28 February 2011

The February Lists

Ten things that bring me unexpected joy
  1. Singing bus drivers
  2. The way British people pronounce the word Yogurt
  3. Red Vines. Not Twizzlers. Red Vines.
  4. Clerks and servers who offer honest answers when you ask How’s it going?
  5. Anything reminiscent of Sophia Lauren
  6. Ivory dish soap
  7. Diet Coke, in a can, softly frosted from the back of my fridge
  8. The beaded pencil cup on my desk
  9. Men with different colored beards and mustaches
  10. The way Lola squishes her whiskers together when she yawns

Ten things that irritate me more than they should
  1. The crud that forms around the rim of ketchup bottles
  2. Cab drivers who play Sade
  3. My inability to properly cook rice
  4. The word custard
  5. Dictators who wear hats (Note for the voting booth: hats are always a bad sign)
  6. The color of uncooked chicken
  7. The sight of broken branches
  8. People who knock on doors as they simultaneously open the door
  9. Non-absorbent hand lotion
  10. Applesauce
Almost March

Today is the last day of February.

I cannot recall the last time I have been so happy to see March. Cold, wet, rainy March. It’s truly an ugly month around here but it marks the end of particularly rough winter.

I am elated.

Irrational, and elated.

If you have followed the blog for a while you may have picked up on my recent lack of creative brain juices (pardon the technical term). It’s a February thing. In September they run like a  bathtub faucet, but in the dulldrums of freezing cold February, I struggle to produce a trickle. The paint brushes go away and the yoga pants come out.

January is worst, but February is exhausting.

Did I mention how happy I am that March is almost here?

I know I’m not the only one who struggles through this, and I know I am not the only one who sometimes feels like I am going crazy. Not Overlook Hotel Kind of Crazy as Holly put it, but just jumbled and drowning. It’s like I can’t drive my own brain.

There was a while in college when I toyed with the idea of becoming an art therapist. It didn’t work out for me but I put enough textbook time to pick up a few lessons on how to use art as my own personal coping mechanism when things get rough. And when art is not sufficient, and yoga pants are no longer a comfort, I learned how to use observation.

Observation is a powerful thing. The ability to recognize and appreciate one’s surroundings is an art all by itself.

I don’t recall the textbook, but I remember reading a series of accounts of post-traumatic-stress (PTSD) patients, mostly recent combat solders who were isolated and bed-ridden. They were not ready to speak about their experiences but the hospital staff needed ways to keep them from shutting down completely.

Among other things, the soldiers were asked to write down everyday experiences that brought them unexpected happiness or sadness....likes vs dislikes, appreciation vs anger, good vs bad.

The sound of the wheels on the meal cart = good
The smell of changing bandages = bad
The way the doctor washed his hands = appreciation
The lack of television stations = anger
...so on and so on.

Certainly not enough to properly address genuine PTSD, but enough to keep their senses alive and aware of their surroundings, at least long enough to make it through weeks laying flat in a foreign hospital with scarce resources. Sometimes discussing their observations with staff and other patients would raise all kinds of emotions and issues. Things that had been buried long before they ever landed in the hospital.

It’s funny how the mind squirrels away stuff, only to be nibbled on in the depths of winter.

This winter has been particularly rough and I have been keeping observation lists as a way to cope and make it through February. And while I am certainly not struggling through PTSD, I find these lists extremely helpful when it comes to keeping my senses stimulated. These lists keep me from shutting down and hibernating.

I have heard of people using these sorts of observation lists in non-art-therapy contexts, almost as a way to loosen their senses and stir up creativity, ease writers block, etc.

I’m not sure if anyone will get anything out of it, but I would encourage you to try making a list of your own sometime. Don’t sit down and write it down, let it come to you naturally over the course of a day or a week...even an entire month. Write them down on scraps or receipts or jot notes in your cell phone. At the end of a set period of time, type them up. Share them with others. Notice any patterns? It gets your brain turning. You might even conger a cartwheel or two. Imagine that? Mental cartwheels in the dead of February!

Make a habit of it and take a way a whole new appreciation for your surroundings. I don't know if it will help anyone, but it certainly can't hurt :)

....And here is the good news: put away the yoga pants y'all, MARCH IS HERE!

