Monday, December 31, 2012

Picture of New Growth (and) Last Union of 2012

My dear cousin married her beau the weekend before Christmas. It was a gorgeous ceremony and a family and friend embraced event. There was a fresh layer of snow on the ground. How perfect for a winter wedding with Christmas tree decorations. 

Kate is several years younger than I, but we've grown to be pretty good friends over the years. Both of us are adventurers at heart. While most of my adventures have been confined to the Midwest, Kate upped the ante. She spent several years in Kenya teaching at a school in Nairobi. A year and a half ago we had a sleepover and watched countless "Friends" episodes cuddled under comforters, hair knotted up in buns. We talked about boys that night, about my adventures and misadventures and her lack thereof. We talked about marriage like it was the distant future. And now- she's a Mrs.

For their gift, I stemmed from the Bible verse engraved inside their wedding rings. A beautiful thought. We love because God first loved us. I sketched for a while and decided to make the script of the verse the foliage of a tree. 

My least favorite part of any embroidery project is transferring a design from paper to fabric. I came up with a pretty good solution to this challenge. A milk crate, an old window pane, and a desk lamp made for a functional light box. Quick work at transferring. I'll have to remember to do this again.

The tree needed some little fascinations so I added in some leaves, a bird, and a flower.  I'd seen the couple's names etched on the trunk before, it's no new idea. But it is sweet and quaint.

I'm too cheap to get a thing framed professionally. I bought a frame with a matte that was cut a little small for the design. I learned that cutting mattes on an angle, as they are supposed to be, is really hard. So this matte doesn't have an angle. But it is watercolor painted a robin's egg blue to help make the picture pop. 

It's a new year tomorrow. Certainly, it's been a big and eventful year. I'd love to take a moment to think over the senses again as I did last year. Maybe I'll celebrate my new year at the end of January when life slows down a bit. 

Until then, have a great one! Every day is a blessing. Truly.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Sure is Beautiful

I will have plenty of crafty things to post about after Christmas gifts have been doled. Right now, I should be making and wrapping gifts. But I felt super guilty and negligent for not updating in weeks. So, while you wait to see pictures of the things I've been slaving over, here are some memories that have been lingering on my mind. 

Christmas is such a beautiful time of year. A time to be grateful, a time to take count of blessings and loved ones, a time to sit and breathe and find contentment in all the good that is in life. It's especially wonderful when you get to watch a child enjoy the beauties of the season. Catching snowflakes on the tongue, saucer eyes at twinkle lights. The heavy warmth of a tired child resting on your chest after a long day of playing in the cold.

I've collected a few pictures of some of the other Christmas memories I am remembering to cherish so much this month. Take a gander if you like.

Impromptu dance parties are a staple when Aunt Sarah's in the house.

None of these "kids" are very little anymore...

A fun Huff tradition is taking the kiddos out to a dollar store to do Christmas shopping. They draw names of family members out of a hat and then have a dollar budget for each gift.  

It's hard to imagine a Christmas when there was only one walking nephew. 
But they did happen, once upon a time.

We always spent the day after Christmas with my mother's parents and then made a trip across state to see my father's parents. Now that I'm grown and working, these trips are harder to make. But they are even more important to prioritize.

Before you can open presents, you have to read the Christmas story from the Bible.

Everything is new to children. 
It makes me enjoy things more to watch them discover them for the first time.

It's crazy to flip through these pictures and see how much my sister's kids have grown. But it's equally startling to see how much I have grown as well. Only a few short years ago, I was still sitting at the kid's table at dinner at my grandparents (albeit I elected this position) and now my sister is a mother of four and I have my own apartment, job, and somewhat grown-up life. Whodathunkit?

Looking through pictures makes me also realize that I do a poor job of collecting snapshots during Christmas. I must improve at this task this year.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Bittersweet Xmas & a Pretty Red Bow

I love the happy, warm feelings of this time of year. The settling simmer of peppermint schnapps in my hot cocoa while I watch the lights twinkle. The childish grins bursting from excitement as they wait for a moment yet to come. But the songs that really get to me (now and any time of year) are those heartbreaking, bittersweet ones about longing.

