Tuesday, December 22, 2009

It's Christmas Week!

Here's Maggie, our Bearded Collie ... she just celebrated her 12th birthday on November 30! She's just been groomed and ready to have some fun!

Here's our under 6-foot-tall Christmas tree. I always buy our trees from the same family every year. I love to have a small enough tree so that I can reach the top without a ladder! Once it's done up with ornaments, lights and tinsel, it looks very much like a proper Christmas tree!

I made our annual spritz cookies with the cookie press over the weekend. They are almost gone now! It's so much fun to have everybody home for a little while. We broke out the Super Mario Bros. game before Christmas so that we'd actually have time to play! (I am, by the way, absolutely terrible at it!) I'd still love to make the cut-out cookie angels and santas, snowflakes and penguins, but I'm not sure I'll have time. I can't believe Christmas is Friday! If I don't get to write anything before then, I wish you all the merriest of Christmases!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Make Your Own Christmas Crackers!

In the midst of all the turmoil, I still have to focus on finishing this major Christmas project. I thought I'd share it with you while there's still plenty of time for you to try it, if you'd like, for this Christmas.

My parents moved into an assisted-living residence Sept. of 2008. There are so many caregivers there and people who try to help out that I really wanted to give them some small token to say, "thank you." They are not allowed to accept "real" gifts, so the next best thing is something like a party favor. A couple of years ago, while looking for something special to give some old friends, I stumbled upon the "survival kit" sayings. There are so many! And you can make up your own quite easily to suit any occasion. For each little saying there is a corresponding trinket. For instance: A soldier to help you fight your battles (and there's a little plastic army man included) ... you know, that sort of thing.

Well, this year, I decided on the little sayings and trinkets I wanted to include, but I wanted something better than cellophane bags to give out. So, I found the Olde English Crackers website. Not only do they sell everything you might need to make and fill a fabulous cracker (including the all-important cracker snaps!), but they also give you step-by-step instructions! I printed mine out and keep it on the dining room table as I'm assembling. Once you do a couple, though, you don't need the directions anymore.
If you want to make your own, here is how I am doing mine.
First: I decided a long time ago what little sayings and things I wanted to collect.

2009 Survival Kit
A whistle: So you can whistle while you work.
(I found some really cool vintage whistles on eBay that came from old store stock!)
A Happy Face: To remind you to keep smiling.
(Another eBay find ... some tiny, colorful, happy-face beads.)
A Comb: To help straighten out life's little tangles
(Remember when I was collecting vintage gumball-machine prizes? Well, these were in there! Perfect now!)
A Starburst candy: To give you a burst of energy when you need it most.
A Surprise: Because life should be full of good ones.
(Yep! Another eBay find! Unopened Cracker Jack prizes!)
and last, but not least
Glitter: To make life sparkle!

I came up with a few of these, but found the others at this great website: Make Your Own Creative Survival Kit
There are other websites with sayings and ideas, too. While there are a lot of repeats, there are always a couple of new ones you might have overlooked. Just do a google search for Survival Kits and you'll find quite a few!

A traditional English Cracker also includes a paper hat, a joke or riddle ... and a little toy. I also like to include a couple of individually wrapped cookies. Biscoff cookies are ideal.
Once I had all my fillings ready, I put the tiny pieces in a small re-sealable bag. Then the fun begins!
First, start by cutting out wrapping paper as directed by the Olde English Cracker people:

7.5 x 12 inches

I suggest cutting all the pieces you need and have them in a pile before you begin assembling everything. It makes it a lot easier, especially if you have 100 to do like I have!
Next, cut out the end stiffener pieces from card stock. Make them 2.25 x 7 inches.
After this, you're ready to go! Center your cracker tube in the middle of the paper. Put the cracker tube roller ends on.

After you put a dab of glue on the front middle of the paper, roll onto the tube. Then, place the cracker snap behind the rollers.
See that cracker snap? Move it a little closer to the roll, then roll up the paper on the tube, gluing across to secure. The snap is NOT glued! It is just resting in there.
Remove the roller ends. Now, you're ready to put your end stiffener pieces inside. Do one end at a time, rolling the stiffener into a bit of tube, itself, then inserting into each end. Glue in place, being sure to leave that cracker snap free to move about, now inside the stiffener end, not behind it.

