Things I Want To Do This Year

April 14, 2009 § 3 Comments

Sometimes I wish I had a big giant, fully stocked craft room like Martha Stewart’s.  In fact, who am I kidding, I wish for that all the time.  Like I said in a previous post, I’m a flitter.  I move from project to project and focus to focus with a moment’s notice.  When I get tired of embroidery, I pack it away for weeks and pick up the sewing machine to make clothes.  When I screw up yet another sewing project, I put the machine away and get out my sketchbook to yet again attempt some design work – greeting cards, ideas for collages, paintings.  And then when I get tired of that I doodle three things: flowers, carrots and baby heads.

But as I enjoyed a quiet, albeit joyous Easter with my husband and daughter, I decided that I should at least give some form to my jumbled creativity, and I made a little list of creative endeavors and goals for 2009, which doesn’t include the standard “write something every day, keep up with photo organization and scrapbooking and become the next Martha Stewart” those are all givens.

  • Last Christmas I bought a poopload of Christmas fabric with the idea of making a ragged squares quilt ala Crazy Mom Quilts.  I mean, that looks pretty doable!  And fast!  Well Christmas came and went, I got a LOT of the squares cut out and now they are in a beautiful stack of christmasy squares in my stash box.  I will finish A quilt this year.  Whether it’s that one or the “subway tile” quilt I’m designing in my head…I can’t say.
  • Design a fabric for Spoonflower. This is an awesome website, you know it?  Just imagine that perfect fabric you’re looking for.  It’s always just a little bit different from the one you settle for.  Don’t settle.  Channel your inner Anna Maria Horner and make your own!  I just would feel so… accomplished if I sat down and followed this project through from sketch, to color research, to converting it to photoshop to getting the hot little fabric in my hands.  I mean… THAT’S FUN!
  • Make candles.  Easy enough.  I just don’t want to spend all the money on the stuff. Or I should say, I don’t want my husband to see me spend all the money on all the stuff.  I made a ton of useless ‘containers’ when I took my pottery class. They’d all make cute candles.  
  • Make a linoleum stamp and make some stationery/christmas cards (OMG CHRISTMAS CARDS!) with it.  First of all, I loved doing this project in highschool art class.  I remember the super organic pleasure I got from feeling that linoleum peel away when I dug my thingee into the perfect smooth surface.  It really felt like I was DOING something.  Once again, this seems like a sort of cost prohibitive project unless I intend to do a lot with it, what with the brayer, the glass ink spreader thing, the tools, the ink, the linoleum.  I’ll have to find a way around it.

So there are the goals.  Have any advice? Warnings?  Your own goals?  OK!  Let’s break on three! One Two Three BREAK!

My creative space as of Saturday



Things I Sent To Meredith: The Not Things I Sent To Meredith Edition

April 8, 2009 § 4 Comments

My life is all askew this week.  I had a sick daughter over the weekend.  Is anything on this planet more pitiful than a normally vivacious two year old slumped over in your lap begging to go to bed?  She was so sad and so mucusy and even as I held her tight in my arms I knew:  I was going to get whatever she had.

So the crud hit me Saturday night.  I slammed the Nyquil and slept as much as I could but Sunday was a bear as well and I called in sick to work on Monday and slept almost fourteen hours.  I am not here to make excuses, simply to say that a little shakeup in the order of things is nothing to lose our heads about.  I’m feeling better, but instead of recipes and etsy links I thought I’d give you a sneak peek into some of my (cue reverberation) Works – In – Progress-s-s-s-s.

I’m a flitter.  Unless I’m on a full blown tangent where all I can do is draw birds with chalk or make friendship pins for your sneakers out of safety pins and beads, I like to have a couple of irons in the fire (curse you corporate jargon) so when I get bored or stuck or uninspired on one project I can put it out of my mind for a while.  Turns out everything I”m working on right now is embroidery/sewing related…so we can call this a ‘theme’ post if you will.

This is a corner of a little mixed media collage piece I’m doing.  It’s going to be embroidery, felt, paint, and possibly paper once I get it all together.  Of course it will feature my favorite motif: naked trees.

I think I made a critical error in doing the embroidery before the painting, but oh well…that’s art.  Sometimes it looks like a big pile of crap.  We’ll see.

I got sucked into the “first five people win a prize” meme on facebook, and I’m putting together what I think may be my first etsy product if it comes out cute enough.