There's the ones I've always loved. Like, my ultimate favorite.

"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" :: 
Judy Garland (from Meet Me In Saint Louis)

Also, aversion of one of my favorite older Christmas Hymns. It's got some cheesy synth in it, but his take on this song is beautiful. I love the arrangement. James Taylor's music always holds a special place in my heart since it's one of my dad's favorites. I grew up listening to him from a very early age.
"In the Bleak Midwinter" :: James Taylor 

And there's always something about a group of people singing Auld Lang Syne ala It's a Wonderful Life. I like to tinkle this out on the piano at a glacier pace (because I'm not very quick on the keys) and it makes me a little bit sad and happy all at once. (But Judy's version will definitely only make you cry.) 

"Auld Lang Syne" :: Cast of It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

New to the sad song list this Christmas is a tune from a localish band (Cincinnati). The whole album is great, and they've made two Christmas collections.

"All I Ever Get for Christmas Is Blue" :: Over the Rhine

Bright-colored holiday decor is necessary to balance out some of the wonderfully bittersweet dreariness, I think. Here's something I made last year for my decor bin. A bendable bow to embellish a grand old mirror I refinished. (I found it in a friend's old barn a couple years ago and he gave it to me to clear up space - isn't it gorgeous?!) 

The bow is simply doubled-up pipe-cleaner with yarn twisted tight around it. I doubled it up to give it more strength, but it still doesn't hold much shape. Maybe triple it if you're considering trying to write a word with it or something. I know. Super easy, right? Not much of a tutorial. That's the best kind of project. And I think it turned out pretty super cute. I'll be using it for years to come.

Got any favorite sad Holiday songs you'd care to share? I'm always open to learn new loves.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Assembling Christmas & Oh, That Feeling

This time of December, pictures of Christmas trees take over social media. Normally, it's pictures of tasty looking foods, babies, or kittens in cups. But for now, it's holiday decor that inundates the senses. I, for one, am totally okay with that! I, in fact, am happily hopping on that band wagon. If you hate Christmas - skip this post. (And maybe the next couple to come, as well. Because this is pretty much my favorite time of year.)
I spent last Saturday with my parents again, picking out and cutting down my Christmas tree.  I think this is my new favorite holiday tradition as an adult. It's great to include my parents in my new traditions. I know that they appreciate being a part of the excitement. There's something lost when the kiddos aren't around for the Christmas season. I guess I'm still a "kiddo" to them. (Who am I kidding? I'm still a kiddo, period.)

This year I transported, trimmed, and erected the tree entirely on my own. Stan was around to help me hang the ornaments, though. We had fun unpacking the box of tissue-wrapped memories. Each had a story, some longer than others. Above, in the circles, are a few of my favorite ornaments. 
  • A couple came from my grandparents' tree: the glittery (DISCO!) Santa, and the mod, glass kitty. 
  • The glass Santa has been broken since the day I picked it as my choice of a gift from my grandparents and squeezed just a little too hard. The edges of glass look as though they've burnt but it's just time's wear on the glass. 
  • The little doll is half of a pair, my sister has the little boy. (I think I'm the girl because I probably threw a fit.) 
  • The last one is the clip on name badge I was given when I checked in as a visitor at the hospital the day my niece, Lily, was born.

A Christmas tree full of memories. Now for some great Holiday tunes, a mug of cocoa with peppermint schnapps. Dim the lights. Cuddle up. Ahhh. There's that feeling I've looked forward to all year. 

Also- I think you ought to get a closer look at disco Santa.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Weddings (Take 2): A Crafter/Gamer Union

Weddings aren't quite as common around these parts as babies, but they aren't exactly infrequent. Facebook has been blowing up with engagement announcements this week. The holidays do this, I suppose. People get all mushy and sentimental during this time of year. 

