Thursday, December 11, 2008

At least the tree looks good...

... though the photographs are not the best. Ah well, maybe Santa will bring me a nice camera for Christmas this year!

So the story goes- we have had the same tree since before we were married. A lovely, vintage model that was older than my husband, and a total pain to put together. The base was gerry-rigged, it swayed precariously unless we spent hours tinkering with the various arms- but it was beautiful when I finally finished trimming it. It was lovely this year, too- for the 15 minutes it was up! It didn't take long this year (after about 5 minutes of pretty creative swearing) to decide that we needed a new tradition. So off hubby goes- and comes back with this giant.

A full 9 feet tall, it just fits against the foyer ceiling. I must admit that I was pretty skeptical about how it would look, but I am warming to it. It is a pain to decorate, though- I might just make him do it next year!
One of the reasons that I love decorating the tree is that there are so many memories that we have collected together.

This year, the kids helped make some cinnamon-applesauce ornaments, and Dome has already made several at pre-school. It is so nice to have them really involved for the first time!

Here is one of my favorites- a ceramic "Cat-Fish". Pull the cord and his head and tail bobs! The "Tumbler" from the Dark Knight series - guess who picked that one out? The Dark Knight himself watches over the tree - perched at the angel topper's feet...

My favorite dinosaur (Ankylosaurus)...

My butterfly- picked up during our anniversary trip this year (husband gamely trouped through three towns in search of antiques (ok, junk!)- what a trouper! The pic is from Dome's first visit to Santa- and the only one pic that we have were he isn't completely hysterical...

I made these cherubs for our wedding- they are just plastic wedding cake decorations with a little bit of rub-on gold wax. A bit of ribbon and they look just lovely. The picture of Gromit (from Wallace and Gromit) just behind is from a set that I made for our first Christmas together.

And, of course- last, but not least! No tree would be complete without a Wobbegong shark- he even blends in with the other decorations. Talented, those Wobbes...
Still working on the hats and scarves (if you can call two bags worth of fleece and notions languishing in the trunk of my car "progress"), and hopefully I will have them done this weekend.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Oh my, December already?

It never fails to amaze me just how time speeds up as I get older. Granted, I am not that old, but every year it just goes faster. I was just finishing up my son's costume, then stuffing myself with turkey (did my first one this year, and it turned out great!), now it is time to finish up my Christmas presents.

I was very much inspired by all of the blogs promoting handmade items this year, but I have yet to work out the details. I love this
sweet shawl on Laughing Purple Goldfish designs- I practically begged her to post the pattern, as I am not accomplished enough to try my hand at pattern making, and I just can't make heads or tails of some of the "easy" ones that I found online. I am still a novice, but I suspect that I could pull these off with some concerted effort. A few strands of funky eyelash yarn on the ends and I am in business.

I tried to link to the picture, but it crashed my machine twice. You will just have to use that extra calorie to click on the link- sorry!

This project is also on my radar- I have a lot of small kids to buy/make for, and these are fun and work up fairly quickly. I am thinking that I might modify the design into snow angels for two of the little girls- they are 3, and very girly-girl. The extra angel bling just might make up for the fact that they aren't Hannah Montana! The scarf will absolutely have to be purple, though. It is just a "3" thing. I have boys, so what do I know?

If I match up one of these with the sweet handmade fleece scarves over at, I just might be the bee's knees this holiday season! Of course, robots will not fly with the girls, so I will have to come up with another motif to match the hats, but I am up for the challenge.

Of course, this color scheme would go great with this hat:

I love the repurposed glove idea- if only I could knit them myself! Ok, maybe not. 22 days and counting!

I also confess that I am totally addicted to surfing the offerings at OnePrettyThing. Definitely not for the faint of heart, these postings- or for the professional procrastinator (AKA, me!). Nice to look at, though. I can dream, I suppose- but if they keep coming up with a million good ideas that I desperately want to make but don't have time for? I just might have to kill them. In a very artistic and "homemade" way, of course!

Monday, November 3, 2008

I'm a driver, I 'm a winner...

Thinks are going to change I can feel it!

Ok, just kidding. I got my "button" from Dabbled for winning the Halloween contest. Woo hoo!

Thanks, Dot! And, I have a little treat coming soon, too! I love treats. I have a feeling that the mailman is going to be sick of me next week.

And finally, the Hammerhead!

So, the shark theme marches on. Last year, a Wobbegong, this year, a Hammerhead. Next year? I almost hope that he wants to be something a little more pedestrian. He was talking about a T-Rex, but he is just a little bit fickle about things like this!

So, without further ado, Hammerhead '08!

Now, if you read my earlier post about the Wobbe, I did pretty much the same thing here- sans pattern, of course! I never learn...

The head has two pieces of very lightweight craft foam, and the body and fins are made of craft felt (we were on a budget this year! Both the front and back had two layers of felt, both for extra reinforcement (especially where the fins were sewn in) and to create a pocket for the head stuffing. The head was secured with a head ring from a batting helmet (as was Wobbe's), but the neck was just a tiny bit too tight, so it didn't sit too well. He ended up wearing it like a hoodie for much of the evening! And, since I made it to a generally large scale again, the whole thing is over 6 feet long from tip to tail. I had to tack it up in the back so that he wouldn't trip.

