Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Seek and Find

I've been seeking some sunshine but I haven't found it yet! I do, however, love the swirls and contrast between the dark and light clouds of these stormy days.

Plus it usually clears up towards evening and gives me a pretty sunset to watch.

Last year a Killdeer (a bird) nested in the driveway near the neighbor's house. Can you spot the nest?
They are quite cleverly disguised but we can usually tell where one is before we come too near to stepping on it because the mother will put on her brave "broken wing" act to try and draw us away.

This year one has nested practically in the backyard. I hadn't seen the nest yet, but knew she was there because her cries of killdeer come from the same spot. Camera in hand I went hunting...and found mama holding perfectly still, watching me and moving only when I moved.

Brave little mama. I tried not to stress her too much while I was there and used my sad little zoom which is why it looks so blurry when I enlarge it.

She was smart and gathered some moss from my fallen oak tree to pad her nest.
Can you spot it?

I have never yet seen a young Killdeer - they can take off right after hatching! Maybe if I keep my eyes on this one...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Mosaic Monday - a long spring

(click image to enlarge)

Spring has been a long, long thing. We are getting just the briefest of sunny moments between showers - some days it rains and maintains a balmy 68 degrees. Sure, that may be common in some places, but not here. Our weeds have turned this place into a veritable jungle! And while I'm longing for the ground to dry out enough to get my vegetable garden planted I am enjoying the lovely foliage and cloudscapes this weather has provided for us.

Be sure to visit Little Red House to see all the fabulous mosaics.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The manly java jacket

I knew that calling it a "cup cozy" would not work with the word "manly" also in the title.

I craft almost every gift I give and that includes trying to figure what to make a guy (if you want to read my poetical woes on that count, go here). Is it just me, or is it really hard to make stuff for men? Besides food I mean. The men I know like cars, engines, mud, tires, chrome, trucks, and things that go vroom-vroom!

They also like coffee, maybe because it makes them feel like they go vroom-vroom! as well. To combine those elements I devised a plan to make a java jacket that looked like a muddy tire tread.

First you'll need a cardboard cup cozy or a pattern for one. I *had* to get myself a latte in order to get mine. Ah darn.

Placing it over brown felt, I traced it twice using a black Sharpie. One piece will be for the front, the other for the backing.

To make the tread pattern I studied a bunch of tire tread photos and decided this is the basic idea. If you draw a mountain/pointy tooth line as long as your felt needs to be, you only have to cut once down the middle and then a second time on the other edge, therefore making two pieces with only two cuts. Clear as mud?

If you line up your pattern close enough to the edge of the felt you only have to make two cuts instead of the three I show in my really sophisticated drawing done with MS Paint.

Once you have the outside frame, cut a strip of black felt approximately 3/8 of an inch wide and snip it off in 5/8 of an inch long pieces. I ended up needing 25 of these pieces. These will make up the center of the tread and should be laid out in a spaced out herringbone brick sort of pattern.

Like the above super sophisticated drawing done with MS Paint, not like the spaced out brick below.

Using felt glue to hold the pieces in place until they can be stitched, lay out the pattern like so.
Because mine wasn't exactly measured I had to do a little trimming and wiggling around to get everything to fit.

Once everything was glued and dried I used embroidery floss that I divided in half (three strands instead of the full six) and stitched each rectangle and peak in the pattern shown below with the white dots. It's a lot of stitching, but this is for a man and I haven't known one who doesn't manage to tear up their things with regular use.

Not exactly pretty but you can see how sturdy I wanted to make it. It won't matter as it'll be covered up with backing anyway.

For a fabric java jacket you usually need a button and loop closure or Velcro. Since the cup size is likely to change, I went with button and loop - making the loop out of an old elastic hair band to allow for adjustability.

Using my felt glue and some clothespins I placed the end well inside to make sure it won't accidentally pop out when in use. When it is dry, apply several stitches around it (hiding them in the black felt on the front).

Next, sew on your button of choice and make sure it is sewn on very well. I placed mine about 2 and 3/4 inches inside the edge - this will keep it taut on smaller cups but still allows for adjustability to larger cups as well.

