Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Mid-Day Doodle

I drew this cropped wreath this morning whilst on the phone with Aunt Jan. I just thought I'd put it on the blog with a Happy Wednesday note. This week has not been particularly forthcoming with regard to my crafts. Tomorrow Dj Jazzy arrives and we have a weekend of creative living to document and present (much to our own amusement, I'm sure).

Happy Wednesday.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Adventures in Gardening, One

The view from my bedroom is really sad.

Scratch that--WAS really sad. I decided I couldn't stand to look at the concrete and barren wall any longer. So, four trips to the hardware store (Ok, three different hardware stores, one got a double visit!) and a stop at Jackson's Pottery later, I've got a little garden. Well, the start of a garden anyway. Texas is still on frost watch for three more weeks, so when that passes, I'll be adding more flowers. I have some patio furniture to add, too, but I've yet to get that ready for its blog debut!

My potted plant collection is all planted! I can't get rid of the concrete, but I covered it with a nice, plush astroturf (From Lowes, $35). I bought plants that are supposed to be all but bad-owner proof. I've had a weak track record thus far in keeping greenery alive, but I'm really going to try to get to know these little plants and keep them happy.
My shiny new watering can has me motivated to keep the plants happy and their roots nice and wet!

The picture from the top of this post, as well as the one directly above this line-o-text were taken this morning. The sun was setting on my garden last night; I didn't get to take any "after" pictures then. But I took a few shots this morning, to give you an idea of how it looks in the light of day. These are my little green plants! A type of ivy, a fancy crawling bushy plant and two varieties of grass. Well, it's better than just plain dirt!

Ocean view, Framed

I bought a trio of Maine prints in Boothbay Harbor, Maine a few summers ago, back when I used to live in Maine. I call them prints, but they were sold as postcards on high quality paper. I love the colors and the simplicity of the drawings. And the ideal Maine views are so wonderfully realistic. The colors recall a great gift Maine offers to the rest of the world, Maine Cottage. The super simple, elegant furniture is given a distinctly optimistic twist when painted in bright, bold hues. When I found these prints in a drawer, I remembered that I put them in the drawer long ago with the intention of framing them one day. And that day has now come!

Many of you know that I had a fairly ridiculous accident a few years ago. The timeframe of the accident coincided with the opening of an Ikea in Dallas (ok, halfway to Oklahoma in Frisco). My mother, long-suffering wheelchair pusher that she was for me, took me to Ikea, where we promptly discovered that maneuvering the entire place in a wheelchair was disastrous! Therefore, we left shortly after we arrived with nary a Swedish-designed bargain. Well, a few weeks ago, my mother and I travelled up the Tollway to that Ikea, for a triumphant return. This time, both of us sauntered through the store with great ease. And I bought generic frames for my Maine prints.

And adopting Maine Cottage style colors, I painted them up and mounted the postcards. And well, project complete. A few details: The Ikea frames are particularly suited for painting, having no wood treatment at all. This means that the first layer of paint will be sucked right into the wood, drying in just a few minutes. A second coat is a must! I actually gave my frames three coats, just to make sure the color was particularly vivid. I used a generic craft sealant with high gloss to give the frames a good shine. Other than that, the project is pretty self explanatory. I love the coastal views, even if the coast in question is thousands of miles away.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Yikes! I need to get busy!

Ok loyal readers.

Goodness gracious! Earlier this week, my office internet barred all kinds of Web sites, including Blogger!
So I haven't posted anything this week thus far... But don't worry! I have things to post about and I will certainly be updating the old blog tomorrow with a great weekend project I did thanks to Ikea, some old prints and my paint box!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Pink, Red, Ribbon, Chocolate!

Happy Valentines Day. Yeah, it's a fairly bogus holiday, but any excuse to make crafts for others is good enough for me. I thought I'd post some additional pictures of these little paper bowls with chocolate and ribbon I made for four special ladies at my office. In th e bottom picture, you can see that I incorporated my newly acquired calligraphy skills to write my Valentines. So fun! And I have so much liquid starch left over from this paper mache experience, I'm sure to be showing off more paper mache projects in the future. So, uh, get ready readers!
And now, as pitchers & catchers report to Spring Training today, my thoughts turn to baseball... At long last, winter is over and the best season is here... So look forward to some baseball crafts coming soon! (I've got my tribute to Big Papi all planned out already. Too bad I'm the only person in Dallas who will appreciate it...)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Hoot! Hoot! Owl Purse Takes Flight

