Archives for August 2008

Herb Garden Markers

The last part of our house left untouched was our backyard. It was seriously rough. Like, we had a jungle threatening to swallow our house.


We’ve been slowly slowly slowly ripping out all this stuff. I’m sure the same person who picked out the monkey wallpaper and painted the jungle mural on the wall designed this backyard landscaping. I eventually want to rip out everything and put in fruit trees and a cutting garden.

So far I’ve managed to rip out an enormous bush of spiky leaves that are ubiquitous around here. I don’t know exactly what kind of plant it is, but I hated it. The spot it left behind is just outside my kitchen door and the exact right size and spot for a kitchen herb garden. I found almost all of my favorite herbs at a nearby garden center (I still haven’t managed to find Bay) and set the whole thing up a few weeks ago. I’ve been thrilled with the results. I’ve been using the herbs in every meal I make, and everything is taking off like gangbusters. I had an early setback where I nearly killed my dill plant, but he started recovering once I figured out that I had planted him directly over the gas line and apparently plants don’t like that so much.

All that was left for my dream come true was some spiffy little herb markers so I could tell the difference between the cilantro and the parsley. Since it had to be weatherproof, I pulled out the polymer clay.

I just rolled out some rectangles big enough for the name of each herb, and used my new Martha Stewart stamps to create the names. I knew I wanted to use armature wire to poke them into the ground, so I pressed the wire up against the edge of the clay to make a little trough. Because I wanted to make them extra fancy, I dusted them with some pearly powders and then tossed them in the oven.

When the clay was baked and cool I took some acrylic paint and rubbed it into the letters, rinsing off any excess.

My initial plan was to glue the wire into the trough I made, but I soon discovered that wasn’t going to work. By the time I finished handling the clay my troughs were no longer perfect enough for the wire to fit snugly down inside it. Instead I used the troughs as a guide to bend the wire around and just let the tension hold it in place. That turned out to be all the adhesion it needed.


I didn’t worry too much about centering the tiles inside the wire. I wanted them to be a little off center so it would look more graphically interesting, and the clay is so light weight that there was no problem supporting it that way. Then I just poked the wires in the ground next to the right plant, and now I have my perfect herb garden.


Now I just need to work on eeeehhhhverything else.


Super Nephew

Superhero Cape Tutorial

Superhero Cape Tutorial

My cute little nephew Micah turned five back in May, and because Atti had *just* come home from the hospital and was still on oxygen, I missed his big birthday shindig. I also had no time to make him anything, and I’m committed to giving handmade gifts whenever I can manage it. Particularly to little kids who are so saturated with plastic cartoon toys.

Micah has such an imagination. I could sit forever and listen to the stories he makes up for his plastic knights to enact. I wanted to make him something that would use that crazy brain of his and allow him to become part of the action.

This superhero cape took me about 30 minutes to whip up. The fabric is some kind of a polyester jersey, so I didn’t even try to hem anything. I started by sewing the big white circle in the middle, using a huge piece of tissue paper behind the jersey to stabilize it and stop it from stretching. I used fleece I had lying around so once again I didn’t have to think about hemming anything. I printed out a giant M on the computer and cut that out of the blue fabric, and then stuck it in place with fusible web. Then I just sewed a quick casing at the top, and used the rest of the blue fabric to make up a tie. Just so I could continue my trend of no hemming, I outlined the M in puffy fabric paint to cover up the raw edges.

I made the tie fairly long since I wanted him to be able to use the cape for awhile, but I also didn’t want him to be able to pull the tie out as he was playing, so I sewed through the casing in the middle of the cape. Then he can still gather the cape while it’s too big for him, but it won’t come out no matter how hard he plays.


After I gave it to him he refused to take it off even as we went shopping at Target. I got such a thrill out of seeing this mini superhero wander around the store. I kept trying to snap a picture, but he was too fast for me.

I thought the whole thing was so cute, I had to make one for my little superguy too.
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I think he’s still got some growing to do.

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Sorry for the unexplained absence

Wow, how’d a whole week go by?

August 14th was our nine year anniversary, so this time last week Bear and I dropped the Rookie off with Grandma and Grandpa and spent a night just the two of us in a hotel next to Disneyland. It was wonderful. We went to Downtown Disney and leisurely shopped, we ate at a very fancy Spanish restaurant where we had a table on the balcony with a perfect view of the fireworks, and best of all, I actually got a full night’s sleep for the first time in six months.

But by the next morning I couldn’t get out of the room fast enough. I was shaking from baby withdrawal. These mother emotions are powerful things. We’re always trying to get them to be more independant – “just have some tummy time while I do these dishes.” “Please, it’s time to go to sleep already.” – and then when they show those baby steps toward independance I just want to snap him up and hold him close and never let him grow up. He had a great visit with the grandfolks. He played in the bath, he played games with singing grandma, and he got snuggled to bits. Yet when I called to check in on him, I got the biggest smile of the night just by hearing my voice. It’s a pretty amazing thing, being the person he loves most.

