Sunday, April 24, 2016

What Little Kids Do

When you ask A-train why he does something, he'll often respond with "That's what little kids do." For example: "Why are your shoes on the wrong feet? Why did you wipe ice cream all over your shirt? How did you get mud in your hair?" Because that's what little kids do. Obviously. I love spending time with him at this age (almost four) because he's curious, and interested in everything. I like following him around outside, and just having a slow sort of time as he points out things he sees at his little eye level. 

"Aunt Bee, oh my goodness, take a picture of this little rock that was buried! I'll point at it so you can see it."

You know those teeeeeeny little red bugs? That's what he's examining here. 

"Do you want to watch me drive my cars? It's fun!" Sure, bud. I'll sit here and watch you play.

See the guy across the street? These two are barking at him.

Normally Charlie wants less than nothing to do with Aiden. Unless he has snacks.

This tree is a dwarf Japanese maple. It has the perfect crook for sitting in, but only if you're wee. When I was younger I wished so hard that we could have trees with good sitting-and-reading branches, but ours were always too high and not strong enough yet (my grandpa planted them when I was a kid).

This one cracks me up because it's like Charlie is sitting there keeping his eye on the snacks and toys. I think I took this when A-train was looking at a bug, and Charlie was watching him.

Do you ever spend that kind of time with a kid, where you just toddle along with them, and don't think about the usual things, or look at your phone every few minutes, or any of that nonsense? It's actually very soothing to take a step back and be a part of their little world. It's what grown-ups never do.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Disappearing Nine Patch a la Baby

I don't want to alarm anyone, but I sewed something. It's that secret thing I couldn't show you because I think the person I made it for reads my blog (but I'm not really sure) and of course I couldn't give away the surprise before the baby shower. But that's over, and now I can. So I shall.


The light colors made this really difficult to photograph, but it's so soft and pretty looking. A disappearing nine-patch quilt has to be the second easiest quilt you can make (the easiest being simply sewing a bunch of squares together).


The only difficult part of this was choosing fabrics. My cousin and his wife don't want to know the gender of their boo, but did talk about their plans for the nursery. I did want to do something a little bit different, maybe a little bit brighter with a touch of a vintage look to it. But I could just not find the fabrics that seemed right for this. And I feel like a lot of kids' fabrics are decidedly gender-specific. I found a gazillion and seven fabric combos that were totes adorbs, but were absolutely boy or girl.


I've noticed that if I go for a marathon sewing session I end up with a wicked headache as my posture goes awry and I don't notice until I'm on the fast track to Exedrinville. So I broke this down into steps. One night I cut the fabrics, another I sewed the block rows together, then the blocks, and so on. It felt like it took forever to make, but at the same time like it was more efficient.


My seams all matched up just right (for the most part), and I didn't face any issues with the quilting. I was originally going to sew just outside of the main seam lines both horizontally and vertically. But I like tighter quilting, so I threw in some diagonals as well. I could have kept going, but I didn't want to overdo it and end up with a stiff baby quilt.


Isn't the backing fabric so cute? I tried to make the front more in keeping with this, but it wasn't going to happen. I don't think I've ever done such a perfect job of quilting--no puckers, no dragging, no intentional sewing of other parts to the back. Just nice and easy. My machine didn't even give me any sass.


I don't do the best job at straight-stitching on a binding, and I didn't think I had enough time to hand-stitch it, so I went with my favorite method of using one of those rarely used fancy stitches for the binding. I washed it and line-dried it and packaged it up.


I was so happy that she loved it. I couldn't decide if I wanted to crochet a blanket or make a quilt, but I'm glad I went this route as someone else made a blankie and a little layette set.

I'd forgotten how much I enjoy making small quilted things. Bed quilts make me curse and question my sanity, but baby quilts are fun. Several years ago my sister gave me a pastel colored jelly roll that I haven't used yet. But I came across a few free patterns where I can make two quilts out of one jelly roll. Sounds nice and doable. So I'll probably have that finished and ready to share sometime in the next five or so years.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Flora, Fauna, Chicken

Just out of curiosity...how's your weather been? Normally I am lamenting that it got too warm too fast. But this past Saturday there was snow in the forecast. Some big, wet flakes did fall, and the day was cold and miserable. Then on Sunday, it was beautiful. I mean...perfectly beautiful, couldn't ask for a much nicer day. Just look.


The leaves actually looked really lime green, but I still struggle with this camera, even though I've had it for a while now. That sky, though...


I do so love a good dandelion. This one is looking a little clipped, but I'm pretending that a random squirrel already made some wishes on it (I know, how juvenile--but I'm rebelling against the annual aging benchmark that is my birthday (in a few weeks) by embracing my inner child (her name is Rosie, btw).


This squirrel (I think it's Elmer--again, I'll pretend it is) froze just like this for about a minute. I love the little look on his face. Sometimes I look like that when I'm caught eating something not on my diet, hahaha. Then he ran away.


And froze in the tree.