27 February 2011

The Waiter Test

Hand Letter Pressed Poster by Rob Bratney
I wish someone had told me this when I was a kid. It would have saved a lot of heartache and drama along the road.

I suppose becoming a good judge of character is an skill that comes from years of trail and error, but I for one would gladly pay an extra nickel in taxes if it meant that we could see this poster hanging on the wall of every schoolhouse in the country.

Some lessons are too important.

24 February 2011

The secret is out: I hoard pearls.

Some people like diamonds, but I'm all about pearls. Actually, I'm all about chocolate, but that's a story for another time...

Most of my jewelry is strewn around the house so I wanted a place to display the strands that I don’t wear very often. Mostly sentimental favorites, they are too pretty to be kept in a box. I want them up and out where I can see them! Enter, once again ladies and gentlemen: Corrugated Plastic.

Continuing with the theme of finding new, practical ways to recycle annoying, leftover political signs, here is an easy project with endless possibilities. Hooks in a frame—how easy is that?

This idea came from a local bead store that lines their walls with pegboard and hooks. I love pegboard, but it can get expensive and corrugated plastic makes a great substitute.

  • One sheet corrugated plastic, preferably salvaged from a street or yard sign
  • Fabric of your choice (paper would work too, but a woven fabric will ensure the hooks don't budge or tear)
  • Drapery Hooks (I found a bag of 14 for $1.79 at the hardware store, but fabric stores sometimes carry as well)
  • Glue or duct tape
  • Picture Frame
  • Small accessory box with zip tie(s) to attach

  • Adhere your fabric to the corrugated plastic. Learning Curb: don't use super lightweight fabric or the sign lettering might show through when the light shines just right. Like when you want to photograph it for your blog. And don't use stripes because they are a Royal Pain to align just right and then you'll stay up half the night attempting to tug them into place, only to fail. Fail. FAIL.
  • Use the pointy end of the hook to make a hole and pierce it into the plastic. If you are going to hang heavy items, be sure the hook is set against the grain (ie: the hook is jabbed into multiple layers of the inner corrugated bits. Wow. I really know my technical terms, huh?)
  • If you like, add a small accessory box. I just made a couple incisions in an old black watch box and fastened it on with a zip tie. Gosh, I should take a picture of that next time! 

Make sure Miss Kitty gets to play with the pearls a bit before you hang them up.

23 February 2011

Next time you are cruising the newsstand, check out the March 2011 edition of Disney Family Fun Magazine. It’s always a great publication, AND, this month, you might just see a new twist on an old project, including a brief story on my Grandnanna’s obsession with buttermints!

Many thanks to Debra and everyone at Disney Publishing Worldwide who pulled this project together. It always feels nice to be in good company :)

22 February 2011

For project #2 in this week's What to Do with Annoying Political Signs series, I thought I would appeal to everyone's more practical side: Storage.

I'm the messy type. I see storage as a means to an end, but I know there are plenty of you out there who just can't get enough of it. You know who you are: you're the ones who flip through pages of the home magazines, drooling over ridiculously under-sized spice jars that stick to the fridge in organized, neat little rows.

If you have ever dreamed of alphabetizing your medicine cabinet, you will love this project. 

If you are a math geek who loves measuring and precision slicing, you will love this project.

If you have an aspiring architect in the family who enjoys building miniature models, you will love this project.

Actually, speaking of architects, I should note, I stole picked up this idea from an architectural firm when I was peeping around their office holiday party. They made large trays in this fashion underneath some of their older building models. The trays allowed them to slide the models off the shelves whenever they needed. I have seen people use cookie sheets in their cuboards in similar ways, but with corrugated plastic, you could create trays any size/depth. Neato, huh?

Note: Plain white corrugated plastic works best for demonstration purposes here, but I would encourage you to salvage your supplies elsewhere if possible. There are a whole lot of poorly designed signs just waiting to be resurrected!

Note:Everyone is different, but I find it much easier to slice corrugated plastic using two or three swipes. Don't try to make every incision with one pass or you could end up with messy edges. Take your time and get a feel for it. This stuff will cut like butter once you get the hang of it.