Since we got back into town I’ve been struggling to catch up. My house is in shambles, there are drifts of laundry strewn throughout the house, I still haven’t managed to make it to the grocery store, and I’m trying to hurry up and finish a couple projects before I’m tortured to death by the projects burning holes in my head waiting to be started. I have mountains of emails to return, but I don’t get much time every day with two hands free, so that keeps getting pushed off in favor of blogging because, even though I may have to type this one handed, at least there’s only one of those to worry about. It’s such a harsh tradeoff. I desperately needed that break, and yet that break makes things even harder when you get home.


No news is good news

This week has been stuffed to the brim with doctors appointments and occupational therapy appointments and ophthalmologist appointments. I’m exhausted. I’ve been driving all over creation, and on Tuesday I spent the entire day an hour away from home as I went to one appointment, and then waited six hours for my next appointment. My poor kid never wants to see his carseat again. Also? It is impossible to keep yourself and a baby occupied away from home for that long without shopping. So I spent a lot of money.

About three months ago we went to the ophthalmologist for the first time to check everything out. Preemies frequently have vision problems, so this appointment was just standard procedure. After the doctor looked at him, he was concerned that Atti would be blind. I’ve actually been so terrified about this that I couldn’t write about it. I could barely even speak the words out loud. We always knew that the worst his cerebral palsy would possibly be would still allow him to eventually function normally, but the thought of him not being able to see….when everything I do involves art…..I couldn’t even go there. For the last four months we’ve been holding our breath waiting to see if he would end up just fine – or be blind and crippled. No middle ground for us! EVER!

He was a little slow to smile, and I was sure that meant that he couldn’t see me to emulate it. He loves to stare at lights, and I was so scared that meant that he couldn’t see much else. I obsessed over his every reaction, and the day he started paying attention to the toys over his head I wept with relief.

Obviously being blind is not the end of the world. I’m sure I would have gotten on board quickly and learned how I could best help him. But the thought of not being able to share what I love most with him…not being able to read him a book and show him the illustrations…not being able to draw and color with him….I couldn’t see past the loss.

Bear felt the same way when we first got the cp diagosis. He was a college athlete. He’s dreamt about throwing the ball around with his boy. The thought of not being able to share that with him… I just can’t seem to find the words to explain it. The crushing disappointment. The guilt for feeling anything other than joy at your little marvel. The huge loss of potential you grieve while simultaneously rejoicing in what you have.

Most Tuesday’s I have a standing lunch date with Bear’s sister Mari and her mother in law Virginia. Virginia adores Atti and is totally a doting grandmother to him. I was discussing his development with her one day and how thrilled I was that he was grasping his toys with both hands; he was kicking both of his legs. How proud we were about every little thing he manages to accomplish because it shows him beating the odds every time. She commented that every parent should probably have that attitude about their children. That children come the way they come with their own talents and interests, and even if Atticus was completely healthy, he still might not want to toss the ball around with his dad. Maybe he’ll grow up to be an indoor kid like me and Bear would still not have that athletic ground to share with him. But now, he’ll rejoice in every thing he does instead of think less of him for what he doesn’t. Bear has done such a good job in letting go of his own expectations and celebrating Atti for who he is. I hope I can do as well.

The appointments on Tuesday all looked really good. There are a few exercises we need to do with Atti, he’s got some tightness in his muscles that we’ll need to work on, but so far everything is in the normal range for what you’d see from a preemie. So far we haven’t seen any manifestations of cp. We’re not out of the woods yet. We won’t be until he’s able to do all the normal physical skills. It just won’t show up until it does. The ophthalmologist said the same thing about his eyes. He’s seeing something, he’s not perfect, but he’s doing well and we’ll continue to monitor. But for now, there’s nothing to be concerned about and that’s the best news we could possibly get.


Recover a lampshade

As I showed off in my house tour, my dining room fixtures look like this now:

They started as the same drop pendants, but with a thin marigold colored glass shade. The shade was so small that the fixtures disappeared in the room, and once I painted everything, the marigold color was just awful.

I bought two plain jane lampshades at Home Depot on clearance. Because the shades needed to hang from the ceiling, I needed shades with hardware conducive to that. Then I found this great fabric at a quilt store that had nearly every color I was working with. With all my materials, the rest was just a case of reverse engineering.

Since mine was track lighting, I had to completely dismantle the fixture so I could thread the shade on. I just made a note to myself which wire went with which wire, and it was way easier than you’d think.

Here’s how the lampshades started:

Then I just started peeling it apart. I took off the bias tape around the top and bottom and took note of these little ribbons covering the hardware.

