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  • Candy Corn Tree

    October 29th, 2012 Susan | Posted in Crafts, Kids, Seasons | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

    Who knew candy corn grew on trees?

     

    Over the years, I’ve made some pretty amazing things with my own two hands. And yet, I think the object that has most impressed my family by far is this Candy Corn Tree I whipped up during our DIY segment of Sticks and Stones #13.

    With a glue stick, $3 (candy corn was on sale!) and about 8 minutes, I was able to create something that my family thinks is crafting genius. And I can’t even take credit. I saw a similar picture online and re-created it with my own spin. A word of warning: if the environment gets really humid, the candy corn melts off the branch. But you can always glue more on to it.

    I’m not sure what to take away from this lesson. That it doesn’t take much to create something spectacular? That I already knew. That maybe I shouldn’t try so hard? …..maybe. Or that candy, especially candy corn, always wins.

    Whatever the lesson, check out how this bit of fall fun was made at Sticks and Stones podcast through our website or on iTunes. Happy Halloween!

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    Dyeing for a Change

    September 10th, 2012 Susan | Posted in About, Crafts, Fabric, Kids, Tutorial | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

    A little food coloring yields a brand new lunchbox.

    By now you probably heard that I’ve been working on the video podcast Sticks and Stones with my friend Julia of Wee Sheep Knits. We share our creativity with the world by giving insight into projects we’re working on and providing a DIY segment for the folks at home to try.

    In Episode 9, Julia taught us how to dye wool yarn using food coloring. It was right up my alley. (Truth be told: we may have burned out my microwave setting the dye, but it was still a blast.) It’s one of those projects that leaves you hunting around for other objects you can dye. And find something I did: my kid’s lunchbox. I decided to give dyeing whirl beyond the yarn when my daughter and I dyed her lunchbox.

    The original light pink lunchbox that’s about to get a makeover.

    The lunchbox began life as a pink LL Bean nylon lunchbox. My daughter got it when she was in Kindergarten and after 4 years of use it shows no signs of giving up (go LL Bean!).

    The problem is that my now 4th grader is not the pink princess she used to be. We decide to pour on the food coloring and see if we could give it a makeover. I’m happy to report that it was a success! Here’s how we did it.

    Tools:

    • Wilton icing colors, available at craft stores or online
    • Popsicle sticks
    • rubber gloves
    • boiling water
    • towel
    • vinegar
    • heatproof container large enough to hold the lunchbox
    1. Preparing your supplies: Boil the water and have it waiting in the wings for Step 3. Rinse the lunchbox so the nylon is completely saturated.
    2. Dyeing the nylon: Wearing rubber gloves (so you don’t dye your hands), use a Popsicle stick to spread the icing dye across the nylon of the lunchbox. We did this procedure in our kitchen sink to keep the dye contained so it wouldn’t color unsuspecting bystanders like the kitchen counters. We found that rubbing the dye on directly gave a brighter color. You can also dilute the color in water. Sticks and Stones Episode 9 gives more insight into this process.

      My artist painting food coloring on her lunchbox.

    3. Setting the dye:Pour boiling water and vinegar in a 1:1 ratio into the heatproof container and then place the lunch box in the container as well. I used an aluminum cake pan, adding vinegar until the pan was about 1/4 full and then adding hot water until it was 1/2 full. I poured warm water inside the lunch box so it would remain submerged. Put the lid on the cake pan and wrapped the whole thing in a towel so it stays hot longer. Once this mixture cools, I emptied the cake pan and add a new batch of hot water and vinegar to the cake pan and flipped the lunch box over to submerge the lid, as the whole lunchbox didn’t fit in the pan. Again I lidded the cake pan and wrapped it in a towel.
    4. Rinse cycle: Once you’ve set the dye with hot water and the water has cooled, it’s time to rinse out the excess dye with running water. Hang the lunchbox on the washline so it dries completely.
    5. Laundering: Finally, I washed the lunch box in the washing machine with regular detergent to make sure all the excess dye came out.

    I let my daughter apply the colors to the lunchbox. She chose sky blue and leaf green Wilton icing colors. The butterfly patch did not dye at all, but the nylon lunch box did. And laundering the lunchbox removed the bits of dye that got inside the lunchbox. So now I have a happy kid and a few more years before I have to buy new school supplies.

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    The Great Pumpkin Speaks

    October 20th, 2010 Susan | Posted in Crafts, Kids, Seasons | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

    Anyone who knows me, knows I have a love-hate relationship with technology. I love it when it works, I hate it when it doesn’t work.

    And for me … it doesn’t work often.

    In fact, I possess a rare anti-technology aura that causes computers to seize up, sputter and spit at my mere presence. How I ended up marrying a web guy is beyond me (yin and yang?), but that’s another story.