Making a Basic Tray
I'm not posting a template here because I'm lazy I'm encouraging you to customize the tray to your specific shelf and/or storage items. So measure your goods first! However, to save confusion, I'll share this simple diagram from my sketchbook. Yes I said simple. No one ever said I was a technical illustrator!

Once you have sliced and scored, just clip up the sides with basic binding clips from any office supply shop. You would be surprised how sturdy those little clips can be!

After you have your tray in place,cut additional strips of corrugated plastic, equal in width to your tray's depth. For example, my tray has 3" sides, so I cut 3" strips, then scored as I saw fit. This tray will be used inside a specific drawer, sorting out markers, pens and extra long paintbrushes, but you could add as many compartments as your heart desires. Sky is the limit!

  • No binder clips? make small incisions and use zip ties instead. They will hold just about anything.
  • Don't like the look of clips? Use gorilla glue to hold your tabs in place. I suggest using clothes pins for 24hours while the glue dries.
  • No corrugated plastic? This works great with cardboard too. Heck, you don't even need to make a tray, just use a a plain old shoebox.
Well folks, that's it. Today I am appealing to your practical side, tomorrow comes the foofy stuff. Stay tuned!

21 February 2011

Sometimes people ask me what material I enjoy working with the most. I think they expect me to say sequins or pipe cleaners or coffee filters, but the truth is, my favorite material is corrugated plastic. Unglamorous, I know, but it's a highly malleable surface and I love it. And, thanks to many of my elected representatives, especially the lazy ones, it is free and ripe for the taking!

In honor of my local election day (tomorrow) I am filling this week with a string of projects devoted to corrugated plastic signs. Stay tuned!

TANGENT -o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o
An Open Letter to Those Seeking to be My Elected Officials

Dear Sir or Madame;

Tomorrow is election day here in Chicago. And while I am delighted to take part in our great nation’s electoral process, I am dismayed at your flippant behavior when it comes to advertising your name. In particular, I take issue with your signs. They are everywhere. They are unauthorized. They are ugly.

Not cool.

I realize you and your supporters have every right to promote your name and platform any which way you like; however, you do not have the right to post these signs anywhere you wish. Private property is one thing. Public land is another.

Furthermore, my tax dollars pay to keep the grass in front of the library/school/ government office/highway ramp/park/hospital clean and trimmed, not so you can show off your intern’s desktop publishing skills. If you are going to print ten thousand of these things and illegally display them, have the decency to hire a professional designer, not some schmuck with a hard on for Gill Sans Ultra Bold.

It would be good of you to remove these signs at once. Alas, since I fear it is an unlikely that you will take action, I’ll do it for you. Moreover, I will encourage everyone I know to do the same. We will go out and find new and creative uses for these signs. I know you paid a great deal of money to print them, and when you inevitably lose, it will be comfort to know that the remnants of your campaign have been recycled into charming, decorative objects for the home or office.

Cheers to democracy!

Peaches, Citizen at Large


Y’all will have to pardon my rant. These signs litter my neighborhood so frequently (we have a lot of elections around here!) and it can take weeks, sometimes YEARS, before they are removed or blown away with the wind. And since corrugated plastic can be an expensive material, I'm happy to vent my frustrations while finding ways to put it to good use.



Corrugated plastic is a miraculous material with many, many uses. If you see it in an alley PICK IT UP! If it isn’t election season in your town, you can purchase it by the sheet from many art supply stores. You can also ask any small business owners if they have any extra SALE signs laying around, or if you have a sign maker in your town, ask them for scrap. Someone told me you can buy extra large panels in some roofing supply sections, but you will have to check and see for yourself.
Important clarification: I’m encouraging you to remove political signs from public property only. If someone posts a sign in front of their house or business, leave it alone! That is their opportunity to speak their mind and promote their cause. This is a good thing. Leave those signs alone. But if you see a politician who has decided to plant their signs on public land, you should feel free to remove it. Think about it: if a private business can’t advertise on that land for money, a politician can’t advertise on that land for free. It is against the *law. Government officials rarely enforce these laws because they are usually violators themselves, so let’s be helpful citizens and do it for them. If you are hesitant to grab signs from public property, I suggest you bypass your local election authority and call your waste management office, or just ask your garbage man. They will be well-versed in what is acceptable, and what is not.
*I’m referring to a series of US laws. There are some local community exceptions, and I’m sure some other countries do it different, but really, it’s just common sense. Feel free to pipe up if you claim otherwise. I’m all ears.

