider. I am going to be legit. That may be going too far. I am going to be a more gooder picture taker. I may want to show up to school with a camera I like, feel comfortable using, and one that is not fatigued.

Alright. Enough of that. I am getting a camera. Of course, now I am going to stall in phase II: Which camera?!!

Speaking of stalls, I don't think this post has any genuine purpose other than me stalling on my drive out to the countryside with two rude and rowdy roosters. Sure, I let them hang out for weeks and months, even after they pecked and harassed the precious children, but now they have been attacking me! And as I explained to Max, who appreciates my absurd and twisted humor btw, the roosters have gone too far if they think they can hassle me.

I can't wait to roll by school, and pick up my lil homies. Peace out.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Rippled, Frayed, Unraveled...

Not me!
Okay, a little bit me... rippled, frayed and unraveled, but mostly I was thinking about the yarn I have been toting around these days.

Before Maria was diagnosed with whooping cough, she and I were at the craft store, fondling the yarn.

Maybe this is a good time to interject an apology. Maria has been sick since mid-October. It started mildly enough, and out of concern for her cousins, I took her in to the peds. to rule out anything ghastly. Dr. Peds. gave her a clean bill of health, assuring me that the tickle in her throat was minor, and of no consequence. But the tickle became a chronic cough, which gave way to sleepless nights, which progressed in to projectile vomiting. Back to Dr. Peds., where her immunization records were reviewed. She is allergic to the pertussis vaccine, and therefore susceptible to whooping cough, which we learned does not always come with the tell tale whoop. We had to do some searches to track down meds without dyes, so her treatment could come with fewer side effects. (Artificial dyes are from the devil, and if you have noticed children behaving irrationally, crankily, out of sorts, or spastically-hyper after eating dyed foods and treats, you may want to get the red out too. I am hard core about this. Thank you. PSA over.) Found the meds, endured two more really bad nights, and have progressed to noticeable improvement.

An Apology.
First I had to make myself as blameless as possible. teehee.

I am sorry. To Bill and Alison, and my dear nephew and niece. I am sorry that I was exposing you guys to something ghastly, which I had hoped was not actually ghastly. I hope nothing bad has come of it.

I am sorry Gabe and Ashley. You were here during the ten day incubation period. I hope nothing bad came of it.

Southern California, I am sorry. We did not know we were ghastly. We tried to be diligent and prudent and appropriate. We coughed in to our elbows, washed our hands, drank plenty of fluids, and sought appropriate and immediate medical intervention. In spite of our best efforts, we apparently were funky, and we may have shared too much.

Before Maria was diagnosed with whooping cough, she and I were at the craft store, fondling the yarn. Maria fell in love with this very pink, very whimsical pom-pom yarn. It came with directions for knitting a scarf, but my skills lean toward the one hook crochet method. It is weird stuff to work with because of the pom-poms, and I had to squeeze two stitches between each pom, without pulling the pom through the loop. It got even weirder when it came time to adding the next row, because it was hard to distinguish the stitches, and funny working around the pom-poms. But none of this was too too deterring, because it feels so fabulous! As the pom-poms gather closer together, and a fabric begins to take shape, all of the little fluff balls become a fluffy mass of soft, pink comfort. I made four rows, and the rosy, soft scarf looks like a lei, and Maria loves to put her face all over it.

My second... Ferris!

My second yarn... Kitty!

My second yarn project is a ripple!
Or a cat toy, depending on who you ask.

I have wanted to make a ripple blanket for a very long time. Years. Now that I am this far along, I feel kind of silly for not jumping in sooner. I have yet to find a friendly yarn shop (shocking, right?) and I knew I was not going to figure it out from a book, so I finally turned to YouTube.

YouTube = Awesome tutorial resource = Awesome ripple crochet lesson. If you want to try this, look for both parts of the ripple crochet videos. I find learning by watching is my best way to go, so this was great.

I can see it looks a bit wonky, and the first three rows had me convinced I would never succeed in my ripple dream, but I am getting the hang of it, and actually enjoying the eight double stitch, three increase, six double stitch, three reduce rhythm. Wait... is that right? Maybe it's best to not think about it too much, and just let my fingers do what they know, which is exactly the right prescription for my rippled, frayed, and unraveled head these days!