Working on one end at a time, crimp the end together with your fingers as there will be a space of wrapping paper between the stiffener end and the tube. You can easily crimp this with your finger and thumb. Tie a length of curling ribbon on securely, drawing it closed as you do so.
Now, before you do the other side, you put all your filling in there!

Here's the filling in a bag:

Here's the open end of the cracker, ready for the filling:

Crimp and tie the other end securely to finish:

And here they are!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Of Gingerbread ... and Life ...

Before I introduce you to one of my latest designs, I want to take a moment to update you ... when I first started this blog, I wrote entries that were quite a bit like the weekly columns I used to write for the newspaper ... I wrote a lot about my life and the quirky things that happen. Once I started knitting so much, though, I sort of changed the direction of the blog and it became more of an update on new projects and patterns and ideas for making fun and festive things.
Well, I have to go back for a moment and let you know why I haven't updated in awhile. My elderly father has been in and out of the hospital and it's been not only physically demanding, but also extremely emotional for me these past weeks. I haven't been able to find the time nor the ability to work on any of my Christmas designs for you ... so I have a feeling that the Christmas 2009 patterns will most likely be available in 2010!
I apologize for all delays, in case you were waiting for the unveiling of the Jolly Gumdrop Dolls and the Knitted/Felted Gingerbread Cottage ... but they've all been on the back burner of my life right now. Things are too sad for me to continue to share this part of my life (and I don't ever want this blog to be sad!!!), so let me dry my tears, sit up straight and find that smile I try to wear when I walk out my front door every day ... and let's see if I can't change the subject back to knitting and dreaming of sugar-glitter-covered candies and colorful gumballs, nostalgic toys and trinkets and all those things that make you feel all warm and cozy inside!

A first glimpse of the Gingerbread Cottage

The actual knitting and felting is quick and easy ... but deciding what decorations to use is challenging! This is a wonderful project to test out and practice all kinds of new embroidery stitches that, perhaps, you've not thought of using before ... such as the Scroll Stitch (which looks a lot like the twirl icing on a Little Debbie chocolate cupcake!) to secure and outline the pink-felt roof base, the blanket stitch for outlining the individual felt roof tiles, French knots to punctuate the middles of lazy-daisy stitches to secure and outline the felt door ... woven back stitches for the red-and-white cottage border ... and even a variation of the bullion stitch for the doorknob. All these (and probably even more by the time it is complete) help to make the cottage more cheerful and fun. I really like the pre-made pieces of felt that have glitter on them already. It just gives a faint hint of sparkle and, when the light hits these pieces, it really adds a dash of magic to the little cottage.
Here is the piece right after felting. You pull it into shape, then stuff. I am not completely satisfied with the bottom and may possibly look into letting the piece dry with marbles in the inside to help flatten the bottom out for standing.
Necco candies make wonderful temporary roof tiles! They really help with placement and color choice. I actually used a Necco as a template for the tiles. They are just the right size.

My first thought was to make the entire roof in shades of pink ...
But I soon decided that multi-color felt pieces gave the cottage a much more festive, candy-like appearance. No one can possibly be gloomy when you look at this!
I have decided to go back and use mult-color French knots inside the lazy-daisy stitches. I think it will pull together the color scheme of the roof while, at the same time, add a little more whimsy to the front of the piece.
I'll update more when I can.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Finished! Bevy of Bathing Beauties ...

Maile and Leilani are in the front, surrounded by all their new friends!

Here are the finished eight additional mermaids.
Each one, although the same pattern, is really unique! The way each felted is slightly different, as are the faces and personalities. Now that they are finished, I hate parting with them!

This has really been a great learning experience for me! I now know why I prefer to design a new pattern than to take orders and make finished pieces from my patterns. I really don't see how anyone who takes on the knitting/finishing of pieces for people makes the project cost effective. The materials, alone, are quite expensive because I had to invest in different colors of floss, thread, Little Flowers novelty yarn and wool yarn ... the knitting, shaping, stuffing, embroidering and hair-making take approximately 14-20 hours per doll! I promised these before I had time to really think it all out ... and then I couldn't possibly charge what I really should have in the end. Oh well! Never again! I have discovered it's so much more fun to make one or two as a special gift than to turn myself into a tiny factory!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Bachelor Button Cookies ... and the evolution of the Rice Krispy Oatmeal Cookie revealed!