Y’all know how much I love my bulletin boards. I have this huge one up in my office. Here is how I made it. Whoa there, watch out, it's complicated.
  • Find three corrugated plastic signs of equal size.
  • Adhere wrinkled wrapping paper using a thin layer of white glue or spray adhesive (you’ll never get it 100% smooth so embrace the wrinkles from the get-go!)
  • Use duct tape to bind the three together.
  • Done.

That was easy!

Keep in mind: thumb tacks will be too deep. Insert dressmaker’s pins instead. They are prettier, cheaper, and I find them to be sturdier in the long run.
Question: Anyone know a good source for buying buttons in bulk?

I googled around and found plenty of places that sell by the dozen, but I need somewhere that sells by the pound. Or bushel. Or bucket.

Assorted colors/sizes or plain white would be great. The cheaper the better.

As y'all can see from my little mirror, I love me some buttons. I collect them as I can, but it took ages to save up enough to do this little mirror frame. Now I have my sights on something BIG and need a source for the materials.

I know some seriously resourceful people read this blog so I would welcome any insider tips!

15 February 2011

I was cleaning out some old storage containers last weekend when I found these wooden chairs and boxes that my Uncle Joe made for me many years ago.

Cool Uncle, huh?

They got packed away the last time I moved only to be unearthed now, after years in hiding. It’s funny, I used to look at these as everyday objects but now that they have been away for a while, it’s much easier to appreciate their value. His artwork is all over my house, and even though it's special to me, sometimes it becomes so familiar that I fail to stand back and admire and appreciate it as much as it, and he, deserves, 
Uncle Joe started selling his artwork long before I was born, but despite his success and artistic chops, he has never been pretentious about how we treated or displayed his work. I think he liked the idea of my Barbies sitting down for tea time in these chairs. I think he liked the idea of using his boxes to store my stickers and clip-on earrings. I think he was, and is, uncomfortable with the idea of his work being put on some sort of pedestal, which is funny because he was always the first person to put my own work on a pedestal, crayon doodles and all.

When I turned nine he gave me my first set of oil paints... 
Unrelated Tangent: unless you are exceptionally confident in the child’s artistic abilities and *you* are directly responsible for stain management in the home, NEVER GIVE A NINE-YEAR-OLD OIL PAINTS.

...my Dad eventually had to hide them from me for fear I would paint that cat Cerulean Blue, but not before I finished a simple 8x10” canvas of a street light. It wasn’t much to look at, but as I recall there was an excess of texture, something that makes just about any piece impressive looking to amateur painters. I called it Rapunzel Fire Hair.

Sadly I do not have a photo to share, as Uncle Joe was so impressed with my artistic skill that he wrapped up the canvas in brown paper and sent it to one of his gallery contacts in Santa Fe to see if they would be interested in carrying a “young and upcoming artist.”

Two weeks later a letter arrived at house addressed to me. It was on formal letterhead (a first in my book) and included a check for $25.00 made out in my name (another first). The note indicated that the gallery was not carrying oil paintings that season, however, they wished to keep Rapunzel Fire Hair as an addition to their private collection, and as “down payment on future opportunities together.”

As you can imagine, I was over the moon and envisioned a lengthy career as an oil painter, in Paris of course, wearing blousy white shirts and eating croissants day and night.

Sadly, a few years later, in the middle of an adolescent tantrum, as I threatened to run away to Santa Fe to become a wildly successful painter of street lights, my Dad informed me of the truth: Uncle Joe had put the gallery up to it. He sent a letter to his friend the curator, and $25 check of his own, requesting they send me an encouraging rejection letter and a check for the same amount. Uncle Joe knew that a single letter would encourage me and validate my work for years and years, long after the check was cashed, and even after I found out the truth.

Cool Uncle, huh?

One of my favorite pictures of him, working away at make-shift studio set up in my parent's dining room, surrounded by paint brushes and scrap wood.
Little does he know his butt will be snow soup by Wednesday.
Little Darlin, it's been a long cold lonely winter. 

