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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Cone, Sweet Cone

I’ve never been interested in the scary side of Halloween. Leave the blood and guts to someone else. I love the playful potential of Halloween. Talking, moving ice cream cone? Now that’s my idea of entertainment! I guess it appeals to the big kid in me. Dressing up as food is fun. Making people laugh makes me happy.

I am wondering why I often make uncomfortable costumes. Next year I need to remember to design something that is not so awkward. Little things like sitting and walking are suddenly difficult when you are wearing a tapered cotton cone. I suppose this is what is meant by suffering for one’s art.
This is Izzy the Ice Cream Cone wishing you a very sweet Halloween!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

I'm Late. I'm Late--for an Important October Date!

I’ll let you in on a secret: I am behind in my Halloweening. This runs contrary to my celebratory nature, so please be careful about who you tell. I have a festive reputation to protect!

It’s been a particularly busy October in my world. My sister’s wedding earlier this month was a big focus, as it should be. Somehow, most of October raced by. Tomorrow is Halloween, and I’m not quite ready. I’m getting there. A week ago I braved the store aisles stuffed with candy and picked out a few bags. We have some decorations out front. We’ve been to two Halloween festivals and our excitement is growing. We bought two costumes. Yesterday I made a lot of progress on my costume. I’m nearly finished with the fourth costume. (Hubby is going to use the same one he’s used for over a decade.) In 24 hours I need to be in costume, at a carnival. But that’s enough time for me to finish my costume. As long as nothing unexpected crops up. (I’m tempting fate by saying that, of course.)

All month long I’ve enjoyed the enthusiasm of some of my neighbors, who have decorated their yards and houses for tomorrow. I’ll share a few photos:


The photo above shows a neighbor's pumpkin collection: one decorative foam pumpkin plus twelve carved pumpkins. They get the spirit award around here.


The pumpkin above and the drawing below were created by our middle child, who loves creative projects.

Well, I think I should sign off for now. I’ve taken my blogging break and now I need to knuckle down and complete two more Halloween costumes. There is a deadline, after all. This time crunch brings to mind a similar time constraint Cinderella once had. She had to be home by midnight or her ball gown would turn back to rags and her coach would become a pumpkin once again. If I don’t wave my magic sewing needle over my supplies, the pile of fabric I have will not turn into costumes and the pumpkins by our door will remain squash, instead of jack-o-lanterns. I have important Halloweeny projects to tackle. So please stop distracting me!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Flock of Flamingos Comes Home

Are you a collector? Some people amass sizeable collections of Pez dispensers, vinyl records, baseball cards or shoes. There are many kinds of collections; some are used and others are purely for decorative purposes or for sentimental value. 

I have a fondness for flamingos, but I had never considered putting them together as a collection. In truth, I didn’t consider my assortment big enough to be called a collection. I only had a handful of flamingos. But recently I have been thinking of ways to display my flock. I want it up on a wall so that it functions as a piece of art, rather than taking up space on a horizontal surface (which is quite limited around here as it is!).

Today while trying to organize my art/sewing studio I spotted a box of paint and instantly I knew it was going to house my flock of flamingos. I’ve been using this box for only a few months, since the Wednesday I grabbed it off the top of a neighbor’s garbage can on trash day. It was perfectly usable, not something that needed to go to the dump, and I saw its potential. It was a drawer, a rather small one (maybe 9 by 14 inches, and 6 inches deep). The moment I saw it I knew I could use it.

I love repurposing something and giving it a new life. It tickles me to use things in unexpected ways. Oh, I’m not the first person to use an old drawer for something but I’m excited because this is my first time to give an old drawer a new look and purpose. Plus, I’d been unsure of how to display my flamingos and now I have a solution that is a little more imaginative than simply putting them on a display shelf.
I took the shelf paper off the bottom of the drawer and painted the raw wood inside the drawer. I painted it white so that the flamingos would show up well inside the drawer. I added a shelf inside the drawer so that I could display more flamingos. (Maybe as my collection grows I will have to find a bigger shelf in my neighbor’s trash can!!!) I love the effect, and I love that the idea came to me unexpectedly. Sometimes it’s good to grab something with potential for future use. Even if you don’t know what you’ll use it for, you’ll have it available for the moment inspiration strikes.