The gills were hand sewn with black yarn (in a modified embroidery stitch), which also reinforced the arm slits (a happy coincidence!). The scallops on the head were just a single large stitch (from front to back) which was pulled tight to create the shape- a technique that I learned in 7th grade home EC when I made one of those crazy "Stumpkin" pantyhose dolls. Good times!

My biggest problem was with the eyes (I will have to add a picture later, sorry!). I struggled to find a way to make them look right, and it took me several tries (it was also the very last thing to be finished, right before they left for Trick or Treat). I ended up using a large glass gem (a larger version of the glass gems that you might find in a glass vase with flowers), which I covered with felt and painted black. I tacked it onto the head, then added a round "ring" of white felt to accentuate the eye and make it more dimensional (plus it looked really weird without it!). I had tried to use the glass gem itself as the eye, but I couldn't figure out how to attach it and still create some dimension (I was trying to "sink" into a makeshift eye "socket", but it kept popping out!). So, not perfect, but it worked, and they stayed on. Well, almost- we lost one of the rings somewhere in the neighborhood.

On of my favorite things about this one is the mouth-I cut a rounded flap for the hole (the flap itself became the lower jaw), and I added teeth around the top and bottom, and a free moving "tongue". Anatomically, the Hammerhead's mouth is actually in the right spot for the head hole, but it ended up looking more like the shark had swallowed him.

Now, since Little Round Top (my younger son) is just 18 months, he didn't have much of a preference this year. I did have an older giraffe costume from Dome (a craigslist find, I must admit- I wasn't attempting that one!), but since LRT is still a bit unsteady on his feet, it was just a bit too heavy this year.

So, he was another jungle creature, courtesy of Freecycle. He was just too cute not to include.

Happy Belated Halloween everyone!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Time off for good behavior!

Today was the first day in such a long time that I actually had a few hours (the whole day, actually!) to devote to crafty stuff. With all that has been going on, I have been mighty frazzled lately. Hubby took the kids to Ohio to visit his sister, so I got going on some early Christmas presents. I am working on my first tempered glass mosaic- a wooden clock form that I painted first with acrylics. It was a bit tough going- I have never worked with this kind of glass, so it took a lot longer than I expected. Now I just need to clean it up, and off to the grouting table it goes!

I also painted up some resin angels that I had picked up at Goodwill - they had been done up in kitchy gold paint and brassy glitter, and needed some new threads. I wanted to crackle the finish, but it didn't seem to take. The nature of experimentation, I guess! I will finish them sometime before Christmas- the next time I have a moment to myself.

It was cloudy and warm here today (who say global warming is a myth- it was almost 70 degrees out!), and I should have been working to finish up in the garden for the season. Still, the time in my studio was well needed, and I am just going to have to make up the time outside another day. Hopefully this sense of accomplishment and well being will last for the next few days- it promises to be a bumpy week...

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Wobbegong is born!

My husband, who in many ways is cosmically trapped in the world of an 11 year old (in a good way, of course!), loves sharks. One of his favorite books on the subject is from his childhood- Album of Sharks by Tom McGowen, and it quickly became on of my son's favorites, as well. My husband has really been instrumental in instilling a love of books into the boys, and this was one of the first books that my son, whome we lovingly refer to as "Dome", really took to. Every time they read it, Dome would push impatiently through the pages, looking for his favorite picture- the Australian Wobbegong. He would giggle each time, pointing and demanding more information on this crazy creature. So, it wasn't too much of a stretch to decide his costume that year. We decided fairly early, too, and I had mad dreams of creating this awesome costume. I had no earthly idea how, but I was going to do it. So, we were set, and arrived in September fairly complacent. We make plans, God laughs, right? OK, so I the fact that I am a compulsive procrastinator probably doesn't help.

Well, things changed. My dad, who had been in a nursing home for almost 5 years, took a turn for the worse. Two really horrible weeks of intensive care, emotional visits, hospice care, and finally, a passing. September came and went, and October was ushered in with a funeral and all the trappings. A long planned trip to New England followed- a blessing that greatly aided the healing process. When we finally turned around, though, Halloween was less than 2 weeks away, and I had nothing. So, I frantically gathered whatever materials I could, as well as my collective wits, and made this "thing".

I don't remember a lot of the process, now, to be honest. I was, understandably, preoccupied at the time. I had a rough sketch, a pile of scrap fleece, and a simple understanding of machine sewing (most of which I had last done in 10th grade home ec!).

Basically, I had my son lie on the floor, I traced the outline of the general shape around him, and went from there. Because I had the extra fleece, I added an extra layer on the back. I sandwiched some quilt batting to add to the dimensional effect of the "back" of the shark, which also made it a bit warmer (it was cold that year). The fins were just drawn and machine sewn (turned and stuffed like a simple pillow) then either attached via the main seams or attached by hand when needed. My husband, the technical consultant, made sure that they were in a reasonably approximation of the correct spot.