But today, the sun is shining and the weather forecast indicates blue skies and sunshine the rest of the week.


Here comes the sun...doot in doo doo...

14 February 2011

Love Is a Many Splendored Thing

This morning I went to grab my favorite heart-shaped beads, because, you know, I'm festive like that...but Lola wouldn't give up the loot.

Apparently, Lola is festive too.

After a brief battle, I gave up the war. I let Lola keep the necklaces and she let me keep my fingers.

I'm not that festive.

Happy Valentines Y'all :)

12 February 2011

Talkin' Trash

I first moved to Chicago on a crisp and sunny afternoon in late January. The sky was clean, blue and full of potential.

Excited to be living in a big city for the first time, you can imagine my horror as I exited the taxi cab and was forced to haul my suitcases over a stained, discarded mattress. 

See, in Chicago, folks like to think they “own” parking spots if they dig their car out of the snow. This "ownership" is communicated by blocking the spot with lawn chairs, old tires, saw horses, broken furniture, etc. They call this ritual "dibs."

It’s nuts.

I am fortunate enough to not own/need a car, so I can only sit back and chuckle at this seasonal ritual and the, ahem, *neighborly* behavior it brings out of people, including this letter below, posted on a street sign next to someone who decided to claim dibs on the wrong block.

I have no idea who posted it but it made me laugh so much this morning that I was nearly late for work.

Take comfort folks, Spring is nearly here!

11 February 2011

Hee Haw! 

Happy Friday :)

Anyone remember *this* project? Let me refresh your memory; Michele and I challenged each other to make something with leftover wrapping paper --I made a bowl, she made these amazing charms.  Cool beans, huh?

Well shorty thereafter, Michele challenged Michelle L. to a similar duel, and as Michele’s former opponent, I got to set the rules!  

Big mistake.

Clearly drunk on my new found power, I decided to make it as complicated as possible and challenge these ladies to work outside their comfort zone (no easy task with two such talented artists!)

As Michele so eloquently summarized....

The Challenge Material: Candy Wrappers.
The Rules:
1. Thou Shalt Stash Bust!... You will try not to buy new stuff.
2. Thou Shalt Honour the Niftiness of Yore!... You will draw inspiration from an outside source.
3. Thou Shalt Share Thine Treasure!... You will swap your results
Want to see what they made?
Click here for Michele’s Candy Wrapper Beads
Click here for Michelle’s Photo Garland

Be sure to comment and let them know what you think!
And while you are over at Michele’s, be sure to check the details on MAKE IT GOOD. It’s a new fangled and fabulous thing; a chain of upcycling challenges sweeping across the intertubes! This project is only the first link of many. Check out the details. Get excited people!

PS: I’m hoping to do a series of MAKE IT GOOD challenges over the next few months. If you are interested in doing a challenge with me, and kicking off a whole new chain of your own, send me an email and let me know! I’m on the prowl for worthy opponents :)

09 February 2011

Couple years ago I spent my birthday at The Greenbrier hotel, and Lord, was it glorious. Let me tell you something: if you ever find yourself in the middle of the Smoky Allegheny Mountains with time to kill and money to burn, go to The Greenbreir.

We are talking about sweeping staircases, flowered drapes, checkered floors, stripes and color everywhere. And I loved every floral printed chintz minute of it!

I took a lot away from that trip, in particular, a fondness for green glass. The whole hotel comes in every color of the rainbow, but green glass is a common thread. Suppose Dorthy Draper designed it that way as a play on the name but I appreciate it just for the aesthetics too. Sometimes you just like the look of things and there is nothing wrong with that.

Shortly thereafter I came across this chandelier on clearance at Target –cute, but way too girly for me. A coat of spray paint, three ‘cufflets’ made from bottle flowers, and a dozen emerald crystal drops later, I had my very own Greenbrier chandelier! It's probably a little too low budget and funky to hang anywhere so swanky, but I am awful fond of it :)

08 February 2011

Check out my nifty new brooches! They are nothing but vintage puzzle pieces glued to a couple of dime store pin backs. Awesome much?

