Sunday, March 29, 2009

When Crafts Go Bad

I thought I would take this opportunity to get real. I've looked at hundreds of great blogs written by extremely talented people showing off their best work. But what about the projects that go wrong? The gorgeous skirt that just didn't work out right or the gourmet brownies that burned on the edges and stuck to the pan? Seems those never make the cut. Not only do they die a painful death somewhere during the creative process but they never receive the honor of being blogged about. Well that's all about to change. I'm going to break the stepford-like tradition of blogging and write about a project gone bad.

I started out with this cute and campy pair of fuzzy toe socks that someone gave my daughter as a gift a while back. My daughter isn't able to wear toe socks and was pretty bummed. I decided I'd cheer her up and surprise her by refashioning them into something cool. But what would it be? I thought maybe a pair of regular socks; but that wasn't inventive enough. Then it hit me, arm warmers. Something fun and colorful she could wear with a short-sleeved tshirt during the winter - her arms would be warm in style. Maybe it would even start a fashion trend, I thought confidently. So I started into it, figuring I'd catalog this great moment in fabric refashioning through photographs. Surely this project would be post-worthy!

Sadly, it was not, something went horribly wrong. The fabric wouldn't cooperate, the seams were all lumpy and awful. I ended up having to trim into the cute little froggy's face in an attempt to fix the lumpy seams. The result was misshapen and awful. I wish I had allowed myself enough room at the time to be okay with my failed project. I should have given myself credit for trying and chocked it up to lessons learned. But I was upset that I flubbed it. I finally just had to scrap them. Try as I might to save them from the landfill, that's where they ended up. I took my daughter shopping and let her pick out a cute pair of socks which made her happy. The moral here is live, learn and keep it real. To everyone out there who has made a crafty faux pas, know that you are not alone. There's room in the blogosphere for that much honesty. Besides, it made for two fun photos and a confessional blog post so I guess it wasn't all bad.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Cool Tool: Gasoline vs. Hybrid Calculator

I dare you to type in your current car versus an alternative fuel or hybrid vehicle and see the difference. It can be pretty significant. Like in our case: I drive to work five days a week with an hour commute each way. (Yes, that actually means I burn 2 hours a day sitting in a frigging car instead of doing something useful, unbelievable.) Anyway, our minivan is no spring chicken and our pickup truck was drinking up gas at last years $4.00 a gallon high. Something had to give. A friend of mine turned me onto I think you’ll agree it’s a snazzy little cyber-gadget! You type in the info for the vehicle you’re driving now and then compare it to the hybrid or alternative fuel vehicle of your choice. For us it was our Dodge Dakota pickup vs. the two top-selling hybrids at the time, the Honda Civic and Toyota Prius. The Prius took the prize in every way; lowest emissions and highest MPG. It’s been almost a year since we traded our truck for the hybrid and this cool tool played a big part in our decision. Even if you’re not looking to trade-up, it’s worth checking out just to learn more about your personal energy consumption and fuel costs.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tool Wishlist: KitchenAid Food Processor

While I was struggling with my blender to puree butternut squash & curried pear soup the other day, I was reminded of how much I wish I had a food processor. And not just any food processor but the winner of the Cook’s Illustrated food processor equipment review, of course. The coveted KitchenAid Professional KFP750. According to the test kitchen gurus over at Cook’s Country, it’s hefty 12-cup capacity bowl performed very well chopping, pureeing and making pie/bread dough and comes with a handy mini-bowl attachment that makes short order of chopping herbs, etc. I can imagine dozens of ways that it would speed up food prep in my kitchen. Fresh salsa would be a snap as would pureed veggies for soups and sauces. And I wonder what I could do with chocolate(?) For now it’s on my wishlist, hopefully someday soon I’ll have one of my very own. ;-)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Old School Woodsy

If you grew up in the 70’s, you might remember Woodsy Owl. I was big into Woodsy! He was green before going-green was popular. I was in girl scouts then and decided to start picking up trash along some of the country roads near my house. It started out as work to earn a merit badge. Somehow I even managed to get my parents and little brother involved. I’d like to think it was my clever persuasiveness but more likely I just wore them down with incessant nagging. We each put on a pair of heavy work gloves, toted big black trash bags and set out on more than one occasion to gather up whatever less-thoughtful people had tossed out on the roadsides. It was a pretty thankless job, messy and sometimes stinky. But I always felt good about it. Like I was undoing a bad thing. A little average kid from southwestern Pennsylvania, actually making a difference in the world around me.

Some years later when I was in my twenties, I went on a date with a forest ranger. We went on a hike to a beautiful, remote area in the Ouachita Mtns. When we got back from the hike to the parking area, we noticed some hikers had thrown a bag of trash out of their car. The ranger promptly wrote them a citation, tucked it under their windshield wiperblade and threw the trash bag in the back of his truck so it could be disposed of properly. My own personal Woodsy Owl — except he looked much better in the uniform — I was in love! (okay, that’s a little heavy on artistic license. Obviously there was more to it than that, but you get the idea.)