The hardest part of the sewing were the "barbels" (the whiskers on the mouth), but I just drew them freehand, cut, then sewed them in the same manner as the fins. The painting on the back was based on the natural camouflage of the shark itself, with some experimental variations on my part. I cut the holes for the head and arms by hand last, and just hand edged them so that they wouldn't stretch too much. It kept slipping down, though, and although it was relatively lightweight, it still slipped over Dome's face when he tried it on. Inspiration struck when I noticed a plastic form inside his toddler sized batting helmet (hubby likes baseball, too!), and with a few securing stitches, the costume was complete.

Now, had I had some notion of creating any sort of pattern, I would have made it closer to his general size. As it was, however, I did not, and the end result was comically huge! I have to say, though, that laughing about these wonderful creatures (both the costume and the little guy wearing it), helped me immeasurably in those early weeks. I would estimate that it took me about 16 hours total (including all of the ripped seams, consultation and swearing) from start to finish. Dome still wears it occasionally, and in the "off season", it lives on the top bunk in his room. The wonder of the Wobbegong has worn off a bit as his interests have changed, but I hope that he will keep the costume for his own little future shark lover.

This year, Dome went out as a Hammerhead shark- and if I ever get around to it, I will post some pictures! In the meantime, the Wobbe got some good press over on, and (via Dabbled, but thanks for picking it up, Michelle!). I am so excited- I just love both blogs, so it is a real honor. Many thanks to Dot and crew- I am so happy that you liked it. ;-)

For every thing there is a season...

So, I was right, and if you read the previous post, you will see that my predicted lapse happened pretty quickly. I have this habit of planning posts in my head as I am falling asleep (or not falling asleep, as is the case frequently), but when it comes time to put pen to paper, I just can't bring myself to do it. New Year's resolutions land with a thud right around the 4th of January in my house! Still, I am back, so all is not lost. There is grace in the attempt, right?

Despite the rather schizofrenic weather this month (we had snow on Tuesday, and were in the mid sixties for Trick or Treating tonight), it has been a really beautiful fall here in Western PA. I long for the deeply saturated technicolor autumn colors that I remember from my childhood, but the increasingly warm falls in recent years have left us with a more muted pallet. Still, there is a special place in my heart for the sensual pleasures of fall- the smells of burning leaves and cinammon, new crayons and the first day of school, sweet apples and dry leaves crackling underfoot. Even the light is different- golden and shimmering on those rare sunny days, drak and brooding on those inevitable overcast and rainy mornings. My husband and I both love this time of year, and actually planned our wedding around it- so there is always something to look forward to.

Time seems to be moving faster and faster each year, though- we hit Halloween with a bang and are marching relentlessly towards Thanksgiving. The stores have had Christmas items out since August, and I am already burnt out after a long summer of tortuous election coverage. My dad used to say that every time he turned around he thought "My God, where has the time gone?". I never took much stock in that idea, until I turned around and my newborn son was three, and the child that was curled up in my stomach yesterday is now walking and talking. So many things, to think, to see, to experience, and I struggle some days to avoid the compelling argument that life is passing me by. But I soldier on, as we all do, try my best, and most days, I come out with a bit of wisdom that I didn't have before. And, on those other days, when I feel dark and brooding myself, I have to make the decision to stop, count my blessings, and breathe. It even works sometimes.

Editor's Note: Pictures courtesy of my talented husband, Tabascofiend.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I resisted- oh how I resisted!

Kicking and screaming I am dragged into the blogosphere...
Let me start off with saying that, like most folks in our busy little world, I suffer from the the "Unfinished Project" syndrome. You may have suffered from this malady once or twice in your life (unless you are one of those very organized and self propelled people, in which case I both despise and envy you). All of these wonderful projects, begun with such abandon and enthusiasm, left to dwindle in half finished (nearly finished, nearly totally finished but for one small detail or trifle that I must drive 20 miles into another state to procure) state until I can find that elusive few minutes to end both of our misery? Sound familiar?

I tend to refer to them as "loose ends", and to the increasing frustration of my generally even tempered husband, I have a number of them lying in wait in my tiny attic studio, waiting to lash me with their impatience to be completed. Mosaic trays, shabby chic wall decor begging to be crackled, that decoupaged mailbox that needs to be finished so that we don't leave loose mail scattered all over the kitchen? What about the scarf that I started last winter, or the rag bag that I just had to make for keeping my cats out of the yarn for the aforementioned scarf?

So, although in my almost nonexistant spare time I am totally addicted to websurfing and blog reading (in between poring over craigslist postings and keeping up with my inbox - my husband only half jokingly refers to it as my "crack"), I resisted beginning what will no doubt be yet another "loose end" that will come back to smack me in the face. I will probably set up a feed that I will stick in the corner of my MyYahoo homepage, leave myself little notes to post, maybe even fend off emails from adoring fans begging me for new messages (yeah, right!), but all will be for naught! I will be off at the park, making dinner or fixing a scraped knee, maybe even catching up on the latest espisode of "WonderPets" or "Handy Manny". Or, best yet, snuggling with my sweeties and dreaming the untroubled sleep of the happy procrastinator.

All the while licking my little "lash" wounds...