When I had gotten the entire shade off, I used it as my pattern and cut out the new fabric around it. Then I sewed the new fabric together in the same way the old one was. I stretched the new fabric around the outside, and then put the lining on the inside. I just started gluing as I went, bringing the edge of the lining around to the front and gluing in place. I made sure to use those little ribbons again so everything looked nice and tidy and covered up.

Now to cover up the last of the mess. I made bias tape out of the same fabric (although I didn’t bother cutting it on the bias. I know there’s a name for this tape, but I can’t think of it.) by cutting a long strip two inches wide, folding each edge to meet in the middle and ironing (so now it’s 1″ wide) and then ironing the strip in half. (to make a 1/2″ strip with all raw edges tucked away inside.) I just glued that into place with Fabric Glue and they were finished.

One tip: if you use these shades as drop pendants, I’d recommend using a large washer in between the bulb and the shade. The big washer will hold the weight of the shade level better than a lightbulb on it’s own would.

Also: you don’t need to be too concerned about fire safety as long as you use the right bulb. Just don’t try to use a huge lightbulb in a small space and your makeover should work out just fine.


Year of Pleasures #14


Why is it that, when Bear can’t even brush my leg with his feet without me recoiling in horror, I somehow can’t seem to keep these little toes out of my mouth. It’s a mystery to me.


Micah’s Dragonskin Bag

Last Christmas Atticus was included (in utero) in Bear’s immediate family’s gift exchange. He got some crazy cute clothes “from” his little cousin Kai (including the tiniest velor tracksuit ever made), and as a fetus he was responsible for his cousin Micah’s present.

Micah is really into his “guys.” He collects all kinds of action figures and spends hour after hour making up elaborate scenarios for them to enact. When you sit and play with him he scripts your every move, telling you exactly what you should say and what your guy should do. He’s so the oldest kid.

This past Christmas he was really into knights and dragons. Michaels was carrying a line of action figures that featured ornate and colorful dragons along with the knights on horseback ready to defeat them. Between his parents and grandparents, he was getting the entire set.

Since these were a little more expensive than the average toy, Bear’s dad Mike really wanted Micah to understand that these were special. He suggested that I make some fancy little bag to carry all his precious guys around in.


I happened to have this fabric in my stash. It’s like a flannel with some kind of a plastic treatment over it creating a snakeskin effect. When I first saw the gray fabric I immediately thought of a knight’s tunic, but I thought a simple bag by itself wouldn’t be special enough, so I added the gold lame. I actually intended to create a simple piping but failed miserably. Instead I ended up creating these gold ridges that transformed the bag into a dragon. My favorite kind of mistake. I made a simple casing, leaving both sides open to make a drawstring, and threaded through some leftover bias tape. I’ve become completely enamored with fusible web, so I ironed on the monogram and fleur de lis. I love to personalize gifts for kids. I think every kid loves to see their name on stuff.

This was one of the most successful gifts I’ve ever given. He immediately stuffed his guys inside it and insisted on taking it out to the extended family Christmas party. I got the biggest kick out of listening to him tell all his cousins about his “dragonskin bag.”

Even now, nearly eight months later, it still merits his attention. I asked his mom Mari to bring it with her to the house so I could take the pictures I forgot to take and he would barely let it out of his sight. I didn’t get the greatest pictures out of it, but I don’t mind. I’d much rather see him love it too much to let me.



A Crafter’s Christmas starts in July

One of my ultimate goals it to be the house on the block that everyone shakes their heads at come Christmas time. The ones that are so ridiculously over the top that people refer to us as the Griswold house. I don’t know that it will ever happen on the outside. Right now our house is in a very tightly spaced neighborhood and we really don’t have a front lawn. Our house is maybe four feet away from the street and maybe just a touch further away from our neighbors (That’s Southern California for you.). We don’t really have a ton of room to work here. Plus, with our next house I really want to have some land, so we might be too far away from the street to bother with light displays.

At any rate, I’ve been trying to make up for our outward lack of Christmas enthusiasm by doubling up on the inside. Last year I debuted our 12 days of Christmas tree, and this year I want to add a third tree based on falling snow. In my head all the ornaments are snowflakes or icicles or snowballs, with touches of mirrors and pearls and a million little white lights to keep it fancy. Now that I’m starting to cross off some things on my to do list, I can start putting my plan to work.

The first item I’ve made is a garland, and it couldn’t be simpler.

All I did was thread the fake pearls onto a huge length of fishing line, and use some shimmery glitter puff paint I had lying around to hold the pearls in position.

I could’ve used any old glue I had on hand, but since I already had this I thought a little bit of glitter peaking out the sides could only add to the shimmer.

My philosophy on decorating trees is always more is more, so I frequently hang three ornaments from one branch to give the tree depth. Because of that, I think I’ll probably put this garland on last so I can arrange a little pearl everywhere I need one last little touch of something.