Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Around Here

You know how so many people use blogging and social media to present the "perfect" side of life, their words and images projecting the idea that nothing ever goes wrong in their idyllic homes?

Today's post shares words and images of that kind of idyllic day around here.  Yesterday.  Today, however, is a totally different kind of day, about as opposed to the domestic bliss of yesterday that a house with two tempestuous preschoolers can manage!

But posting these photos from yesterday, reviewing what a lovely and productive day it was, will help me get through the "opposite day" that today has proven to be!

So, around here, YESTERDAY:

I worked to preserve some of my bumper crop of basil before the chilly months of fall and winter set in. Some I just put on the countertop in a vase; I read that basil develops roots in water, and will last for a couple of months.  If that proves true, I will bring in some more at the end of September.
I also chopped a bunch of the leaves, put them into ice cube trays, and covered them in water.  I will be popping them out of the trays and storing them in a freezer bag for easy retrieval for spaghetti sauce and other preparations, come winter.  The smell and taste of fresh basil just about TOPS my list of favorites, and I think it will be a great antidote to wintertime blues.
Soon, I am planning to use some of my basil to create basil butter, which can be frozen for up to six months, and maybe even some basil salt.

Feeling fabulously domestic at that point, I made some banana bread to use up some especially mushy bananas headed straight for the garbage if I didn't do something soon:
And, as a final project, I cleaned up my $2 worth of "thrift store finds" in preparation for a project I've seen pinned in numerous variations on Pinterest.  People glue all manner of plates, platters, bowls, burner covers, candlesticks, spindles, and dowels to create tiered organizers for a multitude of different uses.  I've pinned a couple versions on my Miscellaneous Craft Projects board.
I used Gorilla Glue to adhere my two tiers--a plate and a bowl--to a candlestick holder.  If a proper third tier presents itself on a future thrift store venture, then I will add it, but for now this is what I've got:
Perhaps a desktop organizer for frequently-used paints and mark-making tools, like 
natural sponges, old credit cards, droppers, milk bottle lids, and makeup sponges.
Or perhaps a project organizer, holding the bottles I plan to alter with 
some of the paper materials I plan to use to embellish them.
Or perhaps it is best suited to hold tried-and-true office supplies, like paper clips,
 rubber bands, staplers, staples, and a staple remover.  

I'm not sure how I'll end up using it, but you can be sure that I am eyeballing everything in my craft room, looking for its perfect employment.  I also think it would make a great chip-and-dip presentation at a party, or perhaps veggies and dip!  But with art supplies competing, I don't think it will end up in the kitchen.

Best wishes for your own domestic bliss and creative re-use!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Simply Handmade: Button Hair Bands

Some of my favorite projects are the very simplest.

I recently pinned a photo to my very small "Neat Ideas" board, showing how to spruce up a simple hairband with a button.  I went to my button collection, and pulled every one that had a shank on the back (the little loop, as opposed to buttons that are flat, and have holes in the middle).  Then I had to narrow it down to the shanks with a big enough opening to thread a hairband through.  With one simple move (illustrated in the Pinterest pin  and the Dream Patch post), I had a collection of much fancier hairbands for my girls.
Here is a closer look at some of these simple new creations:
One of my favorites for the girls.
I'm thinking this one might make it into my 'do.
Pretty with any color band.
What?  You don't have a cow button?
So, clearly for this project, you need pretty, fun or funky shank buttons, with large loops on the back.  I used an awl more than once to help poke the hairbands through.  (An awl is the pointy tool used in bookbinding.)  It also helps to have pretty colored hairbands to match to your buttons.

The woman at Dream Patch points out in her blog post that you can spruce up hairpins using the same technique, just sliding the pin through the button shank.  Simple brilliance!

Somehow, then, I found myself on My Paper Crane, where Heidi made her own fabric-covered buttons to turn into hairband embellishments.  I remembered immediately that I had a button kit tucked away that I had been wanting to use, so I dug it out, along with fabric scraps collected from my kids' discarded clothing, and got to work making my own buttons for creating fancy hairbands.
The process is simple, because I just followed the directions for the kit.
This kit makes smaller-sized buttons than the ones I am showing here.  I have to admit that once I made all ten larger-sized buttons, I ran out to JoAnn and bought a second kit for smaller-sized buttons to play with!
The kits provides you with a template, and tells you to draw around the circle onto your chosen fabric.
After you cut out the circle, you lay it face-down on one of the plastic pieces they provide.  Then you lay what will be the front of the button on top of it and press down.
For the next step, you tuck all the edges of the fabric inside, and press the back of the button (with the shank attacked) down on that.  This step can take a little effort, depending on how thick your fabric is!  I couldn't get denim to work at all.
You then just pop out and admire your fancy new button!
Of course, Mommy can't experiment with any new craft without little fingers bursting in and demanding to participate!  Both my four- and five-year old were able to make two buttons apiece with just a little bit of Mommy aid:
And they happily wore some new button creations for the rest of the day:
Aerial view!
I'm not sure that we need quite as many button hairbands as I am likely to create buttons for, so I imagine I will end up with a jar of brightly decorative buttons on a shelf in my craft room before this fabric button-covering craze passes!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Artist Date: St. Francis Thrift Shop

I've long held that anything, really, can be turned into an Artist Date, as long as I use the experience to re-energize and "fill the well" of ideas and images that feed my creativity.
"God sees you even if we don't"--
one of the best deterrents to shoplifting in a Catholic
 thrift shop that I can imagine!
A trip to a thrift shop, then, is as good an Artist Date as any!  Thrift shops offer such a variety of objects, each one with its own history to imagine, new uses to consider, and colors and textures to explore.  Most recently I visited the White Elephant, a thrift shop attached to St. Francis of Assisi, a Catholic community in Springfield, PA, where I live.