Welp, another friend bit the bullet, tied a knot, strapped on a ball and chain- whatever. Nah, it's a good combo, there's nothing dire about their combination. I am excited for them, really. And in total agreement with the match. Emmy is an old college friend of mine. She took me out for my first sushi dinner. We sang in a band together. I remember one warm late summer night, when we sat in the grass telling our whole life stories. New friendship, like a new romance blossoms so quickly. The best thing about friendship is that it doesn't as often end in heartbreak. Our friendship struck up in college in 2003. It is long, but woven in and out- spread both near and far. She went away to nursing school and then returned, we lived together for a couple months in Minnesota when I first moved there, but mostly we've lived far apart.

Emmy and Tom met when she moved to Milwaukee in 2006. When I first met him, honestly, I thought them an unlikely pair. He was a beefy, guy's-guy bartender who spent hours a day on his computer playing games, while Emmy was a social butterfly with an infectious giggle and heart for social justice. But, after seeing them interact, I was quick to recognize that their odd match-up was a sure recipe for love. I look at it now as an example for my own relationship (as we're also somewhat of an odd couple). They both coexist and exist separately. Which sounds obvious - since no "two" actually DO become "one"- but it's not really all that spoken of. I've often made the mistake of letting my personal identity get wrapped up in my relationship. It's good to have examples of people who stand out as individuals within their healthy relationship.

So, all that said, Emmy and Tom needed a gift that would show their individual tastes and also, hopefully, tie them together into one cohesive idea. I was attempting to allude to a skull and crossbones. (Do you see it?)

I think it turned out pretty good. Emmy said her family all commented on it on Sunday brunch at their place after the wedding. I'm super excited they liked it and hope they can find a place for it in their home.

One more wedding to go in 2012. My dear cousin, Kate and her beau are getting hitched the weekend before Christmas. They're a traditional type couple with a not so traditional trajectory. I'm still unsure of my game plan. Back to the drawing board.

Monday, November 19, 2012

In Honor of a Winner Weekend

This weekend was amazing. I visited with college friends in Wisconsin for a wonderful wedding. I'll report on those festivities and the couple's gift in a future post. But- in honor of the awesomeness of the weekend's festivities- a quick picture post of a couple homemade trophies I threw together for a fundraiser at work a couple weekends ago.

I found the random plastic ware at a thrift store. I must have looked kinda funny stacking bowls and vases in the middle of the shopping aisle. But there were some really perfect gems for this project. Go go Troy Goodwill!

Three types of glue (epoxy, some kind of cement, and hot glue) and I'm still not sure of how secure the final product was. I'd stick to hot glue alone in the future. It seemed to have the surest hold. After it was glued, I just painted the sucker gold and slapped on a laminated "placard".

I know I would rather get a trophy like this than a stodgy old normal one.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Babies (Take 2) : T-Shirt to Onesie

So many babies! Seriously, they are everywhere. Like I said before, but it bears repeating, I have 10+ local friends who are expecting little ones right now. People are making jokes about the water at church. But I'm pretty sure that babies aren't a result of water-drinking. I believe there are a few more steps than that. :)

Anyways, I've made some little crochet thingys for the upcoming munchkins, I even tried my hand at a sweater. (I didn't take any pictures of that. It is yet to be seen if it will actually fit on a baby. I just kinda made the pattern as I went.) But no more relying on the old crochet hook for baby gifts. I've hit baby gift gold: I'm making sassy adult t-shirts into awesome baby onesies.

Some of the initial inspiration came from online and on Pinterest, but I didn't find a pattern I liked well enough to follow. (But, admittedly, I've never been too great at following directions. I like to make my own way.) So my pattern consisted of cutting apart a cheap onesie from the dollar store and using it as a template. 

I literally used a seam ripper to deconstruct the thing then cut the shirts using those pieces as a guide. Fortunately, the fit of baby wear is much more forgiving than women's wear. No darts or pleats in this get up.