Lest you think I wandered aimlessly all weekend, I did accomplish a few things. I finished up a project I can show you in a few days, and I spent Sunday cooking dinner (I made grilled caprese chicken and penne a la vodka...without the vodka). At the supermarket these red berries and teeny spray roses caught my eye:


They didn't last terribly long, but my dinner came out well. I used this recipe for the chicken, and my mother's recipe for the pasta sauce. Well, hers isn't technically a recipe. It's that way of cooking moms have where they just add things until it tastes how they want. It's right up there with that skill of selecting the perfect sized container for the leftovers.

Big time stuff, I know.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Not Much

While it looks like nothing has been going on here in my hive, I assure you I've been busy. Work has been busy, I've been getting in more exercise, I've got a shawl on the sticks, and I've got a sewing project I can share in the near future. I just haven't really finished anything yet, and not too much that's exciting has been going on to share. So here's a ho-hum sort of post just to say hello, how are you?


I posted this on Instagram Easter weekend (follow button in the sidebar). It's much bigger now, and is going to be delightful, but it does have that spaghetti effect--the more you knit, the more it seems you have left to knit. I can't wait to show you the yarn in the proper lighting so you can see how it's kind of shimmery and light and airy.


The company I work for makes product packaging (beverage, food, and aerosol cans, as well as closures (like bottle caps and metal lids). One of our facilities even makes fancy tins. On one of his recent journeys my co-worker sent me a picture of this and told me the plant had given him one, and he thought I'd like it--did I want it? Don't have to ask twice! It was filled with chocolate coins, which A and Z have been enjoying. Isn't that pretty? I wish more things came in pretty tins.

And here is my last doodley bit from my sketchbook.


I simply drew a bunch of different triangles, and then filled them all in with different designs. It's quite tiring trying to think of different thing to doodle in a tiny space, so there are quite a few repeats, but I tried to space them out. One thing I wish I had done differently--you see the solid black triangles? I wish I had left them white, and filled in the spaces between the triangles, like the grout in a tile. I think it would have popped a lot more, but if I do it now those sections will just look like black voids. Otherwise, I really like how this turned out--it's just so graphic looking.


When I look at this I think of A-train. When you're talking shapes with him, he says things in the cutest way (that way where you don't want to correct it because it's so cute and he'll grow up soon enough anyway?). Instead of saying 'triangle' or 'rectangle' he says 'triangle-y' or 'rectangle-y.' It's adorable. He also says 'regular' as 'reguley.' I don't know where he gets it from, as this kid's vocabulary is insanely large, and his pronunciation has always been crazy precise. But I hope it sticks around a little longer. One of my big regrets is teaching Z-man to pronounce his 'Ls' properly. One quick lesson and it stuck, and I never got to hear 'yiddle' or 'yuv' again. Boo.

Sincerely, that's all I've got. I'll try to come up with something more interesting in the future. Swearsies.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Flowery Bits

Hello, and happy Easter! It has been one busy, but super fun, long weekend. There's been egg dying, shopping, a birthday celebration, Easter mass, Easter brunch, and Easter dinner is on the horizon. The food is cooking, I feel like I got some things accomplished on this long weekend, and as soon as I click 'publish' I'm making tea and doing some knitting until company arrives. I have some sewing I could be working on, but while I feel like making a mess I don't feel like cleaning it up right now, so I'll work on that during the week (I wish I could show you what I'm working on right now but I can't).

Anyway, this has been a flowery sort of week, as one would expect from Easter, I suppose. I'm starting off with a few doodles from my drawing book, just so there's proof that I still make things in some fashion.


This is a simple, repetitive design made with a hot pink Papermate Flair pen. The first few rounds are a bit haphazard, but the petals look a little more uniform towards the outer bits. I eyeballed where to draw the center circle, which is why it's not in the center, bwahaha. This was actually relaxing to make, even though it's a bit manic and dizzying to look at directly.


This one came about because I wanted to try and draw dandelions, and I've always loved this quote. I find the seed-to-flower transition of dandelions quite interesting. Lawn mowing folks hate the former, but mom's everywhere love the latter (according to my mother, they're the first flowers your children give you and can go nowhere but a juice glass on the windowsill, in full and plain site).

But now for some real ones. One week ago, this was the hydrangea bush out front:


And now look at all the green things growing!


Last week we had a birthday party for my mom. She was *29* years old. Again. We decorated with lots of yellow and white, her favorite color combination. The flowers are still going quite strong:


Every year around this time my neighbor's white pear tree starts to bloom, and every year I take pictures of it. I'm always afraid they're going to come out and ask why I take pictures of their house at various times of the year, and I'll have to tell them it's because they have a flowering tree and I don't, and they have a holly tree, and ours isn't grand enough for photos yet. I don't know how that would go over since they're not the kind of neighbors that are friendly--they're not rude or nasty, they're just ambivalent. They don't seem like the type of people who would understand taking pictures of a flower for the sake of it. But look at this--how can I not?