I know, I know. I should really hold off on this one and post it more toward Christmas (or at least after Thanksgiving), but I just couldn't help myself. As long as I'm on the topic of cookies, I have to say: The "Bachelor Button" cookie recipe has been found! I don't know where this original recipe came from ... and the handwriting is not my mother's. I have a feeling it may have been given to my mom by one of her friends (I'm remembering one, particular friend who was a fabulous cookie baker). At any rate, this cookie recipe is one that my mom submitted whenever there was a call for recipes. I recall seeing it with her name on it in one of those spiral-bound collections that are put together for fundraisers. Personally, I never, ever remember tasting it. The recipe calls for maraschino-cherry halves to be put on top before baking. I'll have to bake up a batch just to test it out (leaving off the cherries, of course). I think you can read this one fairly well, despite its age, and the vanilla- extract and coffee-ring stains. As you see, there are no Rice Krispies or oatmeal appearing in these; however, later on, my mother would add a red and green candied cherry half to the non-coconut Rice Krispy Oatmeal cookies and call them Christmas Wreaths. I must tell you that we, as children, hated the addition of the candied cherry. It's sort of like getting that dreaded pickle on your Chick-fil-A. Even after you remove it, the bun is soggy and pickle tainted. Same thing here with the cookie. Take off the candied cherry and you get a soft, cherry-tainted spot underneath. Ick. They do look festive, though, I'll give them that.

NOW, Just to make things a little more confusing, there is an actual "Christmas Wreath" cookie recipe (below) that looks suspiciously similar to the recipe found on the Rice Krispies website (the one that does have coconut in it), only this one calls for finely cut candied cherries added to the dough before baking. I don't remember eating these at all. However, the recipe looks very worn (just take a look at all those vanilla-extract spots), so it must have been used quite often! (Maybe the cookies were given away?)

My sister and I decided that my mother must have changed the original recipe to omit the coconut because my father insists that he hates coconut... and we hated candied cherries, so she omitted that, as well ... thus, THE Rice Krispy Oatmeal cookie was born!
Now you have several variations you can try ... with or without coconut and with or without cherries!
Note: I must add that if there's only a coconut-cream pie available for dessert, my Dad has been known to eat it and even, perhaps, ask for seconds. He doesn't like butterscotch, either, but if you should call it "caramel," instead, he'll dig right in.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Tastes of Fall ...

Maybe it's because the house is finally clean ... or maybe it's the chilly air with that pungent aroma of freshly-turned earth ... or maybe it's because the leaves have gone from green to red and gold and now come floating down from tree branches like soft, colorful snowflakes, each one beautifully unique ... or maybe it's all these things mixed together that make me remember Fall from my childhood.
When we'd get home from school and open the door, the house would be warm and smell of cinnamon and molasses ... ginger and cloves. It was the best smell! And waiting for us would be plates of the best cookies I've ever tasted. My mom's favorites to bake were Rice Krispy Oatmeal Cookies and Molasses Cookies. While sorting through my mother's recipe envelope, I came across her original Rice Krispy Oatmeal cookie recipe! As you can see, it's well worn! With lots of grease stains and bits of flour still clinging to it! I don't know the original source. Maybe it was on the back of a Rice Krispy box years ago? I found this website that has a recipe, Copyright 2006 by Kellogg NA Co., which is similar, but not exact. My mother never put coconut in them! I must also note that using butter in this recipe is not as good as using margarine. I don't know why. Most cookies taste much better with butter, but for some reason, this one will get too hard and not be as tasty at all. Try margarine, instead. I would think that butter-flavored Crisco might work, as well.

I also found this, her original Brer Rabbit Molasses Cookie recipe taken from the label that was around the bottle. It's seen better days! It obviously got too close to the stove one day and actually has burnt parts! Somebody had the presence of mind to put out the flames and rescue it!
These are fabulous. They get wonderful crinkles in them and the dough is one of the richest I've ever tasted (and believe me, I've consumed LOTS of cookie dough in my day)! Do you know they still make Brer Rabbit Molasses? It's produced by B&G Foods, Inc. and they have lots of great recipes posted on their website. To go there now, Click here

The other recipe my mom would bake for dessert was Apple Crisp. This recipe is in my sister's handwriting. She must have written the ingredients down so we wouldn't forget them. I always felt like maybe my mom made it from memory. I really don't know where she got the recipe in the first place. Maybe Quaker Oats had it on their canister? Here's the link to the Quaker Oats website and they do have several Crisp recipes. Wherever this recipe came from, I can remember my mom sitting at the kitchen table peeling apples, with a newspaper spread out to catch the peelings. I loved to pick up the apple cores and glean the rest of the apple off! This tastes really good when it's still warm, with ice cream melting on top, but I have definitely eaten it cold and it's still wonderful.