I did a super close up of it because I do want it to be a surprise, but it combines embroidery, some patchwork, some aromatherapy and JUST A LITTLE DASH OF WHIMSY ::chortle knowingly::

And finally, my favorite, all for me, a little project that was going to be just a Home Sweet Home hoop to hang in my hallway. (Happy Hopping Holiday, Helen, Hey ho!).  But I think it may become a patch for a pillow or a little hanging quilt.

I love how the little flower details at the bottom are coming out so I want to do some more “gardening” around the base of the house.

I’m also pretty proud of my latest ebay acquisition.  After reading the April Martha Stewart Living article about decorating your house with Birds (something I’ve always loved.  I love old pictures of birds, bird patterns, figurines…) I went right on to ebay to look for some of those old white porcelain bird figurines that she had set up in clumps on a side table.  They looked so delicate and elegant and I KNEW I MUST MAKE THEM MINE (AT A COST OF LESS THAN 10.00)  So here’s what I won for 5.00 (7.00 with shipping)

I mean, WHAT?  It’s perfect!  About six inches high, I have this li’l gal perched among my picture frames on the hallway bookshelf.  I love her so much.  I’m sure she’s nothing “priceless” or “collectible”, she has no markings to indicate that she’s from a specific ceramics place…but I love her nonetheless.  Sigh.

Anyway, we will be back on track next week and I may have my very first tutorial ready! What? I know, it’s awesome.

Life in Progress – Spring has Sprung

March 26, 2009 § 2 Comments

Although I have made dire predictions in the past, I do believe that Spring is here. I know this because I finally looked at my collection of silver trees and snowmen and thought “that’s ridiculous”. I finally got the urge to redo the decor, open the windows and get out the fresh, clean, floral-y candles.

But along with that, Spring brings the return of my “single motherhood” as Brian started rehearsals and performances for his show, Lend Me A Tenor up in Arlington Heights. He was gone every day from 6 pm to 11 pm, and after Charlotte went to bed, I was left to my own devices, finally able to delve into some crafting once again.

Charlotte began complaining that she missed Daddy. It occurred to me that I hadn’t done any straight up scrapbooking in ages, so I followed the lead of Art Junk Girl and decided to alter an old board book into a Daddy and Charlotte book. She has 5,000 books and FOUR copies of Goodnight Moon, three of which are board book versions (which aren’t even the full story). So I took the one that was in the worst shape, applied Gesso to each page and the covers (it sounds so easy, but trying to keep all those pages apart so they don’t become one giant Gesso block is a reeeeal logic puzzle.)








After the Gesso dried, I painted over the pages in a white/gray acrylic paint coat just to give it an artsy look, not so screaming white. More updates as this book grows.


Charlotte, no doubt taking after her mother, has grown quite fond of setting herself up in boxes. She puts the box where she’d like it to be (in my bedroom while I’m putting on makeup… heretofore referred to as MAYMUK, which is her pronunciation), then she gets inside and asks for someone to bring her a blanket, a binky and some juice. I mean, let’s lay our cards out on the table here…it looks cozy.

I haven’t sewn in a while, but when I saw the super cute, super easy Kid’s Kimono over at Habitual, I knew it would be my first foray. I wasted approximately a yard and a half of fabric making that first kimono, screwing up the binding, the neckline, I tried to put a lining in it for the chilly spring and ended up making a twenty five pound kimono that was so stiff that Charlotte couldn’t put her arms down when she tried it on. I publicly laughed, privately swore, and tried again. BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT WE DO, RIGHT?T TRY AGAIN. You know my motto kids:

If at first you don’t succeed, try again. But then give up, there’s no point in looking ridiculous.

I trimmed the pattern and made a summer wrap shirt out of it with velcro closure instead of tie closure. I like it, although it’s a bit low cut for a two year old. It’s a bit low cut for a thirty year old, but maybe she’ll grow into it.  I must give credit and laudation to one Ms. Angry Chicken, whose tutorial on attaching bias tape without swearing is what got this shirt made. 


I have also started working on the world famous Twirly Skirt from House on Hill Road, but from the looks of it so far, I doubt I’ll be posting any pictures. They say practice makes perfect, but really, all I’d like is for practice to make half way decent. I’ve never asked for much.