This is the perfect piece for anyone wanting to show their Arkansas pride without wearing their Razorback hog hat around the neighborhood.

Not that anything is wrong with Razorback hog hats. I own several myself.


Local Peeps Tangent: Anyone in Chicago looking to acquire some individual state puzzle pieces? I’ll save you the time–go to Foursided Framing in Andersonville. Not only do they carry individual states puzzles pieces (and sooooo much more!), they have a six foot Barbra Streisand print on the wall. SIX FOOT. Clearly, you need to go. And while you’re in the ‘hood, go to Sonya around the corner and get your eyebrows threaded. And yes, threaded is a real word. And yes, it hurts like a mo-fo.

06 February 2011

Valentines featuring hearts made from coffee filter scraps.
The week has come to an end and my living room looks like cupid exploded. There are flower petals in the carpet and gold lace doilies in between the couch cushions. Yesterday I found a tissue paper heart laying on top of the litterbox. See, even Lola is getting in on the Valentine* action.

The blizzard induced confinement spurred a surge of craftiness, as well as a few new internet adventures. Thought I would share a few highlights...

For anyone who isn't in to making their own Valentines, check out the lovely illustrations of Katie Daisy. 

Attention Font Snobs: listen up, Comic Sans has something to say to you.

Delicious homemade ice cream using ONE ingredient and without an ice cream maker. AND it’s healthy? Shazzam!

I think I'm getting a parental inadequacy complex (read: Lola is getting a sweater.)

Speaking of parental inadequacy, one time I met a girl named La-A, pronounced LaDasha (“because the dash don’t quit!”)...and I thought that was ridiculous. Then I read this. Oh. Wow.

*Reminder: It's not too late to sign up for the Valentine Swap.  Send me an email before 5pm Feb 7: emailauntpeaches@gmail.com and include your address!

04 February 2011

OK, this is last minute, and it might be a total flop....but what the heck, you only live once!

See, I love sending handmade valentines. It’s sort of my thing. Some people send holiday cards; I send valentines. Folks appreciate a little something special in their mailbox in February, plus, let’s be honest, there's a lot more time to spend on special touches this time of year than in the hustle of December.

And as much as I love sending them, I love receiving them too. It doesn’t happen a whole lot, but every once in a while someone will paste together some post-its and construction paper and send it my way. Blows my mind. I can’t tell you how good it makes me feel. Over the years, I have built up a small circle of people who exchange valentines with me. None of us are sweethearts, we just like making valentines and appreciate the token of kindness.

So, this year, now that I have a blog, I am widening the circle! I’ll bet there are at least a few people who read this blog who would like to join the club. Are you in?

In a nutshell, this is what I propose:
You send three handmade valentines to total strangers = You will receive three handmade valentines from total strangers.

Sound good? Who wants to join in the fun?  I need at least three people to sign up in order for this to work, but I'm aiming for 30 participants. You in? Send me an email with your address: emailauntpeaches@gmail.com subject "valentine swap"...it's easy!

Knitty Gritty
Here is what you should expect:
  • You make three handmade* valentines.
  • You send me an email with your address before 5pm CST on Monday Feb 7.
  • You receive an email from me on Tuesday Feb 8 with the addresses of three total strangers.
  • You send one valentine to each address you receive, no later than Feb 10.
  • You receive three valentines sometime around Valentines Day. 
*Handmade is an open term. No one is expected to produce a masterpiece. If you are saying "But I can't make anything nice!" then you are *exactly* the sort of person who should participate. I want hear from YOU! Construction paper, paint, paste, macaroni, crayons, collage, glitter, pipe cleaners....sky is the limit. Only requirement is that it fit in a standard envelope.

Please Keep in Mind...
  • This exchange is open to anyone, anywhere, any skill level. No one is expected to buy anything except stamps (heads up: people who read this blog are scattered around the world, so we all might need to double up on stamps!)
  • You are welcome to include a note inside your valentines with information about yourself, your blog/website/etsy business etc...but it is not required or expected.
  • This is not an advertising opportunity. This is just a simple way to exchange random acts of kindness and send some love out into the world. No Debbie Downers, please :)
  • If you feel weird disclosing your name and address, I assure you I will not compile and use this information for any other purpose besides sending you valentines! If you are concerned, feel free to use just your first name, or an alias. Sometimes I like to use my bellydancer name (shampoo name + the color of your toothbrush). If anyone gets a valentine from someone named Pantene Aqua Sparkle, well, you'll know it was from me :)
So, who's in?
Send me an email before 5pm Feb 7: emailauntpeaches@gmail.com and include your address!