Since the time and temperature to bake is on the reverse of this card, I'll add it here: "375 degrees for 30 minutes or until apples are tender."

Saturday, October 24, 2009

"Workroom" actually has room to work!

Anybody who knows me, knows I'm not a very good housekeeper. It's not that I don't want to be a very good housekeeper, it's just that I have so many projects I'm working on, as well as finishing these last years of homeschooling our youngest (who happens to be celebrating his 16th birthday TODAY!!!) ... along with trying to make sure my elderly parents are doing okay ... which leaves me little time and even less energy to tackle the usual household chores that other people seem to do without a thought.
However, after starting my new routine of walking and swimming, I've gotten a burst of energy that doesn't seem to fade! It's fantastic! While this last week was exam week for my son (yes, can you believe it? It's the end of first quarter already), I was able to get to each room, one by one, and really clean it. The house feels so good now. I'm giddy with excitement! Really, I am! Even after a long, bad, tiring day, I know that when I open up that front door, it's going to be clean in there! And smell like spiced cider and pumpkin candles!!! (Because they have a great fragrance, even if you don't light them!)
Yesterday, I was able to clean the worst room of all! My little workroom. I can't call it a studio ... or even a junior studio, you see, as it's a very small room. It's just an extra bedroom that used to have a double bed in it for guests. I suppose the guests (when we have any) will have to make do with an airbed on the living-room floor or they can stretch out on a family-room couch, perhaps. Oh well, I'll worry about that later! (We don't get many guests, so it really shouldn't pose a problem.)
Now, before you look at the following photographs, you have to bring your expectations down a great deal. I don't have built-ins. I don't have lovely spool holders for all my threads and floss. In fact, it may not look like much to you, nor will you think it's even that tidy (it's still in progress, mind you!), but for me, it's like a little slice of heaven.
I first bought about six rubbermaid-type storage bins and sealed all my stuffing (both the polyester and the kapok), wool roving, and bits and pieces of cookie cutters, felting needles, etc., into these. I then invested in some GIANT (and I mean GIANT) zip-lock bags and stuffed all my non-wool yarn into these. (Why, oh why do I have so many skeins and balls of polyester-blend yarn???) I piled all the bins and bags into the closet and still was able to shut the doors! Okay, it's not perfect. I mean, I will have to drag these bins out every time I need something, but at least everything is in a bin!
I bought wire, stackable crates from Target, which are great for yarn ... and moved the big teacher's desk, some bookcases and the glass-top patio table (that had been at my parents' house), as well as an armchair into this room. It's a lot of furniture for the space, but I need it!

Here's a glimpse of the glass-top table. It's perfect for projects! Now I won't have to mess up the dining-room table anymore! Notice the doll house in the background. I always loved it more than my daughters ever did so now it has a permanent location in here. It's great for inspiration.

Here's a better view of some of the crates. I'm still sorting yarns ... but at least I know all of these are wool, so I won't ruin my felting projects. (Been there, done that and it's not fun.) Note my large gingerbread man. I've had him since kindergarten! He's one of the few stuffed toys that survived all the many moves with me during my childhood.

Here's the teacher's desk we bought at a school auction years ago. It's got plenty of room in the drawers for more things! I love having the old computer in here. Even though it's painfully slow, I can still type away in relative quiet.
I've put some of the old children's books I'm collecting here, as well as my gumball machine. Yes, I have consumed nearly all 10 pounds of gumballs before I even had a chance to put them into the machine!!! Must order more! I only have white ones left (and a few green). Ugh.
This is the Raggedy Ann door stop my sister gave me when I was 11 years old. She's the official greeter. The white board and the bulletin board beside her I hung last evening. They'll be my project-idea boards.
Here's my comfy chair! Perfect for knitting on a rainy afternoon! The plastic drawers in front of the closet have wheels, so I can move them out of the way. Right now, the mermaids are on top, waiting for me to finish them.