Here is the drawer before it reached its full potential:

Here is the drawer after I transformed it into a welcoming aviary:

Over the last week I have been making more flamingos! Once I had a home for them, I felt an urge to add to the collection. I had all the supplies in my craft stash, and creating these pink, wiggly-necked creatures was made me happy. Would you like to know what I used to make the flamingos? I was hoping you’d ask. I used fabric, tulle, felt, a shell, buttons, hot glue, bamboo skewers, wire, pipe cleaners, paint, foam, Duck tape, parts of ornaments, feathers, Sculpey, sequins, beads, paper clips and Shrinky Dinks.
The drawer was free, and it only took me two hours to paint, hang and arrange my flamingos display case. No longer are the flamingos sitting on my studio window ledge, peering down at me, wishing for their own space. My flamingos now have a home of their own.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Watercolor Leaves

Just sharing some colorful fall leaves. They look like hand painted pieces of art, with no square corners in sight. There is a watercolor painting technique called wet on wet, which means exactly what it sounds like: you wet your paper, then put paint onto the paper while it is still wet. The paint feathers as it touches wet paper, and the colors create tiny streams. It’s a beautiful effect and there’s an element of unpredictability to how the paint will disperse. Will the edges be red? Or orange? Will the shading be subtle, or bold? The leaves have asymmetrical coloration and each one is a little different. The gallery is outdoors, and the paintings change daily.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Made in the Shade

Need + school assignment + hot glue = Invention!

In the Spring our oldest child was required to participate in the school’s Science Fair. The timing was serendipitous. Only a week before I had noticed that our hummingbird feeder was becoming moldy as the weather warmed up. The feeder is in direct sunlight but I didn’t want to change its location because I love seeing the birds from our kitchen table. A solution popped into my head: perhaps we could make a tiny umbrella to protect the hummingbird feeder from the warm spring sun. It might save the juice from molding, an experiment that clearly fit the bill for the Science Fair.
We used cotton fabric from my sewing stash, bamboo skewers (intended for Shish Kebabs, but hey, they are very versatile materials!), and of course, my favorite adhesive: hot glue!

The umbrella came together nicely and it does its job. It gives just enough shade so that the glass bottle of juice for the birds does not become moldy, but the umbrella isn’t so large that it blocks the birds’ access to the juice. It cost nothing, as we already had the supplies, and it was fun to make.

I wish I had a photo of a bird at the feeder. I tried! I sat at our kitchen table for a while, camera in hand, waiting for the birds to come. Yesterday morning I’d seen a hummingbird at the feeder several times, and I did get one photo, but it didn’t turn out well. These fast fliers stop for only a few seconds to drink, so it’s no easy feat to capture these birds on film. I’ll keep trying and I’ll add the photo here if I ever get one. Hummingbirds do not believe in sitting down to digest their breakfast. Their food is always to go.

After we created our sun shade, I searched online for umbrellas for hummingbirds. I was surprised to see that they existed. Shoot, so much for my completely original idea! But most of the ones I found online were made of glass or metal, with just a few made of plastic or fabric. And none had the jazzy color scheme ours did! Hey, if hummingbirds are attracted to orange and red flowers, isn’t an orange and yellow umbrella likely to catch their eyes, even with their short attention spans? Of course!

I don’t consider myself scientific by nature, but sometimes art and science join hands and the result is an invention that fills a need. The teacher thought we did a good job, and I’m not certain, but I think I saw a humming bird waving a wing at me in approval…

Saturday, October 12, 2013

A Batch for the Patch

Cheap Frills Tutorial #3

I’m in a festive mood this week.