Once the elastic and button are stitched you are ready for the backing to go on. This is going to hide all your stitches and add an extra insulating layer.

I cut my backing 1/4 of an inch shorter than the front piece, applied felt glue and stretched it out and held it in place with clothespins while drying. Cutting it slightly shorter and stretching it should prevent rippling in the felt when it folds around the cup.

I then used my divided embroidery floss to blanket stitch the back and front pieces together.

And there you have it - a manly java jacket combining two of man's most beloved things: coffee and muddy tires. :)

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

DIY and handmade camping with style

Memorial Weekend is fast approaching in the U.S. and that means camping!
Awhile back Rachel at One Pretty Thing posted a "Glamping Roundup" and I read the title thinking, "Whaaaaaaaaat?" I read through and did some research and looked at approximately a billion links. Glamping is something I would totally do as an alternative to a hotel should I need to stay somewhere for a semi-remote wedding or something but I don't think I could really apply it to any of the places I go camping (like the mountains or the desert).

In any case, the retro and colorful-cute side of the glamping totally caught my eye and I did a round up of my own that includes my picks (with links to etsy shops and other retail websites) for supplies that are practical but have a touch of whimsy.

I am pale, pale, pale with blue eyes and sensitive skin so I never go camping - which equals all day outside in the elements - without sunblock. I'm a fan of the J.R. Watkins products. They are nice natural products and a couple in my town sells it so I can support them and get goodies at the same time.

I also take along some of Watkins Petro-Carbo - which I have a travel tin of in my purse at all times.

Washing is always a problem when camping because water needs to be conserved. These super-portable Soap-to-Go from the Suds-N-Such etsy shop keeps things simple.

And since hair washing is usually out, I've tried and really liked the Samy spray "shampoo." (I found mine at Walgreens.)But I've also simply used a travel container size of baby powder. It absorbs oil, makes your hair smell less gross and, though it makes your hair a little lighter and powdery, will eventually blend in.

Or if you're into a more natural option I found this hair powder which you can find in the Feather Heart Flower etsy shop.

Scented liquid lotions can cause two problems: the scent attracts bugs and the liquid can spill out mid-travel (voice of experience). I found these unscented lotion sticks in the Coquette Bath etsy shop.
Hate going make-up free even while camping? I absolutely adore the Tinted Love lip balm from the Bunny Butt Apothecary.
I also like the newish Avon Magix products - so soft and smooth! It comes tinted or not tinted and even has a little SPF.
Also, if you're camping somewhere hot, use an insulated bag to keep your beauty products from melting. I bought one from Avon a few years back, but one intended for lunch goodies would work too!

Don't just make yourself pretty while camping - make your campsite pretty too! This adorable fabric bunting is from the Hollie Lollie etsy shop.

Sure we do lots of activities when camping but there's lots of down-time as well. Take along some crochet needles in a roll-up case (pattern here) and crochet yourself a hat to cover up your unwashed hair. :) Hat pattern by Joo Joo Bees etsy shop.

Or crochet a cute edge on your cute pillowcase - or just buy one already made from A Sentimental Journey etsy shop.

What about the inevitable laundry? Keep it contained with this laundry bag by the Jenni 20 etsy shop.
Or try this clever idea from Martha Stewart.

Let's not forget the important stuff! I would love to buy some plain metal tins and label them with these colorful and whimsical labels from A Fanciful Twist (also available in black).
We use a pretty unsightly folding table but we could make it cute (and clean!) by using a vintage tablecloth. Check out thrift stores, garage sales or etsy shops. This one from Patina Vintage etsy shop.

Or this one from Fuzzy Lizzie.

After the coffee's made (we have an old percolating pot - I just love listening to it in the morning!) keep it hot and share-able in a vintage carafe like this one from Myra Melinda etsy shop.

And if you're planning an afternoon away from your campsite, pack snacks and sandwiches into these reusable bags from The Rick Rack Queen.