***Update: Y'ALL ARE AWESOME! This post has only been up a few hours and I have gotten more than 30 responses. Keep them coming! New goal is to have valentine representation from every major continent. I'm talking about YOU, Australia!

03 February 2011

I heart snow days. Literally.

Tuesday's blizzard meant spending Wednesday indoors having fun with Bird, eating frozen pizza and making all kinds of valentine fun, including these wonderfully dainty wax doilies. They are so delicate and elegant! Smell nice too. Most things come out of my craft studio covered in glue blobs and smelling like burning hair...these valentines must be Bird's influence.

Hearts made from melted crayons have been popular for a few years now, thanks to Martha's tutorial. But as much as  I love Maratha's hearts, I'm too much of a klutz to follow the steps without breaking the end result. I decided it would be easier if there was softer wax and a sturdier base;  enter paper doilies and scented candles.

  • Heart shaped paper doilies, any size or color. My dollar store happened to carry pink, but white doilies will show off the wax the best.
  • Wax shavings from scented candle stubs. Note: any old candle will work, but Ikea candles are dirt cheap and shred like butter--LOVE working with them. I also like to sprinkle in some contrasting crayon wax too. Plain white bar soap also worked, leaving opaque, snow like flecks. Experiment!
  • Old cheese grater (makes wax shaving easy-peasy --just grab one from the back of your junk drawer or the thrift store or the dollar store)
  • Wax Paper
  • Iron
  • Needle and Thread

Scatter wax shavings over your paper doily. The more wax, the thicker the end result. I like to use at least two colors (orange and pink are personal favorites!)

Sandwich your doily and wax shavings between two pieces of wax paper. Use a warm iron (delicate/low temp setting) to sweep across the surface. The longer you iron, the more the colors will blend.

Before the crayon/candle wax has a chance to dry 100%, peel the paper doily away from the wax paper. Now, just look at that! Aint she a beauty?
Repeat through your stack of doilies, then fold and cut out a heart in the center. 

Place two doilies together, then whip stitch up the middle. I used gray thread because I'm too lazy to dig through my sewing kit to find red thread for demonstration purposes. You go ahead and choose whatever color you like. If munchkins are involved, vertical staples will also get the job done.

The end result is so sweet and dainty, but the wax makes them surprisingly durable too. Love it! Make a batch of them and slip them into those translucent vellum envelopes and send far and wide. These will really make someone's day :)

Or, keep them all for yourself. Like me! 

My plan is to hang these on a fallen tree branch, similar to an egg tree. Only problem is that all the fallen branches are currently submerged in four feet of post-blizzard snow drifts...so, it could be a while. Luckily I have many more snow day valentines adventures to make and share in the days ahead while I wait for a branch. Stay tuned!

02 February 2011

Lake Shore Drive is one of the busiest urban highways in the country. Today it looked like a parking lot, as nearly 1,000 people had to abandon their cars and walk home in the middle of the night.
Punxsutawney Phil, America's favorite groundhog, predicted there will be an early spring today, when he failed to see his shadow at Gobbler's Knob, in Punxsutawney, Pa.

The snow drift ran up to my windows. I couldn't even open the front door!
Early spring, huh?

Seriously, Phil.

Could have fooled me.

You know, Gobblers Knob is looking pretty good right now.

01 February 2011

There are 66 birds in this photo. And this isn't even the whole tree!
Last Sunday I awoke to the sound of birds. Hundreds of them, if not thousands, each of them chirping and pooping away while clustered in the trees running up and down my block. It was like a scene out of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. For real.

Lola was pacing the length of the front windowsill, stalking her prey, only occasionally stopping to swipe behind her ears.

Now, if I were a smarty pants, I would have stopped and posted something on facebook about “My trees are flooded with birds and Lola is cleaning behind her ears: a giant storm is coming!”...and then 48 hours later, (today) when a blizzard is about to hit, everyone would look at me like some psychic meteorologist.