So there it is. My workroom in a nutshell!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Jolly Gumdrop Dolls: New Christmas 2009 Pattern Preview

Here's a preview of some of the new patterns I'm designing for Christmas 2009. This is the first in my Jolly Gumdrop Doll collection. She's fresh out of the washer, has been stuffed and is drying. She'll have "candy" hair and a tiny "candy" face ... she'll be joined by her Jolly Gumdrop brother, their snowman and, of course, Santa, himself! Stay tuned ...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Bear That Started It All!

This is my Dad's bear ... circa 1923! Isn't he wonderful? I've always loved his face and the fact that he can move his arms and his legs. This bear and all the wonderful vintage Steiff stuffed animals provide a never-ending source of inspiration for me ... from body shape, to texture, to expression.
My Dad still loves this bear, too! I remember when I was little, my Dad came home from work one afternoon and as soon as he headed into the house, he called out, "Hey! Who left my bear outside??"
Oops! Fortunately, this little guy never got caught in the rain like my Dad's tools!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Signs of Autumn ...

The morning air has a decidedly chilly note to it these days ... and the lovely green leaves of summer have already started to yellow. All of my squash plants have suddenly died. They've left little trace of themselves, as if they've simply packed up and sped away overnight!
The two remaining tadpoles have their legs now ... and I'm just waiting for them to lose their tails.
Here's one of the tadpoles. The other one was hiding.

Nana's pecan trees were full of nuts this past weekend. It looks to be a hearty crop this year ... which makes me think of rich pecan pies and buttery, melt-in-your-mouth, powdered-sugar-coated tea cakes. Yes, it looks to be a bumper crop this year ... that is, if the squirrels don't get them all first!
Everywhere you look, there are signs of Fall ... bright yellow, red and russet mum plants line nursery shelves, along with sweet-smelling bales of wheat straw and thick, glass jugs of apple cider.
I didn't have to go very far to find signs of the season ... why, I found this happy group of friends making plans for their annual Halloween party.

"Don't forget the nuts!" Gray Squirrel called out.

I finally have had time to take a few photographs and write up the Halloween Ghost pattern. It's now available at The Pattern Box, as are, of course, Gray Squirrel and Scaredy Cat. Don't forget the Pumpkin-in-the-Round is a free pattern here on my blog. The pattern for Pumpkin Man should be up shortly, as well. Now that our home school has started back for the year, I find it increasingly difficult to get everything done that I'd like to do! Hm ... come to think of it, that's really nothing new! Well, I better sign off for now, but I'll leave you with thoughts of cinnamon and cloves and all things spicy and sweet as we usher in Autumn 2009.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Meet Maile the Mermaid and Her Friends!

Finally! A new post and a new pattern! I'm sorry it's taken me so long!!! Believe it or not, I've been working hard most of the summer cleaning out my parents' house, but I managed to find a little time to design these whimsical friends! The 8-page pattern includes all the directions for knitting both the mermaid and the seahorse, then felting in your washing machine. The directions for embroidering the features and the star-shaped, shell bra are also included, as well as directions for the hair. As with most of my patterns, these are knit completely in the round. You'll need US size 10 1/2 double-pointed needles for the mermaids ... and you'll use two strands of wool held together with one strand of a novelty yarn. I like Crystal Palace Little Flowers. Amazingly, if you buy two skeins of yarn (I like to do this) so you can work with two strands without having to pull from both ends of a ball, you'll be able to knit about four mermaid fins! With two skeins of skin-tone, you'll be able to knit about four upper bodies/heads and arms!
Sugar, the seahorse, is also knit in the round on US size 8 double-pointed needles. You'll only need one strand of wool and one strand of Little Flowers for him (or her!) ...
They are really so quick and so much fun. I hope you'll give them a try!
You'll find the pattern available at The Pattern Box and also on Ravelry.