Good point. I’m almost always in a festive mood, eager to decorate, ready to celebrate, crazy for costumes. But this week it is officially Halloween Season, so I’m extra festive. Leaves are turning colors and falling (yes, even in Southern California). Some of my neighbors have decorations up (oh, I love their gusto!). Costume ideas are swirling around in my brain. Let the fun begin!

It’s been a while since my last Cheap Frills tutorial, so I won’t wait a day longer. I want to share the steps for whipping up a batch of pumpkin shirts. This weekend we are going to the pumpkin patch (it’s more a farm but let’s not split hairs). And what is more fitting than a batch of pumpkins (in the form of shirts) at the patch of pumpkins?

The first time I made one of these shirts was when I was 6 months pregnant. I figured that I should use my round shape as it would enhance the 3-d pumpkin effect. I’ve worn this shirt every October since. One can get many years of use from this shirt. (This shirt is double fun: cute, and cost-effective!)

(I feel a little silly even calling this a tutorial as it’s not very complicated. But no excuse is needed for fun holiday-themed outfits.) Let the crafting begin!

Supplies needed:

1)     Find an orange t-shirt. You could take one from your closet if you happen to have one. Or dye a white t-shirt orange. I bought our shirts at Michael’s craft store for $2.99 each.

2)     Get some black felt (a great deal at Michaels: 29 cents for a 9” x 12” piece, which is more than enough felt for one shirt.) Why felt? Because it doesn't fray.

3)     Find fabric glue or hot glue (I love hot glue because it’s cheap and dries fast.). If you love to sew, you could use black thread instead of glue. This tutorial involves glue, which gives quicker results than thread and I don’t know about you, but I need time-savers!

4)     Grab a pair of scissors. Those designed for cutting fabric are best, but ordinary scissors work, too.

5)     Find some straight pins, safety pins or tape, and a piece of cardboard.


1)     Cut three triangles out of black felt. Mine are roughly 3” high by 2” wide, but you can make them as big or small as you like. From a design standpoint, it makes sense to put bigger eyes, nose and mouth on a shirt for an adult, and smaller eyes, nose and mouth on a shirt for a child. But there’s no wrong way to do this. Just have fun with it. If you feel nervous about cutting triangles, make a template for yourself using paper. Just fold a piece of paper and cut a half triangle shape across the fold. Open it up and you have a symmetrical triangle. Make adjustments if you don’t like the size or shape of your triangle. Some people like the eyes to be bigger than the nose but the sizes and shapes of your triangles are up to you. (And who says you have to do triangles? You could make eyes of any shape you like. I’m suggesting triangles because they are a classic jack-o-lantern feature.)

2)     Lay your shirt flat on a bed or table. This will help you to find the center of the shirt.

3)     Pin the eyes and nose onto your shirt, roughly where you think you’d like them. (Use tape if you prefer.)

4)     Cut a mouth out of felt. If you don’t feel comfortable cutting without a template, use the folded paper trick from Step 1 to create a half smile (or scary grimace). Unfold and you have a symmetrical smile. Pin or tape the mouth below the nose.

5)     Try on your shirt and find a mirror. If you don’t like the placement of the eyes, nose and mouth, take the pins out (or tape off) and make adjustments to the location of your jack-o-lantern face. When you are happy with the placement, lay your shirt down on a flat surface. Put a piece of cardboard inside the shirt, under the spot where you will use glue. The cardboard ensures that the glue will not seep through the front of the shirt and onto the back. Use fabric glue or hot glue to attach the eyes, nose and mouth to the shirt. (Take the pins or tape off right before you glue or sew the felt pieces.) Allow the glue to dry for the length of time recommended in the instructions (hot glue takes only a few minutes to dry fully, which is why it is my favorite.) Remove cardboard. If you feel inspired, add extra touches (eyelashes, a moustache, a bow tie, eye glasses, or whatever you like).