    Yesterday my anti-technology aura was at warp speed. I won’t go into the gory details, but eventually I abandoned my computer tasks in lieu of making pumpkin chains with my little guy.

    I’ve been thinking about making them all month, but PTA meetings and managing homework, driving to soccer practice and more mundane tasks like painting the porch and laundry got in the way. Basically, creativity seems to take a back seat to the everyday tasks required to maintain the status quo.

    Once I started cutting, coloring and taping, I couldn’t stop. My little helper and I have added pumpkin patches to nearly every window in our house.

    My technology time-out made me realize how much I’ve missed creating over the past few months, how much I missed making goofy projects with my kids. Creativity is the antidote to my hyper-organization gene and my family might tell you I can back off from the organization right now.

    As the season changes to fall, hopefully my creative hiatus will also morph into a creative time spilling over with new, fun projects (it can get messy here!), and you’ll see that here in my blog. (Unless my anti-technology aura obliterates it.)

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    Girls Weekend Tutorial

    October 12th, 2010 Susan | Posted in About, Events, Kids | Tags: , , | No Comments »

    Some very relaxed mommies.

    A formula for a relaxing weekend:

    Five moms – kids + a cabin near an artsy small town + spas + plenty of shopping + lots of good food we didn’t have to cook – husbands = Girls Weekend.

    My friends and I gathered recently for our semi-annual girls weekend. It was the usual mix of good, uninterrupted conversation, many rounds of yoga, undisturbed shopping, relaxing, uninterrupted meals,  and lots of laughs.

    Did I mention that we did uninterrupted activities? No one demanding, “I’m hungry” or announcing “I just spilled all the juice.” More like, “Of course I’ll have another glass of wine” and “You should definitely buy that coat. You deserve it.”

    The weekend went way too fast…as usual.

    Last year I made journal covers for all the moms at Girls Weekend.

    Girls Weekend began soon after I had kids when my friend and I decided we needed to get away like we used to when we went on long backpacking trips together. These days, we’re looking more for pampering than high intensity physical accomplishment, so we opt for the spa-like Girls Weekend. Recently we’ve upped the ante and now have Girls Weekend 2 or 3 times a year, often at one of our houses.

    Some of my friends claim, “You’re so lucky your husband lets you go away for the weekend.”

    There are just so many things wrong with that sentence.

    Having girls weekend is not about luck, it involves training, low expectations, compromise, planning, and hard work.

    Training

    Ideally training your spouse for weekends away should start as soon as you’re married. If you missed that window, you need to do it as soon as you have kids. Leave the kids early and often with your spouse (just an hour or two at a time) so taking care of the children for a weekend isn’t quite so traumatic to the spouse or dangerous to the children.

    Expectations

    Low expectations is key: I consider it a successful weekend if everyone is still alive and there is minimal bloodshed when I return. In all honesty, my husband does just fine without me and is great when I’m away.

    In order for you to enjoy your weekend, you have to let go of all your expectations of how you household should be run, and this honestly may be the toughest part. You have to let go of the worry that something will go wrong while you’re away and the idea that the house and the kids will look the same when you return.

    So what if they have peanut butter in their hair, nothing matches and they ate Popsicles for 4 out of 5 meals. They’re alive, right? And likely fairly happy because everything was completely different from when you were there. Different doesn’t mean better, just exciting because it’s new.

    Planning

    Once you break it to the spouse that you’re leaving him with all the kids for several days, it’s best to do as much planning as possible to make it easier for him. I stock the fridge with his easiest, most favorite meals: chicken tenders, waffle fries and cheese. Yes, this could be renamed heart attack weekend, but one weekend of this isn’t going to hurt anyone.

    Making it easier for the spouse ensures he’ll want you to go away next time. That’s right, when you walk into the house relaxed and calm, he may plan the next Girls Weekend for you. (Note: the calm usually last about 20 minutes until the kids break sometime or the dog yacks on your new beautiful shoes you spent way too much on.)

    When I’m felling particularly nice, I arrange a weekend away at a relative’s house for one of the kids. Never for both…I can’t make it too easy for him.

    Fun finds from an antique store we shopped during Girls Weekend, a place we never could have gone with our kids!

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    Tassel Mania

    September 23rd, 2010 Susan | Posted in Crafts, Events, Horse Hair, Jewelry, Kids | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

    30 horse lovers + beads + cones = lots of horse hair tassels.

    Tuesday night I introduced the Timbertalk Trotters to the art of horse hair tassels. This Montgomery County 4-H horse club has members from 8 to 19 years old and all of them had a blast making tassles. Even the moms joined in.

    Some people brought their own horse hair and a few donated mane hair, which makes soft, fluffy tassels. I set them loose on a box of beads and the kids turned ordinary tassels into one-of-a-kind pieces of personal art.