Overall, it is about a 1.5 hour task per onesie (after I got the hang of it all). The particular challenges of making a onesie from a t-shirt? 
  1. The bias tape takes time. I did all the cutting for several shirts and then set up my ironing station in front of a tv to make the tape. It's work intensive, but the final product looks so much more finished as a result. It isn't necessary to have a double fold tape as the inside raw edge is barely visible and you zig-zag stitch right over it. And also, I totally cheated and didn't cut the fabric on a bias. Because the t-shirt cotton material pretty much has a 4-way stretch, it works either way. But if you want to know how to do it properly you can find all kinds of online info.
  2. T-shirt knit is kinda wonky. The more patient you are as you sew, the better.
  3. Two words: neck hole. Babies have big heads on the tops of their little bodies, and so baby shirts have these wonderful layered necklines for easy in-and-outs. The trick is remembering which layer is on top and which is on the bottom as you sew. 
  4. Snaps are a really awesome invention. They just take a bunch of banging, so make sure you do this step during waking hours so you don't bug your neighbors. Also, make sure you only put snaps on the bias tape. A single layer of t-shirt fabric can't withstand the constant tugging a snap will promote. Be sure to snap and un-snap them a whole lot to test their strength and wear them in before you give the onsie as a gift. 
It's now my plan to start collecting crazy t-shirts from my frequent thrift store hunts. Of course, the size of a baby limits how large the design can be. But I know there are some ridiculous onesies to be made from reject t-shirts. All my pregnant buddies had better prepare themselves for the awesome. Their babies are going to be the hippest ever in these suckers.

If there's some interest in more-detailed instructions, order of construction, or an attempt at a pattern- please comment to let me know and I'll see what I can come up with.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Suprise Office Fix - DIY Business Card Display

After months of having my work business cards hidden away in their original packaging I came up with a quick fix for desk display. I had some snazzy spray painted forks lying around the office (student ministry is random work), so I bent one a couple times at strategic angles and presto!

The tines provide some stability, but the cards themselves hold the fork upright as a stand. It's almost like I'm a physics whiz, or something. 

I think it's pretty nifty. And cheap and easy, taboot. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Picture Post: Bargain Antiques & Pumpkins

A spur of the moment trip for coffee with a gal pal the other day included a quick dash into one of my favorite Tipp City antique shops. They have a constantly changing display and a great influx of new items. New this trip? A backroom shelf with a construction paper sign "everything $1"! Are you kidding? That's my idea of heaven. Three minutes in there and I had three cutesy items to lug home.

a malt shaker (I used one all the time as a kid. Mmm.
syrup dispenser (I just love the instructions on the underside of the lid.)

a blue glass top hat (I'm using it to wrangle up my rogue bobbypins.)

And these birdies came from a local goodwill for a whopping .59/ea. I haven't decided what to do with them. I thought maybe I would paint them black and hang them in my craft room. But maybe they would make good Christmas decor. Maybe with a red ribbon tied around their necks?  

Halloween was full of experiencing traditions this year. I wore 4 different costumes during the week, carved pumpkins, ate too many sweets, roasted pumpkin seeds, and partook in some good ole debauchery.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Weddings & Babies (Take 1)

As I might have mentioned earlier, I have a busy fall full of friendly events. I have only three weddings left during 2012, but the babies are arriving in droves. I have 12 local friends with buns in the oven (and several more on the interwebs!). That means I've got a bundle of cutesy baby things in the works. Keep an eye out for some more projects, soon.

For now, a couple sample shots of the sampler I made for my work buddy, Jake. He and his beloved got hitched in Lima a couple weekends ago. It was a lovely celebration and I'm certain a lovely partnership will follow. We're all a little bitter of his honeymoon tan at work. C'est la vie. The verse is their mantra as a couple and also the reading at their wedding.

I also decorated a cheap baby t-shirt (Only $1.50 at the Christmas Tree Shop!) for a baby-soon-to-be-born. The baby's daddy is the worship leader at my church. He goes by "JK", so that's the joke I make there in the parenthesis. He kinda really is a rockstar.

It's exciting to watch all these brand new families joining and multiplying around me. What a reason to celebrate! And what a perfect excuse to create crafty gifts to mark the occasions.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Unpacking Some Old Friends

I finally lugged two big boxes of books down from my parents' attic the other day and - once I had healed from my recent plague - unloaded a couple hundred of my favorite "friends". More specifically, a truckload of book friends from teendom, college and beyond.  Stan sat and watched me, amused by my excitement. But, seriously, it was so fun! It had been so long. Some had been packed up for 4 years or more. Every time I saw a new cover I was transported back to the time in which I had lugged that book around: either begrudgingly and at length as assigned literature for a class, or obsessively - creasing and dogearing as I fell in love page by page with characters I thought created for me alone. 