And on Friday, someone gave me an Eastery present that they thought was so me there was no hesitation in deciding that I must have it. I really couldn't argue. It couldn't be more me unless that flower had polka dots (but it has a little glitter sprinkled on it so that's like the same thing).


It's an Easter mum (which I didn't know was a thing). The little bunny ears are pipe cleaners on a green floral stick. And the face is googly eyes, pipe cleaners, and pom-poms glued to a green floral stick. How cute is that for a little craft project??? Upon giving it to me, and watching me twist and turn and pull at it, he said "Are you mad you didn't think of it?" And I told him "No, I'm just figuring out how I'm making these in the future."

Well, chickens, the tea kettle is whistling and I've got a scone with my name on it to go with it (or half of it, anyway), so I hope you have a lovely day and a lovely week to go with it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Review: Your Sharpie Style

Recently I was sent a copy of a new book to review for you lovely folks.


Your Sharpie Style by Deborah Green popped through the mail slot in a timely fashion--as you know I've been dabbling with doodling lately and this book is chock-full of ideas and inspiration. There is a wide variety of projects, from bowls and glasses to boxes and gift tags, and lots more.


Now you would think I would know of the huge variety of Sharpie markers available as I'm in charge of ordering stationery at work, but you would be wrong. I thought there were a lot of colors and tip shapes, but there are also fabric and oil-based markers for drawing on a variety of surfaces.

I didn't do any of the projects in the book (yet) as I've been quite busy lately, but I do have a few favorites. I did read through the directions, though, and they are clear and simple to follow, with little tips and hints scattered here and there for ways to customize your project or finish it off just right.


I don't know what it is about this, but I think it's super adorable. I think it's because it reminds me of this Korean girl I knew in seventh grade who used to have the cutest stationery doo-dads, things you just couldn't find anywhere. When you asked where she'd got it, she'd always say "Korea," like one might say "Target." I do love a cute little zippie case (you could actually make something similar by following this tutorial), but I love this quick and easy way to personalize one.


Do you remember those plain white sneakers they used to sell for a couple dollars back in the day (we used to call them bobos)? My mother was loathe to let me wear them as they were just not good for your feet, but when you're in middle school and everyone is wearing them with their scrunched socks and pegged pants you begged until she caved. We even used to sing this silly song about them (to the tune of Bridge Over the River Kwai): "Bobos, they make your feet feel fine. Bobos, they cost a dollar and a dime." But aren't these so much cuter?

But this one here might be my absolute favorite--decorated sunglasses and a matching case (I will always be twelve years old on the inside).


This is just a teeny sample--there are projects for paper, wood, plastic, fabric, and glass (scroll up to the photo of the cover for a teeny sampling). The directions tell you which type of marker to use for best results, and how to set the ink if necessary (sometimes heat sealing it in the oven, sometimes applying a sealant). And there are cute little doodle break-downs to show you how to create the figures used in the samples:


Sharpies are widely available in stores and online, and have a crazy amount of colors available. The one thing with Sharpies, though, is that they're not exactly odor-free, so if this is something you're interested in make sure to do this outside or in a well-ventilated area.

You can find Your Sharpie Style here.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Do and Redo

I had told you folks before about how much I'm enjoying the Creative Bug website. For a low monthly fee you can access ALL of their classes, instead of buying each one individually. I have yet to find time to do the beginner watercolor class, but it's on my list. Mostly, so far I've been doing the 31-day drawing challenges, and Lisa Congdon's sketchbook and line drawing classes.

In one of the sketchbook exploration classes, you create a marker background and then draw over it. The package of brush markers I bought is the smaller one, though I wish I had splurged on the larger set (or had the patience to wait until my birthday) so I could have more pastel options. As such, my first background came out a little bit darker than I would have liked to make the drawing stand out, but I still like it:


The pink bits on the black flowers are done with a neon gel pen that lays on the ink instead of soaking into it. The ink is a bit creamier than the standard gel pen, and lays really well on black paper and dark ink. I wanted to try this again with a lighter background, so I went with three colors, and made a patchworky looking pattern.


Things do stand out much more with this one. But you want to know the one thing I don't like? I didn't mean to use the green gel pen. I meant to use an awesome neon orangey-red color, had a brain lapse, and didn't realize until too late. However, I do like the background much more. It looks kind of watercolory.

Then I decided to try a similar layout but with a white background, and one color of ink.


This one was done with a regular gel pen, a brush tip marker, and a green souffle pen. The greens don't really match up, and I made a placement error on the one leaf on the flower on the left, but otherwise this was kind of fun.

I'm not very good, but I am enjoying the process. I like the experimentation and seeing how different markers and pens react together, and how they behave on different kinds of paper. My eye is getting a little better at seeing how to balance things, and my hand feels more confident and steady. But even if they weren't, for a few dollars worth of paper and pens I'm finding something I can enjoy doing a few minutes out of the day when I don't feel like knitting, or making a big mess to sew something.

In case anyone is interested, here are the links to the things I'm using in my drawing misadventures. I'm giving Amazon links, but many things can be bought at your local craft store (with the benefit of coupons).

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