    Three of the members of this 4-H group are proud owners of Red-Tail Designs Horse Hair Jewelry. One just received her horse hair bracelet with name plate in June as a high school graduation gift from her mom.

    My budding horse lover came along to help me teach and to get a glimpse of 4-H. She begged me the whole way home to join. I see 4-H meetings in my future.

    If your 4-H club, Girl Scout troop, Boy Scout troop or other group would like to learn horse hair tassel making, contact me.

    Even the moms were in on the action of making tassels.

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    Yeah, I Have an Art Staff

    March 15th, 2010 Susan | Posted in About, Kids | Tags: | No Comments »

    My 6-year-old made this for me. “Mom, you can take this to shows and hang it up so people know where to go to your website.”

    stargirl_redtail_designs

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    Horse Riding Lesson

    March 14th, 2010 Susan | Posted in About, Horse Hair, Kids | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

    stargirl-horse.jpg-1

    Meeting Tootsie.

    Head up. Chin parallel to the ground. Chest open. Hands in a triangle. Knees and thighs pressed in. Heels down. Toes pointed up. Look where you’re going not where you are.

    Do all that at the same time…oh, and make that horse go forward.

    Huh?

    Yesterday we braved the rain for horse riding lessons at Windmill Farm. In an indoor ring, thankfully. This is our first foray into a mother-daughter, quality-time activity that is chasing my daughter’s dream of being an equestrian. She’s 6 so dreams loom large and oh-so-graspable without consequence of time or cost. She was beaming when she got off Tootsie at the end of the lessons. My legs hurt when I got off K.C., but I had a great time.

    Despite the amount of time horses have been in my life, I’m really not a very good rider. My teen years spent taking care of horses didn’t actually include riding. So on the ground, I’m an ace at reading ears and eyes and keeping control. Once I’m up on top, well… let’s just say it’s a long way to the ground.

    My limited riding included lots of western pleasure rides and a week at Girl Scout horse camp learning to ride English. Two memories stand out from camp: 1) a horse got colic (didn’t know what that was but the instructor with the accent looked very frantic) 2)  my horse jumped 3 feet to the right when another horse he didn’t like got too close. Being scared out of your mind kinda puts a crimp in your pole-bending.

    Those first few instructions on form yesterday were more than I ever remember learning before. Maybe it’s because I’m older and can pay attention .

    For a few moments I could do all those things and lead K.C. where I wanted him to go. I am an equestrian! And then my mind would wander….

    The riding lesson reminded me a lot of my first few yoga classes. It seemed near impossible to control all those physical aspects at once, while maintaining focus on what I needed to do next. I’m sure with time it will become natural.

    Right now my daughter and I are committed to 3 lessons. We’ll see if she’s still determined to be a collegiate equestrian after a few weeks. If she is, well, my updates may become pleas for you to support my business so I can afford her horse lessons.

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    Girl in Braids, 1982. Girl in Braids, 2009

    July 30th, 2009 Susan | Posted in About, Horse Hair, Jewelry, Kids, Nature | Tags: , , | No Comments »

    My Girl in Braids watching the horses at Duck Harbor Pond.

    My girl in braids watching the horses at Duck Harbor Pond.

    Last week I slept in my bed exactly 2 times. Every other night was spent sleeping on the ground somewhere in Pennsylvania with my kids, husband, family and friends.

    We packed 3 camping trips into a week and a half, and my kids still didn’t want to come home. That makes me smile. I’m glad they enjoy the outdoors as much as I do.

    A few of those nights involved a trip down memory lane as the kids and I camped with my parents at a lake in Wayne County.

    Our connection to this lake reaches way, way back. My mom vacationed there as a kid. When she had kids, she brought my brothers and me to the lake, as well. We refer to it as “going to the mountains.” My son is the first to question why we call it “the mountains.” He also wanted to know if there would be snow there. Not in July.

    We do the normal stuff you do on an outdoor vacation…boating, fishing, hiking, hitting trees with sticks, playing lots of games (Traffic Jam, badminton and chase being the favorites right now), catching lightning bugs and picking flowers.

    Of course the bugs love us, too. As I write this, a mosquito bite on my big toe is particularly itchy. And this time we had an unfortunate encounter with ants.

    One other game we play is guessing how many deer we’ll see as we drive around each night looking for all manner of wildlife that may be moving about at dusk. This tradition started out many years ago as a way to scope out deer for the hunters in my family.

    As we drove about the bucolic areas of Wayne County looking for deer and rabbits (we even saw an egret!), watching one farm melt into another, I realized the origins of my fascination with farms. Maybe this is why I long to live in a stone farmhouse or converted barn. This is where my admiration of stone fences came from. This is why I love horses and cows and sheep and all things animal.