Behold the owl purse! I bought this thing at Wal-Mart because I saw the autumnal colors and the retro-looking owls and knew Katie (from Subtropical Paradise) would dig it. Problem -- like many a cheap Wal-Mart item, the cheapness showed in the hardware. The handles were a bad, bad fake leather (wine/maroon colored at that) and they had way too much of the fake leather showing on the bag. So I bought it an updated it and I think it looks a lot better! Sewing handles onto a canvas purse takes a really serious needle, some thick thread and a couple of thimbles that you don't mind using with vigor. I added some Tiger's Eye stones on one side for accent. Above, the finished project is pictured among Katie's prized rock collection, why you might ask? Because it rocks! (I know, I'm lame) And below, happy Katie models her new owl bag. Hoot! Hoot!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Scripting Class

Disclaimer: The top writing of my name was done by my teacher. The second one is my version, so no need to compliment my teacher's perfect rendition. She's so amazing!

I'm a little obsessed with calligraphy right now. Perhaps it's because I'm taking all these classes or because my mother keeps complimenting my work, but I'm pretty sure I dig this fancy printing business. As the disclaimer says, the top version is my teacher's and the bottom is my attempt at "scripting" my name as it were. And I've only had one class!

Every once in a while, some person in my family will go up to the farmhouse and unearth a box of really old letters mailed to my relatives more than a century ago. I recall one such letter that was found last fall sent by a long-lost lady in my family to her brother, my great, great grandfather. The writer was in college for her first semester and was quite homesick for her brother and the rest of the family. This was the 1880s and she lived in Mississippi, where this branch of the family had lived and thrived before the War between the States, as they certainly would have called it. And my great, great grandfather had already departed for Texas to find his fortune where there was fortune to be found (the Reconstruction Era wasn't kind to the Magnolia State). Anyhow, I mention this letter because her handwriting was similar to the type of handwriting I am now learning. And back then, that was commonplace! Today people pay money to folks who can use a quill with flair.

I got a bit silly with my writing there in the last one. I was trying to show off my skills... And you can definitely ask, What skills? It's pretty rough for now. But *I'm hoping* practice makes perfect!

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Bowls of Valentines Day

Allow me to introduce you to my Valentine's Day project. I tested it on Katie when I went to Mardi Gras last weekend, and she gave it a thumbs up, so... I'm moving forward and making a billion of these for my coworkers on Valentine's Day. And these are super-crafty, too. So they really belong on my blog (unlike a few of my recent posts, which reminds me, I'm thinking of doing something sort-of like DesignSponge does, 'Things I Love,' as a sort of way of showcasing stuff that's not really crafty but is still fun).
So this is a paper mache bowl, filled with chocolates from World Market (think Belgian and German, yum!), and tied together with a red ribbon. Thankfully, my workplace BFF Stepheny taught me some tricks for paper mache (homegirl makes a mean piñata!) so I'll pass those along with the instructions.
To make the bowls extra fine to the touch, I used tissue paper instead of real paper as my base ingredient. Actually, as you can perhaps tell, the tissue paper is from Anthropologie! I bought a set of glass bowls and some drawer pulls and came home with tons and tons of their red-dot tissue paper and decided I just had to do something crafty with it--thus, my inspiration for these little candy-holding cups! I mixed in some red and pink tissue paper I had in my craft cache to provide some interest and to break up the monotony of the red-dots-on-white tissue paper. I ripped up the red and pink paper, but cut up the Anthropology paper. Ripping paper makes for better shapes, but cutting saves time. So, if you are going to do this project, rip up your accent papers but cut the basic one, because you'll save so much time that way. Next, wrap bowls, cups, jars, anything you want in wax paper. And this tip is a bit complicated, so I'll try to use an example: If you want the cup to be about 3 inches tall, wrap the wax paper at least 4 inches tall, because you'll have to cut away the top part of the project as it's not possible for it to come out even all around the cup. Secure the wax paper with manilla tape (you know, craft tape) and buy some liquid starch. I always thought you do paper mache with water and flour, but Piñata Queen Stepheny told me that flour and water will mildew or mold in humid climates after about a week, two at tops. And since the above bowl was bound for Toxic-Gumbo land (New Orleans), I knew I better follow Stepheny's advice and use liquid starch to hold the project together. It's cheap and available in the laundry detergent section of Wal-Mart.
I did my bowls in three rounds, about six layers of tissue per round. You'll need a full day between each round, so this is not a last minute project. And that's why I'm posting this Valentine's Day idea now, before you hit crunch time. I'll post more pictures of my bowls as they become available. I waited for Katie to like this one before proceeding forward and making plenty more. To be honest, these are really easy and pretty cute, if I may say so myself!