Just a note: Names of yarn colors and the colors, themselves, seem to be continually changing. I think it's important to look at the yarn in person, if you can, before you make any decisions. It's really hard to judge from your computer monitor what the actual color will look like when it arrives.
But, just in case you were wondering, these are the colors I used for my mermaid models:
Sugar the Seahorse requires one skein of 100% wool yarn (such as Ella Rae Classic) and one ball of novelty yarn. One strand of each is used throughout on US size 8 double-pointed needles. I highly recommend the use of Ella Rae Classic wool because it felts so beautifully, but as you need less than a skein of yarn to complete the seahorse, you may find something in your stash that would be suitable. For instance, I knit Sugar, as photographed above, with Cascade 220 in a light purple solid, such as 9541, which I had on hand. I held a strand of Crystal Palace Little Flowers in Blueberry Grape with it. Although a fair amount of stitch definition remains, he is still quite cute! I would also recommend Paton's Classic Merino, which is quite easy to find at most local craft and hobby stores.Remember: These will be your mermaids and seahorses. You can use any color combinations that you like! Maile was knit with Ella Rae Classic number 25 (aquamarine), but there are plenty of other greens that would also be beautiful. I used Crystal Palace Little Flowers in Seafoam. Maile's Caucasian skin-tone is Ella Rae Classic 54.
Leilani was knit with Ella Rae Classic number 43, Magenta. I used Crystal Palace Little Flowers Strawberries and Limes. Leilani's Island skin-tone is Ella Rae Classic number 11, Rose.Please do be careful when choosing colors by name. I saw two different "rose" colors at a web store that sells Ella Rae Classic. They were not the same at all! I just don't want anyone to be disappointed!

Friday, July 10, 2009

New pieces and maybe even a tiny Studio!

I'm super busy these days working on some new patterns, while at the same time cleaning out our house! Randy has officially "approved" of the guest bedroom/storeroom/old computer room to be turned into whatever I can make it ... I think he heartily agreed just to get the stash of yarn and books out of our bedroom ... and the dining room ... and the family room ... oh ... and the living room, too!!! YIKES! I have stuff everywhere. I will not take a before picture because it's too horrible to imagine; however, I have great vision and I know I will be able to fix it! I have limited wall space and limited electric outlets, so I have to think carefully before I put anything that can't be moved!
It's not easy. There are so many things in this room that I have to find other places to store ... like our daughters' 8 years worth of chess trophies! AAACKK! They moved them out of their room into this room and now I've stuffed as many as I can into a huge box and have loaded it into the hall closet downstairs. Some of these trophies are enormous! THEN there's all the dog-grooming paraphernalia from our dog-showing days. For instance, the giant crate, the crate pan, the grooming table and the grooming-table arm ... then there's the card table and chairs ... and the box of paint clothes waiting for another project so they can be worn again. Not to mention all the extra pillows, blankets and comforters that won't fit in our teeny-tiny linen closet in the hall. I'd get rid of them, except we need them in the winter!
I have purchased a couple of wire storage cube sets and hope to put them on top of each other. I wouldn't mind if they'd reach to the ceiling! I have to make sure I keep my acrylic yarn separate from all the feltable wool yarn, though and right now, that's going to be a chore to separate them as they all tumbled together in the middle! AARRGGHH. It will be most distressing to try out a new pattern with acrylic by mistake ... and have it be just as big after washing as before! (Kind of defeats the purpose!)
I have been wondering for some time if I should sell finished pieces, as well as my designs? So many people have told me they don't knit, but would love to have one already made. Maybe after I have everything straightened out and in its right place, I'll be able to see if this is actually do-able for me. I have set up an Etsy store, but haven't really used it yet. I put up one pattern early on and I don't think anyone even looked at it! I just need more time to be able to pursue all of these ventures.
For now, it will all have to wait. I have to take my Dad back to the doctor today. I expect it will be a long visit this time, so I won't be able to work on organizing the room. I will probably get a lot of knitting done, though!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

I've been given a Blog Award!

Amybel from Knitting in my Backyarn blog has given me this wonderful Blog Award! It's the first award my blog has ever been given. So, here's a big "THANK YOU!" to Amybel!

The rules: Accept the award and post it on your blog with the name of the person that gave it to you. Pass on the award to as many bloggers as you wish and let them know you chose them for the award.

I give the award to:

Jennifer Murphy




The Byrd's Nest

Red Momma Lynne


Darcy's Knotty Knitter

Little Scarf Girl

Friday, June 19, 2009

Hooping for Exercise!

"Exercise" hoops (not to be confused with children's hoops) are becoming more and more popular these days ... and, at anywhere from $39 to $59 for a colorful hoop, it pays to experiment a little and make your own! I found a great website with video tutorials here on Squidoo.
The hoop is recommended to be from about 39 to 43 inches across. I made this one to fit my son, really ... measuring the tubing from the ground to just under his chest. It is 47 inches and probably a little too big for the rest of us, but I've been using it, anyway.
I used the 3/4" 160 psi plastic irrigation tubing. I bought mine at Lowe's for about $30 for about 100 feet of tubing. Just pick up a package of connectors (my package of 10 cost about $2.97 or so) and a roll of black duct tape. This will make roughly 10 hoops!!! I followed the directions on Squidoo and it took less than 10 minutes from start to finish to make the hoop! Not fancy or pretty at this point, but definitely hoop-able!