We now have two little woodsies' of our own and take small trash bags with us when we hike. Sometimes even when we walk in our neighborhood. So on this first day of spring when we’re all looking forward to spending more time outdoors, I’d like to challenge you to do your part. Pick up what others carelessly toss or accidentally lose. Keep an extra trash sack in your car or in your pocket just for the occasion. Get your kids in on the act. Let them learn firsthand that little acts of kindness and stewardship make a big difference in the scheme of things.

Happy Spring!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sharing the giveaway love

I am home today with a sad tummy, but I wanted to share this cute jewelry giveaway: Cinnamon Sticks handmade jewelry with custom handstamped message. The winner will receive a $20 gift certificate to her online store. Check it out at Cinnamon Sticks GUEST GROSGRAIN GIVEAWAY!!!! Hurry it ends tomorrow 3/18! Good luck. :-)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Calling all artsy girls

More artist trading card fun, except this one’s for us ladies: Sister Trading Cards. I’m definitely signing up. Please spread the word by passing this post to any and all your girlyfriends and soul sisters.

Here’s the scoop:
send 20 ATCs (20 different ones or 20 times the same)
size 2 ½ x 3 ½ inches (64 mm x 89 mm)
sign, number and date on the back of the card
no theme, all techniques, no deadline, you’ll get a set of 20 in return

send to:
STC c/o Cat Schick
246 23rd Ave. NW
Calgary, AB
T2M 1S2 Canada

Saturday, March 14, 2009

March of the Tools: Vintage Screwpull

This has to be one of my all time favorite kitchen tools. Indeed we’ve had a long love-love relationship with our sleek black ScrewPull corkscrew. We’ve been using this one for over 15 years and it still works great. I was happy to see they are still making this model since it’s such a functional design. Interestingly it’s been snapped up, in the states at least, by Le Creuset (which is a whole other bit of loveliness, but I’ll save that for another post).

I used to have one of those dinky corkscrews with the flappy metal wings that you pull down on each side. In theory, it was supposed to force the cork up and out. Yeah, right. It never worked. Either I’d end up with a hundred tiny chunks of cork floating in my vino or I’d somehow manage to injure myself with the ill-designed contraption. Back in the day, a coworker told me about her corkscrew; how great it worked, how it was so easy to use and that it’d never cracked a cork. So I visited the local kitchen store and picked one up. What a difference a good corkscrew can make. It operates really smoothly and easily. The only time I ever injured myself with it was when my Mom brought over a bottle of wine to share and I, being the semi-wine snob that I am, assumed it was a cork and proceeded to ram my corkscrew down through the top of the screw-on cap (duh!). It emerged unscathed, though my thumb sadly did not. Stupidity aside, this is a solid, sturdy, well-designed tool. If you are even the least bit frustrated with your current wine opening device, I’d urge you to consider a ScrewPull. It’s a handy gadget to have around after a hard week!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

March of the Tool: Janome HT2008

I’ve had 3 sewing machines so far in my life. I started out on a used Singer that my dear Nannie got for me at her senior center’s swap shop back in 1993. I didn’t know anything about sewing or using a sewing machine. It was a mid-1970’s model — not the most reliable gadget — but it taught me the basics. That first Christmas with my machine, I toiled away making dozens of handmade gifts. I picked up velvet scraps at the fabric store and made little apple-shaped red velvet pincushions. I made my mother an oversized Christmas tree skirt with cherub dotted fabric and gold rope-piping trim (yes, that was in style back then). I was constantly figuring and scheming, making up my own patterns since I didn’t know how to read a real pattern. Our extra bedroom became a sewing room/study. It was a sweet time. I had no idea what I was doing but I loved every minute of it.

Two years later when we moved to Dallas, I decided it was time to upgrade and take some basic sewing classes. So I picked up a wonderfully sturdy used Bernina 930. Fantastic machine, did everything I wanted it to. For some odd reason that machine broke needles on almost every project. It was also incredibly heavy; I really struggled toting it to and from the sewing shop for my weekly lesson. My first pregnancy in 1998 hurled me (yes, there was alot of hurling) into serious sewing and nesting mode. I made bumper pads, baby quilts, flannel receiving blankets, etc. After my daughter was born I slid into my simple-shapes-sewing mode. We moved to Virginia and I focused on sewing projects for our new home, curtains mostly, but a few valances and tablecloths. Once I had my son in 2001, my sewing slowed to a crawl. My days were spent growing my freelance design business, balancing volunteer work, homemaking and two little ones. I’d slipped into necessity-sewing-only mode. That’s basically where I’ve stayed since.

Until last year, that is. Inspired by my wonderful neighbor and soul-sister Bonnie (who by the way is an incredible seamstress) and my very talented friend Debbie (who makes lovely colonial period clothing at nouveauchic), I put my Bernina on ebay and bought myself a brand new machine! For those of you that know me, I’ve got quite a reputation for doing an annoying amount of homework before I buy anything. I looked at Bernina again, both new & used, but couldn’t justify the price. Then I discovered Janome. Quiet, modern, lightweight, easy to use and affordable. I was sold. My Janome Heart Truth sewing machine is wonderful. It has an exclusive Superior Feed System, 3 different 1-step buttonholes and 50 unique stitches. I love how easy it is to use. The LED display and settings are incredibly easy to navigate. Changing out feet is a snap, literally! It doesn’t have a ton of bells & whistles but plenty for me right now. I wanted a machine that I could gel with and stretch my skills, but also one that was simple enough for my daughter to learn on. Sewing is fun again, thanks to this fabulous tool from Janome :-)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

March of the tools!