The Crafty Crow is an awesome website, an aggregate of all the children’s crafts and art projects in the history of the world.  And pal, I’m not talking about macaroni necklaces and paperchains for Christmas.  This stuff is off the hizzy as far as learning, fun, creativity and originality.  Charlotte loves her some bathtub fun, particularly tub crayons and tub paint.  I bought her the Spongebob Squarepants soap paint set for christmas which she used up entirely in about two weeks.  It was 8.00.  So I took a cue from Wee Life, featured on the Crafty Crow and made up some homemade tub paint from cornstarch, clear dish detergent and food coloring. 


I chose the new Palmolive Pure & Clear not only for the color purity, but because it’s gentle and fragrance free and all that.  I was temporarily stumped on how to store the paint.  I had a set of six mini gladware containers in my grocery cart until I got to the beauty needs department (which I never skip.  EVER.  I always find a beauty need I need.  I could shop the cosmetics/bath/hair section of a drug store for three hours).  There I found a travel kit of four three ounce plastic shampoo containers IN A CLEAR PLASTIC ZIPPER POUCH for only 2.00.  Score.  The paint stays nice and neat in the containers and the containers stay nice and neat in the pouch.  Hooray!

Don’t be fooled.  I don’t all of the sudden love spring.  But for some reason, this spring arrived just in time with my creative energies and the bonus of having time to myself is allowng for some fun experimentation.  I think I’ve come up with my first product for Etsy (I’ve been stewing over what sort of shop I’d like to have over there), and i’m in the secret lab prototype stages of that, and the fresh air brought a new burst of writing energy that I’m trying to take advantage of.  I love crafting and cooking and sewing and drawing, but in truth, writing is my truest, deepest passion, and when I was without that drive to do it, I was lost.  So I hope this feeling sticks around.

Happy Spring!




A new sporadic feature…The Clay Ashtray Chronicles

March 19, 2009 § 1 Comment

As I mentioned yesterday, I experienced a crafting FAIL on Tuesday, the likes of which you’ll never see on the more wonderful, beauitful craft blogs. I assume this is because these women are hiding/burning/burying their failures and pretending that everything they lay their little crafty hands on turns to gold. (In truth, I just assume they’re better than me).  But I am not too proud to admit that while I love crafting, I am sometimes not so good at crafting because I am also tremendously impatient.  So projects with 25 or so steps in them will usually result in me trying to shave off about 8 of the steps or combine them or ‘alter them’ or whatever.  I also hate following instructions. I feel like if I use a pattern or a template or a list of step by steps, that I’m not really making my OWN craft as much as I’m making a copy of Betty Sue’s awesome craft.  So that’s another place where we hit the wall.

This feature will hopefully be a rare jewel amongst blog posts, a hilarious sidebar to cleanse our palettes after months of exquisite art, food, clothing and design that blow your mind with their craftmanship.  However, I already have two items in the last week which will have to be discussed:

– The amazing shrinking chair pad

– The kimono that became a parka

I call this feature The Clay Ashtray Chronicles (again, no banner yet) because I remember as a child that whenever I was given playdoh, salt and flour dough, baked clay of any kind, I would make an ashtray.  How wonderful.  How artistic.  How useful!

No one in my family smokes.

So there you have it.  You win some, you lose some.   Stay tuned, and learn what we learn from the losses.


March 4, 2009 § 4 Comments

I’m still trying to design a cute “button/banner” for this feature, because it really is something that sums up the majority of my downtime.  Meredith is my best friend, but she doesn’t have the common sense to live close to me.  Instead, she lives next door to Great America, which, as a child, must have been like Christmas every day.  That’s not the point.  The point is that outside the occasional Scrapmania! at Archivers and our traditional festive DIP DINNER*, we really don’t see each other too often.  Our friendship is not unlike the closeness of 1950s penpals, but without the “Hi, How are you? I am fine.” preamble each morning.  On a good day, we email each other around fifty times.  Lest you wonder how we get any work done, I should tell you she’s unemployed and I’m lazy, but the emails are usually nothing more than a link, an attached picture and an exclamation like “WHAT!? OMG! CUTE! HOLY COW! DED FROM CUTE! SOMEBODY PINCH ME!  BUY THIS AND FAX IT TO MY OFFICE BY FIVE.” 

We are faithful followers of Cute Overload and I Can Has Cheezburger just like the rest of the world,

but on a less known level, we also giggle over Lovely Listing , a blog featuring poorly chosen real estate listing photos and the unchallenged champion of funny: Cake Wrecks, pictures of real, honest to god, PROFESSIONALLY DECORATED CAKES that look like they were made by the Differently Abled Clown that works part time at Ground Round**. 

