The Great Pumpkin Speaks

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.)

Girls Weekend Tutorial

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!

Impromptu Treasure Hunt

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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.

Impressionism in 8 minutes

The kids re-create Monet's waterlillies using felt board and felt cutouts.

The kids re-create Monet's waterlillies using felt board and felt cutouts.

Here’s the art history class I wish I had in college:

..and now on to Impressionism. There’s a girl dancing…a field of hay…a vase of pretty flowers…some waves…and…we’re done. Now let’s go paint something.

The horse sculpture outside the Allentown Art Museum.

The horse sculpture outside the Allentown Art Museum.

That was the art history lesson I had Sunday with my kids when we went to see Monet to Matisse: French Masterworks from the Dixon Gallery and Gardens at the Allentown Art Museum. Just like me, they didn’t feel the need to know exactly who painted what in exactly what year. They just knew if they liked it or not.

My daughter wanted to see Degas’ paintings (girl = ballerinas!), and she recognized the waterlilies of Monet that were featured in the Artways gallery. A few weeks ago serendipity led me to borrow The Magical Garden of Claude Monet by Laurence Anholt from our local library. We’ve since read storybooks about Matisse and Degas from the same author. They were a great set up to the exhibit.

To my 2-year-old son, they were all rather ordinary pictures until we got to the 3oth Juried Show exhibit and Steve Scheuring‘s oil painting “Crash” spoked to his little tiny car-lovin’, truck-drivin’ soul. An entire painting of bright Hot Wheels! Does it get any better than that when you’re 2?

Considering my kids are so young, I think they held out pretty long exploring Impressionism. Mind you, I wasn’t expecting to stand about with them discussing use of color or contemplating brush strokes. But my 5-year-old would have enjoyed the paintings a little longer if she wasn’t so focused on getting to the children’s interactive gallery. That’s what they enjoyed the most, though: painting scarves, using felt to make water lily gardens like Monet and painting with scissors like Matisse.

I’m hoping to go back to the Allentown Art Museum and actually look at the paintings before the Impressionist exhibit leaves on May 3. Maybe I’ll even get to read about the paintings and relearn all that art history shelved in the back of my brain.

Products of a Snow Day

About 6 inches on the ground. A day off from school. Here’s what we made of the snow day Monday.

Left to her own devices my daughter comes up with the cutest stuff, like this spring chick. I’m encouraging more glue useage instead of taping everything. “Look, the beak opens and the wings move,” she said.snday1

A few artist books done. Experimenting with pencil pockets of different shapes. The red flowers on white background  (journal at bottom of photo) were snipped from a shirt my daughter outgrew years ago, but the shirt was to worn out to pass on to cousins.

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Steamy cups of homemade hot chocolate after throwing snow balls, shoveling sidewalks and playing with snowy dogs.

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Books read when we piled into bed for an afternoon snuggle. The kids were given a one time only offer: eat Smarties in mom’s bed while she read to them. I was sipping a vanilla chai.

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“Asparagus Eggs” (as we call it), our favorite Martha Stewart recipe. Delicious, nutritious dinner in a flash.

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Snow days are such a pleasant treat!

*****UPDATE******

For those of you who couldn’t see the link to the Martha Stewart recipe, here it is, from the May/June 2003 Everyday Food magazine

Egg and Toast Ideas

Serves 4

  • 1/2 tablespoon softened butter
  • 4 slices (1 inch thick) hearty white bread
  • 4 large eggs
  • Salt and pepper
  • TOPPING IDEAS
  • Asparagus, Fontina, and Dijon Mustard: Divide 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard, 8 stalks blanched asparagus, cut into 1-inch lengths, and 1 1/2 cups grated fontina cheese among toasts.
  • Ham and Gruyere: Divide 4 ounces thinly sliced ham and 1 1/2 cups grated Gruyere cheese among toasts.
  • Tomato, Cheddar, and Canadian Bacon: Divide 2 chopped plum tomatoes, 4 ounces diced Canadian bacon, and 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese among toasts.
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spread 1/2 tablespoon softened butter over one side of each of 4 slices (1 inch thick) hearty white bread. Place each piece of bread, buttered side down, on a baking sheet.
  2. Using your fingers, create a well in the center of the bread, being careful not to tear it.
  3. Break 1 large egg into each well, keeping the yolk intact; cover bread with desired topping, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Bake until the cheese has melted and the egg is set but slightly runny when pierced with the tip of a paring knife, 15 to 20 minutes. Check the toasts frequently because eggs set quickly.

Like Mother, Like Daughter

The American Girl Catalog with a multitude of sticky notes spewing out the top.

The American Girl Catalog with a multitude of sticky notes spewing out the top.

Exactly 15 minutes after this American Girl catalog arrived in our mail box today, it was tagged with sticky notes to demark “the pages that have things I like.” My 5-year-old ooh-ed and aaah-ed and I-want-this-ed all the the way through all 63 pages.

We’re not American Girl afficiandos (yet), but I passed it along to my 5-year-old. One look at it and she said, “I’ll get the sticky notes.”

That made me smile. My beading catalogs immediately become tasseled with sticky notes when they arrive in my mailbox. Finally, proof that my child (who looks like her dad) has some of my genetic material. Or just good training.

Good luck, Santa! This is just the beginning of the sticky note frenzy.

Apple Picking in a Hurricane

Two bushels was enough to pick considering the bushels of rain we endured.
Two bushels was enough to pick considering the bushels of rain we endured.