I am so honored to be a part of this year’s March of the Tools project! As soon as I got the response from Heather saying I was included (how lucky am I?), images of tools started swirling around in my head. I realized that some of the tools that came to mind might not technically be tools at all. I mean, is bath soap a tool? I thought it best to start by defining what a tool really is. A tool is anything used as a means for accomplishing a task or purpose. So, if the task you’re trying to accomplish is cleaning your body and your purpose is to cut down on body odor, then indeed bath soap is a tool. Now that we’ve settled that little foundational concept, let’s get down to my first awesome tool recommendation:

Kuler: Best Online Color Palette Tool
This is an incredible free tool for building color themes. Whether you are a graphic or fabric design professional, quilter, art teacher or just looking to redecorate your livingroom; you’ll find this a very handy site. It’s extremely easy to navigate given the dandy little explanations that pop-up when you mouse over things. In the screenshot above you can see the color palette blocks across the middle. Under the color blocks you’ll see this one is named “firefly.” Just to the right of that you’ll see a tiny square color-slider box. (If this is too small for you to read, just go directly to the site and you can check out these features there.) If you click on the slider you can get a host of specific information about the color breakdowns: hsv, rgb, cmyk, lab & hex. In this same window you’ll see “select a rule” where you can view the complimentary colors, monochromatic, or my favorite, shades. Clearly there are a ton of other features to play around with. I urge you to go to Kuler and explore it for yourself. Then come back and comment, I’d love to hear what you think of it. Thanks for sharing my tool-love. Check out my next tool post where I’ll be sharing the love for my new sewing machine ;-)

Note: they just added flash player 10 functionality so you may have to download it to view the updated site. Be sure to quit your browser after you’ve downloaded flash and before you go through the install process. Otherwise it will not install properly though that may only be specific to macs. :-)

Monday, March 9, 2009

An Inconvenient Tooth

Sera was messing around with modeling clay the other day and made this funny & colorful mouthful of frightened fruit. I love the way the fruit looks like it’s taken by surprise. She was obviously preoccupied with the idea of her oral surgery last week. This was her 2nd round of it, poor baby. She was a real trooper though. It all went well and she’s recovering nicely.

On a related note, the tooth fairy is apparently on vacation or has decided to go on strike. Two nights of putting 7 teeth under her pillow only to come up empty-handed. Not sure how that happened. I talked with Sera about letting her get a song on her iPod for each tooth. She was thrilled at the offer, but that was coming from Mom and not from the tooth fairy. My bad. In my mind it evened out, but I did not fully translate that to my daughter. So what to do. I think it’s time for me to hunt down the old gal and see what her story is. I’m sure she’s got a perfectly good explanation. She’s obviously a very busy little sprite, buzzing all around the world every night collecting teeth and depositing goodwill – and coins – in their place. I for one, am fully prepared to forgive her. After all, we all get overwhelmed and forget things from time to time... right?

Friday, March 6, 2009

5 things I wish were in my pantry

Sadly, these things aren’t within my usual grocery budget. Oh how I wish they were:

1. San Pellegrino Lemonata
2. pistachio nuts, pre-shelled (of course)
3. homemade ginger-peach jam from my long-lost peach trees
4. Gruyere from the Cheese Shop
5. POM wonderful Pomegranate-Tangerine juice

How about you? Please use the comment link just below this post to share your ideal pantry treats ;-)

5 things I always have in my pantry

Everyone has their staples - those things that you always have on hand. I thought it would be fun to note five things that are always in my pantry and ask you to share yours too:
1. Tabasco Chipotle pepper sauce
2. Can of storebrand black olives
3. 365 brand cat food
4. fresh garlic cloves
5. Carton of Oatmilk
So there you go – how about your pantry – what are 5 things you always have within reach?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Artist Trading Cards

Blake’s ATC originals

Sera’s ATC originals

I recently signed the kids up to be part of an artist trading card (ATC) swap. This concept is so awesome - creating small works of art that you share freely with other artists, kids in this case, from all over the world. Why didn't I know about this sooner? They each did five 2.5" x 3.5" original pieces of artwork on bristol board. I let them decide what medium to use and what subjects to focus on. I obliged by breaking out the good art supplies. My kids were thrilled to have access to Mommy’s watercolors and my loverly woodless colored pencils. Blake started out on a robot kick then got in touch with his softer side - I think the bunny is my favorite. Sera paid homage to her beloved tire swing, played with the watercolors for a while and then launched into the cool lip collage. It was great fun and a good exercise artistically. Big thanks to house on hill road & wise craft for being the hostesses and organizers of this huge ATC endeavor! If you want to learn more about artist trading cards, check out cedarseed's ATC primer.
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