Anyway, we also spend a lot of our time shopping the blogs, shopping etsy, looking at magazine sites…and the things we find renew our faith in the world.  The first thing that cracked me up yesterday was this picture in WiseCraft:

 In this post, her kids were doing a Mary Tyler Mooresque newscast updating the nation on the tragedies unfolding at the forefront of the Bionicle/Agent Wars.  I love FOREVER, reading what little kids will write, and how they’ll spell it, left to their own devices. 

I am also CRAZY IN LOVE with Lollychops, and her Butterfly Project, well, I mean AY YI YI, I wanted to call in sick and go home and MAKE ART!


And finally, the blog that inspired my most recent embroidery/sewing/felting/stitching project, CheckoutGirl’s little neighborhood hoop. 
I so love the folksy simplicity of these houses, made more ‘whimsical’ by their bright colors.  I decided to do a hoop of my own, but with just one house and a Home Sweet Home banner over the top of it.  You’ll love it, I’ll show you when I’m done.  I also love her etsy shop where she’ll whip up a little dream house of your own, to your specifications!  Cute as a button. 
So that’s just a drib and drab, the TIP of the iceberg of stuff I’ve sent to Meredith this week.  Tune in next Wednesday for more internet finds!
*Dip Dinner began with my birthday a few years ago when some of the girls and I got together and had a large cake shaped like a breast and an assortment of dips.  DIP is where it’s at, if you ask me.  I think the world needs more dip,and dip should be an acceptable dinner choice.
**Someday, when I’m in a good mood, and not prone to tearing up, you’ll hear the tale of the Differently Abled Clown that worked part time at the Ground Round and decorated a cake for my sister’s birthday.  I’m crying right now thinking of that guy…so it’ll have to be another time.



Blogging The Life I Have Imagined

February 25, 2009 § 2 Comments

I’ve been collecting up crafty/lifestyle blogs for a few months.  I use them as a sort of ever changing inspiration board because my inspiration board is covered with diaper coupons.  I use them to get my butt in gear.  I use them to … punish myself for being inactive, for sitting on the couch doing nothing while there are women out there writing books,raising families and raising awareness for charities around the world.  

Art Junk Girl was one of the first blogs I bookmarked because I was heavy into collage/ephemera, and I wanted so badly to have a shelf full of moleskine journals like she has.  I wanted to have the drive and creativity and sort of animal need to create like she has.  Her most recent entry almost brought tears to my eyes, I was so jealous of her ‘artistic madness’.  She speaks of existing only to draw, to draw on any and every surface, day and night.  She can’t stop it.  I haven’t felt that in so long.  I wait for that feeling like someone waits for true love.  I wait for it like Christmas.  I just want to have that NEED to create…of course I’d love it if it was a drive to write, but I’ve very nearly given up on that.

My loss of ambition to write is made even harder, and more bitter when I see so many blogging women publishing books, living the life I’ve always dreamed of, and then I read things that basically pierce me right in the heart like a  hot dagger, reminding me that others are succeeding where I have failed.  For instance, in this blog entry  by Marissa over at Creative Thursday:

Yesterday I watched the Oscars and I was reminded  ~ that I went for a dream and I MADE it. And even on my cranky days where I’m not at my best, there is still an always present tiny glimmer of the pure joy I have for living I life I intended. There’s nothing like that feeling. 

No amount of money, no industry connection, no gift certificate can get that feeling.  It’s something you must earn yourself.  It’s a goal you scratch off of a list you wrote when you were ten.  It’s a framed first dollar bill, a contract from a publisher that says “yes,”, a sign over a shop that says ‘Linda’s Pies’.  I have to assume that I’ll never feel it.

Earlier this year I reported that my friend Meredith and I gotten together and brainstormed BIG. GIANT. PLANS. to merge our love of creativity, writing, crafting, blogging, the internet, shopping and homekeeping into one big happy magazine that would focus on living a small, efficient, creative,handmade life.  Since that meeting we had, we’ve watched our favorite, most inspirational magazines (Domino, Craft, Country Home, Cottage Living, WonderTime) go under, effectively showing us that this is no time to get into the magazine biz.  We switched our focus to creating a website that would have the same feel and would actually be much easier to spotlight sellers on Etsy and Folksy and DaWanda.  Decidedly, this is a more dangerous and much less profitable venture since there’s so much competition and so much existing “supply” to meet the “demand”.  We of course became angry when we came across websites that had already done what we dreamed like Dabbled, The Crafty Crow  and Craft Gossip because, while there’s always room for another great thing…we know our limitations.  We are creative, and good writers and good cooks, and good people.  We have a passion for the subject, but we know exactly nothing about web design, web advertising and web….presence…ing..ness.