I ordered holographic tape, vinyl tape and gaffer tape from Identi-tape and, if you order $100 worth or more for taping hoops, be sure to type in: hula hula in the code box and you'll get a 15% discount!! As you can see, above, my wrapping skills need much improvement ... but for a first try, I thought it wasn't half bad! The instructions say to put down the foil or specialty tape first, as it needs to have its edges covered by the heavier tapes or it tends to peel up and get ruined. So, apply the tapes in this order: specialty (mirror, mylar, glittery, holographic, etc), then the vinyl tape and finally the great-gripping gaffer tape!
Colette is kindly holding this one for me. She thought the colors looked very mermaid-like. I have to agree!

Here is Colette, testing it out. Even though this hoop is WAY too big for petite Colette (who barely reaches 5 feet and 1/2 inch, she's hooping magnificently. Somehow, the bigger hoop really gets going without a hitch!

She was really enjoying it! The dvd "Hoopnotica: Hoopdance Basics" is an incredibly good one! I LOVE it! I never could get a child's hoop to stay up. It always fell. Hoopnotica has a whole "troubleshooting" section so you can fix what you're doing wrong! In only about three tries, after watching the troubleshooting part, I was able to get this hoop to stay up and keep spinning until I wanted to stop, not stopping because my hoop fell! I have to say, it gave me a big boost of confidence! I'm just now trying to master walking while hooping. I'm having a difficult time with this ... but hooping with my hand over my head (halo), is quite easy and feels really fun. Just watch out ... when I first did this, my hoop took off and landed across the yard! I can't explain what a freeing feeling it is to get out there and hoop. I felt quite gloomy the last few days as it was too rainy for me to get out there and get going. I can't wait to make hoops for everyone in my family! If you don't have the time or the energy to make your own, Hoopnotica sells a lot of very cool, already-made hoops.
It's so much fun. It's still light outside. I must go. My newly taped hoop is calling to me!

My Gumball Machine Arrived!

Isn't it WONDERFUL?!!! It works perfectly! Glass globe, wonderful Acorn sticker and everything! Now, I'm off to order the Rain-blo gumballs!!! I feel like I'm in 2nd grade again ... I'm at the A&P grocery store after school ... and my Mom has given us all a nickel to spend on our way out! My favorite gumballs were the blue ones!!!

Monday, June 15, 2009

My First Jar!

I changed the date and anniversary line to three lines, instead. Also, I couldn't decide if I should put their marriage date or the current anniversary, so I finally put the current anniversary date ... that's the date of the jar, as well!
Another close up of the final jar ... here are some photos before I changed the anniversary.

Here's a full view of the Happy Anniversary Jar for my sister and her husband. The jar magnifies everything inside. I think I would have liked it better if it didn't!

Here's a close up of their faces. I won an auction for some old 1970s paper dolls and then found a photograph of the two of them and printed their faces out on watercolor paper. After cutting them out as best I could with an Exacto, I used some spray adhesive to put the faces on the paper dolls!
I filled the bottom with wool roving finger combed with flash ... and lots of mica!

I painted some watercolor paper with yellow and orange and let it dry, then I used a calligraphy pen and drew the moon face. You can't see it very well, but I put mica on the moon, too! I made a couple of impromptu stars and put a lot of glass glitter on them. I hung all these from the inside top of the jar.

I cut out the Bridal Chorus and used the music as the backdrop.

I added a lot of glass glitter to the paper doll's gown and glued on some paper flowers for my sister's bouquet and tied them with a little ribbon. I used a small paper flower for her husband's boutonniere. I also used a bit of netting and a little crepe paper for her veil. I know it's a little odd, so I hope they like it! I have been getting lots of ideas for jars ... like Happy Birthday jars and that sort of thing. I think I learned a lot about spray adhesive and being patient!!! The back is not as clean as I'd like ... the glue smeared a bit ... but it'll have to do. I do wonder what they'll think of it! Now onto package it up and take it to UPS. I hope it doesn't break!