Jaunt into Postcard Collecting

I don't really know why I decided I wanted to start collecting postcards--people who know me know I'll go to some pretty extreme lengths to nab a free postcard if I think it is visually appealing. (Katie from Subtropical Paradise had to pull her car over during Mardi Gras traffic in the Garden District so I could steal one with a picture of a superhero called NolaMan? Is that right, Katie? Whatever it is, it was a lot of trouble to grab a little piece of paper!) So, I guess it's not surprising that I decided to expand into actually collectable postcards. I am leaning toward covering a wall in postcards. I've got the wall picked out and, well, I have enough postcards to cover at least three feet squared, but clearly I've got to collect a lot more before I can finish this project. That's why I'm hitting up a flea market tomorrow with my mom. The above postcard is so beautiful. I am not sure of its era, but I can tell you, it's definitely a farm from my part of Maine. And by my part of Maine, I mean the non-coastal region. It reminds me of Maple Syrup Sunday, when maple syrup farmers open their sugar shacks to the public and serve fresh, hot maple syrup on top of vanilla ice cream! Yum!

This card is the oldest in my nascent collection. You can't tell from the scanned image above, but this postcard is embossed with a fine filigree, meaning it is pleasing to the touch and the eyes. I couldn't resist this turkey, especially since my family is so into Thanksgiving. And if Thanksgiving is not "Our National Holy Day," it certainly is "Our Family's Holy Day." I don't need to recap the entire 1848 covered wagon, happy family circle, persimmon trees walk bit here, but I will say, I love Thanksgiving and I'm awfully glad to own this little piece of history. The turkey wearing a hat also recalls all those crazy pictures of politicians (say presidents, governors, etc.) pardoning a turkey in publicity stunts pre-holiday. Those pictures always involve turkeys in patriotic hats.

Yeah, so, what's the draw for this one? I will grant you that this is less interesting visually than the rest of my postcard collection, but I bought this postcard because it shows baby Dallas, back in the day. The back tells you quite an interesting collection of facts about Dallas: "Dallas is the Nation's largest inland cotton market -- practically one-half of the cotton crop of the Nation is produced within twelve hours ride. Dallas leads the world as an oil center -- more than 65 % of the oil of the United States is produced within easy overnight travel by rail." Well, none of that stuff is true anymore. But, hey, if it hadn't been true at the time this postcard was written, Dallas would never be the city it is today. I love this bridge. I *think* I have driven over this bridge a few times myself. The street lamps look familiar. Of course, I could be wrong. I'll have to ask my dad about this stuff... He always knows (even though he's not a Dallas native).

Above is another great Maine postcard, and below is a great Dallas postcard. Do you sense a theme? I decided I'd only buy postcards that have an emotional appeal for me personally. Of course, this goes against the advice of postcard collecting books (I read an article from one online, I'm not that into it), but that's the point to me. To collect things that make me happy, things that I can look at and have memories of. Thus, Dallas and Maine are two sources of memories. I never saw that Maine signpost, but I've been to a lot of those towns and worked with people from a few of them. And John Nealy Bryant's cabin is--aside from the JFK drive--the historical spot in downtown Dallas. So I wanted a postcard of that, too.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Nothing new.

The camera cord is still missing. Sorry folks, that means no new posts. It's a bummer for both you and me because I have a lot of things I want to post pictures of. Can anyone think of where it might be?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Week Two Calligraphy

So, here I am again. Posting pictures of what can only be described as idealized first grade handwriting. I mean, really, this stuff doesn't look too advanced. You might be surprised though at how hard it can be to use an ink quill and make these letters! Above is the "gothic" lowercase letters, a through k. On the last line I determined I had the skills to write one of my favorite names, that of my cat, dear "jack" McCoy. To be honest, I was pretty surprised at how difficult an "h" is for me, since it's my letter. "e" and "f" are cool though. I guess I can tell someone to "eff" off with beautiful, simple handwriting. And, naturally that's why I took the course in the first place.

Here's a much more crowded page of scripting. And the crowded figures make it look more interesting, but they don't help me determine my skill level at the letters. The (page designer's term here) white space of the top image allows me to more quickly determine my skill level than this more crowded page above, but I still thought my blog's most frequent reader would want to know that as soon as I could, I wrote "dj jazzy" and I think it looks pretty good.

And the capital letters. For the first time in my class, I was so annoyed by one of the letters that I actually crossed it out! I found the capital "P" to be so difficult I couldn't stop myself from just striking through one of my flops. I hit a stride there in the center with letters like "I, K, L" so I guess I can now write "ILL" and "KILL" beautifully. So my range is growing, eh? eh?

And on another note, I have lost the cord that connects my camera to my computer. Thus, no new pictures. Everything I've got has to come from my office's scanner. Sorry that this leaves you poor readers with nothing new to peruse. I am searching all over for the cord. And then you will really be in for some treats!!