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!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

I'm cartoony

I've noticed over the years that I am drawn to art that is cartoonish.  That is to say, bold outlines, bright colors, and not much realism.  When I took art history in college, my favorite paintings were always by people like Matisse and Picasso.

I've only purchased a few pieces of original art in my life, and they are all in a similar style.
The beach scene we bought during our European backpacking adventure (artist is Sophie Girardeau), and the two faceless ladies at the bottom right are from a study trip to Costa Rica (artist unknown).

This angel painting is from a road trip to St. Louis that Matt and I took during our first year of marriage.  It looks kind of dated to me--very late '90s--but that's fine, because it was the late '90s.  (Artist is Karen Flocken.)

We bought a print of this one shortly after moving to Austin.  (Artist is Curtis Long.)

I used to wonder if I'd ever develop a more mature aesthetic.  It's the kind of thing you think about as you get closer to turning forty.  (Should I be wearing peacock blue tights?  Should I try to stop saying "awesome" and "totally" so much?  Should I keep decorating with cartoony art?)  But now I'm trying not to worry about it.  You like what you like, right?

Monday, January 6, 2014

It's wonderful

I'm finding it hard to mentally put away Christmas.  We took the tree down on New Year's Day, and my kids will head back to school tomorrow, but I'm still trying to cling to it a bit.  I keep playing just one more Christmas CD and am even considering making another batch of sugar cookies, just to use up all the leftover frosting, of course.

What to do?  I think I'll make a list of the best parts of It's a Wonderful Life, greatest Christmas movie ever.  Maybe I can blog it out of my system.

1. The first lines

The opening is perfect, with everyone praying for George.  I'm practically in tears, one minute in.

"I owe everything to George Bailey..."

"He never thinks about himself, God..."

"I love him, dear Lord.  Watch over him tonight."

2. The speech

I love George's speech to Mr. Potter in front of the executive board:
You... you said... what'd you say a minute ago? They had to wait and save their money before they even ought to think of a decent home. Wait? Wait for what? Until their children grow up and leave them? Until they're so old and broken down that they... Do you know how long it takes a working man to save $5,000? Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you're talking about... they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn't think so. People were human beings to him. But to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they're cattle. Well in my book, my father died a much richer man than you'll ever be!
That's right.  George Bailey was a champion of the 99 percent!  And Mr. Potter's response, "Sentimental hogwash!" is going to be the title of my future memoir or the name of my future band.

3. Mary's fate

It is simultaneously hilarious and depressing when George asks Clarence what became of Mary.
George Bailey: Please, Clarence, where's my wife? Tell me where my wife is.
Clarence: You're not going to like it, George. 
George Bailey: Where is she? What happened to her? 
Clarence: She became an old maid. She never married...
And here's what basically happens next, in my own words.
George: An old maid?  No! 
Clarence: Yep, she works at the library and wears tweed suits. 
George: No! 
Clarence: With her hair in a bun. Glasses too. 
George: No! 
Clarence: She doesn't even pluck her eyebrows. 
George: Nooooooooooooooooooooooo!
(Seriously, check it out next time you watch.  I'm pretty sure Old Maid Mary is wearing extra bushy brows.)

4. Happy family

I could go on and on with a list of my favorite scenes and quotations ("He says it's the chance of a lifetime."  "George, I am an old man, and most people hate me.  But I don't like them either so that makes it even." "My mouth's bleedin'...What do you know about that?!?"  "A toast to my big brother George, the richest man in town!"), but I'll just end with my favorite.

George: You call this a happy family?  Why do we have to have all these kids?


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Sticker Saturday: Lisa Frank!

After I posted my Cabbage Patch Kids album, my sister and I joked that I should do a regular feature called Sticker Saturday.  I'm not planning to do it every week, but I will today, because 1) I am trying to blog for 30 days straight and need the material, and 2) Lisa Frank has been on my mind ever since I read this fascinating article over at Jezebel a couple weeks ago.  If you haven't yet, you should read it!  It's crazy and scandalous and sad.
But first, hop in my time machine and set the date to 1986.
Can you pick out the Lisa Frank stickers in the photo above?  It's the lollipops, the giraffe, the gumball machine, and of course, the dancing elephants.
Bless my parents, I think we slapped these things on every light switch plate and outlet cover in the house.

I'm certainly not the first to make a hallucinogenic drug reference when talking about Lisa Frank products, but those big-eyed bears are a total acid trip, right?
The giant rainbow unicorn is my very favorite.

Friday, January 3, 2014

DIY Christmas gifts

I did a few projects for this year's Christmas gifts.

Kelly saw the canvas that the boys and I painted last month and requested one for herself.

I used my friend's wood burning tool to customize the handles of these silicone spatulas.  I first saw the idea here about a year ago.

After we went to the state fair in October, I printed out a couple snapshots of Big Tex for the boys.  They liked having their own copies, which gave me the idea of making them their own photo books.  I spent several hours on each one, and I sort of hoped that on Christmas morning they would unwrap the books, cast aside all their other presents, and pore over every page.  It didn't happen quite like that, but I think they liked them.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy New Year!

I love making New Year's resolutions.  I don't have a full idea of my goals for the year quite yet, but one of them is definitely to cut back on internet browsing time.  I decided to cut out facebook entirely for the month of January and think about how I want to spend my time going forward.

Another goal is not to yell any more.  Progress on that one is going to have to be measured in small increments, because after success yesterday, I had a big fail at 6:45 this morning.  The art of living is getting back up, right?

In my creative life, I'm interested in working with different materials.  Hello, wool roving!  
Purchased yesterday at Hobby Lobby, and already made into a few felted beads by following these instructions.   It's a good project to do alone or with kids, as long as they know up front that the fun is in the process as much as the end result.  You roll and roll and roll and end up with one small ball at a time.
Maybe if I spend all my newly freed up facebook time, by the end of January I'll have enough felt beads to make a necklace.