I took some photos during my visit, even though I felt a little conspicuous doing it.
Even a table full of ugly lamps can get me thinking:  What fingers have turned these switches?  In what rooms have these lamps lived?  What sights have these bulbs shed light on? 
I played with very few dolls as a child, and my children appear to have inherited my aversion.  And yet I find them aesthetically appealing...as long as they aren't in my own home!
Some thrift shop items lead me to marvel:  A partially-used bottle of scented bubbles?  Really?
Some thrift shop finds tempt me:  I really wanted this stack of four coffee cups for $2, but I knew in my heart that I did not need them in my home.
I enjoyed the care that someone took to create thematic displays:  a collection of red in the glass, apples, watermelon, strawberries, cherries, and ladybugs, above.
I have to admit these little piggies look awfully cute--more so in a photo than anywhere in my house, though.
Clowns seriously creep me out, but this cash register sent me straight down memory lane, to such an extent that I've ended up with an entire Pinterest board commemorating the toys, TV shows, movies, games, and styles of my childhood.
At the end of the day, my thrift shop foray led me to these new acquisitions:  a Rolodex file, complete with blank cards, for a dollar; two books for my kids; two lunchboxes that I'd like as organizing tools for my craft room; and a set of wooden blocks that I envision painting, decoupaging, and otherwise altering for upcoming art projects.

All for under $10.  White Elephant Thrift Shop, this could be the start of a beautiful friendship!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Tying Up Loose Ends

Things are a little quiet in Blogland these days.  I hope that you will share a quick comment if you come by, just to let me know that you've been here!

I have some loose ends to tie up--a couple projects that I've finished up but have yet to share the results with you.

When I came home from the CREATE Mixed Media Art Retreat, I had an unfinished page from my drawing and watercolor with Jane LaFazio, and I didn't want to just leave it in its half-completed state.
We used our pages as learning tools, rather than with the intention of becoming finished pieces, and since we didn't know exactly where we were headed during the class, we didn't have the option to plan out the balance of color or design on our pages.  I tried to improve those two aspects of the piece with the addition of some colored borders, decorative tape, and small colored circles.  It's not perfect, but let me know what you think!
I also participated in Tammy's Index-Card-a-Day (ICAD) challenge, but was't very diligent about sharing my final cards on the blog.  You can see cards from the first weeks of the challenge here:

And here are some additional cards from this year's collection:

My daughter participated in ICAD with me, and donated one of her cards to my group:
I like using index cards to practice tangle patterns, old and new:
I also love stitching paper for my cards.  I found a discounted bag of scraps at the craft store, some of which I used for these two cards:
And these two cards were truly scraps I just pulled from my art table, left over from other projects, and then indulged in some crazy stitching just for the fun of it:
I played around with paints and markers for these four cards:
I commemorated a dinner out with girlfriends on this card:
I used paints to create a little "On the Road Again" card (whose background is an orange that contrasts strongly with the sun's yellow, but you would never know it from my camera!):
And, finally, I "had at it" with paints and brushes and stencils for my final week's worth of cards:
I only missed maybe a week in the middle of the challenge, but I still have quite a satisfying stack of index card art to enjoy, and to add to my work from last year.
This year's stack of ICADs
Last year's stack of ICADs
I hope you are having a relaxed and happy August!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Getting Crafty at VBS

Each evening this week I've been heading to my church to work with three friends in the craft room of our Vacation Bible School. 
We've made mezuzahs, sandal necklaces, and tambourines, and we'll add key chains and scratch art to our creations before the week is over.
Almost 100 children have been cycling through our room each evening, from kindergarten-aged to fifth grade.  What a treat it has been to work with these kids, along with their crew leaders and junior helpers!
My fellow station leaders and I were a little taken aback at the prospect of the kids working from the floor, with no chairs.  But sitting on the floor has added to the relaxed atmosphere, and not having chairs has removed a host of potential discipline issues (things kids like to do, like lean back dangerously or scuff their chairs around while someone is trying to give directions!).
We have twenty minutes with each group, and when there is extra time left at the end of the craft, we have coloring pages, or we just sing and dance to the VBS music CD.  I am loving the opportunity to get crafty with my church family at Vacation Bible School this year!
We've been confronting some tough problems in our midst recently, in the aftermath of our pastor resigning and our congregation dividing itself according to their responses to his actions.  Seeing this faithful remnant committing themselves to doing God's work among the children in spite of the havoc we adults always seem to manage to wreak on our communities does my heart good!