And when eating in the evenings don't forget to light a citronella candle to keep the mosquitos away. This one is from the Lilac Ave. etsy shop.

Well I don't know about you, but I have a lot if camping prep to get going in order to make me a happy camper. :)

Linking to:

The Shabby Chic Cottage

Monday, May 17, 2010

How I did it: little girl's first birthday

Whew the birthday part is over and it was a success! I felt like I was running around to get decorations completed on time but it was really a lot of fun.

I've been seeing pennant/bunting style banners all over the place and wanted to try one. The theme was lavender and pink and, borrowing from my mom's and Judy's stash of fabric (and using Martha Stewart's template) I cut 13 triangles using the pinking blade rotary cutter. That way I wouldn't have to worry about fraying or adding another layer to the back. I'm lazy when it comes to sewing, what can I say? :)

Now for the hard part. I needed a binding and I needed to sew it together. If I shared some of the sewing machine stories I had, you would completely understand why I don't like to sew. So I did what anyone would do in this situation: I asked my mom. :)
She has a super nice Bernina and I think she was glad to have an excuse to use it.

Originally I had plans to cut some fabric letters to spell out "happy birthday" on the banner, but I got to thinking that, since this is fabric and reusable, maybe she'd like to use it for a tea party someday or maybe she'd like to hang it up in her room after the party. That in mind, I used my scallop circle punch to cut some white paper which I stamped. Then I Scotch taped them on. You couldn't even tell they weren't permanently fastened. Total easy fix.
Using the same scallop circle punch and my larger smooth circle punch I cut pink and lavender paper and embossed the birthday girl's name using some "Vintage Rose" Distress Ink embossing powder.

I punched holes in each side using a regular old hole punch and ran ribbon through the holes. Super easy and I already had all the supplies.
On pretty much every party website and blog I've ever seen in the history of ever they are making the tissue poms and they look so fantastic. I knew a frilly girl's party wouldn't be complete without them. I used some leftover floral wire I had sitting around and I made a little noose looking loop so I'd have an easier time hanging them with the fishing line.

For the how-to, I used Martha's instructions here. Mine didn't turn out as well as hers. My cousin Mario helped me with them and mine didn't turn out as good as his either. I'm a failure at poms? Good grief!
The other dangles in the window were made using more ribbon-on-hand and some pretty paper cut out with my paper punches and layered. These seem to be popular in party decor as well. They are so simple and I really liked the extra touch they added to the window.

I also found out by accidentally gluing my hair into one of them that tiny paper punches can be glued back to back in your hair and they totally stay as long as you don't yank on them. :)

I also put together a couple of dishes made from dollar store stuff because I've seen it done everywhere and just really wanted to try it. For some reason my dollar stores (yes every single one in my area) hate me and don't sell the same stuff they appear to sell in every other state and I had to make do with these.
The birthday girl's mom bought dishes at Ross and Dollar Tree to use for platters and bowls and I brought along the cake plate I scored in a garage sale free box along with the candy dishes I made.

You can see the name banner on the wall along with some extra circles I punched out of leftover paper and simply Scotch taped to the wall (by making it double sided and sticking it to itself, I didn't leave the tape visible. Just had to clarify that)

Aside from the Snowballs and the foil wrapped candy my friend made all the food - meringue cookies made with food coloring, popcorn balls colored with strawberry and grape Jell-O. Cupcakes she made and frosted by colorinng white canned frosting, and the candy-dipped pretzels she made using colored candy melts. Lots and lots of pretzels.

Of course we had goodies left over and since I stayed a few extra days to clean up (and to have fun and visit) there was much sampling of the leftovers. So much so that I was inspired to make a little drawing.

All in all - this was a pretty inexpensive and easy party that was handmade but I think it came together fabulously. And when we took it all down, all the decorations were perfect to put up in the little girl's room - now she can look at the pretties (which she kept pointing at with enthusiasm) every day.

For more detailed pictures of all the pink and lavender goodness, see yesterday's Mosiac Monday post.

My decor and the sweet birthday girl even got photographed by Ober Digital Media. Check out the photos here.

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