Monday, April 21, 2014

It's garden season

"Plant a garden" is perpetually on my to-do list.  I've done a tiny bit here and there, but never gotten a legitimate amount of food as a result.  For example, here's my strawberry harvest of 2012:
Not even kidding.

Ten days ago I bought some veggie plants as a birthday gift to myself.  (That sentence right there just cemented my middle-aged lady status, didn't it?)  My garden spot was a barren wasteland, but I reclaimed some of it after hours of chopping at the packed dirt with a heavy pickaxe.  Incidentally, while I'm glad it's not my day job, chopping with a pickaxe is quite therapeutic and rewarding.  Anyway, this morning I got the last couple plants into the ground, and I'm feeling hopeful that there is at least one batch of bruschetta in this garden's future.

For a long time, I've wanted a path from the back porch to the garden, so that I don't have to worry about accidentally stepping in a dog pile.  I finally just started hauling stones around and arranged them into a rough path.  Nobody's going to be pinning it to their Pinterest boards, but it works for now.

Done is better than perfect.
Done is better than perfect.
Done is better...

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Valentine wreath


Here's a super easy Saturday morning project that I finished in under an hour.  I used a straw wreath that already had green yarn wrapped around it from a previous design.  I tore a bunch of strips from several fabrics in my stash, tied one end in the back, and started wrapping right over the top of the yarn.  When I got to the end of a strip, I used this method to join another strip, so there was no sewing or hot gule needed.  I like the crazy quilt look and the raw edges.
I pinned on some hearts and flowers made of felt and fabric, and voila!  A lovey-dovey front door.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Feels like sixth grade again

For two reasons:

One, just a few days after we unearthed my old clarinet during a garage clean-up, the music teachers at my boys' school sent out an email asking if anyone wanted to come in and play an instrument.  They are studying the instruments of an orchestra and thought it would be fun to have parents come in for demonstrations.  I put my clarinet together and was really surprised that I was able to make a decent sound come out of it after not touching it for maybe 15 years.  Muscle memory is a real thing.
Two, Matt bought a used Wii at Christmas, and we introduced the boys to Super Mario Brothers.  We are about a year into a Minecraft obsession over here, but it looks like there may be a new favorite.

Speaking of muscle memory, there's another skill that I haven't used in a couple decades which came right back to me.
The combination of the two makes me feel like I just stayed after school for marching band practice, then walked home with my friend Tracy and started playing Nintendo in her basement.  All that's missing is a pair of Keds and my hair in a home perm.

By the way, my boys are impressed with both of these recently revealed talents of mine.  Now I'm trying to really blow their minds by figuring out how to play the Super Mario Brothers theme song ON the clarinet.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Getting stuff done

With the start of the new year, I resolved to get organized.  I think that "get organized" is in a three-way tie with "exercise more" and "quit smoking" for the most unoriginal new year's resolution ever.  But it's what was most needed around here, so I committed myself to not using facebook for the entire month of January and devoting some of that saved time to my de-cluttering efforts.

It's working.  Kind of.

Here's an example of a task that has been on my list of things to do for ages.  This radio has had a CD stuck in it for probably 2 or 3 years.  Even though the CD player no longer worked, I could still play radio stations as well as plug my iPod into it.  But then one of my kids broke the radio tuner knob, and the speakers have been crackly for a long, long time.  It is well past time to put this thing out of its misery, but first I thought it would be fun to let the boys take it apart and look at the inner workings.

So this dusty, busted old thing has uglied up my kitchen for months now, with absolutely no useful purpose, and I walked past it a hundred times a day hating it.  Finally, last week, we took it apart in the driveway (FYI, a CD player will not work if it has a large square of cardboard packaging shoved in there with the disc), and then we got rid of it.  Hooray!
I only lasted a couple days where I was 100% off facebook, but even since I slunk back to it, I haven't been spending as much time there as I was before, so it's progress!  And my other goal for January was to blog every day, which didn't happen, but I have blogged several times.  A little more progress!
There are four days left in the month, and I'm trying to make them productive.  How many more useless, ugly things can I remove from my life in four days?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Retro Friday: Dictionary, baby clothes, and vintage towel

Here are a few fabulously '70s items I came across while organizing.

First, a book whose cover image has been burned into my brain after many childhood hours spent tracing and coloring it.
I had literally just called my sister a few days before and asked her to look through Mom and Dad's basement to see if this book was still around.  Then I found it while cleaning out the garage.  It's like Gretchen Rubin says, if something is lost, clean up.  I know I just quoted her in my last post, but snippets of her book keep popping into my head as I attempt to start the new year by getting organized.

While sorting through various sizes of little boy clothes, I found these, lovingly saved for a couple decades by Matt's mom and passed down to me when our oldest was born.
And finally, a peek at a project I'm currently working on: vintage bath towels turned into hand towels.
My first attempt at binding one with my own home made bias tape did not turn out well, so it's back to the drawing board.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Trying to spend out

The problem with being a crafter is that you tend to accumulate supplies.  You decide to try a project, say, painted glass ornaments, and so you buy the paint in twenty different colors.  Then you make a bunch of painted ornaments and give them to your friends and family that year at Christmas.  You pack up your twenty bottles of paint, all of them still 3/4 full, and figure that you'll make more another time.  A few years later, you open a storage bin in the garage and find that half of those bottles of paint have dried into a solid mass, fit only for the trash can.

That is exactly what happened with me and my collection of Liquid Rainbow paints.  So I gathered up the ones that were still usable, and the boys and I had an ornament painting party a week into the new year.  It was gloppy, messy fun, and it was a novelty for them to do a project with me where I wasn't constantly saying, "Slow down there, you don't need to use a ton of it."
It's a sad truth, really, that in hoarding things you often lose the chance to enjoy them.  Remember when gel pens with milky inks first came out?  I bought a set, and I thought I should use them sparingly so that they wouldn't run out.  I took them out this summer, and what do you think?  Of course, they are mostly full and mostly non-functioning.
Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, talks about what she calls "spending out", using your good stuff now.  If you have a hoarding nature, like I do, it's worth the two minutes to watch her video, and then commit to spending out.  I think we might eat dinner tonight on our fine china, which is actually an incomplete dish set that I bought ages ago at a Goodwill. I take it out maybe once a year, because it's beautiful and I don't want to risk breaking it.
What are you waiting for?  Go use something!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Charley Harper canvas and a copper mirror

I finished two projects yesterday that had been works in progress for a long, long time.

First, a collage of Charley Harper images.  I bought this matching game at Anthropologie a couple years ago.  It cost $15, so this was not a cheap DIY by my standards, but it's a heck of a lot cheaper than the $200 coffee table book they were also selling.
I painted a layer of glossy white paint on a 16x20 canvas, arranged the cards in a pleasing way (rainbow order, naturally) and hot glued them into place.

Here's the finished product:
It will hang near the baby's crib for now, and then it will probably stay in my craft room forever.  I'm embracing my childish, whimsical style, remember?

The other project is a small Ikea mirror that I painted black and covered with copper foil, inspired by this.  I used Speedball brand's Simple Leaf copper sheets that come already backed with thin wax paper for easier handling.  It's the first time I've used metal leafing, and the sheets were so delicate that I can't imagine handling them without the wax paper.  This is a "practice makes perfect" material, for sure.
I cut some of the sheets into smaller squares, because I wanted that slightly patchy look, with a little of the black showing through.  I already have a gold tone and a silver tone mirror in different shapes, so I'm thinking of hanging the three as a group.
The best part is, except for the painting/priming layers I did a day earlier, I completed both of these projects while the baby napped.  Quick and satisfying!