So now we have to rethink our ambition.  We have to put aside our dreams of living the life we imagined, and instead live the life someone else imagined and needed a staff for.  In the meantime, I want this blog to represent my passions, but it will also represent ME, warts and moles and crooked backs and hypochondria and all.  While I like to bake, I will never be Smitten Kitchen.  While I like to craft and create, I will never be the incomprable Lollychops, and while I want with all my heart to be America’s SuperMom HouseManaging Wonderwife, I’m just never going to be Martha Stewart, or the House on Hill Road.  

I don’t take great photographs, but I’m happy to share them.  I’m not very gourmet, but you can have my recipe for Peachy French Toast.  I can’t sew in a straight line, but I’m pretty darn proud of my Pear Dream Tote Bag.  So stick around if you’d like.  You can hear about my childhood, my daughter’s childhood, what I made for Sunday supper and what I do when I’m not working on someone else’s dream.

What’s your bag, baby?

February 23, 2009 § 4 Comments

There are so many BAG puns and oneliners out there, it’s hard to settle on one for a blog entry pertaining to bags.  I just went with an obvious one since I often am overheard referring to what is or is not “my bag”, or, as a friend of mine’s son said one day “IN MY BAG”. 

I have lofty ambitions that are not matched by my energy level, patience or will to endure.  If I decide one morning that I would like to intricately embroider a tea towel with a zillion tiny flowers, I’ll probably give up around twenty minutes later, decide that six little french knots are probably close to a ‘zillion’ and go watch a Food Network Cake Challenge.  God, I hate fondant.  THAT is a story for another time.

But I’m working on my “immediate girl” nature, trying to take pride in my work, put the effort in to turn out a good product and earn that sense of satisfaction.  That’s probably the problem.  I couldn’t give a rat’s left toe for a sense of satisfaction.  Who cares?  Satisfaction don’t shrink my waist, none, pal. 

Anyway, I have big plans to become, well, a MASTER SEAMSTRESS, but I haven’t sewn anything of consequence since college, when I artfully finagled my way out of sewing a costume shirt for my costuming class, playing the “i’m working so hard on developing my character that I can’t focus on shirt construction” card.  Theatre Major: When You Don’t Really Want to Do A Lot of Assignments. But now I have myself a little daughter, and I want nothing more than to be able to sew her a princess costume, or a sun dress or an art smock or any thing she asks for.  So I’ve got a timeline established, wherein I will work my way up to a very easy Kimono Dress that I have printed out the tutorial for online.

Project ONE is complete.  A lined, interfaced, pocketed tote bag that I can take back and forth to work with my purse, my THREE different listening devices (FM radio walkman,AM radio walkman and iPOD), whatever books I’m reading and my notebook for the books I’m not writing because with al these supplies, I fall asleep on the train nearly EVERY. DAY.

I digress.  The tote is not from a pattern or anything.  I just eyeballed a Whole Foods reusable grocery bag and cut out some butcher paper pieces a couple inches bigger than that all around.  I used a medium weight interfacing to give a little heft, and added a simple accordion sided pocket on the inside to throw my keys and phone in since I hate digging for them.

My biggest challenge was a) the stitching.  I had a lot of problems with the weight and tension of the thread.  So I had to do some seams over again and that enraged me.  You can see below what happens to the BACK of your stitching when you don’t have enough tension on the thread:

But I over came all this and all that I’m angry about now (because God knows I’m never pleased with myself) is that the binding seam/tape/trim thing at the top was sewn on unevenly because of my shaky “Is-that-girl-on-the-pcp” hands and my leadfoot which tends to floor it on the sewing pedal and my fabric and I lurch forward through the feed and I sometimes swerve out of control off the highway of neat stitching.

I’m kind of proud of it.  It’s sturdy, it holds all my stuff, the straps are long, and don’t cut into my shoulder, and by God, I stuck to it.  Next stop: learnin’ zippers and perfecting the binding strips.

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