If you know me, you know that I like to organize. My vinyl collection is alphabetical by first name (because I like to pretend that me and Frank are on a first-name basis). My CDs used to be autobiographical (ala Rob in High Fidelity). The books had to be tackled, of course.

I have a limited area for my library right now as I'm hunting for a free bookshelf. (ahem.) So the books are pretty squished into this tiny space. And they have to share the shelves with a sound system and a plush hotdog. I decided against trying to alphabetize, because the issue of space demanded that many books be turned on end. Check out the result of an hour or so on the floor covered in musty pages.

Full disclosure: I forgot to label a tiny section between "religious" and "plays" which should be labelled, "romance novels". But, they're vintage and adorable- so you can't judge. These aren't the ones I own, but they give you an idea of what I'm talking about:

There's nothing wrong with keeping a little (practically wholesome) vintage filth onto your book shelf (next to CS Lewis, no less!) as long as it's this stylish. 

It's funny the books I chose to keep after reading and the few I tossed away. I know it's silly to think I will want to sit down and read the Oedipus Cycle again- just for fun. But I'm not sure I want to get RID of it entirely. Other books, I got excited about adding to my re-read list?:
  • Salinger's "Nine Stories"
  • Hornby's "High Fidelity" (it never gets old)
  • Greene's "A Gun For Sale
And I'm jazzed to read through the comments on my workshop papers from Junior and Senior year of college. Maybe I'll take some time to work on my (horrible) screenplay about a boy who is obsessed with collecting suicides. (Very dark, I know. I was soo deep.) It's a total rip off of Harold and Maude AND The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys

Anyways- it was fun to see my writing again and to be reminded that I can sit down and make up stories anytime I want. That's the magic of words. You can make them do anything you want. Writing is a perfect obsession for someone like me who is so into organizing. Now for the patience to take up reading as a hobby again so my books don't feel neglected.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Pruning Back and Pushing Forward

Of course, after a long period of being overworked, as soon as I take a moment to rest and take care of myself- I get sick. So this is a catch-up post relating a couple projects in the works. I'm finally halfway keeping up with my dishes as I dirty them. I've finally alphabetized and tucked away the records I've purchased the last few months. My house is slowly recovering from a lack of attention.

Now, just need to focus on eating that apple a day to keep healthy to enjoy my newfound free time. A recent new focus for me has been that of renewing. An easy example? Stan surprised me with flowers a week or so ago after one of those long days. The other afternoon they were looking droopy and sad. But just a couple moments of plucking and re-trimming the stems and they were as good as new. A totally different bouquet than before. Sometimes all it takes is a little pruning in order to incite new growth.

To follow the plant metaphor a little further...The less energy we spend on keeping "dead branches" alive the better chance those other branches have at surviving. So, I'm thinking about the dead branches in my life. Busy-ness is one. I need to take more time for myself. And, though it might be hard to admit- because I love my stuff, I think maybe my clutter is a bit of a dead branch. I have collected a lot of things, and sometimes those things take over my spaces and make them stressful.

It's my intention to de-clutter, prune, and be more intentional overall with my things and clothes over the next couple months. It seems appropriate for fall, to let things fall away from my life. My living room is the first focus of this effort. I've transformed some mismatched pillows for a more adult look.  I had the flowered pillow already and tried to work around that color scheme. The grey herringbone fabric I picked up at a thrift store for a buck, the patchwork pillow is made from upholstery fabric swatches from a look book I got garage sale-ing this summer. 

To cover or not to cover? It would certainly be a "pruning back" moment design-wise. But the chair is super cute as it is, a possible solution a friend mentioned would be to make a zipper pouch cover (with piping!) for the seat cushion and a general slip cover for the chair body. It may be in the works, soon. As it is, repairing and recovering my health takes precedence right now. 

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