6)     (If you are really obsessed with crafts, as I am, and if you really want to avoid doing boring household chores, as I do, repeat Steps 1-5 on the back of your shirt. You will be a jack-o-lantern coming and going, which is twice as fun.) Now wear this shirt and show your HalloweEnthusiasm! 

Let’s break down our cost (assuming you already had glue): $2.99 for the shirt, plus 29 cents for the felt. Grand total: $3.28. I like to wear my shirt at least 5-6 times per October so that I’m really feeling the spooky season. The shirt will last for years, so this is a lot of bang for your buck!



Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Two Weddings and a Funeral

That sounds like a good title for a Hugh Grant film…

If you’ve noticed my absence from blogging, it’s because the last month has been non-stop GO. I know I always say that but in this case it really is true. Five weeks ago school started, which substantially turns up the RPMs on my life. Then, two weeks into the school year we had an out-of-town wedding to attend. The timing wasn’t ideal as the kids would miss two days of school but the groom is Hubby’s good friend from high school. Although they live 500 miles apart, they make a point to keep in touch and he asked Hubby to do a reading during the ceremony, which was an honor. The number of people we know increases each year but Hubby and I feel like lasting, true friendship is rare.  So we packed up our covered wagon and off we went to the wedding. The bride and groom are a terrific match and we were glad to be there to support them. The groom’s cousin shared a saying during her toast to the couple, a nod to their Filipino heritage. She said it in Tagalog, then in English. I liked the saying so I’ll share it here: If you want to taste the delicious stew, you must be patient. Finding the right person can’t be rushed. Very sweet, and the bride and groom looked so happy.

When we got back from our trip we discovered that our fridge had died while we were gone. We had to throw out everything in it. I hate wasting but we had no choice. Funeral for our fridge.

The following weekend I went to Joshua Tree with my sister as a non-bachelorette weekend. This was two weeks before her wedding and while she wanted to do something to celebrate that, a beer-soaked romp in Vegas was not her thing. She chose a weekend in Joshua Tree, and it was so peaceful there. We listened to the chirps of birds and the rush of wind. We studied cacti, the rolling hills, and the giant sky. We cooked, talked, laughed and did art projects. It was just right.

After that came one weekend at home, which required no luggage but was busy enough with a park play date, a surprise 40th birthday party, and Oktoberfest. There were chicken hats and the chicken dance, of course. (Some people would like to have a funeral for that dance but I like it. Grown-ups need more silliness!) This annual festival means a lot to Hubby, as his dad was born and grew up in Germany.

Then came four days of school and soon it was time for my sister and Steve’s wedding. I’m private about posting photos of my family (even as I gab online about our lives) but I will share two photos of the beautiful arbor that framed the happy couple as they exchanged vows. The bride and groom found photos of arbors they liked and then Hubby built the arbor from birch poles (he’s awesome!). We decorated it with fabric, flowers and crystals and it fit the setting beautifully.

The wedding was at sunset in a garden bordered by giant Eucalyptus trees. There were flowers everywhere, which Mom bought and arranged herself. The effect was an enchanted wonderland, filled with flowers, tiny twinkling lights, and Monarch butterflies released into the twilight after the vows. Many of us became teary as the bride and groom read the vows they’d written. I’m getting misty even as I type these words. My sister and Steve were so happy. They are soul mates.   

And now I am back. The marathon of two weddings and a funeral is complete. Those are big events and for a few weeks they eclipsed all the smaller weekly projects. Next I have to tackle a skyscraper of laundry, whip up a few Halloween costumes, catch up on blogging, volunteer at school, get flu shots, find my front garden under the weeds, finish the room switch project (oh, that. Yes, it’s 95% complete but there is still a little painting and unpacking to do), deal with the dust storm in my house, and help extend harmony and peace through the world. And that’s just this week!