There we are, my kids, niece and mom (plus my sister-in law, who is beside me snapping pictures, too) slogging through Hurricane Hanna’s downpour with our apples.

An apple landed in a bird nest in one tree.
An apple landed in a bird nest in one tree.

Today was the day I scheduled for apple picking. So we went.

Mind you, we weren’t getting the high winds from the hurricane, just lots and lots of rain.

So am I so saddled to my schedule that I’ll take on a hurricane to meet today’s tasks? Or am I a free spirit, not constrained by such things as weather?

Most people don’t do enough in the rain. The first sign of a drop, a they’re in the house because it’s wet. Being in the rain is so fun.

Some were eating more than picking.
Some were eating more than picking.

Today we had more than our fair share of “fun.” We were drenched; even our underwear was wet. But the kids had a great time, and I got my bushel of organic apples to store up for the winter.

Tomorrow, the cozy smell of apple sauce and drying apples will fill my kitchen.

Canning Jar Bling

Sparkle and shine from canning jar rims.

Sparkle and shine from canning jar rims.

My canning jars needed an upgrade. They’re hand-me-downs from my mom, so after years of pickles and preserves, it was time for new rims. But what to do with the old rims?

Turn them into dress-up bling!

They have all the necessary ingredients for 5-year-old jewelry bliss: jangly noises when worn together, shiny metallics, and sparkly beads.

My helper got creative and wove wire in and out of the holes, string beads along the way.

My helper got creative with the bracelet at the upper left. She wove wire in and out of the holes, string beads along the way.

Here’s how my 5-year-old and I made old canning jar rims into fun new bangles.

Supplies

  • old canning jar rims
  • block of wood
  • safety goggles
  • hammer
  • center punch
  • pliers
  • metal file
  • non-toxic spray paint
  • latex gloves
  • newspaper
  • Postion the center punch on the inside of the rim.

    Position the center punch on the inside of the rim.

  • screwdriver (for removing spray paint cap)
  • beading or craft wire
  • round nose pliers
  • beads
  • messy workbench (optional)

1. Place the side of the rim on the block of wood. Position the center punch where you’d like the hole and hit with hammer until you punch through the rim. Punch hole from inside to outside of rim. If a smidgen of metal remains in the hole, pull it off with a pliers.

2. After you’ve made as many holes as you’d like, file each hole with a metal file to remove sharp edges.

Filing the burrs.

Filing the burrs.

3. Spread newspaper in well ventilated area, don latex gloves and spray paint inside and outside of each rim. We used gold and silver and gave each band two coats.

4. After the paint has dried, add beads. Cut a 2 inch piece of wire. Grab the end of the wire with a round nose pliers and roll the pliers make several loops in a row. Thread wire through hole in rim, so the loop is on the inside.

5. Thread bead(s) onto wire. Cut excess wire so you have 1/4 to 1/2 inch of wire above beads. Grab the end of the wire with a round nose pliers and roll the pliers back toward the wire to make a series of small loops.

Little spirals of wire hold the beads in place.

Little spirals of wire hold the beads in place.

6. Although you are finished, allow the bracelet to cure for 7 days to a month so that the paints are non-toxic to the skin. Rust-oleum said its spray paint is nontoxic within 7 days. Krylon suggested waiting 30 days for paint to cure fully to a non-toxic state. If you’re not sure, call the manufacturer.

Safety and other notes

  • Always wear eye protection when hammering, filing and spray painting.
  • Be sure the paint you use can be worn against the skin and that it does not contain lead.  If you’re unsure, call the manufacturer. I used Krylon silver crafter’s paint and Rust-oleum metallic paint.
  • Spray paint can be removed from your forehead with nail polish remover.

Turqouise and Morning Glories

After I took the photo, I realized the beads are the same color as the morning glory in the background.

The beads woven into this bracelet reflect the colors of the morning glories in my garden.

This week I sent off four custom horse hair pieces to their owners. Hoepfully they’re all happily wearing them right now!

Custom work always makes you stretch. Sometimes it stretches an idea you already have.  This customer asked for turquoise-colored leather rather than the standard brown. Brilliant idea! I’m going to try some other colors in the future.

The bracelet is reversible so you can wear the horse hair side out or the leather side out.

The bracelet is reversible so you can wear the horse hair side out or the leather side out.

Other days it’s a stretch to find all the supplies. Inevitably, my manufacturer decides to discontinue the one finding I use a lot. Then it’s off on the treasure hunt again, finding a new supplier or replacement part. That was my reality this week as I worked on a quote for a new piece.

With the two round horse hair bracelets below, the client requested magnetic clasps so the bracelets were easy to get on and off. Part of that treasure hunt was finding super strong magnetic clasps that can withstand a little tugging. This is a bracelet after all.

Fabulous Four: Recent custom pieces.

Fabulous Four: Recent custom pieces.

Sometimes custom work just stretches your brain to create a new style that matches the vision of your clients. I have that challenge coming up as I embark on 5 new custom pieces in the coming weeks.

The most important thing I’ve learned from doing custom pieces is to capture a clipping of horse tail from your horse now.  I often meet people who wish they had some piece of their horse now that it’s gone. After their horse has passed they understandable don’t feel they can cut off a piece of its tail.

So if you do one thing today, make a momento of something important in your life. Whether its your horse, your child, a favorite fishing hole, a secret vacation spot, your best recipe, record the here and now of it. Take a picture. Write down what it stirrs in you. I know you won’t regret it.