However, I am not a smarty pants, nor a meteorologist, or a psychic...but I do just know a thing or two about patterns. Call them farmer folklore, or old wive's tales, but they are real. Real reliable, too.

It’s not rocket science either (seriously, I can't even handle long division). It’s just a matter of observation. Plants and animals are far more likely to react to changes in air pressure than we are, so if you look for patterns, they will tell you the forecast.

Look at birds. Expect fair weather if birds are flying high in the sky, but large numbers of birds in trees or sitting on power lines indicate a storm is imminent (low air pressure hurts the bird’s ears so they seek lower ground and keep flying to a minimum). Some small flocks of birds will temporarily mesh together, instinctively seeking safety in numbers.

Look at cats and dogs. Like birds, they are sensitive to air pressure changes and will rub/clean/lick behind their ears and neck more than usual. My dad used to feel the back of our dog’s ears looking for hot spots as a mode of weather prediction. Then again, this is also the man who regularly bet on horses because their name correlated to the cast list of Columbo, so really, don’t invest too much in that method.

Look at livestock. Cattle herds will cling together in the hours ahead, only to sit down just before the storm starts. I didn’t believe this one until one time we drove through Wyoming in August and all of the sudden every cow in the state took its signal and sat down. Five minutes later the sky opened up and we had to pull over to the side of the highway until the clouds cleared enough for the windshield wipers could keep up. I’ll tell you something, those Wyoming cows know what they are doing! Similarly, hogs are not as smart as Wyoming cows, but they squeal louder and scurry to build up their nests when storms are on the horizon. I have also heard that roosters will start crowing later in the day. Then again, every rooster I ever met crows ALL DAY everyday. I don’t know what cereal manufacturer propagated this myth that roosters only crow to wake up their farmer at the crack of dawn, but that’s just crap. Wow, do I know how to get off track.....

Look for smells. If you ever heard someone say “it smells like rain is coming” and thought they were silly, well, you were wrong. Plants release waste in a low pressure atmosphere. Flowers smell sweeter, swamps smell nastier, and general field plants will carry the smell of compost. Learn to recognize the smell in your area and you will never be caught without an umbrella.

Look at your hair. My friend Lara, who has wonderfully curly hair, claims she can predict excessive humidity by an increase of frizz in her hair. I can’t attest to this one myself, but it sure seems to make sense!

Look at the moon. Do you see a halo or ring of light around it? This is from light shining through cirrostratus clouds and a warm front is likely. Remember, "circle around the moon, rain or snow soon."

Look at the grass at sunrise. If there is dew, rain is unlikely that day, but if it is dry, then there are clouds/wind and an increased chance of rain (obviously this method doesn’t work if it rained at night).

Look at the eastern sky in the morning. If you see any amount of reddish hue, this indicates a low pressure system coming from the west (ie: storm is likely). Hence the expression “Red sky at night, sailor's delight; Red sky at morning, sailors take warning." ....this also works the same for “Rainbow in the morning, need to take warning.”

Look at the clouds. Clouds tell all kinds of stories. Rapid moving clouds usually indicate rain. This is very rare, but if you ever see clouds moving in two different directions (one layer going left, another layer going right), take cover. This indicates bad weather, including hail. If you see clouds on a winter night, expect warmer weather tomorrow.

These patterns have been passed down through the ages. There are many more, I'm just scribbling down what I recall at the moment. If you know of any good ones, please chip in the comments section!

Anyone interested in learning more about this stuff, the ultimate resource is always The Old Farmer's Almanac. You can find the 2011 copy in the magazine rack at most US grocery stores. Check it out sometime --all kinds of nifty stuff!

...and to everyone who will be hunkered down indoors the next 24 hours: Sit tight and stay safe!

Hot and Glittered

Just when I thought she couldn’t get any cuter, Lola went and stuck her head out the tippee.

And there goes my day.

The tippee was a Christmas present, and although she immediately loved rubbing on the cardboard, she never spent much time inside until last weekend when I sparkled up the cardboard skull and made a heated rice bag pillow for the floor.

Evidently, Lola takes after me—she likes things hot and glittered.
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