    The lake where we play is home to a bustling horse farm and a cow farm. As a kid, daily I walked down the dirt road to the horse farm to check on the foals. This is where I stole a pat on the head from a horse curious enough to come to the fence.

    As I got older, I worked hard at home to earn money to buy a $13 trail ride from a another farm a car ride away. I scooped dog poop and painted, mowed grass and picked up sticks (awful job!), just so I had enough money to take a trail ride or two in the week we spent at the lake.

    I still remember the day my mom got on a horse and proceeded to get right back off. She was NOT going to ride a horse. That farm still has horses, although the house we called “Little House on the Prairie” is gone, and it doesn’t seem they give trail rides anymore.

    Too bad for my little budding horse lover.

    Still, she watched the horses eat hay and waited for a passing pat last past week. As I watched my daughter wait patiently by the fence I saw myself in her. Not just in the braids and love for horses, but in my dreams. As I kid, I wanted to be a jockey and ice skater (just like Dorothy Hamill). Tall dreams for a short, fat little kid. My daughter says she wants to be a “horse rider” and ballet dance. Maybe not too far off for a tall, skinny kid…

    P.S. Don’t forget you need to pre-register if you want to attend Sunday’s horse hair jewelry class at the Museum of Indian Culture. Click here for more details.

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    Impromptu Treasure Hunt

    June 1st, 2009 Susan | Posted in Kids | Tags: , , | No Comments »

    trsrhunt003

    An alligator chewing on the coveted balloons, which are inside a tin I bought at a yard sale this weekend.

    Here’s a great rainy (or sunny) day activity…a treasure hunt.

    The kids requested a treasure hunt this morning and rather than draw a map like I usually do, I used my daughter’s Vtech digital camera to take pictures of objects near the treasures. The kids scrolled through the pics and figured out their location.

    The pictures get progressively harder to identify. Plus some of the toys were not in their usual places, so those finds were a little more challenging. I refrained from making this a lesson in putting your toys away and let them have fun while being stumped.

    The first round involved “treasures” I had around the house: unused stickers from the sticker bin, balloons (the biggest hit), tumbled rocks, and some cards they can write notes on later.

    By the second and third treasure hunt, I ran out of treasure. My daughter suggested using candy from a recent birthday party as the booty.

    The kids have since made it their own game, taking pictures of objects for each other to identify. IDing and stumping each other is the “treasure” now.

    This was an awesome activity that occupied more than a hour and I had nothing to clean up afterward. That’s a great game. Next time, we’re going to try it outside.

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    Weekend Recovery

    May 6th, 2009 Susan | Posted in Events, Fabric, Kids, Nature, Porcupine Quillwork | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

    My treasure hunters trying out their new cargo-pants-turned-field-bags.

    My treasure hunters trying out their new cargo-pants-turned-field-bags.

    What better way to recover from a weekend than a creativity binge?

    Instead of cleaning my studio and re-shelving all my props from the Powwow this weekend, I’ve been sewing up a storm. At last count I had 2 field bags, 6 bibs and a bunch of cloth napkins.

    The Powwow was a good time, despite the weather. Saturday the sun showed up, and therefore, so did the crowds. I demonstrated porcupine quill, wrapping a rawhide medicine wheel with dyed quills.

    Sunday saw a stead rain ALL day. Honestly, in the 5 years I’ve done this festival (3 times a year, at that) this is the first time it rained for an entire day. Rather than be miffed by the fact that rain keeps the crowds away, I took it as a vacation day. It’s all in the attitude, right?

    I sat under a dry tent, worked on an easy quillwork project and listened to the rain. No kids to entertain, no laundry or cleaning to distract me. Just drinking coffee, listening to the drums and the music of the weather, enjoying my craft. During the especially slow afternoon, my neighbor the flintknapper and I traded secrets; I showed him some quillwork, he let me bang rocks together.

    Although the spectators were few, the Native dancers were still out there dancing in the rain. In a day and age where rain equals holing up in front of the TV, it’s great to see people who aren’t scared off by a bit of weather.

    Come Monday morning I didn’t record my sales for taxes or put away quills. Instead, I set to work on some treasure-hunting field bags for the kids. I saw this idea on some one’s blog (if it was you, let me know so I can give you credit!) to turn turn old cargo pants into a kid bag with lots of pockets. I cut off the legs, sewed up the bottoms and added new fabric to make the strap and flap. The kids were so excited. A great place to stash all their dandelions and rocks from neighborhood walks. My pockets will be so empty!

    Bibs and napkins will keep everyone clean!

    Bibs and napkins will keep everyone clean!

    The studio is still a mess, maybe even a bigger mess. But the way I look at it, I am cleaning up my studio by using the fabric crowding the space. It’s all in the attitude, right?

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